Maria Kalaniemi
& Sven Ahlback,
(NorthSide, 2001)

Airbow is a lovely CD of Scandinavian fiddle and accordion music. Maria Kalaniemi's accordion and interest in Finnish-Swedish folk music blends hauntingly with Sven Ahlbäck's Swedish fiddling. Both musicians have not only studied Scandinavian folk traditions but have explored these traditions in contemporary ways, and Airbow is one of the results.

Ahlbäck's roots lie in the Gästrike songs, described as "crooked as the forest paths," a phrase that seems to encapsulate the beauty and charm of this CD. The fiddle and accordion twist around each other as they follow a meandering melody, and one song winds into the next almost seamlessly.

Every track in Airbow is so beautiful in its own way that I can choose neither a favorite nor one I like less that the others. I am constantly amazed by the artistry and intricate playing on each song, and hear more every time I listen -- and I've been listening to this one for a week now.

The liner notes are the album's weakest point. They have only the bare basics. I would have appreciated more information on the songs and the styles, particularly since I'm not as knowledgeable about Scandinavian music as I'd like to be. It is a pretty design, though, and one that matches well with the music.

Fiddle lovers will like this album. I hope no one is put off by the presence of the accordion; I know many people who dislike this instrument. I can only assure you that, here, it's the perfect match to Ahlbäck's fiddle. Airbow will also appeal to people interested in Scandinavian roots music, and some of its modern interpretations (like Hedningarna). And I hope some Celtic fans will venture into this territory; there's distinct common ground between Ahlbäck's fiddling and fiddling in the Celtic traditions. I love this album, and hope this review piques people's interest. Enjoy!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 24 November 2001

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