I always forget how much I like the sound of a pedal steel guitar. It’s easy to forget because the instrument has been all but hijacked by cheesy country songs. “Intertwined,” rest assured, is no cheesy country song; it is, rather, a warm and dreamy if vaguely bittersweet waltz, a cozy meditation with a vein of melancholy.
Björklund, a pedal steel specialist from Denmark, is primarily an instrumentalist, so she has brought on board a number of guest vocalists, including Rachel Flotard (last seen collaborating with Rusty Willoughby), members of Calexico, and here, of course, the gruff but lovable Mark Lanegan, who growls comfortingly through “Intertwined.” Lanegan’s rumbly, ever-so-slightly vulnerable baritone pretty much embodies the spirit of this easy-weary tune. Björklund does sing in addition to play, and what her voice may lack in viscosity it makes up for with sweetness; there may be no one Lanegan doesn’t sound good with, but add Björklund to the list of striking duet partners.
In the end, however, it may be her instrument that most impressively intertwines with Lanegan’s deep quaver, the pedal steel’s intrinsic sound of yearning complementing him with dignity and nuance. Don’t miss how gracefully the pedal steel enters (0:27), barely scratching the aural surface, only gradually moving towards the center of the song. Björklund plays with almost unheard of subtlety, opting often for singly articulated notes, resolutely avoiding the overstated slurring/sliding that pedal steel players are often incapable of resisting. This makes the moments in which she does specifically utilize the instrument’s capacity for sliding through blurred notes all the more poignant and effective.
Björklund has played with bands and as a backing musician in both Europe and the U.S. “Intertwining” is a song from her debut album, Coming Home, which was released in March on Bloodshot Records. MP3 via Bloodshot. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.