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Private Label WOOD001 

Woodlands is violinist Kristina Leesik and harpist Justyna Krzy?anowska. They met during their studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm before continuing and deepening their studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They are both exceptional musicians and their repertoire here is based on the Scottish and Irish traditions, though there are elements of a wide range of other influences from classical, jazz and pop. These are particularly noticeable when the harp is playing in an accompanying role where the phrasing and timing at times echo the sparse but complex chording of early bebop pianists.

Kristina uses a wide range of tone and timbre on her violin; she is nifty and incisive on reels like Dolina Mackay, but rich and mellow on slower items like Pastellskyer. The pair’s playing shows great empathy for each other’s contributions, and the way they shift roles in their interesting arrangements adds to the satisfaction. This is best shown in the set of three tunes that start with On The Danforth; probably the outstanding track on an album where everything is of a high standard.

Alongside the eight instrumentals there are two songs. There’s The Old Man From Over The Sea and it is interesting to compare this version with two earlier versions; the stark singing of it by Frankie Armstrong and the simple way it is set by Lankum. Here, the voice is initially pretty far back in the mix against the harp and there is a long instrumental duo in the middle before the voice has to find its place against some complex backing. More successful is Emigrantvisa, translated from Gaelic into Swedish here.

Vic Smith


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine