Formed in 2009, Nordic Fiddlers Bloc have spent the time since developing a unique melding of distinctive playing traditions which also allows each of these its deserved place.
Anders Hall from Halsingland, Sweden, Kevin Henderson from Shetland and Olav Luksengard Mjelva from Roros in Norway are players of considerable distinction and abilities, all of which was on show in their concert for Soundhouse at the Traverse.
Opening with a version of ‘Talen’s Trip to Thomson Island’ before moving on to a short selection of Scandinavian and Shetlandic tunes, among them two of Shetlander Peter Fraser’s best known works – ‘The Full Rigged Ship’ and ‘The New-Rigged Ship’, two fine tunes of Norwegian provenance and remarkable renditions of ‘Moonlight on the Water’ and Bonaparte’s Retreat’. This reviewer has known the latter since first purchasing The Boys of the Lough’s second album, but here arranged and played in ways that entirely new-mint it and which drew fully deserved applause from the audience as the closing item of the programme’s first half.
As is often the case with musicians in these challenging times, the three players also compose and arrange their material, their skills in all these areas on show throughout the performance, and perhaps rather more so in the second half, which also featured an anonymous but haunting tune from the island of Whalsey, ‘Jaltern’ – the Norse name for Shetland, before moving on to the title track of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc album, ‘Deliverance’. Followed by an equally mesmeric rendition of ‘The Devil’s Polka’ and the highly atmospheric ‘In The Lounge’, a musical celebration of the near-legendary hub of the Shetland Folk Festival, the quality and standard of playing of which left one in no doubt of the skill and thoughtfulness of the three performers and brought the concert to a triumphant conclusion.
Save, of course, for the encore, a pair of tunes by the late Willie Hunter, Kevin Henderson’s former tutor, and an appropriate ending to an evening of exceptionally fine musicianship.
It’s in the nature of reviewing such events that the essence of them eludes us, but with two CDs now available from Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, there’s no excuse not to sample the excellent work they have to offer.