Lyons Bluesologist, David McIntyre
I first met Erik Oftedahl about a decade ago while working at Oskar Blues. He was the upstairs bartender and would come downstairs to the music room after his shift. A musician himself, he was doing his homework, listening to everybody he could. He was on a mission. When I finally got to hear him play I knew he was destined for good things as he had “what it takes.”
It has been a real treat to watch his music grow. We called him Erik the Viking because of his growing up in Minnesota and his heritage, but he has wisely decided to lose that moniker and go with his given name. He has grown in many ways over the last decade. He moved to Oklahoma about seven years ago to pursue his music and a woman. The romance ended, but the music career has flourished. He has come back this way many times since, but this time he brought
a brand-spanking-new full length recording called Places, complete with a band playing behind him.
The CD starts with a very radio friendly piece called Prayer for the Damned, reminiscent of the Band of Heathens with fine harmonies and topnotch lyrics like “try and build some hope for people like you and me, reach down to the ground and untie your feet.” Next comes a song he has been carrying around for a while titled “Dead Horses” and it sounds so full with the band behind it, and talks of the difficulty of break-ups and the art of continuing with your life. In Trying to Live he admits to thinking he is from another time but is doing the best he can with what he’s been dealt. Even if he is making it hard on himself he is still trying to live better through his songs.
Self-Medication starts off with a nice mandolin and fiddle part with a conviction that happiness is a choice and the realization that drugs are not the answer but sometimes nothing is going to work. The long flat drive through Nebraska can be a sobering time with your own thoughts running rampant through your mind. It starts with the drums sounding off a march which typifies a long struggle of finding oneself and which way to go. The band starts Sinking Ship off with a nice groove between the keyboardist and rhythm section and Erik announcing his attempt to put his pessimisms to sleep while the lead guitar roars its approval. Outside influences and people make this difficult, but he still strives to make the best of it all.
The country fried title track Places professes “Been a lot of towns, lived a lot of places; nothing makes me smile like waking up to your face…tired of all the miles tired of all the social graces; when I’m next to you baby that’s my place.” He admits to making many mistakes along the way, but so happy to have found the gal who found something inside of him worthwhile that no one else ever did and making him whole. “A little bit of some forgiveness, a little mercy makes all the difference.” Mercy talks about being more tolerant and helpful to people out there more unfortunate than us and how it could easily happen to us. The Farmer is about the plight of the American farmer trying to scratch a living from his long-forgotten land with some scathing lead guitar from Ryan McCall and fiddle from Scott Hunt. The CD ends with a little ditty called Ten and Two which talks about all the time spent on the road trying to make it to the next gig and the trails and tributes of it all.
Erik Oftedahl is a wordsmith, he has a knack of putting thoughts and ideas into songs that make us think, which in my opinion is what makes music so inviting and enduring. Live, Erik puts on a great show and makes you think he is singing just to you as you relate to his words and wonder how he knew your thoughts and ideas. Go see him where ever he is.