From the opening bars of The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc’s self-titled album, you will be carried away by the vitality and vigour of their playing. Three unique fiddlers of different backgrounds, the sound they create together is distinctive, pure and rich.
Olav Luksengard Mjelva hails from Norway, Anders Hall from Sweden, and Kevin Henderson from Shetland (Boys of the Lough, Fiddlers’ Bid and Session A9). Each musician is already one of the best in his field, and Anders Hall had the idea for this unique collaboration.
Coming from three well-established fiddling traditions, each brings their style, approach and musical heritage to the collaboration. The sound they make is compelling and extraordinary. While completely unique, you might hear some similarities to Hannah James and Sam Sweeney’s playing, to give you a taste of the style and approach.
The trio’s debut self-titled album was released in Scandinavia last year to critical acclaim.
There is an even distribution of tunes from all three countries, both traditional and more recent compositions. The opening piece Sangenuten is named after a mountain in Norway. The trio play it with verve and crispness, evoking the feeling of ascending a mountain path with precisely the right timing for a summer’s day walk.
Next is the Un-named Shetland Reel, taking us to an altogether different genre. In the tradition of great Scottish highland music, the fiddles come in consecutively and blend to a rich sound. Then on to a traditional Swedish Polska with a gentler melodic sound.
Da Greenland Man’s Tune is another Shetland piece with a tone of yearning, thought to have come direct from the Eskimos. Two of the fiddles play in unison with a lower tone from the third instrument, creating a sound like an accordion.
Jenna Reid of Quarff is a tune by Kevin Henderson. It is quite a light-hearted, fast-footed piece and it finishes with the players bursting into spontaneous laughter, capturing the flavour of the music.
Maria’s 27th Birthday Plattgy by Anders Hall is a Swedish polka of a genre that was forbidden to be danced because of its provocative movements. It has a slightly swooning, sauntering, jaunty, country feel to it.
Perhaps the highest of the album’s many high points comes halfway through. Midnight on the Water, a slower, deeper, and more reflective tune, combines with Bonaparte’s Retreat, a popular traditional American tune which the trio clearly enjoy playing. This intense rousing piece gradually builds to a stunning emotional finish.
Halling from Trondheim is a Swedish folk dance whose steps require both softness and strength; both qualities are evident in the alternating tone and style of the fiddlers’ playing.
A reflective and dreamy piece, Fjellvak (Mountain Bird) was composed by Olav Luksengard Mjelva and other Norwegian musicians in a late night jam session.
Paella Grande, by Charlie McKerron, one of Scotland’s finest fiddle players, is another rousing piece that gives the fiddlers a chance to showcase their playing.
In Da Full Rigged Ship/The Rigged Ship, two traditional Shetland tunes, the fiddlers mimic the sound of bagpipes and conjure up the feel of a misty sea with rolling waves. The skill of this trio is captured in the perfect way they move together in and out of the different sections of this piece.
The final piece, Waltz after Lasse in Lyby, is a melancholy Swedish tune.
The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc offer highly emotional and compelling performances with faultless professionalism - a great album, not to be missed.Karin Horowitz
Released in Scandinavia in 2011, released in the UK in Summer 2012 through Discovery Records.
2. Un-named Shetland Reel
3. Polska from Delsbo
4. Da Greenland Man’s Tune
5. Jenna Reid of Quarff
6. Maria’s 27th Birthday Plattgympa
7. Midnight on the Water/Bonaparte’s Retreat
8. Halling from Trondheim
10. Paella Grande
11. Da Full Rigged Ship/Da New Rigged Ship
12. Waltz After Lasse in Lyby