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The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc

Artist release
Review by Chris Nickson


No one can say The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc are profligate with their releases; in 12 years together, this is just their third, and their first since 2016. But they make every track, every single note count on Bonfrost, and those years of playing and touring together (pre-pandemic, of course) have given them a majestic kind of empathy that illuminates the music.

The three fiddlers - Olav Luksengård Mjelva from Norway, Andres Hall from Sweden, and Kevin Henderson from the Shetland Isles ( with one cultural foot in Scandinavia and the other in Scotland, play instruments that complement each other to perfection: fiddles, viola, octave fiddles and Hardanger fiddle. There’s enough variation in that mix to offer subtle differences in tone and timbre that fill out the sound so they could almost be a string quartert. Even more, the arrangements bring a delicious complexity to the tunes without ever losing their original pace and joy.


The opener, “Schottishe Kerlou” is an ideal illustration of what they do. It’s full-blooded, roaring out of the gate and ready to propel dancers on to the floor. A second instrument shadows the playing of the lead fiddle while the third provides the rhythm until it shifts tack, catching its breath as the instruments dance around each other, with shards of the melody rising and falling, building the tension until it bursts out again, heady and gleeful; a reminder of the power these musicians wield with just three bows.


Each of those bows is treated to a solo outing on the disc. It’s not solely a way of showcasing their individual skills, but also a little dive into their own imaginations. For all the pleasure that brings, though, it’s as a trio where they really shine, whether on pieces from different traditions or more modern compositions. The virtuosity is never in doubt, certainly not after hearing “Frygg,” a tribute to the Finnish band that speeds along in a blinding flurry of notes, or “Mystracken,” which shifts rapidly through the gears to test the dexterity of any fiddler, so devious it might well have been written as torture.


Of course, music isn’t simply about how fast you can play (in spite of what many guitarists in the late 60s believed), but how you can put across the emotion in the music. And on the title track, written by Henderson, they delicately conjure up the beauty of a hard winter’s morning frost in the Shetlands. In the way they approach the music, it’s almost a quiet reflection of the album’s opener: two fiddles shadowing each other on the melody while the other weaves softly and deftly around them. It's a gentle breath to bring things to an end.

From their history, don’t expect another disc soon. With Bonfrost they’ve given us something magnificent to keep us going for a while. – Chris Nickson

Find the trio online

Further reading:
Groupa Kind of Folk 2
A trio of Nordic trios: Väsen : Zephyr : Vrang

Photo: Paul Jennings

A little pandemic bonus from the group

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