Ane Brun’s “Sketches”

Ane Brun’s “Sketches” has been making its way around since its release in 2008. Certainly doing her own thing, she still draws strong comparisons to Joni Mitchell with a splash of Dolly Parton.

Holly Etchison
Ane Brun - Sketches

out of 10

September 9, 2008

If ever Joni Mitchell and Dolly (from the “Coat of many colors” era, not the “9 to 5″) Parton were to find themselves in a round-robin, throaty warbler Ane Brun would make a perfect blonde third. This petite songstress houses a voice as vast, lovely, and diverse as the terrain of her homeland, Scandinavia—as clear, yet sometimes dark and deep as its mountain streams. It is no wonder that upon her release of “Sketches,” an acoustic version of 2008’s “Changing of the Seasons,” she is gracing stages worldwide as Peter Gabriel’s opening act.

By and large, I am a fan of acoustic albums. I like their vulnerability. The feeling that you are sweeping up the torn out pages of someone’s journal, scattered like so many leaves, or that you have found private recordings on an unmarked tape. There is no instrumentation to hide behind, the heart laid bare—Picasso’s blue period in colored pencil, eraser marks, and tears. Ane Brun’s songs seem to flourish in this format. Her prose style is accessible—deceptively simple and easy, but leaving you with the feeling that just as the old country song goes, “Beneath still waters, there’s a strong undertow–the surface won’t tell you what the deep water knows.”

The opening track, “Treehouse Song,” is one of the standout moments on the album for me, both lyrically and musically. Written from an “older and wiser” perspective, the heartbreak is palpable, the guitar brooding; it had me at goodbye. Brun likens this love gone by with that of children hiding in a room above the world, a green fortress where the normal rules of life and love don’t apply, where nature’s first green is truly gold and everything is possible.

I was gonna love you till the end of all daytime

And I was gonna keep all our secret signs and our lullabies

I was made to believe that our love would grow old

Baby we were made of gold

This is definitely Blue meets the backwoods of Dolly’s Tennessee.

“Changing of the Seasons” also shines as a haunting ballad. Going straight for the heart with its beautiful vocal harmonies, you are led from summer to fall in front of a beach bonfire, the guitar reminiscent of the late fifties “Sleep walk.” The story of a weary, fear addled man, it observes “It’s hard to be safe, difficult to be happy.”

Relating the ability of music to carry us through seasons in our lives and to take us right back in a one-note instant, Brun pays satisfactory homage to Gillian Welch’s Time (The Revelator) in “Gillian.” She sings, “You think you‘ll fall apart but it‘s just that brand new start.” Her lyrics reveal what Gillian’s own remind us as we carry melodies in our hearts through times of confusion and loss: “Everyday it‘s getting straighter, time‘s the revelator.” Gillian’s album hit the mark in this regard and Ane’s personal experience and remembrance of it does also.

“Don’t Leave” is a clever exploration of relational difficulties in regard to commitment and loss—of being the caged bird that actually knows how to lift the latch and sing outside the bars. Atmospheric and airy, the song’s narrator expresses gently that the other’s insecurity is without cause, but could cause her to fly away if persisted. She advises while she reassures:

You won’t do us no good

I’ll lay my hand on the couch next to you

You can hold it if you’d like to

It will do you good

More memorable tunes and refrains await in the fifteen songs that comprise this worthwhile listen. Sketches offers intimate portraits of the shifting nature of seasons, times, and relationships. Versatile, engaging, and moving, it could be the soundtrack to a sunny day lying in the grass, staring up at a blue sky, watching the clouds roll by. Or the sounds you hear alone and inside during winter, grey skies outlined with black skeletal trees—singing along with Ane Brun, “Someone dismantled my heart,“ and feeling you are all the better for it.