Magnus Berg,
Cut Me Loose
(Screen Door, 2014)

Magnus Berg is an 18-year-old guitarist from Norway, making his American recording debut on Cut Me Loose. Beginning to play at age 7, he began performing at 12 and played Buddy Guy's club, Legends, when he was 17.

During his family's annual treks to Florida, he would play clubs, and at one of those gigs he met blues belter and guitarist Kristen Thien, who hired him to play lead guitar in her band. During down time with Thien, he worked with his own band and as they developed, Thien signed him to her label and brought in Erik Boyd to produce the album.

Cut Me Loose is the result and it introduces a major talent. Berg plays with a young guy's flair and energy, bringing everything he has to every song. His solos cut like a knife through butter. His guitar is the perfect foil for Bjorn Tore "Daffy" Larsen's harmonica. Between them, they create a soundscape that simply can't be resisted. Add his raspy, whiskey-fogged voice to the mix and you've got classic and contemporary blues covered.

In Berg's approach, you hear the classic Muddy Waters-Little Walter sound, but you also hear clearly Magnus Berg and Daffy Larsen. They are influenced by the masters but are not slavish imitators. Berg's album features seven originals -- two co-written by Kristen Thien, who sings a duet on "When It's Gone" -- and three classic covers. His writing is strong, but strong in a young man's way, perhaps leaning a touch too much on his influences, so that you get the feeling he perhaps hasn't found his own themes yet.

Nevertheless, Cut Me Loose is an impressive debut, one that promises much more to come. It'll be interesting to watch the promise fulfill itself.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 March 2015

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