in Reviews

Uniquely Wintery Stories

by Amanda Kauranne

"A winter themed album that ingeniously combines the modern with the traditional."

Juurakko, the five-member ensemble that won Artist of the Year at the Finnish Etnogaala, has produced a winter themed album that ingeniously combines the modern with the traditional.

This ensemble - where the sound comes before everything – plays instruments ranging from concert kantele to harmonium, and from jouhikko to banjo, while at the same time interpreting stories with all the skills of a professional vocal ensemble. The combination is irresistible. The sound delicacies scattered throughout the album – the wail of the cigar box guitar, a clink of coffee mugs and other ear candy are also performed within a concert setting. And in a unique way, these different tones help paint the moods of the actual pieces to life.

The album moves along the spine of winter, one month and one celebration at a time. A range of wintertime feelings are written into the ensemble’s music without becoming cliché; the pieces bring light to the dark time of celebration with new insight. Rather than arrangements of traditional Christmas carols, familiar phrases triumphantly find new life in lyrics, as in Koska meill’ on joulu? [Polar Night Blues] or the story of the old seadogs' party in Joulu Skattalla [Christmas on a Barque].

Drawing on the rich tradition of runosong metre brings stories of the birth of frost and the aurora borealis or celebrating the start of the new year. The whole album begins with a magical first tract that draws the listener in to think about the coldest time of year in a new light: winter doesn’t just appear from nowhere; fall gives birth to it by getting older. The album also reminds the listener about climate change, and how winter is no longer a given, even in the northernmost climes. 


Translation: Kathleen Weidenfeller

JUURAKKO: Yhdeksäs talvi

Laura Kaartinen: vocals, harmonium, percussion
Eija Kankaanranta: kantele
Kaisa Saarikorpi: vocals, guitalele, banjo, cigar box guitar, percussion
Minsku Tammela: vocals, bowed lyre, comb, percussion
Anna Wiksten: vocals, plankku (2-string bass), percussion

Inkoon Musiikki IMU-CD 193, 2019