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Anne-Mari Kivimäki & Palomylly
Hämeen Laulaja

Kihtinäjärvi / Nordic Notes ( /
Review by Andrew Cronshaw

Listen "Iso Juhla – The Big Feast"

Another of the prolific Finnish singer-accordionist’s multiple projects and line-ups. The title, and the cover of this one, which shows the three group members posing in traditional costume, might lead a record-shop browser (though shops for such browsing are sadly now rather fewer) to assume it’s an album of traditional pelimanni music. Indeed its inspiration is the folk culture of Anne-Mari Kivimäki’s home region of Häme in SW Finland, and the design is a tribute to that; as she puts it, “a sense of homeland and old stories”. But the only wholly traditional song here is the short final track, the lullaby well-known in Finland, “Tuu Tuu Tupakkarulla.”

Some of the lyrics are traditional, but all the melodies are by Kivimäki, or made in conjunction with her bandmates, bassist/guitarist Ville Rauhala and Pekko Käppi, the latter renowned for his own projects that bring a metal/blues/grunge approach to the jouhikko (bowed lyre) but here also playing fiddle.

The opener’s lyrics, a traditional spell, are sung-recited hypnotically by all three band members over a slithering accompaniment of fiddles, double bass and stomp-box, fading to Kivimäki’s signature sound, a quivering in-out chordal drone pumped on the bellows of her little red Russian Notka child’s accordion that’s much employed here as on her other albums.

Listen "Ei hauta taa – Ain't No Grave" (excerpt)

That, and the slitheriness of the amalgam of the bowed instruments and accordion, are prevailing features, as is the repetition of melodic and lyrical phrases or wordless vocal choruses. The American trad “Ain’t No Grave” is given new Finnish lyrics and its weary bluesy surge becomes something that blends right into Finnish tradition. Chuggy bounciness with walking-bass is the celebratory feel of “Iso Juhla – The Big Feast.” “Surullinen Kirje – The Sad Letter” is a slow accordion-led reflection, with Kivimäki’s gentle, intimate vocals answered by the male voices of the other two, again moving to vocal repetition.

Listen "Suite: Kentolaulu"
"Tuu Tuu Tupakkarulla"

Armas Järnefelt’s “Kehtolaulu – Lullaby” is the inspiration and centre of “Kehtolaulu Suite” that forms the final four tracks. They open with a slow dreamy instrumental, then into the Järnefelt composition and a Kivimäki-composed funeral march and, sung unaccompanied by the trio in unison, the coda-like rendition of “Tuu Tuu Tupakkarulla.” - Andrew Cronshaw

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