Back in the glory days of 80s country music a group called Shenandoah released a song called “Ghost in this House.” I liked the song, even though I’ve never been wild about the group performing it*. It painted a very different image of a break up–a lonesome, desperate, defeated kind of image. It’s like a textbook description of clinical depression–phone and door unanswered, not picking up the mail, sitting in the darkened (and unmaintained) house.
I’m just a ghost in this house / I’m just a shadow upon these walls…
And backing up this accurate description of a person who has been rendered a shell of his/her former self is a haunting, but simple tune (I can hum this on my own without cringing at sour notes–that’s no easy thing, I tell you).
The combination was potent enough that Alison Krauss covered the song in the 90s–creating an even more beautiful and haunting version than Shenandoah’s original. This version seems to be the one through which more non-mainstream-country fans have been exposed.
And now, score one more for exposure.
I was more than a little shocked, and totally stoked and giddy, when I popped in my newly imported copy of Sissel’s new album Til Deg….** and within 4 notes of Track 7 beginning I was bouncing my chair. “Levande Död” was undeniably “Ghost in this House” (and I totally started singing along in English). It sounds beautiful. This fits right in my deep love of good covers of good songs AND my deep love of hearing covers done in random languages (especially if the translation fits well….which means it’s not an attempt to do a one-to-one word swap, but still maintains the original theme/story).
I haven’t had a chance to translate all the lyrics, but the title alone tells me that the lyrical theme of the original remains in tact. “Levande Död” was pretty obviously “Living Dead” to me (I confirmed this with Google translate). So either Levande Död is the coolest way to refer to ghosts in a Norse dialect (fairly sure this cover is in Swedish)…..
Or maybe Sissel’s singing a really beautiful song about zombies.
That would be awesome, too.
*Shenandoah actually had a number of selections I loved as pieces independent of the particular performance. I can’t fault their ability to choose gems. They also had “Sunday in the South” and “Church on Cumberland Road.”
**In theory there will be a US version of Sissel’s album out eventually, but given it’s already been 4 months since Til Deg… came out in Europe, I’m not sure it will ever come out here, at least not with the high percentage of Norse-language content. I’m cool with Sissel singing in English, French, Italian….but I have found more favorites when she’s singing in Norwegian, Danish or Swedish. Unfortunately, that’s also the stuff that tends to get removed in US releases of her albums. Apparently it’s okay to expose Americans to foreign influence if it’s a Romantic rather than a Germanic language….