Over Stok og Steen,
Til Almuen
(Lindberg Lyd, 2003)

"Over stok og steen" means "over hill and dale" in Norwegian. The group that has taken this phrase for its monicker is a fine ensemble specializing in what could be called chamber folk. The musicians are Thomas Lomundal (fiddle), Ronny Kjosen (accordion, piano and harmonium), Thomas Nilssen (accordion, melodeon and clarinet), Frode Slupphaug (double bass) and Morten Brattas (guitar and that old Norwegian folk instrument, the dobro).

Til Almuen is devoted to the music of Hedmark County (or Hedemarken, as the liner notes have it), not far from Oslo. Because of its proximity to the Norwegian capital, Hedmark quickly adopted new music as it came into vogue. The flip side of this process is that traditional music was easily discarded. Still, Over Stok og Steen has found plenty of pieces to work with. The quintet plays music of different social strata, music both of the rich farmers and of the poor peasants. Most of the pieces are dances: some courtly, some down-to-earth. Pieces dominated by the strings summon up images of sophisticated ballrooms while the accordion-dominated tracks bring farm dances to mind.

In contrast to the many Nordic albums which are heavy on the polskas and hallings, Til Almuen emphasizes minuets, mazurkas and gallops; there's even a fandango. There are a couple of songs, too, that are sung by guest vocalist Hege Nylund. Two other guests, Gjermund and Einar Olav Larsen, augment the strings with fiddle and cello when necessary. Lovers of classical music will probably enjoy this album as much as fans of folk. Some of these pieces are probably not too different from music being played in other countries during the 19th century; one composer here was even nicknamed "the Strauss of Osterdalen."

The nicely designed CD package only has general notes on the music, but detailed information on the 17 tracks can be found at Lindberg Lyd's website. Til Almuen is a good example of music at the intersection of folk, popular and classical.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 31 January 2004