Frigg, Grannen (Frigg, 2010)

Over the past decade, Frigg have become one of the mainstays in the New Nordic Folk scene. The group have combined the Finnish pelimanni tradition of groups like JPP and the Norwegian hardanger fiddle tradition with touches of Celtic and bluegrass to produce a sound that is melodic, energetic, and fun. Now Esko Järvelä, Alina Järvelä, Einar Olav Larsen, Tero Hyväluoma, Tommi Asplund (all fiddle), Tuomas Logrén (guitar, dobro, mandolin), Petri Prauda (cittern and mandolin) and Antti Järvelä (bass) return with their fourth album Grannen, a new set of instrumentals very much in keeping with what the band have done in the past.

Grannen picks up right where Frigg's previous CD Economy Class left off, with a similar mix of fast and relaxed, and serious and playful. The playing, as usual, is solid throughout. The catch is that if you're familiar with Frigg, then you know exactly what to expect. The one track on Grannen that represents any sort of departure for Frigg is the waltz "Amurin tiikeri," on which Frigg add drums and a horn section. It is the album's biggest highlight for me largely because of its novelty; much of the rest of the album, by contrast, sounds a bit too familiar.

Still, if Frigg seem reluctant to stray too far from a basic formula, it's because the formula has worked well for them, and there are some good examples of the basic Frigg sound on Grannen. Certainly, the opening track "Potatisvals" is vintage Frigg. "Bussen," near the end ofthe CD, is a fine Scandinavian jig. (Jigs and reels aren't nearly as common as waltzes, polskas, and schottishes in Nordic fiddling, but they do pop up from time to time.) And the extended set of polskas "Patana Sunset/Hölökyn Kölökyn" builds up very nicely over the course of seven minutes. So while I was hoping for something a bit more adventurous, Grannen does have enough good moments to keep Frigg's fans interested.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott


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