Thorbjørn Risager and the Black Tornado are from Denmark and have released eight studio albums since 2004 along with five live and compilation recordings. Their most recent release is Navigation Blues from 2022 which contains 12 cuts dishing up a diverse selection. Members of the band are; Thorbjørn Risager (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar); Emil Balsgaard (Piano, Organ, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, Farfisa); Joachim Svensmark (Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Synthesizer, Piano, Viola, Drums, Percussion, Glockenspiel, Mandolin); Kasper Wagner (Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax, Flutes, Clarinet); Hans Nybo (Tenor Sax, Bass Clarinet); Peter W Kehl (Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Trombone, Perc); Søren Bøjgaard (Bass, Moog Bass, Baritone Guitar, Synthesizer, Piano, Percussion) and Martin Seidelin (Drums, Percussion).
Thorbjørn Risager is the band leader, primary songwriter, singer, and guitarist. His parents were both music teachers when he was growing up and he was influenced by early American rockers like Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Ray Charles, and B.B. King. He studied music at the “Rhythmic Music Conservatory” in Copenhagen which is where he met many future members of “Blue 7” which became “The Black Tornado” in 2014. Over the past two decades, the band has opened or shared the stage with everyone from the Tedeschi and Trucks Band and Bonnie Raitt to Buddy Guy and Robben Ford. At the same time “Blues Brother” Dan Aykroyd praised Risager saying he’s “got a great voice, great delivery and feels the blues.”
The first cut on the album is “Navigation Blues” which opens as a rhythmic blues with Risager singing in an almost John Lee Hooker sounding voice. There is sparse guitar work alternating with Thorbjørn’s voice and by the last third, the guitar becomes dominant. “Watch the Sun Go Down” is a bass heavy song that has a driving beat with Risager’s soaring voice singing “just a little love is all I need to survive” with slide guitar fills. “The Way You Make Me Feel” is an R&B number with horns and Thorbjørn crooning in a Tom Jones voice as background singers chime in.
“Fire Inside” is a rocker with a driving bass drum and guitar power chords from the get go with Risager belting it out in a style reminiscent of Paul Rodgers. The rest of the song is best described as a driving drumbeat accompanied by unrelenting power chords interspersed with a combination of guitar peals alternating with wah wah pedal exchanges. Thorbjørn said that the song was inspired by ZZ Top, one of the band’s biggest influences after bass player Dusty Hill died.
“Blue Lullaby” is a slow tempo song that allows the band to fully interact and develop the melody that Thorbjørn’s voice once again transforms into something familiar yet unique. “Taking The Good With The Bad” is a honky tonk Jerry Lee Lewis style rocker. The band rocks as Risager sings call and response style with the chorus answering gospel style. When I close my eyes and listen to “Whatever Price” I visualize an early 1960s John Wayne Western. The lead singer’s voice soars in time to handclaps with the chorus singing support.
The band performs “Time” in a tick tock fashion that is ethereally ascending with soaring vocals and an angelic background chorus. “Something To Hold On To” is a Country sounding song beginning with a strumming acoustic guitar as Risager sings “If you want to leave me you got to give me something to hold onto.” “Hoodoo Lover” is another Country inspired song with the entire band jamming full tilt and creating the harmonics for Thorbjorn to interplay with vocally.
“Headed For the Stars” is a ZZ Top style boogie with a driving rhythm and soaring vocals. The unique thing about Risager’s voice is that it takes on a different character with each song. “Heart Crash” is the last song on the album and has more of a pop sound that presents yet another side to the band.
After twenty years of recording and performing the band is at its peak and Navigation Blues captures it all.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Watch the Sun Go Down
– Fire Inside
– Navigation Blues
– Whatever Price
– Headed For the Stars
The Big Hit
– Fire Inside
Buy the album: Amazon