Wolfgang Meyering's Malbrook - Qwade Wulf
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Wolfgang Meyering's Malbrook
Qwade Wulf
Westpark Music (westparkmusic.com)

Mandolinist, flautist, and vocalist Wolfgang Meyering has brought together many outstanding musicians in his Malbrook project. 'Malbrook' means a mad, dancing person; the name is also attached to a melody found in northern Europe. This is fitting, as Meyering's main inspiration is amongst the sounds of northern Europe, where the original language of northern Germany - 'Low German' - met southern Scandinavian culture. "Qwade Wulf" itself is a dance tune that gives its name to this latest group offering, and as recorded by Malbrook, it is infused with Nordic spirit. Here, the dance is quietly strummed out by Meyering, before gaining urgency when Ralf Gehler's pipes join the tune: a set-up to a Low German version of a Dutch song, "Jogdelk Volkje," which descends into frantic fiddle and pipe lines, and even what appears to be the scream of an electric guitar.

The great joy of Meyering's Malbrook is the instrumentation of the band: hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, harp, flutes, mandolin, fiddle, and even modern electronic enhancement is sparingly utilized. As a result, the group digs into the German, Swedish, and Norwegian repertoire with gusto: while the whole of Qwade Wulf has a medieval vibe, not for a second does the material descend into New Age drudgery. The arrangements are lusty, full-bodied acoustic works that beg for dancing.

The long tale in "Doodshorn," about a competition between two farmers for the daughter of a rich neighbor, features the guest vocals and guitar of Kerstin Blodig. Strings swirl to a percussive beat, and the voices are delivered with a hushed urgency: perfect for the inevitable tragedy of the tale (one farmer dies, the other leaves; the young woman remains alone). As for one of the outstanding instrumentals on Qwade Wulf, the German "Schausterdanz" is notable for its arrangement. Beginning with harp, an acoustic bass slowly vamps; the harp and bass are then joined by fiddle with a melody that is clearly born of the German-Scandinavian cultural exchange. The tune then explodes as bagpipes join, enhancing the mental picture of either a line or circle dance; the pipes drop out, letting the harp and fiddle entwine, but then return to the accompaniment of a metallic, percussive beat.

I'd almost peg Malbrook as a kind of medievalist Pentangle, minus the blues influence of that seminal English group. The focus on bright, innovative instrumentation marks this as an album of depth and growth for the Malbrook members. Consistently engaging, Qwade Wulf works as a wonderful collection of instrumentals and ballads from a musical tradition that is not as well-trodden as other folk revival material. - Lee Blackstone CD available at cdRoots in October www.cdroots.com Artist's web site: www.malbrook.de

CD available from cdRoots

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