An accordion plays a walking tune, soon the violinist and the vocalist enter, and in the first few seconds of Rusk II, you sense the nerve and skill of this trio. Rusk is the Norwegian trio of the singer Unni Lövlid, accordion player Frode Haltli and violinist/hardangar fiddler Vegar Vårdal and on this, their second recording, they focus on the material from the southeastern part of Norway.
Frode Haltli's role in Rusk is often to support Unni Lövlid or Vegar Vårdal, which he does in a superb way. On many songs, including "Soldaten," his accompaniment is beautifully interlocked with Lövlid's vocals. Tragic love stories are frequent on Rusk II, and the unlikely inclusion of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" is one of the highlights. In their version, based on a Johnny Cash recording, a dark accordion and a fragile violin creates a gloomy background for the low-register vocals.
Vegar Vårdal is an expressive violinist, whose phrasing and technique is vastly different from other Nordic folk musicians. As already mentioned, Haltli's playing is also inventive and the combo explores, finding new ways of harmonizing and interpreting the old music. Their approach is somewhat avant garde; Rusk II is not easy listening, but the patient listener is rewarded. -Staffan Jonsson
The band's web site: www.rusktrio.no
CD available from cdRoots
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