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Reviews & Comments:

Peter continues to enhance the existence of all who are interested in Swedish folkmusic. As the title suggests, he's taken a completely different course from his previous release where he played completely alone. If you like Swedish folkmusic and the wonderful warm tones of the nyckelharpa, then you absolutely must get this record.

—(translated from Swedish) Blaskan, issue 10, 2004, www.blaskan.nu

I am a HUGE fan of Scandinavian folk music so was delighted to have been sent these CDs by nyckelharpa player Peter Puma Hedlund. For the uninitiated, a nyckelharpa is a Swedish instrument rather like a fiddle, but with keys, and strapped around the player like a guitar instead of being played under the chin.

The sleeve notes of Another Way state that prior to Vägen there had never been a major CD featuring solo nyckelharpa, but now that this has been done, it's time to "take another road, choose another way". This other way involved getting a whole band together to accompany the nyckelharpa; Mats Andersson (keyboard, clarinet, pump organ), Karin Hedlund (recorder), Marit Blomqvist (cello), Olle Bohm (percussion), Bosse Nordenfelt (double bass, electric bass) and Sven Fredriksson (guitar, accordion), as well as the two Irish musicians Frankie Lane and Leo Rickard, on dobro and uillean pipes respectively. There are only a handful of traditional tunes on here but the new material is written in the traditional style. The arrangements are a mixture of traditional and modern, with additions such as country-ish and bluesy influences and modern drumming. None of this spoils the music though (although purists might think so). Whilst there are Irish musicians in the band, there isn't a real discernible Irish influence on the music, and the uillean pipes often sound more like the Swedish bagpipe. A Scottish influence is detectable in Älgmarschen, with the style of drumming which is like that of Scots military bands.

I can highly recommend both of these albums. I'm sure I'll be listening to these for a long time to come.

—Kim Harten, issue 24 at www.blissaquamarine.net, summer 2004

Two-time World Nyckelharpa Champion winner Peter Hedlund brings his band—and several guests—back on board for his latest CD. This lively collection of schottis, polskas, and other original tunes is as effective a wake-up as a strong cup of coffee ... and certainly better for you in the long run. Another Way is a real treat.

Dirty Linen, #113 Aug/Sept 2004

I was going to stay away from nyckelharpa music for at least one column, but Another Way (RPM Music) from Peter Puma Hedlund is too delightful not to share. Backed by an ensemble of friends and acquaintances, many of whom he has played with for years, Hedlund serves up a collection of mostly original material, featuring his own distinctive instrument. Like other Scandinavian string instruments such as the hardanger fiddle, the nyckelharpa is reminiscent of your standard violin, but at the same time has its own unique and decidedly less restrained timbre. It's perfect for the kind of music that is usually played on it; while often requiring as much technical discipline as classical music, it consistently gives the impression of being about to slip out of control, which makes it exciting. In this particular case, Hedlund's technical skill (he's a two-time winner of the Nyckelharpa World Championship) enables him to walk this fine line with apparent ease and also allows him to range all over the stylistic map. Many of the pieces are dance tunes, from the schottis, which have a stately, solemn energy, to the lively polskas. Of the other tunes, several were composed for particular individuals, an interesting and refreshing change from mass-produced music. With its gypsy inflection, "Hanna Larssons Schottis," a piece written for the composer's daughter, is a flight of imaginative fancy--played on the accordion, of all things. (In fact, I predict that after centuries of being the butt of every musical joke, the accordion is on the verge of becoming cool. You read it here first). Then there's "Älgmarschen," which, with its Uilleann pipes and snare drum, might have come right out of Scotland--which makes a certain amount of sense, if you think about the influence of Scandinavian culture on Scottish history. But most of all, Another Way is bursting with invention and energy, and that makes it perfect for spring.

—Genevieve Williams, copyright 2004, vol. 10, www.widdershins.org

By far best of his recordings. This is how I hear him live ... playing is expressive and dynamic rather than studioized. Recording has high enough resolution to capture the complex non-tempered nyckelharpa resonant under strings. Instrument seems to breathe right and bowing carries excitement. Playing comes across as nicely nuanced with subtle bass lines. Our whole group loves Åhkerschottis ... this rendition is solo and easy to follow for fellow players ... excellent selections throughout. I got it right away and I'm a violinist ... an arch-enemy.

—Steve Johnson, Chicago Spelmanslag, comment posted on CDbaby.com

VERY cool ... something REALLY different ... TOTALLY my taste!! ... airplay guaranteed ..

—Lord Litter / DJ, Promoter, Musician / Germany www.lordlitter.de

I enjoyed so much reviewing both of the cds you were nice enough to send ... melted in my ears ... & being the host of a variety show ... a wonderful addition from a foremost master ... will be airing on my shows, & if interested, below a few select global djs who might consider mailing to as well....just tell 'em Eddie sent you. Thanks again ... was a major pleasure.

—Eddie Russell, Outlaw for Peace Radio Show,Texas

Swedish folk music today takes many forms. It has to tolerate various dilutions in order to fit different musical presentation styles. Within pop music it becomes what I call "light" folk music Light, because the tunes have ceased to be true folk music in order to fit into the required pop formats.

Listeners of Peter Puma Hedlund's new CD will understand the difference. The title, Another Way, prepares us that the nyckelharpa player from Iste is trying out some new grips. For example, the CD is produced by an American who is not affected by how Swedish folk music "ought to sound." Even with its unusual spicing of sounds, Another Way is still a CD of solid Swedish folk music. Puma and company play polskas, schottises, waltzes, and marches. Only Hem till Dalen has leanings in the direction of a lyrical pop sound. It has hit potential. Dalen (the valley) is Trönö Valley and is written by Pelle Svensson who lives in Trönö. I would venture a guess that there are already lyrics to go with the melody. This melody yearns for lyrics. Pelle Svensson has also written Flickorna Svensson (The Svensson Girls) for his daughters, but it doesn't stray far from tradition's path.

It would surprise me if the folk music buying public were disappointed with this CD. I am personally not a big folk music consumer, but I find that the music on Another Way glides smoothly into my ears, pleasingly and without resistance. This must be because of the production, that Puma has eight musicians contributing surely makes a real difference. The different instruments enrichen the sound and give it a luster.

World music they call it when different traditions are woven together into something new. Puma has included two Irishmen in his group. Frankie Lane plays dobro, a precursor to steel guitar. Leo Rickards contributes with Irish pipes, a smaller version than the Scottish and with a milder sound. The dobro participates on eight of the 16 tunes, the pipes on five. These instruments from foreign traditions serve as a complement, a spice. The exception is the Moose March where the Irish pipes dominate.

I am easily charmed by the sound of dobro. When it comes in, it is as if the one I am dancing with suddenly puts her cheek against mine. It is almost impossible not to be affected by the mood it creates.

I also found a small greeting on the CD that felt as if it might come from Russia. Other than that, Another Way stands firmly with both feet on Swedish soil. It has already been released in the USA where it was produced. Puma works together with an American manager, and as a result, he performs more often there than in Hälsingland which has been his home for several years.

—Joakim Westlund, Ljusnan, www.ljusnan.se

Another Way by Peter Puma Hedlund sounds like nothing I've ever heard before. And most of it sounds really good. While most active Swedish folk music groups seem inspired by Väsen and Frifot, playing with rhythms and odd harmonies, all sorts of diverse knäppinstrument (guitar, mandolin etc.) and percussion, nyckelharpa artist Peter Puma Hedlund does something entirely different.

On Another Way he has included two Irishmen, Frankie Lane on dobro and Leo Rickard on Irish pipes. The result is strikingly different and in places hair raisingly phenomenal. In addition to the already mentioned dobro and pipes, we have pump organ and clarinet (Mats Andersson), recorder (Karin Hedlund), guitar (Sven Frederiksson), percussion (Olle Bohm), bass (Bosse Nordenfelt) and cello (Marit Blomqvist)—but the nyckelharpa is always in the center.

Both dobro and pipes sound great with harpa. On several tracks, even amazingly great, such as Vals från Karlholm where dobro leads in with its relaxed swoshing sound and then retreats under the nyckelharpa's melody reminding the northern Uppland waltz that it has relations in remote corners of the globe.

At times there may be too much of a good thing. Nyckelharpa, dobro and pipes, all have intense voices, and when all three play at the same time and are joined by recorder, organ and drums, the sound system speakers can feel a bit overloaded. It may be that they are just not used to such a workout!

The selection of tunes is fairly traditional and, in a sense, quite brave. Brave, not because 8 of the 18 tracks are Peter's own tunes, but rather because he chooses tunes like Mungalåten and Fan på Gräsö.

But even if the liner notes, at first glance, suggest a traditional presentation, the sound is anything but. Mungalåten has percussive sounds reminiscent of India or Africa—haven't a clue what it is. And even if Fan på Gräsö starts off traditionally enough, the drums soon change everything by laying two beats over everything, creating a cool laid back version which lacks the characteristic bondpolska styling we are used to.

A danger with placing a symmetrical drum pattern over the melody is that a tune's character can disappear. This happens with Åhkerschottis, where the listener is forced to accept a mechanical 1-2-1-2 while the melody fights for attention. On Peter's previous cd—Vägen—this tune is clearly a terrific schottis with its own quirky character. Here it becomes a common dance band tune.

Listen instead to track 7, a schottis by Peter Larsson. It is reggae. It is Finnish tango. It is lovely swing. A clear favorite. Or take track 13, the Moose March, one of Peter's own tunes. Here come the troops led by pipes and marching drums from far off in the sound picture. It is Irish through and through. When the nyckelharpa attacks, it hits right square on the mark—one of three hair raising moments on the cd. This piece could be twice as long!

Another Way is a welcome record. It shows us, as the name suggests, that there are more directions out there than Swedish bozokins and "most original harmony wins." And it does this with great aplomb.

—Henrik Lundqvist, Chromeharp Logg

 

. . . there's not much in the way of fame and fortune to be had playing the nyckelharpa. Outside of Sweden and a few select circles in other parts of the world, the . . . keyed fiddle is one of those rare, esoteric pleasures. If anyone is going to come close to grabbing what little acclaim there is to playing the thing, it's Peter Puma Hedlund. . . . His technique is confident, his tone and phrasing sure-footed. . .


—Peggy Latkovich, RootsWorld

On his latest record, Peter Puma Hedlund . . . demonstrates how, as an artist, one can rethink and expand one’s direction. A virtuoso riksspelman (fiddler-of-the-realm) in the Eric Sahlström/Uppland tradition, Peter has not allowed himself to get stuck in any muddy old wheel ruts. Well steeped and studied in the folk music tradition, he tenderly cares for, interprets, and exercises the rich repository of existing tunes as well as writes new ones in the traditional style. He is constantly seeking new inspiration from within and, of late, from north American and Irish cultures. Seeking to enrich and renew the joy of playing—for himself and for those of us who follow his musical journey. And for others who will listen to his music as well as dance to his playing.

—Peter Larsson, Hägernäs Strand

I have listened to Another Way several times and think it is wholly tremendous, ... the collection and selection of instruments to the tunes is just great, so I wish you and your fellow players all the best, and know that the cd is and will be a fantastic success.

—Hugh Macneill, Uppsala, Sweden

I really enjoy the album ... the music has great intensity and energy while remaining strongly based in the traditional music arena. This unusual ... blend of instruments from different musical backgrounds really works well. Frankie Lane's "Dobro" album has long been a personal favourite of mine, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him contributing to a nyckelharpa album. This is a fine album and deserves to do well for Peter.

—Bruce Cameron, Radio 2MCE-FM, Bathurst, Australia

... your new CD ... "wears well" and we have enjoyed it just as much after many listenings as we did the first time. As usual, the pieces you have made are our favorites. You seem to be able to reach way back to the roots of the Swedish tradition and make pieces that feel like they have been around forever. It is interesting that you, who I believe are considered a relatively "traditional" player, produced a very traditional-feeling solo nyckelharpa CD (which I also loved) and now a relatively non-traditional disc (at least in instrumentation) which shows what the nyckelharpa can do working with a variety of other instruments. ... I feel that there has to be a careful balance between preserving the essentials, the "heart," of a tradition and yet keeping the tradition a living thing, not a museum. Your new CD, even though it has an unusual combination of instruments and features mostly recent pieces, still has a strong sense of being rooted in tradition. I think your playing and your pieces very nicely represent the idea of "living tradition." I must admit I was particularly interested in hearing the bagpipes played with the nyckelharpa. ...I think the pipes and the harpa work together quite well, and I congratulate you and Leo Rickard for managing to get playing strings, resonating strings, chanter, drones, and regulators all tuned together. That must have been quite an operation in itself.

—Nelson Whyatt, Minnesota, USA

“It’s hard to stop smiling, listening to this music.” That was my third reaction to Puma’s new CD, right after “That’s good music,” and “Those folks are really having fun.”

How to describe this third Puma CD? Peter says “a little different, a bit of pop influence.” Among the instruments are electric bass, percussion, cello. Dobro. And Uillean (Irish) pipes. The sound is modern, a little in-your-face provocative. But the playing respects its traditional roots, and the musicianship is impeccable—tight and together, excitement without stress. The accompaniment never overshadows the melody, the unfamiliar instruments play the tunes with respect. Peter’s musical colleagues are clearly partners and not just sidemen. The result is impressive, and satisfying.

For traditional-tune aficionados, there are the Uppland polskas Linus på linjen, Sista polskan, and Fan på Gräsö, a Byss-Calle waltz, and Mungalåten. There’s a handful of Puma’s own tunes, and a few from other present-day tunesmiths. You’ll find yourself wanting to play along, and most of these tunes are well within reach.

So Another Way is pleasing to listen to, and rewarding to play along with. There’s one more thing. With it’s cheerful mood and modern sound, this may be the recording that brings the nyckelharpa into the musical mainstream. When enough people have heard it, they may finally stop wondering about us harpa players, and they may even ask if they might play with you!

—Matt Fichtenbaum, Nyckel Notes

Peter asked me to email him after listening to his new recording ... I enjoyed it so much that I listened to it twice yesterday at work. I really like the combination of instruments and different textures of sound that result. Thanks again.

— Ralph H Litwin, TV music host, New Jersey, USA

Once in a while a virtuoso comes along with his instrument ablaze with adventure and creativity. Such is this new album by Swedish nyckelharpa player Peter Puma Hedlund who has beautifully blended his musical heritage with that of both the Celts and the Americans. Another Way brings us something really new to hear and celebrate.

—Carla Van Dyk, WDVR, New Jersey, USA

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