June 18, 2024

Mikko Joensuu – Amen 1:     Finn taps bleak seam of Americana beauty

SVART RECORDS      June 10th, 2016

Deep country music from deep in the county…… of Finland. “Sometimes it feels like darkness is taking over”, sings Mikko in Enjoy It While It Lasts, “When summer comes around everyone can cease to exist for a while”. I can understand the longing for sun and warmth that runs through the opening song. Not the most cheerful of songs, there is a grim smile on Joenssu’s face as he contemplates the dark beauty of dissolution.

This is a simple album, mostly piano, guitar and voice, with flavourings of a string section. A pedal steel weeps as he sings “how come every time I see a warning sign, I just pass on through?” Simple songs, these. Long songs, lots of choruses, setting the mood and as melancholic as all get out. The spirit and sound of Townes Van Zandt is here, patron saint of doomed and lonely Americana troubadours. Some of the songs are just sad, some are flat out beautiful – like Closer My God. “I’ve never seen anyone smile quite like you smile”. It lollops along like a trotting horse. “I’ve been saved, I sing redemption songs”. Is it a love song? A God song?

“I’m already dead in my mind, but I’ll be better in a few years’ time”, goes I’d Give You All, “I hate you more than I hate myself” and the winning, “I gave you all, you gave me some”. This package is religious in tone, looking to a higher power to understand the feelings and actions running through the artist’s life. The highlight is Thief And A Liar, a biblical epic, foreshadowing the closer, Valley Of Gold, which intones over a very sparse arrangement with plucked dobro and a lovely harmonica.

Despite this being his debut, Mikko Joensuu says this is the first of a trilogy, released over the space of a year. Apparently this is the most fragile of the trio, with the others covering other aspects of his state of mind. This one effectively captures the sensation of beauty in decay, of savouring the pain of a suffering soul. If that sounds pretentious, then stay well clear. If you like sorrow and the glamour of misery and the shining dawn that follows, then you’ll find joy here. A strange joy but beauty nonetheless.

About Author