When I hear the term Norwegian folk music, I usually think of traditional Norwegian music heavy on the hardanger fiddle and medieval folk ballads. However, Norwegian folk can also refer to singer-songwriters such as Kari Bremnes, a Norwegian musical star, or so many others ranging from 20-years-of-age to well beyond that. Elin Furubotn follows in the tradition of folk-fusion. She composes more subtle tunes that range from jazz to folk to rock (the title track) on her album New Path. She possesses a good ear for melodies that she sings in a near-whisper. However, don’t be fooled by the softer timbre of Furubotn’s vocals, since she appears passionate about the themes that appear in each of her songs.
I admit that it took me a few listens before New Path grew on me. While I have heard many recordings graced with Norwegian vocals over the years, for some reason, I was having a difficult time latching on to this recording. On one hand, I understood the melodies, and I could relate to the English translation of the lyrics, but on the other hand, after listening to too many CDs lately sung in languages unfamiliar to me, I needed to hear strong melodies sung in English. However, I am over that now.
Today I listened to the CD again and perhaps the shining blue skies outside helped me to relate better to the songs. The third track, I See You Looking, caught my attention. The song represents soothing jazz with saxophone and vocals engaging in a subtle conversation. Furubotn’s vocals arc over plaintive saxophone on the chorus. This single line stands out from the song, “Winds of redemption will blow caressing me as I go.” The song Doubt features jaunty percussion and guitar that stands out on the album because of its uniqueness. However, the true standout on New Path is the final song, Silence, a duet sung a cappella. The cheeky You Know Damn Well Why I’m Upset combines folk guitar with jazz saxophone and was based on a cafe conversation that Furubotn overheard--a couple squabble. In my opinion, the recording takes several listens before sinking in, but then you’ll discover some thing you can relate to among these intimate songs.