Finnish fiddles, Swedish guitars, accordions and Sami chanting. Intriguing selection...
Rob Fawcett 2002
Many multi-artist compilation CDs take such a zig-zag path through the enthusiasms of the compiler that it's hard to get a sense of anyone represented. But this one has the flow and shape of a well-sequenced single-artist album.
Late Junction presenter Fiona Talkington's passion for the music of the Nordic countries is well known. Here she concentrates on the three largest: Norway, Sweden and Finland. There's much energy and hefty strength, and overall a luxuriantly unfolding, characteristically Nordic spaciousness and melodic memorability.
A brief traditional homecoming song, "Trilo", delivered as a fanfare by Sweden's unaccompanied vocal trio Lena Willemark, Ale Möller and Per Gudmundson, leads into Norwegian Knut Reiersrud playing electric sitar-guitar in "I Don't Feel Noways Tired". This morphs from an almost "Albatross"-like air to a mighty gospel collaboration with Iver Kleive's churning church organ and the vocals of the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen gets two tracks, which given the riches available from the many performers who couldnt be included, is a little surprising. Nevertheless her "Nightsong", which incorporates and subtly updates a line from an Irish song, is very fine, as is the even more stark, shell-like vocal of "Psalm".
Sámiland spreads across the north of all three countries, and its most famous singer is Mari Boine. "Let Silver Protect" showcases the powerful, hypnotic music she has evolved by combining traditional unaccompanied Sámi vocals with slow throbbing rock pulses.
The fiddle has for four centuries been a fundamental instrument in many aspects of Nordic music. We get a characteristic example of the agile silvery surge of well-known Finnish fiddle and harmonium band JPP, and a gem of a melodic tribute to fiddle master Hans Brimi from Norway's Nils Økland.
The various forms of the accordion, loudly and brutally played, have often been responsible for the swamping of the tonal and pitch subtleties of the fiddle. But a new generation of intelligent, sensitive players has recently emerged. Maria Kalaniemi, here presents a tenderly articulate exploration of a beautiful Finnish-Swedish bridal march. Fellow Finnish button-accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen supplies a peaceful closing tune named after Finland's national flower, the lily of the valley.
From its wave-washing opening sounds of the Barents Sea to the birds with which it ends, this album is a perfect soundtrack for a computer-befuddled late night or for the bright light of morning.
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