Celtic Fiddle Festival,
(Loftus Music, 2008)

Rikedom och gavor
(Nordic Tradition, 2008)

The original Celtic Fiddle Festival featured Johnny Cunningham, who died in 2003, along with present members Kevin Burke and Christian Lemaitre (fiddlers) alongside veteran British folk guitarist Ged Foley. This is the fifth of the band's albums, the first on Burke's Loftus Music label. The newest member is Quebec-based fiddler Andre Brunet.

Given the solid credentials of all concerned, it is no surprise that the music, all instrumental and nearly all traditional, is uniformly robust and eminently approachable, the tones full, warm and rich. Technically, though tunes from Ireland, Scotland and Brittany are represented, the music is not solely Celtic. Selections from Sweden, Italy and (of course) French Canada figure in the repertoire as well.

Even so, these traditions are all related -- folk music, like any other kind, sooner or later transcends tribes and political boundaries -- and CFF's sophisticated, intricate small-orchestra arrangements make for a magnificently organic approach.

Scandinavia lays claim to a host of superb traditional bands that preserve the ballads, songs and tunes of those Northern European lands in arrangements that fuse old and new sounds with deceptive ease. I am no authority on that music, unfortunately, though I listen to it with pleasure and admiration. Svanevit is a four-piece group whose specialty is, as a blurb on the CD package affirms, "spellbinding Swedish folk music." On the evidence of Rikedom och gavor ("Wealth & Gifts," also the title of the first cut), this amounts, if anything, to an understatement.

With mandola, pipes, harps and fiddles, Svanevit recreates venerable material (mostly songs and ballads) from southern Sweden, as collected by John Enninger (d. 1908) in the 19th century. One need not understand a word of Swedish to be entranced with the extraordinary musicality and passionate performance in evidence. The Scandinavian revival has always set the highest standards, and if anything Svanevit exceeds them. If you're curious about Sweden's rural music -- or if you've already heard some of it and want to hear more -- here's where you want to go.

review by
Jerome Clark

29 November 2008

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