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The Nordic Master is a program formed by the folk music academies of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. For those who follow Nordic folk music, the faculty names will all resonate: Maria Kalaniemi, Harald Haugaard, Olov Johansson, and Steinar Ofsdal to name a few.

Blink is one of the recent student projects to come out of the program. The ensemble members represent all four Nordic Master countries plus Estonia. With a well-chosen set of traditional tunes and well-crafted originals, this recording demonstrates a blend of all-around musical skill and good taste, and shows why national folk music academies are valuable to all of us.

There’s plenty of traditional music here, and often it’s difficult to tell where the traditional music ends and the original material begins. One of the highlights of the record is “Polska after Sven Donat” with credit going to both a traditional tune from Småland and to Blink’s Swedish nyckelharpa player Emilia Amper. The arrangement features fiddle and vocalists trading off the melody with very nice string accompaniment.

The group’s Danish/Norwegian autoharpist Jullie Hjetland Jensen contributed a beautiful original, “Miss You” sung in English. The longing is portrayed not only in the words, but through tight vocal harmonies and a sparse accompaniment. The a cappella section that closes the tune is especially moving.

Blink has found many ways to get a very full string sound without using a guitar. There are lots of moving parts underneath the melodies with fiddle, nyckelharpa, autoharp, and kantele mixing chords and arpeggios, sometimes in very simple ways, sometimes building in complexity, and always in support of the melody lines. The variety of the arrangements on this recording is impressive.

These four Nordic musicians have taken full advantage of the Nordic Master program to put together a world-class collection of traditional and original tunes with stellar arrangements and outstanding musicianship. Highly recommended. - Greg Harness

CD available from cdRoots

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CD available from cdRoots

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