In his latest work Waterfjord, a title chosen to be a tribute to his Scandinavian origins and to the Irish county where the album was recorded, Finnish born and Iceland based accordionist Matti Kallio provides a homage to Irish music. Despite his previous releases, both as a soloist and as a session musician, having been centred on many other genres, traditional Irish music has always been a key inspiration for his playing and composition process and he decided it was time for a deep dive into it.
A quick read of the track list will show a number of very well-known titles, but there is space also for a few self-penned tunes here and there. The album opens in style with the foot-tapping set of reels Trip to Cullenstown / Game of Love / Launching the Boat. Other forms of traditional music are explored in the following tracks, namely the medley of Jigs Cliffs of Moher / Scatter the Mug / Strop the Razor and the lively polkas The Upper Church / Heir’s Polka Number 1 / Johnny Mickey.
His idiosyncratic compositional touch is palpable in the serene Valo, in the lyrical Girls of Grindavik and in the haunting The Snowy Mountain, this latter written after the death of legendary Finnish actor and singer Visa-Matti Loiri. The album ends on a different note with the surprising Flower of the Forest or Metsäkukkia, a waltz-style composition that is very notorious in Finland.
Despite his classical training on the piano and the many jazz or cinematic works he has conceived or arranged, Irish traditional music has always been one of Kallio’s main interests; this is particularly palpable from the evident passion and the thoughtful choice of material for this release.
The settings are clearly designed to put his fluid accordion playing under the spotlight. With a mix of guitar, fiddle and bodhràn, they never obscure its touch and build a solid and warm-sounding tapestry for these tunes. Waterfjord is a nice take on Irish material and atmospheres by a very gifted and versatile artist. One can only hope there will be more.Michele Mele
Self-released on 27 January 2023. Recorded by Benny McCarthy at Doon Studio, County Waterford
1. Trip to Cullenstown / Game of Love / Launching the Boat
2. Cliffs of Moher / Scatter the Mud / Strop the Razor
3. The Upper Church / Heir’s Polka Number 1 / Johnny Mickey’s
5. The Raheen / Father Newman’s / Maids of Galloway
6. Callaghan’s / Smoky Chimney
7. Girls of Grindavik / Rakes of Clonmel
8. Milk of the Black Cow / Mariposa
9. Ned Connor’s / The North Clare
10. The Snowy Mountain
11. Flowers of the Forest (Metsäkukkia)