Hard to believe this is Sofia Talvik’s ninth album and I’ve been listening to her for the past eight years, when I wrote about her 2015 release Big Sky Country (her sixth and a favorite of mine from that year’s releases). Her firmly-rooted “Americana”/singer-songwriter mastery has only evolved in leaps and bounds over the years and it’s nice to have a chance to hear where she’s at with this newest offering, Center Of The Universe.
In her own words, it was a bumpy road to get to this point; a few of the songs were recorded and released during the pandemic (at which time, of course, touring/working musicians could not perform). Subsequently, once life began to regain some semblance of “normalcy”, Ms. Talvik wanted to record with other musicians once again.
Convening at a studio in rural Sweden (Ms. Talvik’s native land), three weeks before recording began, she was unwelcomingly disrupted by sudden deafness in her left ear. Studio time had been booked; an upcoming U.S. tour was scheduled and things were up in the air. Fortunately, when she and the other musicians arrived at the studio in Sulegang (a remote area in Sweden), the deafness went away, thankfully, and she was able to execute and complete this very powerful body of songs.
The title track is a somber, mournful sounding piece, ripe with emotion and thoughtful lyrics (about missing children) and delicately painted with mandolin fills that are completely on-the-one; “Too Many Churches” was inspired by a drive through Florida to Alabama and has some wonderfully tight harmonies and sweet guitar figures and “A World Away” features Ms. Talvik’s voice upfront and captures her perfect delivery and tone – which is one of her most endearing and powerful weapons: not only does she write lyrics that make you think, she has a voices that will touch you immensely.
Of the other standout tracks, “Circle Of Destruction” is a lyrical contemplation on the Ukraine war and has an instantly “classic folk-protest” feel and “Boy Soldier” is a warm and musically-uplifting piece that is completely contradicted by the theme of domestic violence and abuse – a painful observation wrapped in a soothing musical frame.
Sofia Talvik continues to elevate and broaden her musical landscape with every subsequent release and invites the listener to share in her thoughts and ideas – what she does is creates a musical dialogue, which is to be welcomed and embraced.
Listen to this album and think about it; it will be time well-spent.
Center Of The Universe is currently available