Karen Tweed & Timo Alakotila,
May Monday
(NorthSide, 2001)

Karen Tweed and Timo Alakotila both have impressive musical resumes. Tweed has been a member of the Karen Tickell Band, the Poozies and Swap, and has also recorded as a duo with Ian Carr. Alakotila is part of the groups JPP, Troka and Aldargaz. Their collaboration grew out of a jam at the Halkaerkro festival in Denmark, and the more often they played together, the more it seemed an album was warranted. May Monday is that album.

The music rests primarily on Alakotila's piano and Tweed's piano accordion. Several other musicians fill out the sound a bit, but the focus is squarely on the two leads. Alakotila also wrote the string arrangements. Almost all the compositions are combinations of two or three pieces strung together in a structure that will be familiar to fans of Swap. Most of the pieces come from the English folk tradition, with a mix of traditional tunes and pieces written by such composers as Andy Cutting, Chris Wood and Pete Cooper. Several Swedish and Irish tunes also appear but the absence of tunes from Alakotila's native Finland seems a bit odd.

This album could be called "chamber folk." Perhaps its closest analogue is an album like Appalachia Waltz by Mark O'Connor, Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma, where traditional music is blended with a classical (and sometimes jazz) sensibility. It doesn't reach out and grab you by the throat, but repeated listens allow the subtle pleasures of this music to reveal themselves. One standout track is "Boda," where Shanti Paul Jayasinha's flugelhorn opens with a melodic line that is right out of a traditional piece of Swedish herding music. This moment is a sublime fusion of old and new music. Jayasinha, who is best known as a jazz player, contributes some wonderful music to this album. The range of moods runs from very quiet (Alakotila's piano solo in the middle of "Melting") to rollicking (on many pieces, usually led by Tweed's accordion) but there is a tendency for the pieces to blend together. This gives the album a unified feel, but can be difficult to pick out individual tracks.

The liner notes are informative, with comments by Tweed and a list of the songs that comprise each piece. The liner notes also list the musicians who appear on each track. Guests include Maria Kalaniemi on five-row accordion, Roger Tallroth (Vsen) on guitar, Timo Myllykangas (JPP, Troka) on double bass, Mauno Jrvela and Matti Mkel (both of JPP) on violins, Helka Hakasalo on viola and Marion Gbel on cello.

May Monday is far from a traditional folk album, but anyone who loves well-played acoustic music should check it out.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 2 November 2002

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