March 12, 2020. Sweetheart were in final preparations to enter Observatoriet Studio in Oslo, Norway, to record their debut LP when Prime Minister Erna Solberg initiated large scale internal control policies to curb the Coronavirus spread across the country.

A break for the trio was caught between entering Observatoriet. The lockdown as information became public from the WHO about the virus’s origins, transmission, and prevention measures, making the recording sessions doable and as safe as possible for the trio and producer Kenneth Ishak. Over the six days between the four in Observatoriet, Sweetheart’s first album arrives. Their first since forming back in 2003.

Sweetheart emerged at the turn of the century by frontman/guitarist John-Arne Gundersen as an alt-country group playing regularly throughout Norway before retiring in 2005. A chance meeting between Gundersen and former bandmate Frode Bjornstad in 2017 saw Sweetheart’s return and the addition of Oslo musician Anne Mette Hardnes to round out the fold and pivot their sound into acoustic folk/Americana territory.

Sweetheart’s music is minimalist, with the primary leading instruments being Gundersen’s & Mette’s voice along with acoustic guitar, lap steel, and piano combination; the only percussion comes from Christer Engen (formerly of Turbonegro) on the track, “I Will Always Be Here For You.”

The timing of release for the debut LP from Norwegian folk trio, Sweetheart, is on point. The songwriting matches the melancholy mood of 2020 while also showing a glimpse of a glass half full mindset. Glass half full because with the number of minor chords used and somber lyrics sung, Gundersen’s songwriting casts light on aspects of the human condition in a very realistic manner.

The eight tracks playout like different stages in a meaningful relationship, with mourning and rumination being a central theme in Gundersen’s lyrics.  Love and appreciation round out the topics in “Leaving For Stockholm” and “I Will Always Be Here For You.” The emotional storm of longing for someone is front and center on the lyrics of “The Pines by The River” and “Can We Make It Out Of Here Alive?”

Gundersen being the primary singer gives a male perspective on the changing relationship pattern. Still, Mette’s solo vocals to “Leave It All Behind” presents a different, comforting take on the former partner, reminiscing about the special relationship left in the past. 

The needs people have vary but understanding, compassion, and warmth are central., Sweetheart’s LP softly outlines the conditions people have and go through when expectations aren’t met, and acceptance of an outcome becomes realized.  Sweetheart’s debut LP is now available through Mother Likes It Records.  (Matthew Hutchison)

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