Áššogáttis - By The Embers
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Sofia Jannok
Áššogáttis - By The Embers
Caprice Records ( www.capricerecords.se)

"This hearth will always be home / that's where I return." That sentiment encapsulates the theme and feeling of Sofia Jannok's most recent CD Áššogáttis - By The Embers. Jannok is Sami, originally from Gällivare, Sweden, some 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This set of songs, all sung in Sami, tell of lakes and tundra and pastures and reindeer herds. Seven of these songs were written by Jannok, and she added lyrics to two others based on traditional yoiks.

Jannok has a strong, clear, beautiful voice, a voice that draws in the listener with every phrase. The melodies she has created for herself showcase her talent as a singer and play to her expressive and powerful midrange. The song titles acknowledge the themes of home and hearth: "Tundra Of Árvas," "Westbound Wind," "Wide Open Tundra of Samiland," "Bygone Ages." The lyrics by Jannok, provided in the liner notes in both Sami and English translation, add to the feeling. "A small child's dream / is whiter than the snow / The wind on the tundra / starts singing for you." "The full moon keeps watch / of weak wanderers / so the coldness of winter won't trick us."

The downside of this record is the arrangements. The Peter Tikkanen Trio serve as the backing band and play in a variety of styles from jazz to pop to ambient. Regardless of style, the accompaniment is too often pedestrian, and many of the band's arrangements detract from Jannok's voice rather than framing it and spotlighting her talent. The sole instrumental highlight is the flugelhorn work of guest musician Dan Johansson on "Dulla Lullabye."

The standout of this collection is the 43-second a cappella rendition of "Vuolvojávrri." Her voice is stunning here, and I want to hear so much more like this. I'll be watching for more records from Sofia Jannok, and I long to hear more of her singing, and less of the trappings of this particular disk's arrangements. - Greg Harness

CD available from cdRoots

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