Hoven Droven, Groove (Xource Records, 1997, compiled from 1994 and 1996 materials)

A sextet from Sweden, Hoven Droven live up to their name, which roughly translates to "Helter Skelter." To call their music merely sprightly would be an insult; to say they are just energetic, a gross understatement. The eighteen instrumental tracks on this compilation seem to quite literally pulse with vibrant life and energy, driven by Kjell-Erik Eriksson's fierce (or one might say fearsome) fiddle playing, and embellished by instruments as diverse as flugelhorn, Harjedals-flute, saxophone and congas. Lest one assume though, that they are all sound and fury, with little or no talent, never fear, the music is never bombastic, but crisp, clean and well played.

Groove is a compilation of sixteen tracks from the band's two previous albums, 1994's Hia Hia and 1996's Grov. The last two, previously unreleased tracks were recorded live in 1997. Despite the band's overall hard edge, perhaps the finest songs on the CD are two slower, more stately paced pieces, the lilting "Kjellingen" and the hypnotic, Eastern-tinged "Skogspolska (Forest Polska)." Other notable tunes are "Sltenbjenn (Slope Bear)," "Okynnesvals (Waltz of Mischief)" and "Skvadern (The Skvader)."

The only flaw with the CD, if it can even be considered that, is that one song tends to spill into another, making them occasionally difficult to differentiate from one another. It is but a minor detail ultimately, as the quality of the songs as a whole is excellent. I did, at first, also take objection to the scanty nature of the liner notes, but a closer review pointed out a Web site which contained a detailed origin for each of the tracks, entertaining reads themselves. Interested folk may want to check out the band's official home page as well.

I listened to the CD for the first time while stuck at work, and could not help but keep one foot tapping the entire time, and the seventy minutes of music seemed to fly right by me. It would be nigh near impossible to just sit through such exuberantly played music. A delightful blend of hard rock and folk, Groove is a worthwhile purchase indeed!

[April Gutierrez]