JPP, Artology (NorthSide, 2006)

The Finnish pelimanni tradition of ensemble fiddling has endured for several centuries. The center for this fiddling style has historically been the village of Kaustinen, from which the Järvelä family of fiddlers come. For over twenty years, the standard-bearer of the pelimanni tradition in Finnish folk music has been JPP. JPP features the fiddle work of Mauno and Arto Järvelä, Matti Mäkelä, and Tommi Pyykönen. Timo Alakotila provides accompaniment on harmonium, and the next generation of Järveläs is now represented in JPP as well by new bassist Antti Järvelä, who also plays with the excellent band Frigg. While they tour and perform regularly, JPP do not venture into the recording studio all that often, with their previous studio album String Tease having come out in 1998. This year though, JPP recorded Artology, a disc of new tunes composed entirely by Arto Järvelä.

Musically, Artology will not surprise anybody already familiar with JPP's work. The band performs polskas, polkas, tangos, and schottisches with their usual air tight precision and a healthy dose of quirky twists. One highlight is "Murhe (Grief)," a tune inspired by a TV documentary about two young boys, one Israeli and one Palestinian, pen pals living 5 km apart who might as well have been on other sides of the planet. They eventually did get to meet and play PlayStation together, and that's why the tune abruptly becomes happy and bouncy near the end. "Yli Äyräiden (Over The Banks)" is a very pretty, ambient waltz in honor of the sea. The band shows a bit of an American influence with their lively tune Sutela, dedicated to an old-time fiddler from Vermont named Pete Sutherland. The album closes with "Stuffologie," a swingy live track from the 2005 Kaustinen Folk festival.

Artology meets the same standard of quality as the previous JPP albums. Fans of the band will know exactly what to expect when they put this CD on, which I suppose can be taken as a weakness of the album as well as a strength. If I were to make any other criticisms of Artology, it's that Timo Alakotila has composed many fine tunes for the band in the past, and I can't help wondering if the disc would have benefited from some counterpoint from him. Otherwise, Artology is a collection of good likable tunes from one of the venerable groups in new Finnish folk music.

Overall Grade: B

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