Behind every traditional hardanger fiddle tune, there is always a story,
always a fairy tale, and you actually tell the stories when you play the fiddle.

Annbjørg Lien

En Joyous Nyår till du och din familj!

There is a sharp edge in the air that reminds you that the dark winter months are upon us but there are always warm places in the Green Man building where one can be comfortable such as the kitchen! With the sun shining through the windows into that hallowed space, enticing smells of baking on the air, and quite pleasant Nordic music being played by the Neverending Session including a hardanger player who have taken up residence there in a cozy corner near the fireplace, it was no wonder that the staffers kept dropping to see if they could cadge a treat...

Me, I'll have an ale. And some fresh-baked sourdough bread and a good sharp cheese.

One of the finest ales I've ever encountered was while I was busking in Uppsala, Sweden late one cold November day when it getting far too cold to make a profit.

So I looked around and saw a pub near the corner where I was playing tunes that looked inviting -- hell, anything would have looked more comfortable than where I was at that point as a penetrating drizzle had started up, but it really did look warm and inviting. After settling me rather cold self into a corner near the fireplace, I order an Irish Ale brewed by Slottskällans Bryggeri right in that city. Most excellent with an open-faced homemade pickled herring and onion sandwich. Most tasty! Fortified by ale, warmth, and really good pub fare, I ventured out to busk for a few more hours. I Can't say I made all that much doing so but at least I felt a bit more alive after the Pub break.

Now we do not have any fresh reviews for you this edition but rather are making recommendations at which Nordic music recordings we've reviewed that you should be hearing. The hundred or so recordings in this write-up are but a mere taste of all the Nordic recordings we've reviewed but it's enough to keep you in new music for quite some time!

Ahhh, Nordic music. What better music to listen to on a bleak Midwinter's Day when a good book beckons and there's no place one has to be? We have reviewed lots of Nordic music over years with an emphasis on the new traditional style that developed some thirty years ago. Bands like Frifot, Garmarna. Gjallarhorn, and Hedningarna to name but a few are exemplars of this new musical tradition, and let's not forget such individuals as Ale Moller, Andrea Hoag, and Anders Nourde of Hedningarna fame.

For a sampler, nothing beats the three CDs in the Nordic Roots series put out by Northside. Kim Bates says 'There's a pleasing dissonance in Nordic traditions, often a restraint that hints of something without ever going there, that's found much more in Nordic music than is often the case with music from the Irish and Celtic traditions.' We recommend you read her review for why this set is a must listen for anyone interested in learning about this music!

Next, let her calm the frisson of fear that might steal up your spine upon reading the words '12th century chants, 21st century sounds.' With her review of Garmarna's Hildegard von Bingen, she assures you that you don't have to worry about the commercial appropriation of Gregorian chants; rather, you can look forward to 'a powerful interpretation of medieval music brought forward through astonishing vocals and accompaniment, that for the most part, really work.'

She finishes her choices off by saying 'Dear Reader, if you haven't yet had the Gjallarhorn experience, you've missed out!' Kim passionately declares in the last of her reviews featured this edition. Why does Gjallarhorn's Grimborg garner such an endorsement?

Donna Bird drops by this edition to bring us her thoughts on Frifot's Flyt. She says that 'Flyt runs nearly an hour long, and features a total of 20 tracks, varying in length from just over a minute to just over five minutes. On the continuum between folk and jazz that this group occupies, I would put this closer to the folk end. It's actually quite mellow -- and please don't take that to mean it's boring, because it's definitely not.'

She also liked a Danish group, Svobsk -- 'En Klang af Tidloshed is the second CD from this Danish neo-traditional band. Their first outing, Sig Mig (Tell Me), was issued in 2005. Back then, the band was a duet, with Maren Hallberg on accordion and Jorgen Dickmeiss on stringed instruments (violin, octave mandolin and viola) as well as vocals. On En Klang af Tidloshed, they are joined by Nikolaj Busk on piano and Tira Skamby on percussion.'

The solo recordings of Hedningarna member Anders Norudde gets a thumbs up from her as well -- 'On Med hull och hår, Norudde shares the spotlight with two other artists (‘Freddy’ Fredericksson again on guitar and bouzouki and Leo Svensson on cello). So (except on tracks 8 and 16, which could have come from Kan Själv!) the sound is completely different, reminding me of Väsen more than anything else.' And let's not overtlook Böndernas underverk (Farmer's Miracle) which she also comments on iy the review!

Asher Black has a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries -- 'Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairytale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien's 2001 Norwegian tour. For those who don't know, Lien is Norwegian, from Sunnmore; cites Emerson, Lake, and Palmer as a primary influence; and is fluent in the idioms of jazz, folk, new-age, and progressive rock. She's been a hardanger fiddle player from six years of age, playing concerts abroad since her teens (Italy at 14), and released four albums in the eighties before finding international fame in the nineties. She also plays nyckelharpa and violin, and has an orchestral background with folk and classical training.'

Kjell-Erik Arnesen's Calls and Jrgen Larsen and Frydis Ree Wekre's Ceros are recommended by J.J.S. Boyce -- 'Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven't heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.'

Aly Bain & Ale Möller's Beyond the Stacks is the first pick by Cat Eldridge -- 'Like the music of Frifot, of which Ale is a member, I think of this sort of Nordic music as being intimate, more personal in nature than the music made by Nordic groups such as Garmarna and Gjallarhorn, which are FHL (faster harder louder) in nature. That Möller tells witty tales during their concerts adds to the feeling that you're sitting in their Great Hall with a blazing fire roaring on a cold winter's night, a wee dram in hand, and a handful of good folk hearing them perform.'

Not surprisingly, some great music on this genre comes for the Minnesota area. Andrea Hoag and fellow musicians offer us the graceful Hambo in the Snow which he notes 'is not a Nordic traditional recording at all, but a Nordic-American traditional recording firmly grounded, like A Prairie Home Companion, in the culture of Minnesota. So, it's not surprising to sense a slightly mist-eyed vision of the Nordic countries...'

He also says Garmarna vocalist 'Emma Härdelin is a Goddess. Really. Truly.' Triakel's Sånger från 63º N features her as vocalist as well. Need we say more? I think not.

Väsen's Linnaeus Väsen gets a thumbs up from Cat -- 'The concept for this CD is centered around the renowned 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, the founder of the system of scientific nomenclature used in modern biology. Described by biographers as having no ear at all for music even though he came from a family of musicians, Linnaeus was, though not a musician, a rather good dancer of polskas. It is worth stressing that the majority of the tunes performed here have at least a minor connection to him. Would he recognize these tunes? Most likely. Indeed 'Carl Linnaeus Polonaise' which leads off the album was composed for him by his brother-in-law, Gabriel Höök. Cool. eh?'

Judith Gennett recommends a debut recording done right -- 'Bjarv is a Swedish acoustic music band. Michael Grafson plays guitar and is from Angermanland, Sweden; fiddler Olaf Gothlin is from Varmland, Sweden; Ben Lagerberg-Teitelbaum is from Evergreen, Colorado and plays nyckelharpa. All fairly young (Lagerberg- Teitelbaum is youngest at 19), their album is a smorgasbord of youthfully exuberant songs and tunes.  All but one of the tracks are traditional Swedish, and most are from Varmland.'

She also picked a Finnish recording -- '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. Torne 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.'

Estonian is up next for her -- 'The Viljandi Festival takes place every year in Viljandi, Estonia, a couple hours south of the capital city of Tallinn. This promotional sampler presents a wide variety of folk artists associated with the festival and the music institute at Viljandi. While Estonia shares a similar language and similar musical influences with its neighbor-across-the-Baltic Finland, the music on this sampler seems less polished, less interpretive, than on a concurrent sampler I reviewed from the Finnish Music Information Service. The inference is that Estonia has only recently thrown off the Soviet cultural yoke and the folk revival in Estonia is relatively new. I was reminded of the Swedish-Finnish band Hedningarna collecting Karelian material first hand for Karelia Visa. Estonia, numbering 1.4 million people, seems to also be discovering material and its own heritage with a passion.'

Scott Giannelli first looks at Frigg, a band marrying both Finnish and Norwegian folk music and expanding to incorporate other styles as well. Get the low-down on their sound by reading his review covering their albums Live and Economy Class.

Looking for a Pooka? I have one for you. Sorry I couldn't resist the joke! The group is Harv and Scott says nice things about them -- 'Last year, the band Harv followed up its excellent album Töst! with Polka Raggioso, another collection of mostly original tunes rooted in the Swedish fiddling tradition. Founding members Magnus Stinnerbom (viola and accordion) and Daniel Sandén-Warg (fiddle) were augmented for this CD by percussionist Christian Svennsson and new guitarist David Tallroth. Harv have essentially assumed the role, created by Väsen when they became a quartet and abdicated by them when they reverted to being a trio, of Sweden's leading proponents of aggressive, percussion-driven fiddle music. As a result, purists will probably not care for their sound so much, while those drawn to contemporary Nordic folk music for the way it exploits the edginess inherent in the tradition will like this a lot. '

He then moves on to the 1989-2003 recording from a group which helped define this sound -- 'Hedningarna began as a Swedish instrumental folk trio in the late 80's. Anders Stake (now Anders Norudde) played a variety of mostly homemade fiddles, flutes, and bagpipes, Hållbus Totte Mattson played lute and hurdy-gurdy, and Björn Tollin played percussion. The group took the name Hedningarna, Swedish for 'The Heathens,' because a friend described their sound as having a very pagan feel to it. Their self-titled debut album came out in 1989, but shortly thereafter Hedningarna re-invented itself in two dramatic ways. First, the Swedish male musicians recruited two Finnish female singers, Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto (now Tellu Turkka). Then the band wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embraced electronics, creating a style which they describe as folk rave.'

Scott also recommends this recording -- 'Over Stok og Steen (literally 'over stick and stone', but translated figuratively as 'over hill and dale') hail from Hedemarken, a region of southern Norway located just above Oslo and straddling the Swedish border. Thomas Lomundal (fiddle), Ronny Kjøsen (accordion and keyboards), Thomas Nilssen (accordion and clarinet), Frode Slupphaug (upright bass) and Morten Bråttas (guitar and dobro) perform the traditional folk and dance tunes from the villages of this region. Many of the tunes in their repertoire date back several centuries. On til almuen ('to all and sundry'), the band plays a wide variety of dances, from standard waltzes to old minuets to a few dances in triple time peculiar to Hedemarken, along with a few songs featuring guest vocalist Hege Nylund. The breadth of the range of styles performed here might surprise listeners whose primary exposure to Norwegian folk music consists of hardanger fiddle tunes, or perhaps a handful of polses played at Swedish dances. In addition, anyone who expects the fiddle to dominate the sound on this album will be intrigued, and hopefully impressed, by the creative arrangements which often instead put the accordion or clarinet in the spotlight.'

Ragnarok and Land are from a band described as being heavy metal Nordic trad! Let's have Scott explain -- 'Týr describe their music as 'folk metal.' They don't incorporate folk instruments directly into their sound, but they use many traditional Faroese melodies and base some of their own compositions on the traditional style. While Faroese traditional music contains influences from the islands' Celtic and Nordic neighbors, the Faroese synthesized these influences in a very distinct and peculiar way. Instead of keeping jigs, reels and polskas as separate tunes in their repertoire, Faroese tunesmiths sort of mashed these different styles together. The result is an assortment of tunes that sound familiar at first, but quickly shift into very complicated rhythms that will take several listens to pick up.'

So how about some great Nordic fiddle-nased music? Scott says 'Sven Nyhus is a veteran folk fiddler from the Rorøs region of Norway. His daughters Åshild (fiddle, viola) and Ingfrid (piano and zither) have both become accomplished folk and classical musicians in their own rights as well. While Sven has always made a point of playing his music with his daughters since they were very small, the trio have only recently started performing publicly as a group. Tre Nyhus, recorded for the Grappa label, is their debut CD. The disc contains a series of instrumentals gleaned from the vast Rorøs tradition and from Sven Nyhus' own original compositions. Ingfrid's piano provides an element of distinction to the Tre Nyhus sound, as very few traditional Norwegian outfits use this instrument for accompaniment. The arrangements often sound classical as a result, which may please some listeners a lot but others less so. Otherwise, Tre Nhyus is a consistent collection of nicely played traditional Scandinavian fiddle tunes, and holds its own among other similar CDs.'

He also gives a careful and thorough review of the ever-evolving Finnish band Värttinä's 2003 recordig titled Iki. Find out how their music has fared after 20 years of flux, both in band composition and the construction of their songs.

A recording called Háliidan is also recommended by Scott -- 'The contemporary folk music emanating from Scandinavia in general, and Finland in particular, has branched out from home-grown traditions to incorporate a great variety of musical styles across the globe, from Western pop and rock to Balkan and Middle Eastern folk music. The Finnish band Vilddas goes even further than most of their compatriot folk performers in this regard. Their lead singer Annuka Hirvasvuopio is a native of Utsjoki, the northernmost city of Finland, in the heart of Lapland. Hirvasvuopio writes and sings in Sámi, the language of the indigenous people of the far north of Scandinavia.'

His last pick is a recording titled Miero -- 'In the summer of 1995, as I was relaxing at Central Park Summerstage in between sets of a show, some music came over the loudspeakers that was unlike anything I had ever heard before. A group of women were singing tight, strange harmonies in a seemingly alien language while the musicians played their own brand of folk music, bringing in elements of rock, jazz, Balkan, and even African into a style, which, at its base, was not something I recognized. I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew I had to have it. The album being played was Aitara, from the Finnish band Värttinä. This began an obsession with modern Scandinavian folk music that has now lasted over 10 years and continues unabated. Over that time Värttinä has undergone many changes, both in terms of their personnel and their constantly evolving style. I used to get upset when a member of the band that I had gotten attached to left, but like fans of Fairport Convention I learned to take the arrivals and departures in stride. The regular addition of new blood has kept Värttinä's sound from going stale, and the band prides itself not only in not re-hashing previous albums, but in challenging themselves to continually expand the boundaries of what fits into Finnish folk music and challenging their older fans to stick with them.'

April Gutierrez recommends Groove -- '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.' If that's not enough Hoven Droven for you, she suggests you listen to More Happy Moments With Hoven Droven.

She also gives a succinct yet strong overview of the Swedish folk music collection Till The Light of Day by Ranarim. Does she recommend it to fans of Nordic music and folklore?

From Tim Hoke comes Tuuletargad (Wind Wizards) -- 'Playing music from (mostly) Estonian tradition, Tuuletargad takes its name from the wizards of Estonian legend. There's some wizardly playing here from this Chicago-based ensemble. Featured on this recording is the kannel, a psaltery that is related to the Finnish kantele and other Baltic zithers. Its strings have a bell-like tone. At times, when a strumming technique is used, the instrument sounds similar to an autoharp, even more so when two kannels are played in this fashion simultaneously. Bagpipes appear on several tracks, adding a wildness to the overall sound. Not too wild, though; the Estonian bagpipes aren't as piercing as some of the bagpipes found further west in Europe. Swedish nyckelharpas (keyed fiddles) are used on many selections, and Russian gusli (lyre) and a Finnish bowed lyre each appear on one track. More familiar (to many of us) instruments are also present -- violins, guitar, mandolin, recorder, and concert flute.'

Stephen Hunt looks approvingly at Baba Yaga -- 'Annbjorg Lien is a Norwegian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and singer, who occupies an artistic space where clumsy attempts at easy definition are irrelevant. With this CD she's created a music in which traditional fiddle tunes are pop songs, string quartets are folk dances, electronic rhythms are an element of symphonic composition, and the sound of human breathing is both rhythm and melody.'

More Hedningarna? Of course! Michael Hunter looks at Karelia Visa -- 'A previous Hedningarna CD that I had the pleasure of hearing (Kaksi!) had far more of a folk-rock feel, which I believe is more typical of the band's style. On this album, however, they have chosen to interpret the pieces in a more traditional, acoustic style. This may be due to the respect they afford the material, which is localised to the Karelia region, on the border between Finland and Russia.'

Iain Nicholas Mackenzie reviews two more recordings of Hedningarna that he recommends stronglys -- 'This is not concert music, this is dance music. Hedningarna is a group that plays astonishing modern pagan music from Sweden and Finland. They play electrically amplified music on self-made medieval acoustic instruments. Think Blowzabella with more of a rock edge.'

Three more recordings, to be precise Kalabra's self-titled debut recording, Myllårit, Eta Pravada, and Sirmakka's Tsihi Tsihi, are on heavy rotation in Iain's office playlist year-round.

Ranarop -- Call of the Sea Witch is a recording he really liked -- 'Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.'

I, Jack Merry, offer you an overview of both Frifot and Garmarna -- 'Methinks that no one can keep up with all the great Nordic music that's being released. Reynard, a band mate of mine, noted that A Fine Kettle of Fish, his favourite source of Nordic music, has tripled the space they devote to that genre of CDs! This review will be a roundup of the releases from Swedish bands Frifot and Garmarna. I've put on some proper music, one by the new Northumbrian band 422 to play as I do this commentary, and a pot of mulled cider brewing to keep me warm as a North Atlantic storm rages outside our garret flat. So sit back, and we'll talk of these bands as the wind howls outside!'

Viking style music ring your chimes? If so, Jack's got a recording for you to check out -- 'Per Ulf-Allmo and Styrbjorn Bergelt's Svarta jordens sång is of the robust, let's drink down that ale persuasion of music that one suspects their ancient Viking ancestors would have tapped their feet to while holding a tankard of malt ale (Old English ealu, Old Norse öl) in one hand and fondling a comely friendly lass with the other. Now I don't speak much Swedish -- remember that I was playing fiddle tunes, not singing selections from the Child Ballads! -- so generally speaking I can listen to a whole album of music like is on Svarta jordens sång without the slightest knowledge of just what is being said. Ok, so the voice in that case becomes merely another instrument. But in this case we have a lovely book -- yes, book -- in both Swedish and English. Good thing, too, as I learned more about Norse myth reading this book than I did from listening to any number of skalds tell the same stories, as whoever wrote the extensive liner notes would have made a finer skald!'

Lars Nilsson has what I considered to be the definitive look at the definitive collection of folk music in Sweden ever done. -- 'During the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of field recording taking place in Sweden and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland. A generation of source singers and musicians were growing very old and the effort was directed at preserving as much of their music as possible. Many of the recordings are hidden away in the vaults of Svenskt Visarkiv (a society dedicated to preserving songs), the Swedish Radio and other establishments, where they can be accessed for singers and musicians. But quite a few have resurfaced on various LPs and in radio programmes. In the middle of the 1990s the Swedish National Radio together with Caprice, a record company owned by Rikskonserter, a government agency aimed at supporting live music, started a project with the aims to present a broad selection of these recordings, arranged thematically, on CD. Up to date 28 CDs have been released, sometimes in boxes with two or three CDs in each. The box with Yoiks is no longer available but the rest are reviewed briefly here.' His very detailed review of the aptly named Folk Music in Sweden can be found here.

Lars also has a Christmas compilation to recommend -- 'Whoever came up with the idea behind Jul i Folkton (Christmas in a Folk Style) must be praised. It seems so simple, yet it works so well. Gather a number of Sweden's best singers and musicians within the folk and roots field and let them tackle, in small groups, some of our best loved Christmas hymns and songs. No rocking backgrounds, no jingle bells nor songs about Santa Claus or reindeer -- after all they are relative newcomers to Christmas -- just the songs and tunes beautifully performed, nothing else.'

Gaate's Jygri also pleased him -- 'After listening to folk rock for more than 30 years it is easy to suspect you have heard it all -- that every new record you get is merely a slight variation of some other record in your collection. And then along comes a quintet of Norwegians that completely sweeps you off your feet.'

Kelly Sedinger says that 'There's always something captivating about a well-done album of traditional folk music, especially in the area of traditional instrumental music. It's something that goes beyond the notes on the paper to the idea that the traditions of performance themselves have in some way been transmitted down to us, and that in the hands of, say, a learned harpist, we might be able to know with some degree of reliability just what Turlough O'Carolan's harp playing sounded like. Not just what the tunes sounded like, but what they sounded like when played by the master who wrote them. For me, this is one of the most seductive aspects of traditional music, and it's why Glimmer is such a seductive album.'

Big Earl Sellar looks at two recordings, Another Way and Vgen -- ' With the resurgent interest in Swedish music over the last couple of years, it's not surprising that artists in this tradition are branching out, exploring the boundaries of the music they create. Peter Puma Hedlund plays the nyckelharpa, a fascinating instrument of medieval origins. The instrument has several strings, some activated by tabbed keys (much like an autoharp), while some are simply drones. The player bows the strings with one hand and activates the stops with the other. The resulting sound is like a cross between a fiddle and a hurdy gurdy. Hedlund presents this instrument in two very interesting contexts, showing the versatility of its sound.

Robert M. Tilendis picked Tummel's Payback Time as his recommended recording -- 'Think about the band playing on while the Titanic goes down. Think of some of Joel Gray's bitchier numbers in Cabaret. Think of Josephine Baker at her most outrageous taking Paris by storm. Think of a bunch of crazy Swedes with no inhibitions whatsoever getting together and letting everyone have it, right between the eyes. That might give an inkling of the tone of Tummel's Payback Time.'

Eight Seasons and Remixed are by Mari Boine, who Barb Truex says 'is the embodiment of an ancient, present, and future musical spirit. From a part of the world I call "reindeer country", she sings the soul of her native Sámi culture and melds it with modern technology, transporting the listener to a magical, spiritual place.'

She is certainly impressed by the high notes hit by Bara Grimsdóttir on her album Funi -- but did the rest of this collection of Icelandic folk music live up to the singer's vocal range? Find out in her review.

Next up is a bit of really good Norwegian music -- 'Knut Kjøk and Dag Gården have released a polished recording [Frå folk te' folk] that speaks to their traditions and modern folk music simultaneously. There is much emotion and soul, and their arrangements are superb. These musicians are well matched as a duo and I look forward to more of their music. Norwegian music fans and initiates alike should find these tunes as comfortable and comforting as a hot cup of tea, a fleece (or rather wool?) blanket, and warm fire on a winter's evening.'

Barb says 'There is probably no culture on the planet that is without some kind of bowed instrument in its traditional practices. From a simple spike fiddle to the violin family, humans have been fascinated by the sound of dragging a bow over stretched strings. Over the centuries, some of these instruments have become memories or historical notations and others have gained popularity throughout the world, far away from the original inventors. The violin is probably the most popular instrument from the latter category. It has become a favorite not only in European music, where it began its life in Italy in the mid 1500's, but also in America (North and South), India, Japan, and many other cultures. There seems to be something universal in its appeal. As anyone knows it can be found in classical orchestras as well as folk, rock, jazz bands and any combination thereof.' Read her review of these recordings (Alicia Björnsdotter Abrams' Live at Stallet, Marianne Maans self-titled debut, Majorstuen's Jorun Jogga, Jan Beitohaugen Granli's Lite Nemmar, and Kristine Heebøll's Trio Mio) to see why trad is a good thing in Nordic music!

A trio of recordings from the Faroe Islands also tickled her fancy -- 'Spælimenninir, 'the folk musicians', was formed in 1974 and went under the name Spælimenninir í Hoydølum, as they were based in Hoydølum in the Faroe Islands. But from the beginning the membership has included players from all over the northern Atlantic climes. Their repertoire is likewise representative of Scandinavia and all of the British Isles and includes a good amount of cross-fertilization among the various traditional styles. A true example of the ever-evolving world of folk music.'

She also was very happy with another recording -- 'Väsen is Olov Johansson on 3-row chromatic nyckelharpa and kontrabasharpa, Mikael Marin on viola, 5-string viola, and pomposa, and Roger Tallroth on 12-string guitar and bosoki. Having had the opportunity over the last few years to immerse myself in many of Väsen's recordings, see them perform live, and interview them, these musicians (unbeknownst to them) have become old friends. Just recently they were guests on A Prairie Home Companion and my ears perked up, I got all excited and rushed to turn up the radio. Hey, Väsen is on with Garrison Kiellor! This is so cool! So I'm happy to be able to tell you about this album entitled Trio.'

Gary Whitehouse says Ambra is fantastic -- 'Maria Kalaniemi is perhaps the best known and certainly one of the most prolific of the new school of Finnish folk musicians who are pushing the boundaries of their music. The accordionist, a graduate of the prestigious Sibelius Academy, combines folk, classical and jazz from Europe and the New World into a concoction that is at once cosmopolitan and recognizably Nordic.'

Also recommended by Gary is a recording by Haugaard and Hoirup -- 'The overall tone of Gaestebud is just what it says, that of a feast; a musical one, of course, with everybody bringing something different to the table. The spirit of sharing and collaboration runs like a heartbeat through this bounteous 15-track CD. Production by Haugaard and Hoirup themselves is a thing of beauty, and the liner notes are fully informative. A truly generous offering from some of the world's finest traditional musicians.'

Aonther recording from that group is also highly favoured by Gary -- '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.'

Gary H. Wikfors has a choice pick -- 'This CD, recorded in July of 1996, documents the time when Norwegian hardangar fiddler (and classical violinist) Annbjorg Lien, found her own voice. Eleven of thirteen tracks are original compositions; the remaining two are adaptations of traditional melodies from Scandinavia. The composing is sensitive to the Norwegian traditions upon which it is based, but also is innovative, personal, and emotionally charged. Annbjorg Lien achieves this delicate balancing act with grace and spirit on Prisme.'

Mike Wilson finishes out our recommendations with a lovely recording -- 'Logbok (Log Book) is a refreshing and assured sounding collection from this gifted Scandinavian ensemble. The core trio that make up Færd are violinist Peter Uhrbrand, Eskil Romme on accordion and saxophones -- both from Denmark -- and the Swedish guitar and bouzouki player, Jens Ulvsand. The guys are joined here by the Danish/Norwegian singer, Julie Hjetland, who contributes her haunting vocals on a couple of tracks.
















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Winter ales

YBFH anthology

Words and music --

Kage Baker reading her The Empress of Mars novella

A reading from Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn

An excerpt from Peter S. Beagle's forthcoming Summerlong novel

An excerpt from Peter S. Beagle's forthcoming Here Be Dragons novel

Peter S. Beagle reading his 'None But A Harp er (Ibid.)'

Peter S. Beagle reading his 'The Stickball Witch' story

Peter S. Beagle reading his 'Mr. McCaslin' story

Peter S. Beagle reading his 'The Rock in the Park' story

Peter S. Beagle reading his 'Marty and the Messenger' story

Peter S. Beagle reading his 'The Fifth Season'

Black 47's 'Liverpool Fantasy' song

An excerpt from Paul Brandon's The Wild Reel novel

Tunes from Paul Brandon's group, Rambling House

Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's The War for The Oaks movie trailer

Nicholas Burbridge's 'Open House'

Cats Laughing's 'For It All' song

Charles de Lint performing his 'Sam's Song'

Gaelic Storm's 'Kiss Me' song

Christopher Golden's 'The Deal' story

The first chapter of the first novel in Deborah Grabien 's Haunted
series, The Weaver and The Factory Maid

An excerpt from Deborah Grabien's Rock & Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery

Zina Lee's 'The Oak King March'

Zina Lee's 'The Winteer Queen Reel' composed in honour of Jane Yolen

McDermott's 2 Hours 'Fox on the Run' song

Jennifer Stwvenson's 'Solstice' story

Jennifer Stevenson reads her 'Solstice' story

An excerpt from James Stoddard's 'The High House'

Tinker's Own performing 'The Tinker's Black Kettle' which is a jig by Charles de Lint and is found in his The Little Country novel

A Vasen tune for your enjoyment

Cathrynne Valente's 'The Surgeon's Wife' story

Cathrynne Valente reading selections from her The Orphan's Tales novel

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