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World Music CD Reviews Europe

MAJORSTEUN

By MARTY LIPP
Published April 19, 2006

2L

FLUKT
Spill
2L

In the old days, folk musicians were the tugboats of the music world, pulling people onto dancefloors and leading them through ceremonies. But folk music ain’t what it used to be. Its quotidian duties have been supplanted as its creative advocates have stepped into the limelight as artists. Two new Norwegian bands show the creative tensions resulting as folk music takes conservatory-trained musicians from the dancehall to the concert hall. Majorstuen, a six-member string band, polishes the sounds of the traditional tunes in its repertoire, giving them a wider palette of subtler hues, more suitable for critical listening than dancing. Despite the action pose on the CD cover, Majorstuen is not one of the Nordic bands electrifying folk music. The group maintains a stateliness and intelligence more like a chamber group having fun with old tunes, exploring both their poignancy and playfulness. The group’s labelmate, Flukt, also takes a classically informed approach to folk music, but remains a bit too staid. Flukt adds an accordion and vocals for a more earthy sound, but stays in the same borderland between classical and folk. While the group plays elegantly, Majorstuen seems to have done its homework, producing an album consistently engaging and impressively put together.