MUSIC REVIEW: Frigg-ing Awesome - Scandinavian "Power String" Music


What do you name a seven-piece power string band with enough acoustic groove to set the fjords on fire?

How ‘bout, well…


Stay with me here.

Yes, this band’s name is Frigg.

I know.

A bit strange, perhaps, until you consider their home turf: Scandinavia.

Frigg, as any self-respecting Scandinavian will gently remind you, is the Norse goddess of love and fertility.

And yes, Frigg is also the name of one of Scandinavia’s hottest new acoustic “power string” bands, and Vermonters would do well to consider checking out their phenomenally energetic music at Randolph’s Chandler music hall this coming Columbus Day week-end.

How to describe their mojo? Frigg’s music, hammered out amidst the fjords and mountains of Thor’s old country, is a toe-tapping mix of Finnish and Norwegian folk, stirred together with Irish, American Appalachian, and yes, county and western. The ten tunes on their newest CD, “Economy Class,” are among the most diverse collections of acoustic tunes I’ve heard on a single CD in some time. From reels to polkas (yes, polkas) to waltzes to some beautifully contemplative tunes, Frigg performs songs to satisfy any discriminating listener, and they do it with enough energy to power a small city in the dead of winter.

From the liner notes of their new CD “Economy Class” comes this explanation. To understand the power string band Frigg, take a mental journey to the small Finnish village of Jarvela. “The joke is that if your name is Jarvela, you were born with a fiddle in your hand. So they always ask, 'Are you one of those Jarvelas?'” explains band leader and bass player Antti Jarvela. Like many people in this Western region of Finland, he carries the surname of the village in which he was born.

Some background (and I’m going to get clannish here): Frigg is comprised of three young Jarvelas, two sons and a daughter, from Finland’s most famous fiddle family, and two Larson brothers, who are members of a comparable Norwegian Hardanger fiddle clan. When these young musicians join forces, the traditional sounds from their respective cultures are infused with creative arrangements and the additions of mandola, dobro (yes, dobro), cittern, double bass and guitar.

Here’s the neat thing. Frigg isn't interested in simply rehashing traditional tunes. Their newest album presents the groove and swing of original music with unexpected melodies and rhythms – I’ve listened to their CD five or six times now, and continue to be struck by the freshness of their sound.

And their unabashed exuberance.

As Vermont’s fall days grow shorter and winter begins to consider creeping in, Frigg’s warmth and energy are a welcome antidote to the cold that will soon be with us.