andreasSweden's Andreas Sandlund delivers a fresh-sounding debut to the American market, untainted by the Nashville studio-police.......

Sacred Love
Artist: Andreas Sandlund
Label: Talking Music
Length: 10 tracks / 42:55

Sacred Love is one of those quietly satisfying projects that manages to connect on several musical levels without sounding scattered or compromising. Pretty much an unknown quantity here in the US, Andreas Sandlund presents us with a fresh-sounding album that I'm reluctant to label pop since that genre tends to imply a certain level of triteness and commercial banality. Not so with Sweden's Sandlund, whose brand of pop is thoughtful, sophisticated, and very well-performed.

This is a pop album not without a jazzy, ambient groove or two. With drums, bass, guitars and keyboards backing his appealing vocals, Sandlund sings devotional songs free of cliches or intrusive 'look how clever I am' moments, opting instead for honesty and just enough emotional investment to draw you – not drag you - into the moment.

Free from auto-tuning and electronic beats, the songs find a warm musical space thanks (in large part) to Sandlund's use of grand piano alongside his Fender Rhodes, and the wonderful drumming of Anders Hedlund (whose playing lends a solid foundation and rhythmic finesse throughout the project). It's not until the final song, "In Your Will," that we hear a rhythm track and some programming – but this is the most conventional sounding moment on the disc and a small concession to the status quo.

Good, well-written songs played by a fine band, thoughtful, insightful lyrics sung with passion by an enjoyable voice, and produced (by Sandlund) solidly and free of gimmicks, Sacred Love is a fine introduction to this artist. If there's any criticism, it might be that the more energetic tracks were grouped in the beginning of the project, leaving the second half of the album feeling a bit somber – of course these days you can shuffle the track listing any way you want to...

Sacred Love achieves a welcome balance of pop, light jazz, and maybe even – dare I say it – praise and worship. A welcome sound from someone who apparently hasn't been read the Nashville rule book. Not a ground-breaker, but certainly good music.

Bert Saraco