Jonas Brandin, Erik
Berg & Hadrian Prett,
(GIGA Folkmusic, 2004)

The Dalarna region of Sweden is well known for its folklife. One of Sweden's best-known symbols, the brightly-painted Dalahast (or Dalarna horse), hails from this area. Dalarna is also known for its traditional music; one of the greats of Swedish folk, Lena Willemark, comes from Dalarna. The town of Boda is home to the folk group Boda Spelmanslag, which has been in existence for over 50 years.

This trio recording also takes Boda tunes as its subject, but it renders them in a less expansive setting than a full-blown fiddle orchestra like Boda Spelmanslag.

All three musicians have a long association with Boda tunes; Jonas Brandin grew up in Boda and played in Boda Spelmanslag at one time. Hadrian ("Hady") Prett's mother's family came from Boda. Although Erik Berg comes from Gastrikland, a region bordering Dalarna, his grandfather was the Boda fiddler Erik Maritz; Maritz taught Berg Boda tunes from an early age. Thus it's entirely appropriate that these musicians have taken Boda tunes as the material for this album.

This recording is best suited to the confirmed fan of Swedish traditional music and fiddling. Newcomers may be put off by the unadorned settings, the dissonances and odd time signatures that are characteristic of this music. The trio configuration gives a cleaner sound than a big group like Boda Spelmanslag produces, but it allows the fiddlers to play together or individually, giving a bit more oomph than on a solo fiddle recording.

A typical Boda tune is the album's opener, "Rattvikspojkar Sno for Mina Ogon," which is a stately, almost courtly polska. The moods vary on this album; "Paradispolskan" sounds somewhat plaintive or hymnlike, while "Stobbrodsvalsen" is more festive. "Den Som Hade" is a dark tune that would not be out of place on an album by Garmarna or Hedningarna. Then there's "Talgoxen," which the liner notes suggest comes from the days when Elvis was popular; however, I failed to detect the influence. Elvis does appear on the list of spelman (or musicians) mentioned in the liner note, however!

It goes without saying that this GIGA album, like the others, has excellent liner notes featuring conversations with the musicians and background on all tunes. The notes also tell which fiddler takes which part on each tune so the listener can follow who is playing the melody line and the backing part(s), for example. Those interested in Swedish traditional music will find this a goldmine of information, and the confirmed aficionado will get more out of the album than a neophyte. Bodalatar is a fine collection of tunes from one of the heartlands of Swedish folk music.

by Jennifer Hanson
9 September 2006