Steinar Gregertsen: Standing Next to a Mountain

There’s an original song on Steinar Gregertsen’s first CD, Southern Moon Northern Lights, called “Will the Wind Ever Remember,” which could easily be considered a tribute to the late, great Jimi Hendrix. Steinar obviously has a great love of Hendrix’s style – not only as a guitarist but also as an arranger and a producer.

Steinar’s latest CD, Standing Next to a Mountain, carries this love and respect of Hendrix’s music one step further by giving us incredibly beautiful and original interpretations of nine of Jimi’s songs, taken from various points of his career.

It’s only appropriate that “Will I live tomorrow?” the first line from “I Don’t Live Today” (from Hendrix’s debut album Are You Experienced?) opens up the CD. Steinar’s arrangement begins very open and stark, using a single note pedal on the bass with intertwining guitar lines to hypnotically build momentum until the song explodes in an electric crash of volume and distortion. His guitar solo is not only clearly inspired by Hendrix, it is also worthy of him in terms of emotion and expression.

You can hear Hendrix’s legacy throughout the entire CD, not just in the soloing but, probably more importantly, in the little details. While the lap steel guitar provides the “vocal” melody in “Angel,” it’s the silky smooth, Hendrix-inspired rhythm fills that make the piece stand out.

Likewise the wonderfully moody and sparse arrangements of “May This Be Love” and “Bold as Love,” both with Claudia Scott on vocal, could have been way overdone. But with its intricate interplay between acoustic, electric and slide guitars, it’s a perfect example of how a great arrangement is all about space and not about filling every space with notes.

While Steinar handles most of the instrumentation (and some of the vocals) on the CD himself, along with great drumming and percussion from Tom Rudi Torjussen (who really puts the groove into songs like “Drifting” and “Belly Button Window” – both of which, and “Angel” as well, come from Hendrix’s posthumous album, The Cry of Love), he also shares the musical spotlight with other very talented musicians. On “Remember,” Tom Principato contributes a terrific guitar solo that makes this early blues / R&B styled arrangement positively jump. And “Manic Depression” is given an old timey music hootenanny make over with Espen Larsen on guitar, Geir Emanuelsen on banjo, and Ole Kelly Kvamme on the acoustic bass. It’s absolutely magical. Espen Larsen also contributes the beautiful acoustic guitar work in the closing number, “Pali Gap,” an instrumental song from the posthumous Rainbow Bridge album. Marianne Rodvelt provides beautiful harmonies on both “Pali Gap” and “Remember.”

Jimi Hendrix is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential electric guitar players of all times. By creating new, interesting and exciting arrangements of his songs, Steinar Gregertsen not only pays honor to his guitar hero, but also keeps Hendrix’s spirit of innovation alive and strong.

You can find Standing Next to a Mountain at CD Baby. And you can also find it on his own website.

I highly reccommend it.