Mikael Marin and Mia Gustafsson, Mot Hagsätra (Dimma Sweden, 2008)

As the violist for Väsen for nearly twenty years, Mikael Marin needs no introduction among followers of Swedish traditional music. Marin's wife Mia Gustafsson is not nearly as well known, but she has fiddled with the group [ni:d] who have one album out and are working on a second. Their first album together is titled Mot Hagsätra, in reference to a Stockholm subway line. Marin's viola and Gustaffson's fiddle are the only instruments on this recording. A handful of the tunes are traditional, and the tune "Cajunvals" was composed by Antti Järvelä of Frigg, but most of the pieces were composed by one of the two performers.

Predictably, Mot Hagsätra's biggest strength is the playing. Gustafsson is a fine fiddler who more than holds her own playing next to her husband and handling a wide variety of melodies. Marin, as he does in Väsen, supplies creative harmonies and countermelodies. There is no driving guitar or percussion on this album, so the listener can focus fully on the interplay between the two stringed instruments.

The album contains a typical assortment of polskas, along with a few waltzes and one schottisch and reel apiece. In contrast to what you might expect from a Väsen recording, the arrangements are quite easy on prospective dancers. Waltzes appear to be the duo's strongest suit. The opening tune "Hjärtklappen" sets the tone for the CD perfectly, and their joyous version of "Cajunvals" is my favorite track on the CD. The Swedish reel "Kung Harts," composed by Gustafsson for Marin's birthday and performed with the usual melody/harmony roles reversed, is another particularly strong track.

If Mot Hagsätra has a weakness, it's its length; eighteen tunes running nearly an hour is a bit much, especially when most of the best performances are placed in the first half of the album. Still, Mikael Marin and Mia Gustafsson give solid performances throughout, and the album on the whole is at least as good as the most recent Väsen CD Väsen Street. Fans of Väsen who are in the mood for something with a more purely traditional feel will like this recording a lot.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

A cute animated video set to "Cajunvals"

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