Värttinä

Live in Helsinki

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Live, Värttinä is quite an experience, at least judging from this disc, recorded in the band's homeland in 2000. The group's studio albums give no indication of the wild live performances of Finland's favorites. At the band's heart, as always, are the vocals of the four singers, who can growl like spirits released from hell, wail like banshees out to claim souls, and then turn into angelic souls harmonizing on a cappella tracks like "Käppee." The singers trade lines back and forth at hypnotic speed while the band behind them, consisting of wonderfully seasoned musicians under the leadership of fiddler Kari Reiman, frames the songs with stop-on-a-dime precision. And it's all done with the kind of style that isn't fashion, but pure taste. Värttinä has set the standard for new Finnish music, working from the tradition to create something that's rooted but new, and the bandmembers have established themselves as leaders of modern Finnish folk. The enhanced CD includes a video of "Aijö," the record's devilish opening track, which makes for fabulous viewing to complement the listening experience. From the extended applause and two encores that close the album, it's clear that Värttinä enjoys goddess status at home -- and on the basis of Live in Helsinki, it's easy to understand why.

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