Knut Hem - "Weissenborn"

Album Review By Aron Radford

If you would like to order a CD copy of "Weissenborn" please contact Knut Hem on his FaceBook page or email him @ knut.hem@online.no for purchase details 


(please note this release is not available for digital download)

​This is an album I have waited quietly and patiently for over 3 long years now, and boy was it worth it. It was always going to be something very special within the Weissenborn community as this release is by one of the worlds most underrated Weissenborn players out there today, i am of course speaking of Knut Hem.

Knut Hem is first and foremost a Dobro player, one of great note actually who is always in high demand as a session/band player in his native Norway. Primarily known as a blue grass practitioner he has firmly established his credentials playing with Norway's best country/blues/folk musicians and singers. He also plays drums professionally too when called upon but for me it's his less publicised passion for the Weissenborn which the man seemingly pours out his most emotional and passionate performances through. Words that spring to mind the instant i start talking about this mans’ music are, Melodic, Beautiful, Dynamic, Romantic, Serene, Sublime! As a drummer turned Dobro player he has a unique sets of musical skills to call upon when playing the Weissenborn. Perfect timing and perfect control of dynamics, i.e. ‘The ability to control his performance through precision touch and cadence’ . These two qualities combine to amazing effect and create overwhelming feelings of great emotion, passion and romanticism in his playing style. That's an exemplary set of qualities to own but the icing on the cake has to be his wonderful sense of melody. He has a natural ear for what I call the “Rise & Fall". He builds up a passage of music to a point where the natural yearning for it to resolve is almost unbearable and then he simply brings us down to earth with gentle bump and starts the process all over again. This ebb and flow technique is fundamental to what makes his music so appealing and in my words "romantic".

Tracks like the glorious "Langvatnet", the beautifully haunting “Rimfrost" and the sumpcious "Breeze" are prime examples of these qualities in working practice and to me are some of the best pieces of music ever written and played on a Weissenborn. These tunes that have the stickability factor, tunes you'll be humming days later out of the blue, true markers of greatness in my experience. I have made no secret of my admiration for this mans music in the past and I am very fortunate to consider him a friend as well as a constant playing inspiration but I assure you although biased my critique is, it is backed up by countless people who have discovered this mans’ music and come to the same inevitable conclusions. This album is Knut's third solo release. The first two albums "Once In A Very Blue Mood" in 2000 and  "Almost On My Own" in 2011 were more Dobro focused with a few stand out Weissenborn instrumentals scattered throughout such as epic “Dåm” and the resplendent “To Lise”, two songs you should check out immediately! This release though is 100% Weissenborn focused from start to finish you will be very pleased to hear.

So here at last is the long awaited “Weissenborn”, a collection of original Weissenborn instrumental compositions. Pretty much recorded straight from the Weissenborn with little alterations or additions apart from the obvious (and industry standard) touches of reverb, compression and EQ these tunes sound very lush and spacious. Another factor to Knut's instrumental Weissenborn recordings that i have to mention is his brilliant use of complementary backing tracks. These consist of lush synth pads, piano keys and soft percussion. These are all performed by Knut and it has to be said they elevate these recordings to even greater heights if that were possible? It's not to be underestimated the power of these backing tracks and the contribution they make to the overall appeal of the ‘Knut Hem’ signature sound is profound!

Just listen to the intro to ‘Rimfrost' and BANG!! there it is, soft synth pads, faint percussion, distant echoes of a tinkering piano create a lush soundscape that as a stand alone piece of soundscape music would hold anyone's attention. Then bring in the opening few bars of Weissenborn and perfection has been achieved in my book. As a Weissenborn music listening experience it simply doesn't get better than this guys. Then comes the totally AMAZING!! 'Langvatnet'. This piece of music is is quite, quite exceptional and has to be one of THE greatest pieces of Weissenborn music ever written. The song has been around for many years on YouTube in one form or another but never officially recorded or released until now. If I had to sum up Knut Hem in one word for people that word would be 'Langvatnet' such is majesty of this one instrumental.

This 9 track CD is full of beautiful compositions such as the opening track ’Breeze' (or 'Bris' as it has been called previously), another standout track on this album and believe me to stand out on this album it has to be world class, and this most definitely is! ‘Mr Polyester’ an obvious nod to Mr. David Lindley. ‘Kulokk’ a giant of a composition (6:30), from its gentle meandering intro to the distinctly military marching vibes of the middle passage to bluegrass flurry of the ending phase its all wonderfully stitched together. “Brudemarsj” (or ‘Wedding March’) is an obvious and beautiful wedding song, simplicity at its best, once again you feel the tension rise and rise as the tracks builds and builds to a beautiful crescendo and as ever those shimmer synth pads and marching drum add a wealth of atmosphere and presence. 

To summarise GO BUY IT NOW!!!! This album represents everything that is wonderful and magical about the Weissenborn and within the niche market of Weissenborn instrumentals this shall now be considered a standard bearer of quality, from writing, to playing to mixing. As an ambassador for Weissenborn music i salut you Knut Hem and thank you for sharing your wonderful music it has enriched my life and will do so to any fan of the Weissenborn.