Sep 9 2013
On his 2011 release Land Mins Fodur (The Land Of My Father), drummer Einar Scheving seeks to honor not just his departed father, but all the Icelander’s who came before him in making his home country what it was. It’s a concept of great scope… one fraught with the risk of rambling incohesion and an insubstantial identity. Howver, Scheving deftly overcomes those risks by focusing his vision through a lens of poetry, folkloric imagery, and Icelandic song.
The end result is an album of striking icy beauty and a home fire warmth.
Your album personnel: Einar Scheving (drums), Eyþór Gunnarsson (piano, Fender Rhodes), Óskar Guðjónsson (tenor sax), Skúli Sverrisson (acoustic & electric bass), Guðmundur Pétursson (lap steel guitar, dobro, electric & acoustic guitars), Davíð Þór Jónsson (Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, piano), and guest vocalists: Kristján Kristjánsson, Ragnar Bjarnason, Ragnheiður Gröndal, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Egill Ólafsson, and Sigríður Thorlacius.
The album opens with “Nu Vil Eg Enn I Nafni Thinu,” an Icelandic hymn with an enthralling sway. The refracted notes of Pétursson’s lap steel guitar match perfectly with Guðjónsson’s languid saxophone lines, while Gunnarsson’s skittering piano contribution balances the sleepy ambiance with engaging flairs and asides.
Second track “Land Mins Fodur / Haettu Ad Grata Hringana” continues the use of Icelandic folk songs as the basis for Scheving’s performance. Combining two songs into one composition, the music’s lullaby demeanor is further emboldened with electric guitar shadowing saxophone’s patient expressions of melody.
About half of the album tracks include guest vocalists singing Icelandic poems as accompaniment. A ballad with a grim pragmatism, “Sorgardans” speaks of lost love and sorrow. And on “Afturhvarf,” the despairing words of poet Steinn Steinarr are delivered with a sardonic tone reminiscent of Tom Waits, with piano’s effusive accompaniment the kind of muted cheery blues that just such a song requires.
And though the album never retreats from its general state of serenity, some tracks drive up the heart rate a notch. The rhythmic groundwork set by Scheving and Sverrisson on percussion and bass provide the other musician’s the platform from which to launch “Maistjarnan” into higher elevations. And then there’s the Icelandic rhyme dances of “Dyravisur.” where the combination of Scheving’s rushing-tide brushwork, Sverrisson’s pronounced leaps on bass, and the shuffling steps of Guðjónsson’s saxophone incite the noble elegance of a waltz and the congenial informality of a night amongst friends.
The mix of different variations guitars and keys bring further texture to this subtly detailed recording. Jónsson’s organ on “Draumalandid (Dreamland)” provides a soulful ambiance to Icelandic composer Sigfus Einarsson’s dedication to the Summers of his home country. And on album-closer “Mamma Aetlar Ad Sofna,” Pétursson’s lap steel gives vocalist Sigríður Thorlacius’s airy recitation of Davíð Stefánsson’s poem a shimmering presence, as if sunlight dancing on the surface of an undisturbed lake.
Just a beautiful albums, and one of the best that 2011 had to offer.
Released in 2011, this album is Self-Produced.
Jazz from the Reykjavík, Iceland scene.
Some Additional Notes:
The CD of the album is very nicely presented. Lots of great photos and detailed liner notes. I know the price difference between CD and digital can be substantial at times, but between the quality packaging and the way the music sounds when not compressed in MP3 format might make it worth it for you. I’ll actually be showing more of the CD itself in an upcoming new Bird is the Worm series… For the Love of CDs, in which I obsess over great CD (and LP) packaging, showing plenty of pictures and whatever else floats my boat. Stay tuned.
Also, I previously reviewed Scheving’s 2008 release Cycles. You can read that review HERE. I still listen to that album on occasion, and find it no less enjoyable with the passing of time. Still comes highly recommended by yours truly.