An inspired alchemy of elements befell the Alhecama Theatre last Saturday, when the entrancing Swedish singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik played the Wooden Hall Concert Series. The intimate ambience of the historic and under-used theater (former home for Ensemble Theater) beautifully suits acoustic concerts, as embodied in the Wooden Hall concerts over the past year. The Alhecama and the Wooden Hall concept is a secret treasure in town — as was Talvik.
She is a gently charismatic, captivating artist, with a strong, supple, and pure voice. As a songwriter, she is melodic and poetic — fluent in transatlantic “Americana” manners, with touches of Swedish flourish and folklore. The self-contained folk persona of Talvik’s silkily integrated voice and guitar (and some rhythmic stomping) was wondrously abetted by Pasadena-based pedal steel guitarist Tim Fleming: As with Greg Leisz’s inspired steel work with singers, Fleming’s warm, dreamy sonic clouds added a honeyed caress to Talvik’s folk palette.
Her inviting songbook includes mild-mannered rants about crappy boyfriends, such as “If I Had a Man” and “I Liked You Better” (“when I thought I loved you”). Talvik also excels with ambivalent emotional odes to home (she grew up on a small island in western Sweden) and the open road of the United States, which she toured for a year and a half in a vintage camper. From that song limb, we were treated to “Give Me a Home,” “California Snow,” and the bittersweet country/folk gem “Take Me Home,” the first single from a new album dropping this fall.
This enlightened folk/pop balm of an evening closed with the ancient Swedish song “The Immigrant Song,” sung a cappella and with Talvik pressing flesh in the house and bringing up recently lost-and-found distant relatives who had traveled to the show. It was an unexpected, poignant “bringing it back home” gesture, in a welcoming old culture house.