Bjarte Eike / Barokksolistene

The Alehouse Sessions

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

The Alehouse Sessions may be generally grouped among the efforts to gain new adherents for concert music by getting it out of the concert hall. But the album has the specific idea that something like that has already occurred in history, during Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth in 17th century England, when church and theatrical music was discouraged, and professional musicians migrated to pubs to try to make a living. The program consists of songs and dances of the period, mostly English and Scottish, and the "Alehouse Boys" of the inner track list are the alter egos of Norway's Barokksolistene and their leader, violinist Bjarte Eike, who have already made recordings for Norway's 2L label that incorporate folk influences into Baroque music. The performances, a bit Scandinavian-accented in the songs, it must be said (but then they might have been in their own day too), are not so far off from what the group has done in the past except in two respects. The first is the high-energy percussion work of Helge Andreas Norbakken, which you can easily imagine cutting through the noise of a pub. Sample one of the pieces containing this (such as the Travel set). The other is the humorous stage business that the group emphasizes in live performances of this material, and that is wisely retained here. The sound is not quite as brilliant as 2L's, but the album is consistently a lot of fun, and even innovative besides.

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