Theirs is the type of story that any hopeless romantic can only dream about. Imagine you are a 17-year-old busker singing on the side of the road, with people passing you by, their faces blurring as they go and somewhere in another part of town there is a man who is looking for someone just like you to make his musical odyssey complete. When he does find you (well actually his dad does) you join forces and after plenty of hard work you go on to make a beautiful, haunting, country infused melodic rock album that takes you to the top of the charts in your home country Denmark, falling in love along the way! That is exactly what happened to Dorthe Gerlach and Michael Hartmann otherwise known as Danish duo Hush who have finally released their fantastic debut album 'A Lifetime' in the UK. The story of Hush began in 1997 in a small town called Randers in Denmark. Guitarist Michael Hartmann had just returned back to his hometown after a stint in America where been playing 'speed rock' in Marie Franks heavy metal band. After increasingly becoming disenchanted with the limitations of heavy metal Michael decided he wanted to pursue something more mellow. He set up his own studio and began the search for a female vocalist with a melodic voice who could help him make his new found musical vision become a reality. This is when the then, 17-year-old, Dorthe Gerlach entered his life. Michael's dad had come across the school-girl busking in the street and thought she was just what Michael was looking for. He insisted Michael to go and check her out. When Michael heard Dorthe for the first time, he knew her unusual voice was perfect for the music he wanted to explore. After much persuading, Dorthe finally agreed to visit Michael's home studio where they recorded their first song. Realising they shared a definite musical chemistry they decided to form a band which they called Hush. It was originally a seven piece but as the struggle for success and a record deal remained out of reach the other members slowly dropped out, leaving only the two remaining. Instead of the lack of members being a hassle it was actually more of a blessing for Michael and Dorthe.
Over time they had become closer and fallen in love, which made life much simpler for them both. They started to work on their craft, writing and recording stripped down songs that hark back to the traditional singer-songwriter tradition, while incorporating their very own twist on the American alt-country scene that has often seen them being compared to 70s legends Fleetwood Mac.
After writing their first single, the dark and brooding "If I Was" for the Danish film Monas Verden, the duo then played a showcase in London. Unusually it was America that first embraced Hush after they travelled to the birthplace of country music, Nashville in 2003. The trip saw them gather inspiration, meet with record label bosses and work with some great American songwriters. America also took them into their hearts when they went to Texas and played the South By Southwest music festival.
Back home in Denmark, their own country was finally starting to take notice of this unique, honest and wonderfully talented duo and Universal Music Denmark offered them a recording contract. At that time after six years together Dorthe and Michael had already recorded most of their debut album 'A Lifetime.'
A Lifetime is a superb album with clipedy, clopedy acoustic guitars, mandolins and banjos that is held up with Dorth's smoulderingly atmospheric vocals.
Dorthe and Michael both wrote the lyrics for the album that are mostly centred around love, heartbreak and desperation that each tell a story and reach deep down into your soul.
The main thing that hits you about Hush is how similar Dorthe's voice is to that of another country great, Dolly Parton. So it is surprising to find that although Dorthe admires Partons work, she hasn't been a major musical influence in her life. Growing up she preferred the talents of Tracy Chapman and Suzanne Vegas.
On the first track 'If You Go Breaking My Heart' and 'Say A Little Prayer' amid the guitars and strings Dorthes voice rises and soothes like crashing waves on the shores edge. With such depth and maturity in her vocals it is perhaps more surprising to find that Dorthe is only 25-years-old because the soul in her voice tells a different tale.
Although the album does have a slightly radio-friendly, country pop feel, the heart of country is never far behind. While something that may seem cheerful on the outside often has a much darker underbelly, which can be heard on their new single 'If I Was.'
At first you could be mistaken for thinking that 'If I Was' was a light hearted pop song, it is actually about the taboo subject of incest and escapism. The song describes a girl who is constantly wishing for a better day, dreaming her life away which Dorthe believes everyone can relate to.
On a lighter note Lovestruck is a classic country love song that has Dorthe's honeyed vocals describing a woman who is longing for her lover to take her home while she promises to dress-up in her 'red lace.' The song has also been chosen for a VW album that is being shown all over Europe.
'A Lifetime' is a highly personal album for this duo who have been on a very long journey. From the streets of Denmark to a tiny studio in Copenhagen to Nashville and back again, Hush have managed to stay together creating a gem of an album, brimming with Americana touched with a Nordic vibe but most importantly, songs that come directly from the heart.
Hush's new single 'If I Was' and debut album 'A Lifetime' is in stores now
By Sarah Williams