Kerstin Blodig,
Nordic Soul/Nordisk Sjel
(Westpark, 2009)

Kerstin Blodig has a clear, cool voice that can send chills up your spine -- and surely will on at least one of the 13 tracks gracing Nordic Soul. No need to mince words: this is uncommonly good stuff.

Mythology, musicianship and more than a little magic meet on this CD. It doesn't matter if you've never heard Scandinavian folk music before; Nordic Soul is readily accessible while remaining fresh and evocative. It also doesn't matter if you've never heard of Kerstin Blodig; her voice and acoustic guitar are pitch-perfect and arresting from the opening notes of the CD.

Introspective and moody, Nordic Soul spans the mythopoeic and modern in subject matter, from trolls to contemporary lovers. The CD opens with a spare, chilling version of "Jeg lagde meg sa silde" ("I lay down to sleep so late"), a Norwegian ballad about a man who hurries through the forest at night to see his ailing lover, only to find her dead when he arrives. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but Blodig is an expressive storyteller whose tale of heartbreak comes through without need for translation. (Full English lyrics are, however, included in the liner notes.)

Despite its somber opener, Nordic Soul includes a good variety of melodies and moods, many composed by Blodig herself. "Seagulls," one of three songs in English, is an evocative and dreamy pop ballad with a modern beat, while "Halling etter Thorvald Tronsgard" is a rhythmic, a cappella rendition of a traditional tune that sounds like it could be hundreds of years old. Then there's the oddly playful, guitar-driven "Kraka," whose subject is a giant dead crow, and the lilting lullaby "Bansull" that closes the CD.

Celtic music fans may also be surprised to find a modern treatment of the Scottish reel "Jenny Nettles" on the CD, but the Norwegian tracks are the real showstoppers. While "Seagulls" is lovely, the two other English songs are a bit heavy-handed with dated electronic elements that detract from the clean minimalism of Kerstin Blodig's voice and guitar. But don't let them stop you. If you're tired of so-called world music that has been commercialized into bland palatability, I can't think of a better antidote than Nordic Soul.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Jennifer Mo

7 November 2009

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