Tuomas Logrén - Yövesi

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Tuomas Logrén
Artist release

I'm listening to a great mix of American roots music. There's some bluegrass, some Cajun, some old-time front porch music, and a couple of traditional cowboy songs. And it comes from Finland. Yes. Finland.

Tuomas Logrén is the guitarist for the fiddle-heavy Finnish ensemble Frigg. I think of Frigg as a Nordic ensemble; they draw from Finnish folk music supplemented by the traditions of Sweden and Norway. That's what I was expecting to hear on Yövesi, which is also the name of a lake in eastern Finland, home to a number of threatened species like the Saimaa ringed seal, the Arctic Char. Sounds Finnish so far, right? What I got was a nice mix of both traditional and original music with some Finnish roots and a number of surprising good takes on various American roots musical styles.

The title track is an original waltz performed as a duo with Logrén on dobro and RootsWorld favorite Petri Hakala on mandolin. It sounds like it could be two people sitting on a front porch, simply playing for themselves and maybe a neighbor or two who happened by. There's a similar feeling with “Onkituro,” another original composition which could be labeled newgrass. It features Logrén on mandolin, banjo, and guitar.

I was expecting more of this record to sound like “Talonpoika meni honkamettään,” or “The peasant went to the pine woods.” This is a traditional Finnish tune featuring Aili Järvelä on vocals with Logrén on dobro. This is the most Frigg-like song on the record.

“Herrasväki meni saareen” introduces another American roots style by turning to Cajun. The lyrics are about going to the island of the sun and having a lot of fun (if Google translate can be trusted), and this song certainly has some romp and frolic to it. There's an interesting textural blend of harmonium and harmonica taking the place of the Cajun button accordion, and it works very well.

I would have thought I couldn't be more surprised than I was by the Cajun tune. And then along came “Aaveratsastajat.” I didn't recognize the opening line, “Kun eräs vanha cowboy kerran kulki ratsuineen.” But I knew from the melody that the words must be similar to “An old cowpoke went ridin' out one dark and windy day.” And sure enough, that's exactly what this is: a version of the Stan Jones classic cowboy song “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” translated into Finnish by Tapio Kullervo Lahtinen. (Some further research revealed that this Finnish translation has been recorded a number of times. More surprises!) Maritta Kuula sings this song extraordinarily well, Logrén's banjo texture is particularly good on this track, and Matti Pitkänen does a fine job with the fiddling.

“Aaveratsastajat” is followed by “Kotilaakso,” a Finnish rendition of another classic cowboy song, “Red River Valley.” Logrén himself does the singing here, accompanying himself on guitar and mandolin. I'm sure I've heard hundreds of renditions of both of these songs, and Logrén's versions compare very favorably. I didn't know there was a Finnish singing cowboy tradition, but I am a fan.

The CD package has credits in Finnish and interesting abstract artwork by Cvijeta Miljak. The Finnish lyrics to all of these songs are not included with the CD, but are available on the artist's Bandcamp page.

Yövesi is a very enjoyable and superbly-crafted blend of Finnish and American roots music, from bluegrass to Cajun to cowboy. - Greg Harness

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