Maggie Bjorklund, Shaken

Ron Hart

By Ron Hart

on 10.14.14 in Reviews
A stirring song cycle from the prolific pedal-steel guitarist

Handling the passing of a parent is a sorrowful, strength-testing rite of passage. And on the second solo LP from pedal-steel guitarist Maggie Bjorklund, the Cophenagen, Denmark, native crafts a stirring song cycle inspired by the daily trips she made to the hospital attending to her dying mother. A prolific session player herself, for artists like Jack White, Mark Lanegan and Howe Gelb, Bjorklund has put together an impressive studio crew for Shaken, featuring PJ Harvey guitarist John Parish, Portishead bassist Jim Barr, former Afghan Whigs cellist Barb Hunter and Calexico drummer John Convertino. The ensemble flaunts their collective power on the gauzy trot of “Bottom of the Well,” a comely duet with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, “Fro Fro Heart,” and the tender closing number “Teach Me How to Say Goodbye.” Yet it’s the cathartic poise in the way Bjorklund channels her grief that carries the day on Shaken. “I’m lost for words,” she solemnly croons as the music of that final song waltzes around her. “I don’t know how to breathe when you are not with me.” And when coupled with the resonant, Duane Eddy-esque cry of her pedal-steel, you get a one-two combination that aims right for the poetic pulchritude residing in the deepest shades of pain.