The volcanic Faroe Islands are about halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the North Atlantic. Long affiliated with Denmark, they have a musical culture much like Scandinavia in general: The emphasis is on fiddles and foot stomps, heavy use of drone, and a somewhat gothic sound due largely to the not-quite-European scales. Spælimenninir is a folk band formed in Tórshavn, the capital of the islands, in 1974. The group is international, including an American or two, a Swede, and a Dane, lending themselves to a general Scandinavian sound with a sort of Celtic accent. This CD is a re-release of two albums from the 1980s. It consists of the usual polskas and schottisches with a few other songs thrown in. The sound is varied, with fiddles, banjo, recorder, accordion, mandolin, piano, and harmonium all taking turns. The tunes are mostly trads played with a certain degree of bounce. However, Spælimenninir never deals with the problem that dooms so many folkies: folk music, compared to the music that most have grown up with, is, or at least seems to be, structurally and emotionally simple, and thus does not hold listeners' attention. To overcome this problem musicians usually take one of three routes: play it simply but with earthy conviction (the old-time folkie solution); play it simply but very fast and furious (the solution of a lot of Celtic groups), or elaborate it with extra voices, percussion, and textures before you play it (the solution of most Scandi-folk groups). Spælimenninir does start down the road to an interesting elaboration (e.g. using a banjo), but they don't get too far and the disc is thoroughly undistinguished as a result.
Recommended for those who like other Scandinavian folk groups from the period, such as Karelia or Groupa. Anyone interested in a similar concept with a better execution is advised to try the album Hambo in the Barn.