Väsen Live at the Nordic Roots Festival

How many bands can boast having a riksspelman in their fold? Väsen's leader, Olov Johansson, is just that: a master musician. A world champion nyckelharpa player (a keyed fiddle similar to a bowed hurdy gurdy that's unique to Sweden), Olov and his three spëlman play what is loosely described as Nordic roots music. This live disc is the Swedish improv/folk ensemble's ninth and catches them in a buoyant and reactive concert setting, taking the music of their ancestors and invigorating it with new life. The music is somewhat classical in sound and scope, especially on songs like the fast, viola-driven "Byggnan," but the blend of archaic sounds rooted in traditional polskas and the like make for a world groove feast complete with rhythm-heavy performances and improvised solos. Roger Tallroth's open-tuned guitar lends space and drones underneath the competing viola and nyckelharpa and percussionist André Ferrari appears to have a Volvo full of toys, ensuring that any listener will wish to have attended this concert just to get a peek at his artillery. Released on North Side, Väsen is one of many bands from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sámiland to be featured by the Nordic roots label. World folk lovers and seekers of acoustic improv music will eat this CD up. (Northside)