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Southern Skyline shines in country spotlight
Southern Skyline

Southern Skyline shines in country spotlight

Published: 22 Jul 2010 10:11 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jul 2010 10:11 GMT+02:00

Swedish musicians have made their mark in just about every popular musical genre around the world - except country. Stockholm's Southern Skyline hopes to change that, writes Emy Gelb.

It is no secret that Sweden is the third-largest music exporter in the world after the US and UK, raking in $800 million in revenue in 2007.

Bands like ABBA and Ace of Base have come and gone, paving the way for fans across the world to become acquainted with the catchy sounds of bands such as Peter, Bjorn (without the umlaut) and John, The Hives and The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Electro, pop, punk, garage, folk, hip-hop, rap, heavy metal – Swedish musicians are at the forefront of the international music scene, in addition to local weaknesses for more distinctly Swedish genres such as dansband and raggare.

However, there is one genre that has not caught on quite yet, both with Swedish artists and listeners: country music. Southern Skyline, a Swedish country western band, is hoping to change that and are making good progress so far.

"Never before have I heard a Swedish band who manages to deliver the raw, naked and deserted feeling this kind of music demands, a craft few can master," raved Kjell Wärneval, program director of the Scandinavian Country Music Festival.

The Stockholm-based band is surprisingly fresh, their sound, sunny, soulful and contemporary.

However, singer-guitarist Henric Hammarbäck, guitarist Jonas Öhlund, bassist Alexander Skylvik, keyboardist Björn Kanrell and drummer Johan Salomonsson continue to draw strong influences from honky-tonk legends such as Hank Williams, Gram Parsons and Willie Nelson.

All the same, their goal is not to replicate the classic country-western style, but to develop something unique, inspired by their own heartbreaks, dancehall dramas and whiskey-soaked nights.

"We're trying to come up with a completely new sound," explained Hammarbäck. "Country music will always be our thing. But our goal is to come up with a new, modern, popular sound. Not just for the country people, but for a global audience."

International fame follows real talent. The band, which formed three years ago, has toured across the US, Canada and Europe and developed a loyal following among many loving and dedicated fans.

Perhaps said best by Karen Nash, an American alt-country singer, Southern Skyline is "the best old-school country I've heard for a long time."

Hammarbäck told the Calgary Sun, where country is king and the last stop on their first-ever five-city western Canadian tour, earlier this month that he would eventually like to relocate to North America, where most of his musical idols come from. However, like many independent musicians, he's stuck with a day job.

"We just need a hit song and then we'll move, but we're not there yet," he told Sun.

The band have an upcoming album release early next year, with two MP3s from the record available for download online. They have also made a number of Sweden media appearances.

Southern Skyline will perform at Piteå Dansar och Ler next Thursday, followed by a concert on August 4th at Lomtjärnsparken in Älvsbyn in northern Sweden and the Hålogaland International Country Festival in Harstad in northern Norway on August 6th.

The Scandinavian Country Music Festival takes place from August 12th to 14th in Furuviksparken in Gävle on the east coast north of Stockholm and Uppsala with bands from the US and Sweden.

Emy Gelb

Related links:

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

11:39 July 22, 2010 by Eagle63
Lets not forget about Jill Johnson; a great country singer from Sweden...!
15:29 July 24, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
I tried, but couldn't listen to the YouTube thing. The sound was breaking up. However, the idea seems all wrong for many reasons, the main one being why doesn't some Swedish band or artist do something that reflects Swedish culture? Why must Swedes always ape others, whether Jihadis or Hank Williams? Apart from that, I'll keep my mind open, against all my better instincts.
19:04 July 24, 2010 by porksteak
No thanks. We already have too much lousy country music in the US.

Ranarim and The Knife are more to my liking when it comes to Swedish music.
12:55 July 26, 2010 by Kaethar
@rufus.t.firefly: Did you even read the article? They're American wannabes, replicating the music of the country they wish they were born in. You can hardly expect them to do something which "reflects Swedish culture" when they want nothing to do with Swedish culture. How about not being so judgmental and simply letting people do what they like? :/
14:03 July 26, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
@Kaethar

Yes, I read it. In case you didn't understand, I'm tired of American wannabes. I was suggesting they explore their own culture and maybe find something worthy in it. But the fact is, they're looking for a formula for international commercial success, i.e., money, above and beyond music. Most of these wannabes are poor imitations of the genuine article. Anyway, this forum presents an opportunity for people like me to be "judgmental". If you noticed, I did say I'd keep my mind open, but on second thought, I lied!
22:08 July 27, 2010 by Ant
What the hell is wrong with you people. You dont have to wannabee American to appreciate american music. I know these guys and I can 100% say its not about the money, there just playing music that they love and grew up with..... or am I wrong, should we only play music influeced by the country in which we were born....... GROW UP
13:26 July 28, 2010 by B-dogg.
What the hell is wrong with you people is right. Australia and New Zealand have always had country musicians - nobody said they were aping American culture. Nobody said the Americans were aping British culture when American cottoned on to playing Heavy Metal. Nobody said Americans were aping the Norwegians when American bands started playing Norwegian influenced Black Metal - okay well they did.

But another thing I find hard to handle are the amount of idiots here in Europe who feel they have exclusive rights celebrating Viking culture or Celtic cultures because of the ground they're standing on in Europe and not North America. Screw that, if it's in your genes, then it's your history too. Stupid Europeans.

Considering contemporary music is influenced from a multitude of sources these days - who gives a rat's derriere where it comes from. If they have a genuine feel for the music they're playing, it will shine through in the music. If they don't that will shine through too. Either way it can't be worse than the majority of rubbish which comes out of Nashville.

Some guy up the top mentioned Hank Williams. Hank Williams III - the grandson - recently had a European tour, to which was well received. He was even wearing a Bathory t-shirt in the interview I saw him in - Bathory of course one of the most influential Swedish Heavy Metal bands - who covered largely Viking based themes. So here he is, an American Hillbilly from the South and a fan of Swedish Viking Metal.
10:22 July 29, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
B-Dogg.

I get your point. There is difference between aping, as I used it, and being influenced or interpreting. For example, I would never say Van Morrison, who is heavily influenced by American R&B and Soul, is aping anyone. He is inspired by what he loves, but he is an original. Even his covers are original.

Jill Johnson, mentioned above, has a fine voice, but is, as far as I can tell, doing very unoriginal covers of singers like of Linda Rondstadt. Her phrasing is weird and bad, her understanding of lyrics seems absent, she seems to have no musical direction of her own. That's what I mean by aping- bad imitation.

But, I do not believe that an artist should be limited to choosing only material from their own culture. I was merely suggesting that many of these Swedish posers, and you know who I'm talking about, might find it more fertile to till their own soil. If you don't have a clue about something that millions of people appreciate in a deep way, then don't f..k with it- or get real and try to see what it is beneath the surface.
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