Mette Kathrine Familiealbum Mia Guldhammer & Morten Alfred Høirup Tral, Tråd & Traditioner
Both releases from Go' Danish Folk
Review by Chris Nickson
The fairly small world of Danish folk music often feels like an extended family, and that’s perfectly illustrated by this pair of new releases. Musically, they’re very different, of course, but some of the same people appear on both, helping and supporting, the thread of people that runs through Danish folk.
Mette Kathrine Jensen Stærk has been one of the country’s leading accordion players for quite a few years, but until now her focus has been on traditional music, mostly for dancing (she’s also a member of the trio Zenobia, where she stretches her wings in other ways). With Famliealbum, she puts her own compositions on display for the first time.
"Jysk Jig..." (excerpt)
Glorious they are, too, whether it’s the sprightly mix of “Jysk Jig/Peders Fødelsdagspolska/Torden Reel” (with violin and piano accompanying her, it’s very similar to ceilidh music), or the softly romantic “Lyden,” where her husband joins her on guitar. With the exception of a couple of tunes, like the soberly hymnal “Helgesminde,” this is still very much music for dancing, all with a delightfully light touch; that’s so ingrained in her it’s impossible to leave behind.
Among the familiar faces cropping up are Kristian Bugge, Denmark’s ubiquitous fiddler, and guitarist Alfred Høirup, who appears on a couple of tracks – they’ve had a trio together for several years. On a side note, Jensen & Bugge have also just released a Greatest Hits disc, celebrating their 20 years of playing together
There is no doubt that Mette Kathrine is an excellent composer. These pieces are assured and mature, and arranged and played in exactly the right manner.
The duo of Morten Alfred Høirup and singer/shruti box player Mia Guldhammer is still pretty new. They put a stripped-down EP in 2019, but this full-length debut fleshes it all out with a number of guests (including, inevitably, Bugge), on a mix of originals and some carefully chosen traditional pieces.
It’s off to a rollicking start with “Brugegaverne/Lybekkeren” with a full, rough chorus of tral, or vocal diddling – and there’s plenty of diddling across the whole album, enough for it to becomes almost a very attractive trademark for the pair.
They have the songs – both are accomplished writers – like the deliciously urgent “Polka Umulius,” but they also bring something fresh to traditional pieces like “Hvordan Vil Du Forsørge Jer?,” where Jews harp proves the unlikely hook between verses, and the two leads trade off vocal lines.
While the chorded underpinning of the shruti box often forms a subtle foundation, it can be easy to underrate Høirup’s guitar playing. He’s quite simply one of the best rhythm players around; always there, knowing exactly what to play and where to play it, and never edging into overdecoration. His work serves the song, and that’s very mighty praise.
The only thing that could have made the circle complete would have been Mette Kathrine guesting somewhere on the album. But even without that, it’s very satisfying and a good start for a long future.