Haugaard & Hoirup, Rejsedage / Travelling (GO Danish Folk Music, 2008)

This year marked a milestone for the Danish folk duo Haugaard & Hoirup. It's 10 years since they first collaborated. In those years, they've won seven Danish Music Awards, played more than 850 concerts and traveled the world. They've released their seventh album Rejsedage / Travelling to celebrate. It's a two-disc set, with a CD containing 11 all-new tracks, and a DVD with an intimate concert and an interview in which the duo discuss their history and talk about their music.

It is also the year that I celebrated finally seeing H&H in concert, in two performances at the Northwest Folklife festival in Seattle. What a treat that was, and if you've never had an equivalent thrill, then you'll get a little idea of what it's like from the performance on the DVD. You'll seldom see a duo who communicate so freely and wordlessly with each other while they play as do fiddler Harald Haugaard and guitarist Morten Alfred Hoirup; their improvisations and flights of fancy, sometimes subtle and sometimes breathtaking, are a joy to behold.

Travelling is yet another excellent example of this duo's music. It leans a bit more toward the sedate side of their music, but the first two tracks plus the next-to-last one together comprise a good overview of Haugaard & Hoirup's oeuvre. The album opens with "Kronprindsen march," which is slow and stately but with a lovely lilt to the fiddle. Even with such a slow and beautiful number, they introduce an element of tension that is highlighted in the later verses by some dramatic double-stop fiddling. Next up is "Ingelas Vals," a lovely waltz with accordion from guest Sonnich Lydom. And a little farther on is the traditional Danish polka, "Chr. Olsens C-dur Polka," a very lively affair with Lydom on harmonica.

With every album, H&H try some new things -- last time around it included a couple of numbers with the Quebecois group Le Vent du Nord. This time what jumps out is the presence of electric guitar on three tracks. Sune Hansbaek plays in a folky style that reminded me of early Fairport Convention, on "Sweet Autobahn," "Pigen og Soldaten," which Morten sings, and the very romanatic wantz "Valsen til Kaerligheden." Tapani Varis plays some subtle bass on several numbers, and contributes a drone from the jews harp on the tune set on track five. The first tune in the set is a slow and emotional violin tune that starts off with a lengthy section of violin-guitar pizzicato, and leads into a faster tune, both in 6/8.

Another tune set on track eight starts with a long guitar piece that's almost like an Indian clasical Alap, and sets the tone for a very slow and lovely waltz with the violin carrying the lead.

The final track was recorded live and is a long tune set of a waltz and two reels, one mid-tempo with lots of swinging syncopation, the second very fast.

Haugaard & Hoirup say in the interview on the DVD that their music is intended for listening in a concert setting, but it sure makes you want to get up and dance. Here's to the next 10 years!