Ingebjørg Lognvik Reinholdt: Songen om Guro

A thoroughly engaging collection of traditional folk songs from Telemark, Songen om Guro (The Song of Guro) is the solo album debut by singer Ingebjørg Lognvik Reinholdt, who hails from Seljord in Telemark. With lyrics based on poems from Jørund Telnes' 1880 text Guro Heddelid, the eleven-song release recounts the love story surrounding the beautiful Guro, whose many suitors come from far and wide in hopes of winning her.

Reinholdt brings her strong and clear voice to the material, but she's hardly alone. Joining her on the project are Sarah-Jane Summers, Juhani Silvola, and Morten Kvam. Summers, a highly regarded Scottish fiddle player, performs viola and fiddle on the songs, while Silvola (whose solo release Strange Flowers was reviewed at textura in 2016) plays acoustic and electric guitars and Kvam double bass, organ, and vocals. For her part, Reinholdt, who studied traditional music at Telemark College and The Norwegian Academy of Music, performs in the vocal duo Fivil and teaches traditional singing to students ranging from beginners to opera singers.

In abbreviated form, the saga runs as follows: after prospective suitors are tasked with lifting her father's sword to prove themselves worthy, a rivalry for Guro's hand develops between the poor fiddler Tore Smylimoen and the fighter Torgeir Uppstad. Struggles arise until Torgeir emerges the victor, leaving Tore stricken with grief and fleeing to the mountains. Three children are born to the now married Guro and Torgeir, though that doesn't stop him fighting and drinking, and he eventually dies at the hands of another in a knife-fight. The Black Death arrives and takes the lives of many, including Guro's children, leaving her alone and hearing, during a dream, the faint sounds of a single fiddle playing.

Reinholdt's voice rings out strong and clear in the arrangements, and the songs are a memorable lot, rich as they are in haunting folk melodies. Some settings are plaintive, mournful, and heartbreaking (e.g., “Eg hae meg ein ven,” “Draumen”), whereas others are rousing and high-spirited, such as “Sverdet på Heddelid” (The Heddelid Sword) and “Hallvor Uvaas frir” (Hallvor Uvaas Proposes). Summers, Silvola, and Kvam provide superb instrumental support, the wonderful viola and fiddle playing by Summers an especially central part of the album's sound; the ballad “Tore Smylimoen,” for example, sees Reinholdt accompanied by Summers alone, and the call-and-response between her and the singer is handled beautifully. In addition, Kvam nicely animates the dark shadings of “Giftet” (The Wedding) with a bluesy swing, while “Guros bånsull” (Guro's Lullaby) even features Reinholdt singing sans accompaniment.

One of ta:lik's primary aims is to stress how much traditional music belongs to the present as well as the past, and Songen om Guro, with no compromise to the integrity of its roots, provides a convincing illustration of the idea.

December 2017