It’s not often that you will have an opportunity to hear a Bulgarian choir coexist with a Norwegian jazz-rock band along with guest musicians who utilize such divergent ethnic instruments as a tapan, a gaida (bagpipe) a gadulka (fiddle with 11 resonant strings) and more. Yet here on this sterling new effort by Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Stian Carstensen and his band “Farmers Market”, we find a near a flawless melding of ethnocentric musical elements into tightly coordinated arrangements that transpire ever so seamlessly.
Essentially, the overall concept, approach and execution flat out works! Not an ill-advised experiment or choppy, unfocused convergence of disparate musical cultures, but a transparent bonding of agrarian styles and influences along with strong doses of classic European progressive rock and folksy themes. - It doesn’t end there, as the musicians also toss in a little madcap mayhem into the mix.
With the composition titled, “Graovo Dance”, joyous themes coalesce with brisk rhythms and clarinetist Filip Simeonov’s profound lyricism whereas, Carstensen, performing on banjo, unites Western bluegrass motifs with a ritualistic East European style celebration of the spirit on “Monkey’s Dance”. While the amusingly titled “Les Paul, More John”, features the slick picking articulations of Carstensen and guitarist Nils Olav Johansen in concert with drummer Jarle Vespestad’s masterfully precise shifts in tempo. The band even rekindles memories of a lightly swinging Guy Lombardo orchestra on “Some Fag Rag” as they also incorporate a honky-tonk motif with odd-metered rock rhythms and strange voices amid an overall purveyance of jubilance and good-natured frolic.
Without a doubt, Farmers Market is an engaging and thoroughly entertaining affair and one of the major surprises of 2000. Basically, this is a gorgeously produced effort, enhanced by Winter & Winter’s notoriously impeccable audio engineering. – Hence, you may find it difficult to remove this gem from the CD player. Highly recommended!
* * * * * (out of * * * * *)