Alasdair Roberts og Völvur - The Old Fabled River
A meetings of minds and cultures well-suited to the Alasdair Roberts’ syncretic fervor: responding to the invitation of Norwegian fiddler Hans Kjorstad, he found a group of musicians well-versed in folk, jazz and free-playing. Their diverse musics deeply inform this collection of Roberts’ originals and Scottish and Norwegian traditional song.
On The Old Fabled River, Alasdair Roberts og Völvur meld their worlds: fiddle and vocal styles formed in the Norwegian valleys blending now with exploratory clarinet, saxophone and metallic bowed guitar drones, now fashioned into baroque folk arrangements. In one case, instrumental accompaniment is laid aside, as three voices locate a questing fullness harmonizing together.
A word about the four “traditional” tracks on this collection. “Song Composed in August,” sung unaccompanied, was written by the well-known Scottish poet Robert Burns; it has been described by the great Scottish singer Dick Gaughan as a song “about everything.” Fredrik Rasten suggested they record it; the arrangement is heavily indebted to that by the group The Voice Squad. “Sweet William’s Ghost” is a traditional night visiting song, or revenant ballad. Alasdair recorded it once before, over a decade and a half ago, in a solo arrangement; but sometimes the ghosts don’t leave, and so there arose a feeling to resummon the song. The two Norwegian songs, sung by Marthe Lea, are spiritual pieces respectively about the sun coming up and the sun going down. They put traditional Norwegian melodies to sets of lyrics from two 17th-century Scandinavian hymnists, Thomas Kingo (of Denmark) and Samuel Olsen Bruun (of Norway).
A word about Alasdair’s four self-written songs on this collection. All are love songs of sorts, as most directly exemplified by “Orison of Union” and “The Tender Hour.” “Hymn of Welcome” is a song imagining the passing on of a candle-flame; one at life’s end offering a benediction to one at its beginning. “The Green Chapel” touches upon the ancient notion in Celtic culture of “the three noble strains” of music: geantraí, goltraí and suantraí (the strains of joy, lamentation and sleep). These are the three intertwining threads from which the fabric of a music is woven. In “The Green Chapel” the three knot together, like wind, wave and wood, to form a syncretically co-existing wholeness — a fulfilling distillation of the deep nature of collaboration among Alasdair Roberts og Völvur.
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