Fifteen Years

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Before there was Hedningarna or Garmarna or Väsen or even JPP, there was Groupa, one of the granddaddies of the current Scandinavian folk revival. The 15 years of the title encompass 1982, the date of the oldest material in the collection, to 1995, the date of the newest. (That's actually 14 years, but never mind.) The album is arranged in reverse chronological order, but playing it backwards reveals an interesting pattern. The oldest Groupa is fairly traditional, although it bears whimsical touches reminiscent of even older Scandinavian folk groups like Karelia. As we come forward in time, the music becomes more complex ("Vildhonung [Wild Honey]" sounds almost like 20th-century classical music) and admits more foreign influences ("Blå Svit [Blue Suite]" features Indian drums, among other things). Into the 1990s, we start to hear a jazzy sound, including a trumpet and sax. All of the tracks are acoustic except "Vallevan," a ballad about an adventurer sung by Scandinavian folk maven Lena Willemark. In the material from 1995, the group sounds self-assured, less attached to their roots, and they've become an "international" rather than just a Swedish group. It's not going to please the more traditionalist listeners, and this approach always carries the danger that the music will fizzle into the swamps of lite jazz/new age, but going into their third decade, Groupa so far has made the style work.

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