The distance separating Norway from North America seems insignificant when Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra take the stage and share the sounds inspired by their seminal influences. After making their mark with Migrants, their well-received debut, the eight piece ensemble take things up several notches with a live follow-up titled The Broken Circle Sessions, a collection of songs that revel in their roots in no uncertain terms.
Still, this isn’t simply some rote re-read. While nearly every song could be considered a classic, the band’s unique combination of trad treatments and brassy flourishes results in an interesting mix, one that makes any ready definition somewhat difficult to discern. The band — Rebekka Nilsson (vocals), Joakim Borgen (mandolin), Ole Engrav (guitar), Magnus Eriksrud (banjo), Moa Meinich (fiddle), David Buverud (bass), Emil Brattested (dobro), and Sjur Marqvardsen (accordion) — are an assured outfit, bolstered by articulate instrumentation and a steady stride, with Nilsson’s singing providing the added extra. Her upper register lends a sense of freshness and finesse, an engaging sound tempered by innocence and appeal.
Then again, the band’s been on a steady roll ever since they started. Inspired by the soundtrack to the Belgian film Broken Circle Breakdown, they recorded their first song, Wayfaring Stranger in a living room, garnering millions of streams and tens of thousands of subscribers in its aftermath. Their fame spread to the States with a nomination as Band of the Year and a win for Vocalist of the Year courtesy of the IBMA Momentum Awards. Back home, Migrants was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy Award following its ascent to the top of the charts.
In a very real sense then, The Broken Circle Sessions could be considered the culmination of all the band has achieved so far. A resilient read of Bob Dylan’s Señor (Tales of Yankee Power), an exceedingly lovely Girl From the North Country, and the heartfelt, Going Out West, could be considered highlights, but so too, their takes on the traditional tunes, Wayfaring Stranger, Lord Don’t Forsake Me, and Ain’t No Grave, are exceptional as well. The imaginative arrangements — check out the percussive, gypsy-like vamp that steers several of the songs as examples — and an appreciative audience, suggest the fact that this is an intimate encounter overall.
As unassuming as it might seem at first glance, The Broken Circle Sessions transports Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra to a higher plateau. It’s another solid step on that steady ascent towards international acclaim.