The Scottish/Scandinavian fusion movement continues apace with Scottish fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers and Finnish guitarist and composer Juhani Silvola, now based in Norway, releasing their third album as a duo. The Smoky Smirr O’ Rain mixes traditional tunes from their two native countries with four original compositions.
They begin with three Scottish tunes, ‘Dàn Fhraoich’, ‘Number 81’ and ‘Mo Chruinneag Ghreanor & Loisg Lad Gual Io-uo’ from the 18th century Patrick McDonald Collection. I know that’s technically four tunes but let’s not quibble. Juhani puts aside his guitar and plays piano on the first one.
Next comes ‘Pibroch’, which is confusingly a jig from The Inverness Collection, paired with ‘The Herring Reel’ from Prince Edward Island which together make a real roll-up-the-carpet set. Now the mood changes with Juhani’s composition ‘Taivaankannen Halki’ full of Finnish moodiness which Sarah-Jane follows with ‘Borrowed Days’ in a similarly mystical style. The title refers to the final three days of March which have a root in Scots superstition and the music imitates the stormy weather that can be expected as winter tries to hold out against the coming spring.
As we get our breath back ‘‘S Cian ‘S Gur Fad Tha Mi M’ Thàm’, which translates appropriately as “too long have been idle”, leads gently in Sarah-Jane’s title track before the pace picks up again with ‘Polskat’, a set of three Finnish polskas, to prove that it’s not all doom and gloom up near the Arctic circle. We stay in Finland for ‘Kummitädin Valssi’, another of Sarah-Jane’s compositions on which she plays a very good imitation of a kantele unless I’m much mistaken. Finally, we return to Scotland for a nineteenth century slow air, ‘Tha M’ Aigne Fo Ghruaim’ (‘This Depression On My Soul’), proving that the Scots can be miserable, too.
The Smoky Smirr O’ Rain is a finely crafted album full of contrasts and good tunes, excellently performed without being flashy, that will reward repeated playing.
Artists’ website: www.sarahjanejuhani.com
Not from this album but contemporaneous – ‘Finsk Polska’ – live: