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Ewert Sundja is the lead vocalist, keyboard player, and namesake of Ewert and the Two Dragons. Together with Erki Parnoja (Guitar/Backing Vocals), Kristjan Kallas (Drums) and Ivo Etti (Bass Guitar), the band has molded a uniquely modern Nordic folk sound. The Estonian quartet has been making waves around Europe and only recently began touring their 2011 release Good Man Down in the U.S.
The rakish crew stopped by the WERS studio to play us a few songs on their way to a gig in Cambridge. This type of globetrotting and genre melding détente would have been impossible for the band under Soviet rule. Before their formal independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 Western pop music and even musical instruments were banned by the Estonian government. “Our parents’ generation, they all knew how to build their own guitars” said Erki. “They used phone wires to make guitar strings and they used the speaker from a telephone to make a distortion pedal.” This spirit of ingenuity and the will to overcome intense odds helped the band to find success in today’s music environment.
The first song they played for us was the title track “Good Man Down.” The song starts slow with a plucky acoustic trip down a narrow foot path and then broadens to include a low rhythmic second guitar. The guitars are linked by Ewert’s keyboard which sampled a synthesized electronic Italian organ sound that is reminiscent of an accordion. The song itself is a folksy tale of a woman who won’t be held down. The chorus chants “how could you shoot a good man down?/Leave with a mourning/Brokenhearted on the ground/Like the others before him/A burden heavy as a rock/ain’t nobody gonna stop her/Go ahead and walk alone.” The story is reminiscent of a country western ballad but is sung in an almost medieval minstrel cadence.
The next song that Ewert and the Two Dragons played was “Sailor Man.” This complex and contemplative song has a fairly simple lyrical structure. The lyrics themselves are a testament to the powerful feeling of love. This emotion is likened to a large ship at sea that cannot be sunk by even the most treacherous storms.
The last song that they played for us was the first single from Good Man Down, “(In the End) There is Only Love.” This beautifully wistful song seems to be the soundtrack to a lucid dream where the listener is floating above themselves. A driving drum line sets the stage for wispy guitars and a hauntingly alluring harmony that is escalated to the heavens by the introduction of a glockenspiel.
Ewert and the Two Dragons have gained a lot artistically from travelling the world. They spent the entire month of August recording at Bear Creek Studios outside of Seattle with Ryan Hadlock. Hadlock has famously produced music for The Lumineers and a slew of other Seattle based bands. The guys are excited for a spring release of their next album. After waiting patiently for the world to catch on the people of Estonia will finally get some new tunes out of the band.