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Marianne Tomasgård and Åsmund Reistad
Folk fra Follo

Heilo
Review by Mike Adcock

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Folk fra Follo features a selection of little known Norwegian dance tunes played by Marianne Tomasgård (fiddle) and Åsmund Reistad (various guitars, mandola and double bass). Follo is the historical name for an area that includes the regions of Akerhus and Østfold, which, perhaps because they are so close to Oslo, have not maintained their folk traditions to the extent that more rural places have managed. The two featured musicians have been playing together for five years and in their duo have developed their own way of presenting this music in an instrumental combination not that commonly found in Norwegian folk music.

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Tomasgård learnt to dance and play the fiddle from her father and as teenager played a part in forming the first all-woman spelemannslag (folk ensemble). Since then, as well as performing herself, she has pursued her interest in Norwegian folk music through her work in education and consultation. Reistad came to folk music later, having first studied classical guitar before exploring other playing styles and these different influences come through in the way he approaches the material. The first four tracks of the album have him playing mandola, though on “Masurka i moll etter Hans Borgesen” and a couple of later pieces Reistad adds some double bass.

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The music here reflects the rich variety of styles to be found under the umbrella term of Norwegian folk music and dance, from the imported waltzes, mazurkas and reinlenders to the older spring dances and hallings. “Halling fra Hobøl etter Christian Haslerud” works particularly well, with Reistad's finger-picking on a baritone guitar complementing Tomasgård interpretation of the tune perfectly.

Throughout the album Tomasgård provides fine playing within the tradition on the standard fiddle (as opposed to the Hardanger variety) with Reistad bringing a freshness to the sound, providing at times melodic and rhythmic counterpoint while elsewhere he duplicates the melody or adds a harmony. Like compatriot guitarist Knut Reiersrud he has found a way of adapting American blues and country styles to Norwegian traditional music and this generally works well.

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The only time this blending doesn't quite come off is when a reinlender is given a distinctly bluesy treatment with Reistad playing slide guitar and Tomasgård introducing blue notes and slurs, giving a feeling that the tune is being pushed somewhere it would really rather not go.

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Other than that Folk fra Follo makes for a very good listen. The album closes with the beautiful “Gånglåt fra Smaalenene” before we are given Heilo's signature sign-off, the rather forlorn sound of a golden plover, the bird whose Norwegian name gives the label its name.

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