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Ulrika Bodén
Vålje Å Vrake
Drone, Sweden (

cd cover Ulrika Bodén is best known as one of the voices with Ranarim and Rosenberg 7 and the leading vocal force of folk-funk ensemble Kalabra. Now we finally get to hear her at length, in full effect on a collection of magnificent folk songs from her home in Ångermanland, on the central Bothnian coast of Sweden. Backed by the small and solid ensemble of Anders Norrude (bagpipes, flutes, strings and other Nordic sounds), Jens Englebrecht (mandola, guitar), and Niklas Roswall (nyckleharpa, kontrabasharpa), Bodén walks us through the ancient folks songs of the area, in both traditional renderings and vibrant, contemporary, acoustic re-arrangements. Vålje Å Vrake (Drone, Sweden) means "picking and choosing" and she has chosen some marvelous tunes.

The set opens with a 1963 Swedish Radio recording of Karin Sikström (1899-1981), whose spirit permeates the rest of the recording. After the brief introduction, the bagpipe mournfully drones, then the fiddles and guitar break into a traditional wedding dance, "Giftsvisan," setting the place for Bodén's opening vocal, delivered as much like a fiddle as a voice and setting the tone for the rest of the recording. From here the tunes are scattered about the countryside, from high-energy, fast paced instrumentals to more measured polskas and slow, gorgeous a cappella folk songs. The unifying force is Bodén herself, who uses a strong, unadorned vocal technique, light on ornamentation and modern inflection. There are times that, were the voice removed from the contemporary setting around it, might be another one of those field recordings, found in an archive and given new life without the tape hiss or vinyl scratch. I am a huge fan of her more popular recordings, like the most recent (and not to be missed) Kalabra recording, Folka (Caprice, Sweden), where she gets to slide, slither and bend her notes to bring a jazzier, bluesier sound to her voice. But Vålje Å Vrake offers her a chance to stand before a microphone and sing like it was 1899, with the spirit of Karin Sikström always close at hand. It's a magnificent work of folk art, never cast in amber, always vibrant and very much in the present. - Cliff Furnald

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Audio ©2001 Drone, used by permission

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