Frigg, Frigg Live (Frigg Music, 2007) and Economy Class (NorthSide, 2008)

With their self-titled debut CD and their sophomore effort Oasis, Frigg quickly established themselves as the best young band in Nordic folk music. Finns Annti Järvelä (bass and fiddle), Esko Järvelä (fiddle and piano), Alina Järvelä (fiddle), Tuomas Logrén (guitar and dobro), and Petri Prauda (cittern, mandolin, and Estonian bagpipes) paired up with the Norwegian brothers Einar-Olav and Gjermund Larsen (fiddle and hardanger fiddle) to create a fresh and energetic sound, rooted in the tradition of both their homelands but also branching out to encompass other folk music like bluegrass. With an independently released live album from last year and a brand new CD called Economy Class released in Europe over the summer (NorthSide will release it here next month), the core septet have been augmented a number of frequently recurring guest musicians, including some vocalists. The basic concept of Frigg remains unchanged, though, as does their commitment to quality output.

Not only are the first two albums are both well represented on Frigg Live, but Frigg run through early arrangements for several of the tunes they would record for Economy Class as well. On the shows recorded for this particular CD, Gjermund Larsen was replaced by Finnish fiddler Tommi Asplund, and Topi Korhonen filled in for Logrén on guitar. While the live performances do not necessarily add anything to what Frigg has put on record, they do reflect the band's superior musicianship and fervent energy. Frigg do tie some tunes together in different ways than they were originally recorded, though. For example, the disc opens with a performance of "Meltaus," a tune off their debut CD, leading directly into the rapid fire polka "Solberg," which originally appeared on Oasis. The last three tracks on the CD are medleys of tunes as well. The album is particularly noteworthy for including the band's first recordings of songs. The vocals on the Norwegian waltz "Tussepolis" and the encore "Lars Lenkelifot" were provided by a Norwegian choir.

All the original members are present on Economy Class, with Tommi Asplund and Tero Hyväluoma playing fiddle on most of the record as well and Topi Korhonen contributing some guitar on two tracks. The new album opens with "Jalla Jalla," one of the tunes that they had already performed for the live album. This version is much faster, though, and reflective of band's silly and playful side. The next two tunes keep up the same frenetic pace, before Frigg slow things down with the pretty waltz "When the Time Comes I'll Be Ready." The incorporation of vocals into Frigg's sound continues on the new album. The girl group Kardemimmit sing on the song "Viinalaulu," and the Norwegian choir teams up with the Kaustinen Wedding Choir on a slightly updated version of "Lars Lenkelifot." Still, on most of the album the band aims for an edgier, more abrasive feel than on the previous albums, with several of the tunes featuring brief but discordant interludes. This will likely please some people while displeasing others, but when the band kicks into gear during the title tune, it's very hard not to rock out with them.

Frigg Live is a solid summation of the band's music up to this point. People who like Frigg will certainly enjoy it, and it should serve as a good introduction to the band for newcomers as well. Economy Class is a bit more challenging, and whether you see it as a step forwards or backwards for the group might depend on individual taste more than anything else.

Overall grades:
Frigg Live A-
Economy Class A-

reviewed by Scott

Reprinted with permission from The Green Man Review
Copyright 2008 The Green Man Review

"Jalla Jalla"

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