Bonfrost is the third album of music spanning the North Sea from power fiddle trio, The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc. Anders Hall is from Sweden and plays viola and octave fiddle as well as the regular sort; Norwegian Olav Luksengård Mjelva plays octave and Hardanger and Kevin Henderson from Shetland just plays fiddle. Well, someone has to do the heavy lifting.
The thing that makes Bonfast a perfect album for 2020 is that it rolls up the carpet, kicks up the sawdust and races along as if the bar is about to close. I’d got to the fourth track before I’d finished the first paragraph – in short, it’s an album to raise the spirits and recorded as live just to make sure. The opening track, ‘Schottishe Kerlou’ is geographically an outlier, being written by a Scot about a village in Brittany, but it’s such a cracking tune that we’ll let that pass. Then comes one of Kevin’s tunes paired with a traditional Shetland reel and, before you’ve got your breath back we’re into a Swedish wedding polska, ‘Bas-Pelles Eriks Brudpolska’.
I find some of the language in the titles fascinating. You have to know something about the music to realise without being told that ‘Be Nort Da Dykes O’ Voe’ is from Shetland and Kevin couples it with another John Stickle tune, ‘Deltingside’. Then things start to get even wilder with Olav’s ‘Don’t Drink And Dance’ which begins with what sounds like Hardanger drones on their own, although I don’t know if that’s even possible.
Another Swedish polska, ‘En Konstig Fan’, provides a respite and it’s really needed because ‘Myrstacken’ is completely insane. The name means anthill and you can just imagine the little beggars scurrying around. After the traditional Norwegian ‘Dravbakken’ things speed up yet again with ‘Frygg’, a tribute to the legendary Finnish band and the complex ‘Vrengia’ which I suspect also involves clever work on the Hardanger. Finally comes the gentle title track, ‘Bonfrost’, written by Kevin, which captures the sound of icicles melting after a hard frost and the water trickling away.
As I said, this is an album to raise the spirits and gladden the heart and that’s something we all need.
Artists’ website: https://www.thenordicfiddlersbloc.com/
‘Myrstacken’ – live: