North Side (www.noside.com)

cd cover This group is from two traditions: two fiddles from Sweden, guitar and accordion from Britain. Most tunes are originals, and the traditional numbers aren't exactly trad. "Robert" starts with beatbox and goofy two-bit synthesizer, the notes seem to melt. The tempo varies crazily. You think, "Is this a joke?" then bang, the real version grabs you. Fiddles play in a round, then bow together. Ian Carr makes a mighty strum and then silence. The squeezebox moans and then comes a Swedish scat from Carina Normansson. The title Sic, says the band, means "it's not strictly Swedish or Irish music, but that's the way we heard it and that's what it is meant to sound like."

So much is happening here. When Karen Tweed soars on "Ice Worms," the fiddles lay a drone to match her accordion. They all interlock on a flavorful chorus. "Big Horse" lurches on nervous feet. Bows murmur, Carr has a dulcimer twang. Parts keep building way beyond a quartet sound, then suddenly it turns quiet and Middle Eastern. "Mona Dalziel" is Irish all the way, as Tweed spars with big strings. No conflict on "Fotofahlander" as everyone hammers the four-note riff, then starts swirling. Fiddles stick to theme, and Tweed jabs little comments.

Things really pick up near the end. "Bigger House" is strong and eerie. Tweed buzzes forth like a fly through the house. Normansson sings "Lill Mats," first as a dirge, then as a romp. Carr taps beside her, and the others rise like a string orchestra. And "Schankeden" is a Swedish hoedown. Those fiddles drawl mightily, and Carr's playing his guitar as if it were a drum kit. A heady dish with many tastes, Sic goes in directions you didn't expect. - John Barrett

Audio © 1999 Amigo, Sweden, used by permission

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