Buford Pope is an eccentric and fascinating performer whose work is so daringly enchanting that it seems to reach out to you across the void of time and space. Having hailed from the incredibly isolated Swedish island of Gotland, a disconnected limestone rock in the Baltic Sea it is understandable the level of isolation that may have been faced growing up. Buford Pope, better known to his friends as Mikael Liljeborg always had an interest in music but then that fateful day came at the tender age of fifteen where he was introduced to the work of Bob Dylan.
Suddenly there was a whole new era opening up around him and since he first discovered Dylan’s attitude-laden songs all those years ago Liljeborg has spent his time carefully honing his own inimitable sound and persona. This month saw him bring those years of hard work to life once again in the release of his latest album The Waiting Game which is an absolute masterpiece of sound. It is a rich and textured album that goes a long way beyond being merely versatile. Buford Pope has a charmed and worldly eloquence held deep within as Liljeborg draws inspiration from around the world albeit concentrating primarily on folk and country; but where he truly comes into his own is how he carefully melds these genres together with catchy, upbeat melodies that give his work a softer and more contemporary edge but also an undeniable element that can be traced back to his upbringing and homestead.
Songs like Hard Life and In My Hometown both seem to melt into tender melodies that are driven by childhood thoughts and the isolation that comes with living on a small island, but more than that they also seem to echo the sound of the ocean. Peculiar fiddle harmonies come crashing together like ocean currents, swirling and intermingling until they crash like heady waves on the shoreline. But this seems to be an apt description for the work of Buford Pope. His is an act that extrapolates all of the key elements of a successful artist like Bob Dylan; the husky voice, beautiful and yet simplistic melodies and a burning passion – but completely rearranges them so that all of the key elements are there but something just seems different about them. This results in a journey unlike anything you’ve ever quite taken before. There is a rich mirth and jubilance to The Waiting Game that is carried effortlessly by hearty compositions held within and yet with blues, jazz, folk and alt fusions all flying around together it becomes a journey where you never quite know where your next foot will land.
The Waiting Game is a wonderous and harmonious monument to music throughout the ages. It swells and grows as naturally as we breathe and as Liljeborg surrounds himself with an orchestra’s worth of delicate instruments it only grows in strength and beauty. With Liljeborg’s smoky vocals fluttering atop it all The Waiting Game is one of the most beautiful albums we have heard this year.
Review by Joe Knipe