Out of the mean streets of Copenhagen come riding a new blues force, Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado! My tongue is only slightly in my cheek as I found this band to be a true powerhouse of a performing unit and their 2017 release on RUF Records, Change My Game, to be a lot of fun.
I missed their previous release, Too Many Roads, when it came out in 2014, and after listening to this album a couple of times, plan to rectify that mistake post haste! They have a driving sound that I enjoy and look forward to finding every scrap of material they’ve released up to now.
The band consists of Risager on vocals and guitar; Peter Skjerning on guitar; Emil Balsgaard on keyboards; Søren Bøjgaard on bass; Martin Seidelin on drums; Hans Nybo on tenor sax; Kasper Wagner on saxophones; and Peter Kehl on trumpet.
Risager handles the majority of the songwriting, writing nine of the songs by himself with Skjerning penning one song solo and the two of them collaborating on one other song.
Risager’s soulful voice tings out immediately on I Used To Love You. Many acts will start out with some sort of kick ass song right out of the gate, but if you really want people to listen – start quiet. That’s exactly what the band has done. It’s a beautiful song, low key but effective.
Now we move on into some kick ass territory with Dreamland. His voice takes on a knife’s edge sharpness and the song is driven by pounding drums and bass. The blues on this song are heavily influenced by rock and the song makes you want to move.
Next up is the title track, Change My Game. The song is funky cool and while the lyrics are repetitive, they are also fairly strong. The horn section on top of the funk gives it a real STAX sound. It’s a throwback, but a lot of fun.
The band takes a quick trip to the swamp on Holler ‘N’ Moan, with tight harmonies and a very cool Resonator guitar playing. They may be from Copenhagen, but they’ve definitely got some country soul in their blood. Love this song and plan on sharing it on Time For The Blues shortly. This song just may be my favorite on the album.
They follow up with a little California cool sounds with Hard Time. This one doesn’t sound much like a traditional blues song, but it is a sweet number with good a good mix of guitar and voice. Risager & The Black Tornado follow up this feel-good song with a little darkness and danger on Long Gone. It’s still a quiet number, but the bass gives it a sense of unease that plays well against the guitar. Very good song.
The band pushes things back into high gear with Hold My Lover Tight. This is blues with a metal energy and the song rolls along maintaining that momentum throughout. If you like your blues mixed with hard rock, this is the song for you! The energy level is still intense on Maybe It’s Alright, even if the tempo drops a bit. Risager and The Black Tornado are still using a strong rock beat on the song, but it’s firmly planted in the blues.
One of the most used blues tropes in the image of the train. The next song, Train, uses that and with the Resonator guitar the song becomes one of the strongest pure blues songs on the album. The rhythm section creates the drive of the train, and the honkytonk piano brings it on home. It’s the quickest number on the album and it really delivers the goods. Good song!
The opening to Lay My Burden Down, complete with analog hisses, is of an old school vocal and piano. It’s a dark number, one that describes a scene but offers so much more in the background. It’s a very cool song and one that will get under your skin quickly.
The album comes to a close with City Of Love. This one starts off with a little electronica before moving into some funky blues. It’s an interesting melding of the past with some present stylings of music. It’s not a bad mix at all, although purists may have a hard time with it.
I enjoyed this album a lot. There’s plenty of old-school blues and more than a little of rock and even a few other styles mixed in for fun. Artists have to experiment to find their sounds, whether new or old, and here Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado have pushed their own envelope in order to discover their unique sound.
I’m not sure what their travel plans might be, although I do hope they will be making the rounds of some of the United States festivals, as I would dearly love the opportunity to catch them live. If you’re interested, be sure to check out their website at http://risager.info/ and see what they have planned for the future.