It has always bothered me that in order to discuss music you sometimes have to place it in a box (called genre) and compare it to something representative of that style. It has been said that “Writing About Music is Like Dancing About Architecture”. With that
declaration as my mantra I will try my best to avoid “pigeon holing” the wonders that comprise the new thirteen song offering from singer/songwriter Kris Hansen titled Kris Hansen The Viking Jesus.
See, technically Hansen is a singer and a songwriter which makes him a singer/songwriter, which is a genre that (fortunately) doesn’t fit when you hear these songs in their recorded splendor. Yes the production is slick and muscular thanks to a long working relationship with co producer and collaborator George Dussault. Yet the recording begins with a very Americana rootsy number (Bury Your Bags) which serves as the logical bridge between Hansen’s solo acoustic act (he does solo gigs) and the ensemble rich arrangements that drive these tunes straight to your inner juke box mix.
Hansen’s lyrics play a dominant role in these tales that move the listener from the perspective of a five year old (A Song For My Father), to the album’s end cut (The Giver) that sounds like the voice of the older seasoned performer you might expect.
There is plenty in between to excite the aural senses including an instrumental (An Unfinished Waltz) that shows off another element of Hansen’s genre defying acrobatics where the primary concern appears to be each song getting its own specific identity.
This presents a challenge for Hansen’s crew of top notch instrumentalists including Dussault on guitar and backing vocals, the ubiquitous Nick Iddon on drums, Uriah Donnelly on keyboards, Evan Gilroy on bass and Ian T. Pharo on acoustic guitar who reproduce the recording down to the syncopated hand claps of the quirky (and hooky) ICU with a precise intensity that shows that in fact Viking Jesus is a great live band as well.
OK, so maybe I’m confusing the issue while trying to prove a point here. But all the pieces of Kris Hansen The Viking Jesus are needed to produce a record that ends up, dare I say it? Eclectic. At the same time Hansen’s vocal remains a consistent factor that narrates this collection into a cohesive and memorable story.
Hansen purposely set up the song sequence in an A/B side style used for vinyl and rumor has it that this “record” will find its way to that increasingly growing format. For those without turntables, you can still appreciate the experience (without having to flip the platter) by creating your own gap between cut 6 (In & Out) and 7 (Friends) a lilting march that sets off the B side.
Overall this is a great set that would have felt appreciated back in the era of when vinyl was king and a band could present themselves as convincingly live as in the studio. So sit back, kick your heels and let your mind dance to the architecture.