Jord, Vaylan Virrassa (Caprice, 2002)

Vaylan Virassa means "in the flow of the river." The river here is the Torne, at the border between Finland and Sweden, the zipper in the jeans of Scandinavia that extends north from the top of the Gulf of Bothnia until it turns as a pocket through deep reindeer country towards Kiruna and Norway . The Swedish acoustic folk band Jord plays music from the area around the Torne on this first album.  Jord is Jan Johansson on accordion and bass, Gun Olofsson on guitar, flute, and percussion, Susanne Rantatalo on percussion, and Erling Fredriksson on bass, harp, and flute. All sing, but I suspect Rantatalo sings the most.

According to the liner notes, one of their friends came up after a concert and said "This is unlike anything else." Their music isn't exactly like anything else, especially with the Celtic harp and rain stick, but most of it sounds like Finnish humppa and folk. A few of the songs on the album are in Swedish, but most are in a Swedish minority Finnish dialect called Mean Kieli. Some of the tracks are traditional, apparently different versions of common Finnish songs, and others are composed by the band in a traditional way; Jord mixes the Russian-influenced traditional sound, similar to what has come to America with Finnish immigration, with a varying amount of contemporary arrangement.

The Finnish dialect is rich and rolling as trees along the shore, but though the lyrics are given in the Swedish/English/Finnish notes, there are no lyric translations. Many of the songs are depressing ballads of lost love, so this may be a blessing! "Oli Kaunis Kesailta, kun ketolla kavelan."  The album begins with a pretty story accompanied by Celtic harp. "It was a beautiful summer evening, when I walked through a field." Here he met a beautiful woman. Now no one can untie the eternal knot, until death separates everything.  The lyrics sound like an Anglo-Celtic story, but in this case by Karl Snell of Erkheikki (credited as traditional). A sadder traditional song is "Iso lintu merikotka." "The big bird, the sea eagle, flies to the heights," but her young heart is weighed by sorrow. It is sung with female vocals much like a minor lullaby, with Celtic harp and slow accordion. Saddest of all is another female vocal, "Istuinpa sankys laila," "I sit on my bed thinking of you, my heart watching you in the alders. Sorrow is mine, do not forget me." Jord adds a Saami and jazz ambience to the traditional "Ruusuja istutan" ("A Rose is Growing [in my yard]"). "Kuule Kuule," with guitar and flute, sounds sad, but is a little play song about buckets, lumber, and other work processes

The jaunty dance tunes perk the album up quite a bit. "Romppadansen" is a humppa song with a great um-pah accordion and Swedish lyrics.  Another jazzier humppa is Den Lycklige Laxens Humppa. It was written by Egon Frederiksson, also has Swedish lyrics, and seems to be about salmon.

Vaylan Virrassa is truly a nice album! Recommended for anyone interested in northern European...and Celtic...music. Someone told me recently that the Vikings would include a Finn on board their ships for good luck. A Finnish tune will not only will bring good luck, but provide a link to your unknown Finnish heritage!

[Judith Gennett]

Sail up the Torne with Jord in Swedish here! Disclaimer: I am not responsible for damage done by defective Mean Kieli translations.