Svanevit, Rikedom och Gåvor (Nordic Traditions, 2008)

Svanevit are a Swedish folk quartet consisting of Anders Larsson (vocals, mandola), Erik Ask-Upmark (harp, bagpipes, whistles, Jew's harp), Anna Rynefors (nyckelharpa, Swedish bagpipe, percussion), and Maria Larsson (fiddle). Their overall sound and arrangement style could be described as being even more traditional than "traditional." That is, their playing is heavily influenced by Renaissance and Baroque styles that pre-date most of the tunes in the Swedish folk canon. For their latest album Rikedom och Gåvor (Wealth and Gifts), Svanevit perform material collected by the fiddler John Enninger, who passed away in 1908.

Going further back in time than most Swedish folk acts do actually makes Svanevit sound like a breath of fresh air. The bagpipes, harp, and Medieval-sounding percussion give the tunes on this album a distinctive flavor that's worth giving a few extra listens. Most of the tunes are waltzes, with a couple of marches and polskas providing some variety. The styles will sound familiar to those who know Swedish folk music, even if people shouldn't expect typical spelmanslag arrangements. Svanevit do a nice job on the song as well as the instrumentals. Larsson's warm, friendly baritone is very effective, especially given that very little Scandinavian folk music features male vocals. The bannd members are likewise solid players of a broad range of instruments, and they make harmonizing between pipes, whistles, fiddles, and harps seem effortless. I do wish that Larsson was a stronger accompanist on the mandola, though. I may be a bit biased as a guitarist and bouzouki player (the mandola and bouzouki are very similar), but I always listen particularly closely to the rhythm instruments in the hopes of hearing something really creative.

Rikedom och Gåvor will definitely appeal to fans of Swedish traditional music, especially if they are in the mood for a somewhat different take on the traditional tunes. Svanevit are solid performers and very creative arrangers, and their approach works well on the whole. The album should also serve as an effective introduction to the musical traditions of Sweden for people who like Medieval or Renaissance instrumental music.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

Reprinted with permission from The Green Man Review
Copyright 2009 The Green Man Review

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