New Reviews: July 27, 1998

NorthSide is known for bringing the best of Scandinavia to America. Bands like the supergroup Hedningarna, the Finnish Sami "joik" vocals of Wimme, the sweet voices of Loituma . . . all of these bands and more have had albums released in North America on this label. The problem is, most people over here have never heard of these acts, and even if they have, with all of these great releases, who knows where to begin? NorthSide recognized this problem, and released Nordic Roots: A NorthSide Collection A hefty 20-song collection clocking in at over 78 minutes, this album contains a little bit of everything and more -- three previously unreleased tracks from Trok, Triakel, and Väsen. With over half a dozen acts performing in a variety of styles, there is something here for everyone -- and at only three dollars US, youcan't go wrong witht his one.

Hoven Droven are a hard-rocking Swedish band that takes traditional folk music from their native land and punches it up to new heights. The band, who's name means something like "helter skelter" in English, combine electric guitar and violin for the main effect, complimented by a background of brass, horns, percussion, and bass. Groove is a compilation fo over 70 minutes, with two reviously unreleased tracks. This album is at once exciting, fast, but also with a certain softness that can only be achieved by sensitive and virtuoso musicians who know how to make the most of their instrumentation.

Hege Rimestad is the fiddler from Sami (a region in northern Finland) singer Mari Boine's band. While Arrow is her debut release featuring many of those band members, but above all, featuring Rimestad's versatile fiddling abilities. While drawing mostly from Norwegian traditional music (her native land), the thirteen tracks are also infused with influences from the worldly realms of Celtic, Indian, and even Oriental scales and instrumentation.

This final album comes from NorthSide's sister World Fusion label (with a diverse catalogue at that) Omnium. Kalevala: Dream of the Salmon Maiden is from Ruth MacKenzie, whom Scandinavian music fans got to know when she was on tour in 1993 with the group Trova in Finland. In the years since, MacKenzie has mastered the vocal art of "kulning," which is a high-pitched Swedish song used for calling animals. But it apparently has aesthetic appeal to human ears as well, and MacKenzie sings in both Finnish and English to melodies drawing from folk but also with a very modern twist. The songs are original, and features extraordinary musicians including Dean Magraw on guitar, and Peter Ostroushko in fiddle.