Lori Gordon

Bletherings From a Music Obsessed Mind

Annlaug – “November”

I’ve been waiting a long time for Annlaug’s debut album, November, to come to fruition. Demos of sparse fiddle tunes and songs had captured my attention and I was curious to see where it would all lead. November is everything I had hoped it would be and more. It’s sophisticated, engaging and musically diverse.

Featuring a Who’s Who of Scottish folk musicians (Mattie Foulds, Inge Thomson, Martin Green, Aidan O’Rourke and Anna Massie, to name a few), plus string arrangements by Kim Edgar, November delivers a powerhouse of sound and artistry.

Annlaug’s musical versatility is evident in the array of styles presented here. Rock, Americana, folk and traditional flavors are married beautifully on this album. Having primarily heard her fiddle tunes up to this point, I was surprised, and pleasantly so, to discover that the majority of November is sung. Regardless of style, Annlaug’s self-penned lyrics paint an intimate portrait of the songwriter. It doesn’t really matter that the lyrics are in Norwegian (English translations are given in the liner notes) because her voice ably tells each story.

The entire album is brilliant and it was difficult to choose favorites. That said, my favorites are “Hakestad,” which showcases Annlaug’s exquisite Hardanger fiddle playing; “Songen Eg Skulle Ha Skreve,” with its gorgeous strings; and the two traditional lullabies: “Suril Luril” and “Till Till Tove,” which closes the album with a sparse, haunting arrangement.

With November, Annlaug has established herself as a force to be reckoned with on the contemporary folk scene.

To visit Annlaug’s MySpace page, click here.



February 25, 2010 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gjermund Larsen Trio – “Ankomst”

Prior to stumbling across this album, I had only heard Gjermund’s work with the traditional Norwegian super-group Majorstuen. I was curious to hear the direction he ventured on his own. What I found was a sumptuously intoxicating album.

A few of the pieces on Ankomst are given a very traditional treatment, especially “Brudemarsj” and the album’s one song, “Sukkersøtt”. However, the majority of the tunes feature Gjermund’s divine fiddling interwoven with gentle jazz piano and bass.

I rarely describe albums in terms of sex appeal, but Ankomst definitely has it. There is a dreamy sensuality, almost a sultriness that runs through this album. The opening trio of tunes, “Arrivals,” “Midnattsdrøm,” and “Regntung Dag” invite you into the reverie, which is really only broken by the bonus track “Kitchenpolka,” a fast-paced, somewhat jarring conclusion to the album.

With the exception of that last track, there really are no weak areas on Ankomst. While each track can definitely stand on its own, I’ve found it a much more fulfilling experience to listen to the album as a whole. This is an excellent album to get lost in at the end of the day.

Those attending the final weekend of Celtic Connections 2010 can see Gjermund perform with Majorstuen on 30 Jan. and 31 Jan. with his trio.

To visit Gjermund’s MySpace page, click here.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Jazz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Annbjørg Lien & Bjørn Ole Rasch – “Come Home”

annbjorg bjorn

Come Home is a new duo project by Annbjørg Lien and long-time collaborator/producer Bjørn Ole Rasch. Featuring Lien on fiddle, hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa and Rasch on harmonium, Come Home is a bold melding of traditional and contemporary, intimate and innovative.

The album opens with “Funk Trunk,” one of seven original tunes. It’s a fast-paced, edgy piece that sees fiddle and harmonium trading lead and percussive roles throughout and really sets the mood for the remainder of the album. The most innovative track comes midway through the album, in the form of “Woody’s Bounce,” which features a fantastic interplay between the nyckelharpa and harmonium.

Come Home includes two tunes that have appeared on other Lien recordings. The reworking of “January” is quite gorgeous and a welcome addition here. However, “The Old Car” doesn’t really offer anything new. The surprise track on the album is the title track “Come Home” (Kom Heim), which is sung by Annbjørg, with backing vocals by Bjørn Ole.

Fans of Lien’s more traditional fiddle work will not be disappointed. Her performances of the traditional “Jo the Giant” (Kjempe-Jo) and the two Hans W. Brimi pieces, “The Goblin’s Halling” (Tusshallingen) and “The Little Goblin” (Tusseliten), are truly exquisite and, for me, they are the standout tracks on the album.

Come Home manages to push into new territory while simultaneously staying close to home. It’s a joyous exploration of old and new and a journey well worth taking.

To visit Annbjørg’s official website, click here.

To visit Annbjørg’s MySpace page, click here.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Traditional | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Liv Runesdatter – “Syng Hjerte”

liv runesdatter

Syng Hjerte, by Liv Runesdatter, is the culmination of several years of studying obscure songs from a small pietistic laymen’s movement that formed in the eastern region of Norway during the mid-1800’s.  Liv’s voice throughout this recording is breathtakingly gorgeous and hymn-like.  The music, however, is more avant-garde, even bordering on atonal at times. The instruments used are Hardanger fiddle, accordion, sax, double bass, melodica and baglama, but rarely more than one or two instruments at a time or per song. Most of the arrangements are sparse, which serve to punctuate the instrumentation even more.

Syng Hjerte opens with the delicate “Nu Hviler Mark og Enge,” which layers Liv’s voice over subtle pizzicato of the fiddle. From there, it ventures into more worldly and adventurous territory. “Hos Gud Er Idel Glede” calls to mind the music of the Rom, with it’s dark fiddling and tones, while “Skal Vi Ustridig Hist,” featuring the melodica, is extremely experimental. The album closes with the meditatively sublime a cappella piece “Nu Solen Går Ned.” The standout tracks are the title track “Syng Hjerte, Syng en Aftensyng,” featuring the exquisite fiddling of Tuva Bolstad, and “So, Ro Snubberusken Min,” where Liv is backed solely by the baglama.

Syng Hjerte is both reverently soothing and exotically jarring, but well worth a listen.

To hear several tracks from this recording and learn more about this project, visit Liv’s MySpace page.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Avant-Garde, Traditional | , , , , | Leave a comment

Martine Lund Hoel – “Hidden Shore”

MartineLundHoel-HiddenShore

If I had to describe the debut release Hidden Shore by Martine Lund Hoel in one word, it would be intoxicating. Martine is a hardanger fiddler from Norway, but this is definitely not Norwegian folk music. Hidden Shore features a seductively lush aural landscape that one can get delightfully lost in.

Martine’s fiddling is exquisite as she explores the full range of her instrument. Additionally, she is backed by a full band, which adds rich layers to each piece. “Vildans” and “Varganatt” absolutely brim with unbridled passion. Equally breath-taking are the serenely pastoral “Sadly Missed” and the album’s one song, “Go n-éirí an bóthar leat,” done in a breathy soprano that quickly gets under the skin in a good way.

Hidden Shore is a stunning album that has left me wanting much more.

To hear Martine’s music, visit her MySpace page.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, New Age | , , , | Leave a comment

Synnøve Rognlien – “Undr”

synnove rognlien

Undr is the debut release by Norwegian singer Synnøve Rognlien. I can read and write a little Norwegian but can only understand about 1 in 50 words when it’s spoken. Why, then, am I reviewing an album sung entirely in Norwegian? Because her music is amazing.  Her voice is an exquisite instrument that carries me over a beautiful, gentle, almost hypnotic landscape.

Her music is a rich blending of acoustic, folk-based music with electronica, along with elements of jazz and Gregorian chant thrown in for good measure. I find Undr joyously refreshing. The two most straight-forward, melodic songs are “Som Bare Du Bar” and “Du Som Våker”. Most of the other pieces rest more comfortably in the experimental vein. The most stunning song on this album is “Det Røde”. The arrangement is very stark, highlighting Synnøve’s emotion-laden voice. The album closes on a fantastic note with “Du”. My favorite pieces are “Det Røde”, “Serk”, and “Du Som Våker”, with “Du” not far behind.

This album is an incredible tapestry of sound that definitely warrants repeated listenings.

To learn more about Synnøve and hear her music, visit her MySpace page.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Avant-Garde, Jazz | , , , , | Leave a comment

Elisabeth Vatn – “Piper On The Roof”

Elisabeth VatnPiper On The Roof is the recent release by Norway’s Elisabeth Vatn, a bagpiper who specializes in the Swedish bagpipes. Even though I had listened to some of the tracks on her website prior to getting the album, Piper still caught me quite by surprise.

While some of the pieces may be based on traditional or classical works, they’ve been turned inside out and given a totally contemporary treatment. It’s jazz, new age, blues, and electronica all rolled into an avant-garde package. This is an album that needs to be listened to more than once to hear all of the layers. There are a few pieces, such as Fanfare, Bagging, and Pipes of Peace, where Vatn’s piping is the focal point. However, there are just as many other numbers (Springlek After Troskari Erik, Noor/Bjørka, and the 7-minute space odyssey Reed Poetics) where the pipes weave in and out and become part of the sonic fabric. Piper features three fully vocal tracks, the most startling of which is Danny Du (the well-known “Danny Boy” sung in Norwegian). Even though it’s given the same modern treatment as the other pieces, it still seems out of place.

My favorite pieces on this album are Bagging, with it’s Bolero-esque riffs, and the trance-inducing chanting of Noor/Bjørka, though I also enjoy the vocals on Visa Från Utanmyra-Dusse Oktii. Piper On The Roof is a rather seductive walk on the wild side and one I enjoy taking more and more often.

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Avant-Garde | , , , , , | Leave a comment