Downhill Bluegrass Band
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Downhill Bluegrass Band

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Band Country Bluegrass

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"Exceptionally strong album of amazingly well-performed original bluegrass songs."

To a majority of people, bluegrass music is going to be associated with the American South and Appalachian regions where the genre developed and flourished. Somewhere further down the list of places you might expect to hear a bluegrass band hailing from is Sweden, but that’s exactly where Downhill Bluegrass Band comes from. Having been around since the late ‘90s, the group, led by singer and mandolinist Jonas Kjellgren, has toured extensively around Europe and released three albums. Their fourth, A Grasshopper’s Lament, bristles with energy, talent, and exceptional songwriting. What’s more is how staggeringly well the band plays together, resulting in a consistently stellar album that comes together as more than the sum of its parts.

The band’s line-up consists of the aforementioned Jonas Kjellgren, Kenneth Kjellgren on banjo, Magnus Sundstrom and/or Mikael Grund on guitar, Nicke Widen playing dobro, fiddle-player Ivor Ottley, and bassist Kajsa Westin. In all fairness, no one musician outshines another across the album. Everyone in the band feeds into the group sound and the synergistic effect it creates is always complimentary to the emotion of the song. Even when one of the pieces doesn’t have a strikingly memorable hook or isn’t entirely catchy, the lively performances make every one of the thirteen songs enjoyable.

“Give it Up and Give In” leads the album off with the kind of sound that is very identifiable with the genre. Quick paced banjo picking meets the gentle whine of the dobro to create a bouncy energy and a slight bluesy tone. This matches the lyric well as Jonas sing, “Now when the fire comes down, they’ll be no one around to show you the way…” His voice and delivery is very notable as well for its unique qualities. If Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals decided to go country with a bit of a lower pitch and tone, you’d have a reasonable approximation of Jonas’s voice. He makes his songs compelling and delivers his lyrics just as well as he wrote them.

“Silver and Gold” demonstrates the band’s ability to create a unique arrangement in order to emphasize the emotional weight of a song. Though it starts off with forceful rhythm guitar and vocals, the instrumental bridge is played in a gentle manner by the band, allowing the fiddle to take advantage of this and deliver a strongly emotional solo. Throughout the piece are sustained backing vocals that also add to the song’s emotional weight.

The title track’s straight-up instrumental does a good deal to showcase the individual member’s talents as strong dobro, guitar, mandolin, and fiddle parts drive the song along its three minute journey. The performances are so strong that the song just breezes right by in its jubilant manner. “Count Me In” is another piece that flies right by on the strength of its fiddle, backing vocals and the way the higher timbre of the mandolin pokes its way through the arrangement to remind you of how much it adds to the music.

Though it’s difficult to call one song better than any of the others, since they are all so strongly consistent, “That Idiot Wind” is a contender for the best song here on the album. With an intensely catchy chorus, delivered brilliantly by Jonas, and just the right amount of harmony from the rest of the group, the brilliant hook stands out amongst the many others. “Crawl Back” is also a contender for the best song on the album given its darker tone and story about a woman who you really don’t want to get involved with; because she may be in league with the Devil.

Downhill Bluegrass Band has put together an exceptionally strong album of amazingly well-performed original bluegrass songs. Each track is the perfect length and showcases a cohesive band playing to their full potential. It’d be hard to improve on material this strong, so the only potential problem with A Grasshopper’s Lament is in how high the bar has been set for future releases.
- Heath Andrews


"Downhill continues to draw in fans from both sides of the pond"

Strong instrumentation, good vocals and harmonies, and original material have made this group from Sweden one of the most popular bands in Europe. They also have had several successful trips to the U.S., where they have been warmly received. The project is their fourth release and was more than a year in production because they wanted a “more mature and thorough sound.”
All the songs on this project are original with Jonas as the primary composer of both music and lyrics. The music runs the gamut from straight bluegrass to jazz to the dark side of “Silver And Gold.” The title cut is a slow instrumental that lets everyone shine. There is a variety of moods here from “Give It Up And Give In,” “Us Against The World,” “That Idiot Wind,” “Crawl Back,” to “Talking To A Barman.”

Downhill continues to draw in fans from both sides of the pond - Bluegrass Unlimited, Bill Foster


"From Sweden to North Carolina or was it the other way around?"

" The Downhill Bluegrass Band is a Swedish aggregation who could just as easily come down out of the hills of North Carolina" - Bluegrass Unlimited


"Strong New Material!"

"Strong new material is part of the makeup of this enjoyable CD with most of the songwriting from mandolinist Jonas Kjellgren - Bluegrass Unlimited


Discography

They have now released their fourth record:

A Grashoppers Lament 2011

All tracks available on Spotify, Itunes and several other digital distributors

Earlier recordings:
That one Straight Line 2007
East of the Mountains 2002
Grass of Thor 2000

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Bio

Downhill Bluegrass Band are one of Sweden’s most prodigious and respected bluegrass bands, “Downhill”. They are well known and highly regarded in both Europe and the USA where they have toured several times. On invitation, they performed more than once at the IBMA Awards in Nashville on account of their excellent playing skills and unique sound, as well as their songwriting abilities. As well as America, they have played festivals in most European countries.

Most of the repertoire they perform is their own, and some of these songs have been recorded by main stream American and euorpean artists.
Downhill have developed an own style and originality by blending their own songwriting abilities with the high lonesome sound of pioneers like Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers. They've gained great response from listeners all over the world, touring both Europe and the USA.
The band members today are: Jonas Kjellgren on mandolin and vocals, Kenneth Kjellgren on banjo, Magnus Sundstrom on guitar and vocals, Nicke Widen on dobro, Ivor Ottley on fiddle and Kajsa Westin on bass and vocals.