BY JASON GROSS
Quick test: name your favorite recent female guitar hero. Tough one, ain’t it? In the new millennium, it’s still the boys who get all the attention for ax-wielding. If you’re not familar with blues mama Bex Marshall, you should head to www.bexmarshall.co.uk to correct that immediately, but you should also pay heed to this Norwegian string-bender too.
For her second album, Mollestad recorded her three-piece band live in a wooden barn though they did make use of high-end audio equipment there (no cows or chickens in the background). The band’s swagger sometimes recalls ye olde daze of Zep and Sabbath- drummer Ivar Loe Bjornstad ain’t no Bonham but he keeps things swinging mightly regardless. With no distracting vocals, Mollestad herself shows off some pretty mighty chops too- her fluid, inventive playing proves that she’s really the fan of artier types like Sonny Sharrock and Fred Frith that she claims to be. For proof, check out the first half with her let-loose solo on the opener “Sing, Goddess” or her crunching riffs which turn into screeching banshees and feedback howls on “The Rex” or the fuzztone jazz of “Lake Acid” or the sweet, sad notes she juices on “Achilles” or her high-speed drama on “The New Judas” (she’s definitely into mythology/history).
On the second half, she dives more deeply into early Mahavishnu Orchestra territory, sounding as if John McLaughlin hadn’t given up on great rock-fusion and abondoned the style to the mush it became otherwise (not to mention his own religious fervor). Play the thunderous “Code of Hammurabi” (named for a Babylonian king) or the yearning “Shawshank” or pretty, beautiful “Ghra Runda” for friend who’s a JM fan and you may actually cruelly fool them into thinking that a follow-up to The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire had been unearthed (which would be great in and of itself). Until (or if) such a great archival windfall happens, Mollestad gives us a generous and welcome taste of that classic sound, which her own twist on it that would hopefully make McLaughlin himself proud.
DOWNLOAD: “Sing, Goddess,” “Code of Hammurabi”