Knut Kjøk and Dag Gården, Frå folk te' folk (2L, 2002)

2L is a relatively new label from Norway started by engineer Morten Lindberg. With around a dozen releases to date, the company is off to a fine start based on the two CD's I have in my hand. The one I'll talk about today is Frå folk te' folk by Knut Kjøk (fiddle) and Dag Gården (accordion).

The English translation of the CD title is From People to People and the first comment in the liner notes says "In our opinion this title expresses in many ways the essence of folk music. On their way from musician to musician, from community to community, even from country to country, the tunes have lived their own vagabond lives." Nicely stated. Kjøk and Gården have made their own contribution to Norwegian traditional music and gathered up a beautiful set of tunes, given them love, worked them into stunning duets, and sent them off into the world for others to enjoy and learn. They have a great respect of the musicians they learned from and so have each credited each tune with its source.

A light flurry of notes from Kjøk's violin starts off the first joyful melody on "Bjøynnhallingen." Soon after Gården joins in with the accordion, providing a strong support structure for the melody to glide over. For some reason I get the image of a parent (accordion) walking down the street holding an inquisitive, happy, but squirming child (violin). A short video idea, anyone?

The second tune, "Valbjørslykkjin," is moodier and the players move together in tightly throughout, never wavering, as if they were one instrument. I love the heavy breathing of the accordion.

Every time I put on this CD, "Hestleitar'n," stops me in my tracks. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I am always a sucker for a slow, minor, melancholy melody. This one makes me cry. The opening solo line on the violin is an irresistible invitation to follow Kjøk down a path to...somewhere...and then Gården sneaks in with sweet high notes on his accordion, adding to the allure. As the tune progresses, the accordion drops to a lower octave and begins to sweep gently from one extreme to the other while the violin continues assuredly down the road. There's no going back now. I'm hooked -- with enough emotional "adrenaline" running through the bloodstream to fill a rain barrel. By the end of the track my mind has been through loss, love, sadness...the spell has been cast, and I've turned into melting heap in the chair. Just achingly beautiful.

Relief comes next with "Gamal brurmarsj" -- music that has a processional quality with the accordion playing the role of a church organ. Just the right pace to get me up out of the chair and get on with any business at hand. It's a rich, comforting piece that would make a bridal couple happy, no doubt. There are two other titles, "Brurmarsj" and "Marsj," that use the syllable marsj, and they also have that same hymn-like quality. My educated guess is that marsj has something to do with the straight 4/4 meter.

Time to dance -- nothing better than a waltz. "Brunsølen," "Netosætervalsen," and "Vriompeisen" are all fine specimens of the form and very reminiscent of the French Canadian music we hear a lot in Maine. The liner notes state that the musical form of the waltz arrived in Norway shortly after 1800, so I guess it's not surprising that they have a bit of a French sound. Gården moves around happily through the classic "oompah" bass note/chord accompaniments while Kjøk dances over the top with the melodies. It's hard to sit still with these.

Kjøk and Gården pick up the pace with a happy little tune called "Gamel Eirik-hallingen." There's one spot in this where I really appreciate Gården's harmony. It's just one chord, but it's a great choice and a little unexpected which puts a particularly nice spin on the piece.

This mood continues with "Springlein." This track is yet again another example of how well these two musicians work together and "talk" to each other. Their movement through the music is flawless and full of soul.

"Goroleikjin" has three sections. I don't know the language, so I can't tell you what the subtitles are. I'm just responding to the music. Part 1 (og så splelt'o Guri) begins as if there was a question being asked in a slow, careful way with the violin taking the weight of line. Part 2 (så svårå'n Sinklar) provides a quick-paced answer, then ponders the initial, slower question again. There seems to be a slow, gentle percussive beating way in the background which is very nice. Part 3 (så svårå'o Guri att) responds to this mysterious question with gusto and certainty, leaving no doubt in my mind that something has been resolved!

The remaining tunes are as pleasurable as the ones mentioned above. Knut Kjøk and Dag Gården have released a polished recording that speaks to their traditions and modern folk music simultaneously. There is much emotion and soul, and their arrangements are superb. These musicians are well matched as a duo and I look forward to more of their music. Norwegian music fans and initiates alike should find these tunes as comfortable and comforting as a hot cup of tea, a fleece (or rather wool?) blanket, and warm fire on a winter's evening.

[Barb Truex]