Jonsson, Carr & Marin, |
(Nordic Tradition, 2007)
I don't know if this CD of spirited Swedish instrumentals will, as the artists declare (tongues firmly in cheek), "result in massive publicity and a life of luxury." Probably not, but it's not for lack of skill or energy. If the only Swedish music you know is Abba, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. With Maria Jonsson on violin, Ian Carr on guitar and Mikael Marin on viola and violin, the instruments are classical, the melodies a mixture of traditional and new, the pace brisk and redolent of crisp, clean air.
Part of the appeal is the novelty of Scandinavian folk music, which rarely makes it to this side of the pond. But Maria, Ian and Mikael are also excellent musicians (and obvious friends) who play off each others' strengths to produce beautifully rich, warm sounds.
The CD opens with the tongue-twisting "Kvarnbergspolska," a robust, sunny polska in which violin and guitar duet against the short, percussive strokes of the viola. Without relying on any specifically Swedish instruments, it sounds distinctly Scandinavian. As it should: it's a tribute to Kvarnberget, where Maria and Ian live. Initially slower and more melancholy, the marvelous "Gi-Polskan" starts as a sly, spare melody in a minor key. One by one, each instrument begins to elaborate on the tune, and by the end, it's a complex, tightly woven mesh of guitar, violin and viola.
Adding to the recording's warmth and intimacy is the fact that many of the compositions on Timber! are highly personal. "Old Man Waltz" was inspired by Mikael's father, whom he describes in the liner notes as "A bit slow, shuffling slightly, a bit old." The piece itself is dignified, affectionate and remarkably evocative.
With minor variations, the pace is brisk, occasionally danceable (as in the toe-tapping "Grebe") and the tone predominantly upbeat and vibrant. For a recording without a single drum, there's plenty of rhythm and melody in spades. I actually prefer the trio's compositions to the more solemn traditional tunes, but not by much.
Every CD I've reviewed from the Nordic Tradition label has impressed me with its standards of musicianship, production and good taste. A bright, appealing acoustic journey into new Swedish folk music, Timber! is no exception.
19 July 2008
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