(Grappa, 2002)

Here we have a trio of young Norwegians playing traditional music. Unni Lovlid sings, Vegar Vardal fiddles and Frode Haltli plays accordion. They specialize in the music of Solor and Finnskogen in Hedmark County, just northeast of Oslo near the Swedish border. There is one ringer: the Swedish tune "Sparvelille" is half of Rusk's opening medley "Gjeiteleiken og Sparvelille." Groupa fans will recognize the tune.

There is little information about the music, unfortunately. The track list on the back cover says what musician each tune comes from and where the musician lived, but that's it. Without any context, the music needs to speak for itself. A couple of the melodies ("Rusk Opp i Ring" and "Statt Opp Krestjan Stovelkraga") have surprising echoes of certain Christmas carols, but it is likely coincidental.

The album this disc reminds me most of is Jord's Vaylan Virrassa. Both are albums of regional music performed by young musicians. Both have a mix of folk numbers and "schlager" songs. Rusk's schlager songs are more over the top, however, with Lovlid wringing every ounce of emotion she can out of them. Her performance sometimes evokes a cafe singer who's had one too many, as in the conclusion of "Ved Rindedals Klipper." Other songs in this vein are "Cecilia og Rallaren/Vals" and "Middasminen." The accordion and fiddle provide appropriate accompaniment.

Lovlid can also sing in a more folk style. Her mouth music or "diddling" on "Trollfuglen" is a case in point. Here the trio of voice, fiddle and accordion works together very nicely. On "Din Sol Gar Bort," Rusk's conclusion, she sings in the stark style that is so common in the Nordic countries. "Bansull" is another ethereal piece of vocal magic. Lovlid's ability to sing with strength or finesse, whichever is called for, is distinctive.

There are also some instrumental tracks on Rusk. The title for "Den Springdansen Som Puken Spelte Da Gruekjerka Brann" is almost longer than the lively dance it describes. "Halling Etter Halteguten" is a chance for the fiddle to solo on another dance tune. The accordion gets its own solo on the dirge-like "Lyrisk Vals."

Rusk is another piece of evidence demonstrating that traditional Nordic music is in the good hands of a new generation.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 17 January 2004