No, "hambo" is not a new slang term for something you get at McDonald's. It's a three-step Swedish dance, kind of a folk-waltz with an extra lilt. This album is a collection of hambos, schottisches, waltzes and other Scandinavian traditional dances. The feeling is much like being invited to a lively yet comfortably orderly barn dance. Instruments include fiddle and Hardanger fiddle (a Norwegian violin with four sympathetic strings, similar to the viola d'amore used in baroque music up to the time of Vivaldi), guitar, bouzouki (a Greek lute which emigrated to Ireland and thence to folk music all over Europe and America), and either accordion or piano. The plangent sounds of the bowed instruments contrast nicely with the cheerful sounds of the plucked ones on tracks like "Gavells Ella." The arrangers are just artsy enough to make the second go-round of a tune more interesting than the first by adding developed harmonies or pedal points, but more could have been done in this regard. The musicians do know enough to put extra enthusiasm into the repeats. Sometimes less is more, however, as on the haunting "Wedding Waltz from Jämtland," which features just the two fiddlers. Some of the later tracks featuring the piano are simply outstanding, almost like Haydn's or Liszt's adaptations of Gypsy music. If you're a fan of American folkies like Molly Mason and Jay Ungar or of Scandinavian groups like JPP, then gem will bring a smile to your face and a tap to your foot.
AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner