GO' Danish Folk Music (gofolk.dk)
Review by Greg Harness
Danmarkar'n, The Man from Denmark, refers specifically to the village of Danmark in Uppland, Sweden. This traditional waltz kicks off the debut record from Bragr, and trio of two Danes and a Swede. Many of the tunes on Danmarkar'n are traditional, but I'm enthralled by the non-traditional yet firmly rooted approach this trio takes.
Sweden's Perry Stenbäck plays nyckelharpa and mix of other stringed instruments. His playing brings in much of the tradition of Swedish music, using traditional tunes and tunes by his nyckelharpa teacher Puma Hedlund and Hedlund's teacher Eric Sahlström.
Jesper Frost Bylling plays bass, pulling out a sound that reminds me of Jaco Pastorius. The juxtaposition of jazzy, funky bass against traditional nyckelharpa provides an eclectic soundscape that continually surprises and tickles the ears. Bylling also contributes a mighty fine performance on the Jew's harp.
The multiple percussion choices of Christine Dueholm provide the drive and energy to these tunes. Drums set, cajons, darbukas, cymbals, and the studio floor all find a role in this music. She also sings a lovely song, “Bryllupsfesten / The Wedding Party.” The liner notes tell us “This slightly naughty song is about a young bride-to-be, and her thoughts on her upcoming wedding night.”
The title track is my favorite, a traditional Swedish song from Uppland that features all the elements I love about this record. Hand drums, cymbals, and a funky bass line underpin a rollicking, too-fast-to-dance-to waltz melody on the nyckelharpa.
And there's some shouting. The ensemble uses descriptions like “heavy metal from the 16- and 1700s” and they refer to their interpretation of a traditional waltz as “a punk-tune in 3/4.” While this may be stretching terms (no one will confuse Bragr with Black Sabbath or The Sex Pistols), their DIY approach to infusing tradition and roots with contemporary sensibilities creates a musical experience that is extremely well crafted and highly enjoyable. - Greg Harness