Kouon Frouva, Askel Astuttavaksi (Lempilevyt, 2007)

When I was up at the Maine Kantele Institute in August, guitarist Topi Korhonen introduced me to a whole bunch of music from the current Finnish folk scene, including several bands which he's involved with. One such band is Kouon Frouva. In addition to Topi, the band also includes Värttinä's Lassi Logrén on fiddle, Jarmo Romppanen on mandolin and mandola, Jani Snellman on bass, and Silvo Vatanen on flute. Their album is called Askel Astuttavaksi, which means "step by step" in Finnish. Jarmo Romppanen handles most of the songwriting, but Korhonen and Logrén share the vocals with him.

This album is a bit unusual for a Scandinavian folk recording, in that there's a heavy emphasis on male group vocals. You might think that the masculine voices would result in a more aggressive sound than is typical for Finnish folk, but in fact the opposite is true. In contrast to the high, harsh harmonizing of a band like Värttinä, Kouon Frouva is laid back, subdued, and jazzy in a mellow sort of way. The voices blend together nicely and pleasantly throughout. Likewise, the musicians are all solid players as well. There's some especially nice interplay between the guitar and mandola on "Olet Sankari," for example, but I'm partial to that sort of thing.

Askel Astuttavaksi
does not have a real standout track, but the whole album has a really cool groove to it. While the mellowness might take some getting used to, this is definitely the kind of album that grows on you with repeated listenings.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

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