Trio Mio, Stories Around a Holy Goat, and Kristine Heebøll, 10 Point (GO' Danish Folk Music, 2007)

While not as well known internationally as their counterparts in the other Scandinavian countries, the folk musicians of Denmark have a thriving community. As in Norway, Sweden, or Finland, it is not unusual to find a Danish musician involved in multiple projects with different groups of people. Fiddler Kristine Heebøll, for example, first came to prominence in Danish folk circles a decade ago as a member of Phonix, who would later (without her) gain a small audience in America as a result of their performance at the 2004 Nordic Roots Festival. More recently, she has worked both as a solo artist and as a member of the group Trio Mio. May 2007 was an especially busy month for her, as she went into the studio to record two different albums. One was a Trio Mio album called Stories Around a Holy Goat, and the other was a solo effort called 10 Point. Both these albums cover the same broad range of Danish traditional music, and even have some overlap in regards to specific tunes played, but they differ significantly in how the tunes are arranged.

In addition to Heebøll, Trio Mio consists of Nikolaj Busk on piano and accordion and Jens Ulvsland on bouzouki, guitar, and vocals. Like most Danish traditional recordings, Stories Around a Holy Goat mixes the polskas, waltzes, and marches found in the rest of Scandinavia with the jigs, reels, and slow airs of the Celtic tradition. The distinguishing feature of Trio Mio's arrangements is the presence of a piano, an uncommon instrument in Nordic music. Busk makes the instrument work in this contex by clevely shifting between harmonies, chords, and some decorative improvisation. Ulvsland's accompaniment on the more modal bouzouki provides a nice counterpoint to the piano, without clashing with it. The interplay between the three instruments works best on the very pretty wedding waltz "Bryllupvals til Mari og Johnny." A couple of tunes feature some additional musicians, who work to great effect on the extended medley "Julias Vals/Klippen på Koster." This set starts out as a simple, placid waltz, with the fiddle and accordion sharing the melody with a clarinet. The waltz then shifts into a polska as the arrangement gets more dynamic, before going completely Medieval when a keyed fiddle and hurdy-gurdy come in.

For 10 Point, Heebøll composed all the music herself and did the bulk of the arranging as well. Most of her arrangements emphasize group fiddling, although Dan Gisen Malmquist appears frequently on clarinet and bass clarinet, an an accordion and a cello can be heard on the disc as well. Two of Heebøll's compositions from Stories Around a Holy Goat, "10 Point" and "Klippen på Koster," also appear on this album as well, but the performances differ significantly between the two albums. While Trio Mio played "10 Point" as a fast reel backed by percussive finger-picking on guitar, Heebøll's solo arrangement is more subdued, with her plucked fiddle serving as the rhythm instrument. You know a tune is good when it holds up to very different arrangements, and the polska "Klippen på Koster is arguably the standout track on both albums. The string quartet arrangement of "Klippen på Kloster" on 10 Point works just as effectively as the more Medieval treatment that Trio Mio gave it. Other highlights include the set of jigs "Svesken/Det flodefarvede lyn" and the marches "Gräfin von Holzendorff/Desperate Nobility."

10 Point and Stories Around a Holy Goat come equally recommended as good examples of Danish fiddle music. Kristine Heebøll is a very versatile player as well as a promising composer and arranger. And with both Trio Mio and the guests on her solo record, she works with a solid supporting cast.

Overall grade: B+ for both

reviewed by Scott

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