Väsen, Väsen Street (NorthSide, 2009)

Over the past fifteen years, no band has epitomized new Swedish folk music more than Väsen. A superior live act with an unsurpassed sense of instrumental interplay, Olav Johansson (nyckelharpa), Mikael Marin (viola), and Roger Tallroth (guitar) have built up enough of a following internationally that the organizers of the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival have started lobbying the town of Bloomington, Indiana to name a street after them. Whether their efforts come to fruition or not, Väsen Street can be enjoyed by anybody for the price of a typical CD.

On the new album, Väsen provide the usual assortment of self-composed and traditional polskas, schottishes, and waltzes. The schottishes (bouncy tunes in 2:4) get a bit more emphasis than usual, and "Garageschottis" is my favorite track on the CD. There are a couple of twists on Väsen Street as well. "Absolute Swedish" veers off in a bluegrass direction about halfway through, with the assistance of American musicians Mike Marshall (mandolin) and Darol Anger (fiddle). "Hagsatra Brudmarsch" was originally composed for Mikael Marin's wedding and played by a wedding orchestra; for the recording, Väsen are joined by Marin's wife Mia (from the band [ni:d]) and Emma Reid on fiddle, along with frequently recurring fourth member Andre Ferrari on percussion.

Otherwise, anybody familiar with Väsen will know exactly what to expect. This is something of a mixed blessing, as dependability often goes hand in hand with predictability. And their recorded output, good though it is, still doesn't match their phenomenal live shows. Having said that, on Väsen Street the band continues to meet the high standard of musicianship they've set for themselves, and if you like the sound of Swedish fiddle music at all, then it's impossible not to love Väsen.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

Hey, I was there! Väsen performing what would become the title tune of their new album at the 2008 Nordic Roots Festival in Minneapolis.

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