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Fiolministeriet
Et Nyt Life

Go' Danish Folk
Review by Chris Nickson

Listen "Summer Heat"

There was a time, early in the Millennium, when people were shocked that it took the Stones Roses a whacking five years to eventually release their second album. My my my, how time had changed. The members of Fiolministeriet (The Ministry of Fiddles) have all been busy, but it’s taken than nine years to finally getting around to follow-up to the eponymous debut and we barely bat an eyelid.

Still, they’ve returned with the outstanding Et Nyt Life, and it really does sound like a rebirth; straight out of the traps it’s full of passion. On “Riga Balsam” (video below) you can hear the raw scrape of bow on string and almost feel the texture of the wood. Even in the interlacing of its slower, delicate middle section that earthy sense remains. It’s a powerhouse beginning to an album, the execution joyful and full-blooded.

Two fiddles and a cello, voices, and a couple of guests here and there. Simple and direct. The focus throughout is on the three core members, and they play as if it’s a pleasure to finally be together again. Most of the music is modern, but for “Ruthie’s Delight” they do borrow a couple of traditional American tunes from Ruthie Dornfeld, a Seattle fiddler who’s a regular fiddler and ally of Danish music. It cements a connection between the two countries (one that those who want can discover further in the playing of Dwight Lamb) and musically, the tunes fit in perfectly alongside the continuum of Danish music.

The music here is certainly informed by the tradition. That’s only to be expected when all three players are thoroughly grounded in that. And they keep the strong rhythmic pulse which has always been at the core of Danish folk; after all, for centuries this has been music for dancing. The songs offer a breathing space and give Ditte Fromseier Hockings a chance to show her vocal chops. They’re at their greatest advantage on “Sorgen” (Grief), another traditional piece that wears it sorrow quietly. She’s a more than adequate singer, without ever being a standout. But the beauty of the songs lies in its spare arrangement, which gives the words a jewel-like setting.

This trio has always been more about the music. They demonstrate that to perfection on “Hot Summer.” It’s a tune that dances with heat, the two fiddles working off each other on a melody that brims with joy and dances right around the garden, even as the cello offers a beautiful, sprightly counterpoint, before the bass of guest Mathćus Bech sends them off, skipping down a different path.

Nine years, and the results are well worth the wait. But while they’ve all been busy with their other projects (and life), maybe they could squeeze in a session or two after maybe three or four years next time? – Chris Nickson

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