Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Smells Funny (Rune Grammafon)

A review of the sixth album from the Norwegian guitarist's trio

Smells Funny
Cover of Smells Funny by the Hedvig Mollestad Trio

The belching, blues-rock mongrel that is the Hedvig Mollestad Trio could emanate only from the Scandinavian music scene and only in this particular time, when vinyl is trending and when the past is ceaselessly reexamined. Performing blues shrapnel improvisations allied to sprawling Frank Zappa-like, fuzzed-out guitar solos and a ZZ Top-worthy rhythm section manhandled into a sturdy chassis, Hedvig Mollestad Trio flames through, sourcing from the original Allman Brothers Band’s open-ended orchestral crescendos and Hendrix’s interstellar explorations.

Leader/guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen performs piranha-like divinations whether laying down blues scronch, ripping the crown off Joe Bonamassa’s head, or simply wailing power chords and diminished triads. Mollestad is the furnace to her power trio throughout Smells Funny, with bassist Ellen Brekken and drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad clamoring beneath her sparkling spew like worker ants. The compositions of Smells Funny are more kick-in-the-jams party zones than actual assemblages of coherent musical thought, but the listener immediately understands, riding Mollestad’s aura to the outer limits and beyond.

It’s all guitar, guitar, and more guitar, with crisscrossing bass and drums below. “Sugar Rush Mountain” scorches an uptempo semi-jazz groove through ascending melodies. “Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered” sounds like a truncated “Train Kept A-Rollin’”; “Beastie, Beastie” slides and quakes like Derek Trucks on a morphine bender; “Lucidness” goes ecstatic in that spot between suntan and sunburn, redness spreading over your body like a welcome disease.

Preview, buy or download Smells Funny on Amazon!

Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.