Album Review


Published Date: 19 April 2011

Fribo : Happ

Fribo Records



HAPP means "in good health", which is exactly how Fribo sound on this nicely crafted and highly engaging album, combining the singing and flute-playing of Norwegian Anne Sofie Linge Valdal, Scots fiddlers Hannah Read and her predecessor Sarah-Jane Summers (both play on the album), English guitarist and singer Ewan MacPherson and Swedish percussionist Magnus Lundmark. The music is largely Scandinavian in origin or influence, beaty but not ponderously so, with Valdal's voice shrilling acrobatically over driving guitar and fiddle when she's not sounding those distinctively wheedling Scandinavian overtone flutes. There's an intriguing splicing of Gaelic mouth music (from guest singer Naomi Harvey) and a traditional Norwegian ditty, and while converting poetry to song can be a hit-or-miss affair, Macpherson's Robert Frost setting, Miles to Go, works pretty well. Tunes range from the languid fiddle and guitar of The Honey Waltz to the exhilarating acceleration of sets such as Svarttrosten.

Live Review

ThreeWeeks eDaily *****

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Concert

Acoustic Music Centre@St Brides.

If ever there was a soundtrack to my life, this is what I would want it to be. Fribo, the labour of three musicians hailing from Norway, Scotland and England, have blended Norwegian and Scottish folk to create a sound of almost magical proportions. If the room hadn't been full of people, I most likely would have been jumping about the floor like an idiot (dancing is not my forte) and, judging by all the movement going on around me, I'm in no doubt the rest of the audience were thinking the same. The musical equivalent of finding a tenner in your coat pocket you never knew you had, this band are, for lack of a better word, awesome.

Three Weeks Rating 5/5

Album Review

Songlines ****

Fribo - The Ha’ O’ Habrahellia (2007)

Their door is always open…

by Fiona Talkington

There are a growing number of groups covering the sort of material which Fribo perform. But I’ve yet to hear anyone with the variety and finesse of this young trio: the Norwegian singer Anne Sofie Linge Valdal; the Scotland-based singer and Hardanger and fiddle player Sarah-Jane Summers; and Ewan MacPherson, who plays guitars, mandola, Jew’s harp and sings too. The story goes that they met around a table in Edinburgh in 2003.

A huge amount of thought has gone into the production of this album. It’s far more than a collection of tunes: it flows immaculately, and there’s plenty of space to enjoy each individual’s skills. Linge Valdal opens with a Norwegian welcome song, which takes us into some typically Norwegian Jew’s harp playing from MacPherson, before we find ourselves seamlessly enjoying traditional Gaelic mouth music from Summers. There are fiddle tunes, jigs, gorgeous evening psalms from Norway (with imaginative percussion from guest musician and producer Fraser Fifield), haunting bowed mandola, and a hypnotic tune from Lancashire.

The trio describe their music as a collision of traditions; it’s certainly one which has sparked a vast amount of creativity without ever losing a sense of the music’s roots. Above all it’s an album that’s brilliantly produced, fun, moving, engaging, adventurous and a sheer delight from start to finish. Fribo translates as open house, so take it as an invitation to step in and meet them.

"...a truly inspirational band" - Karen Tweed

"If ever there was a soundtrack to my life, this is what I would want it to be....this band are, for lack of a better word, awesome."

Three Weeks, Edinburgh Fringe Review - 5/5 Stars

“Enthralling Nu-Nordic folk summit” - WOMAD Preview

“...Infectious rhythms stand next to haunting beauty.”

Fiddle On Magazine

"High quality, distinctive and original…”

Peter Chegwyn - Gosport & Fareham Festival

"Fribo are creative, talented and cooperative... They were an asset in our unique collaborative sessions and did a fabulous concert, too."

Kerry Clarke - Calgary Folk Festival

"Fribo was a Festival highlight."

Ruth Oakley - City of London Festivals

"They are a wonderful bunch of players and were very friendly to work with... I can't recommend them enough."

Doug Cox - Vancouver Island Festival

"Fribo raised this island two feet higher out of the water and it hasn't come down yet."

Bob Bossin - Gabriola Island

”Fribo ga Storfjordkonferansen 2010 det lille ekstra. Deira innslag er fengande og god å lytte til på same tid...Vi kan på det varmaste tilrå å nytte Fribo.” 

Storfjordkonferansen 2010, ved rådmann i Norddal kommune (Unesco) Stig Holmstrøm

" with a refreshing tang and a keen edge." Living Tradition

“…What immediately strikes you is the freshness and zest

emanating from the trio." Rock n’ Reel ****

“Fribo is for me one of the discoveries of the year”

New Folk Sounds


"There are a growing number of groups covering the sort of material which Fribo perform. But I’ve yet to hear anyone with the variety and finesse of this young trio... …fun, moving, engaging, adventurous.”

Songlines ****

"...Fribo's debut is full of masterly, intoxicating impressionism, a seriously rewarding and intensely original album" Netrhythms

 "They are FABULOUS!!!" Genevieve Tudor - BBC Radio Shropshire

Live & Album Quotes / Reviews:

Fribo on Sonicbids

Album Review

fRoots July issue 2011 No.337

FRIBO - HAPP Fribo Records 00035

By Andrew Cronshaw

It was clear at the impressive London launch gig for this second album that Fribo have developed a lot from a worthwhile meeting between Edinburgh-resident Norwegian Anne Sofie Linge Valdal, singer and very fine player of seljefløyte, the Norwegian version of no-hole overtone whistle, and Scottish musicians led by guitarist/singer Ewan MacPherson. They’re now much more: a punchy, tight, original band with their own material and approach.

The albums is to some degree a transitional one between the band’s original and present line-ups. Fiddle Sarah-Jane Summers who plays on most of the album, has now left; her replacement, playing on two tracks, is Hannah Read, from Edinburgh but with unusual stylistic approaches partly gained by her recent degree-study of American fiddling at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She’s a remarkable player, bringing new strenght to the band, which is now augmented to a quartet by Swedish percussionist Magnus Lundmark.

Some songs and tunes are traditional, but more are originals that while very much shaped by tradition can’t be pinned down to either Scotland or Norway; it’s Fribo-music, ingenious and crafted but also satisfyingly melodically shapely, with plenty of variety of pace. For the full impact of the current band, jump in at track seven, high energy jumping, chopping, squee-ing fiddle and guitar propelling rapid group-vocals in the MacPherson/Valdal composition Boat Full O’ Goats, and let it run onto track eight, a wild seljefløyte-led work-out in Den Kaldsteikte/Seljefløyel.

Album Review


Fribo Records 00035

Living Tradition Magazine Issue 89 July 2011

By David Kidman

This enterprising outfit made great waves with its debut CD (The Ha’o Habrahellia, Fellside, 2007), largely but not exclusively due to the pioneering efforts of one of its founder members, fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers. She’s now moved on, but not before contributing significantly to the recording sessions for the follow-up release and paving the way for her replacement, Hannah Read, who appears on just two of the CD’s 11 tracks, and whose playing style will no doubt in time be bringing more pronounced elements of Scottish fiddle music and even jazz into the established, predominantly Scandinavian-influenced “new music from the old north” that characterises the band mix.

Happ is thus something of an album of transition, with the remaining two co-founders (charismatic singer and flautist Anne Sofie Linge Valdal and innovative guitarist Ewan MacPherson) now joined by Swedish percussionist Magnus Lundmark to make Fribo into a quartet. Musically, it presents a similar kind of tapestry to the band’s debut, although there’s further evidence of the eager broadening of their musical experiences that the band members have undergone over the past four years, in the lively percussion embellishments on some of the tracks especially, also perhaps in the slightly fuller overall sound-world enabled by the addition of double bass lines from guest musician Ailig Hunter on half of the tracks.

 The disc contains a generous handful of compositions by Ewan, three by Sarah-Jane and one by Anne Sofie, with the bulk of the rest being skilful, if at times a touch idiosyncratic, arrangements of traditional material. There’s an infectious and exhilarating (even cheeky) vibe about the music-making, and yet the musicians can still pace themselves and relax into slower tempi when needed, as on The Honey Waltz, which steadily drips its languorous, sweetly eerie atmospherics, Anne Sofie’s charming and delicate sing-song vocalisation that introduces Galen-Maret and its increasingly frantic tune-companions, and Ewan’s contemplative rendition of Robert Frost’s poem Miles To Go (here done in Rowan Rhenigans’ setting). In common with Fribo’s debut disc, the new record similarly contains a spirited example of puirt a beul (in this case wedded to the Norwegian song Kvennaviså), with guest singer Naomi Harvey joining Anne Sofie.

The “open house” musicians certainly sound “happ” (in good health) here, and the disc augurs well for a similarly healthy future for Fribo.

Album Review


Fribo Records 00035

By Kerry Dexter

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Celtic music and Nordic music meet: Fribo

The name of the band Fribo means open house, and the name of their most recent album, Happ, means be of good cheer. That’s a welcoming and inviting description of the music they create, a music born of intersection of past and present, of culture and land and style, of voice and instrument.

Fribo is a collaboration of talents from Norwegian singer Anne Sofie Linge Valdal, Scottish fiddler Hannah Read, Liverpool born Ewan MacPherson on guitar and Swedish

percussionist Magnus Lundmark. Valdal, MacPherson, and founding band member Sarah Jane Summers, a fiddler and composer from the Highlands of Scotland, sat around a kitchen table in Edinburgh several years ago and started exploring the musical connections between Nordic lands and Celtic ones, and what they could create with those ideas. Three albums on, Happ sees the band adding light and energy to what's become known as Nu Nordic music, a style that explores the present, respects the past, and at times suggests the future of Celtic and Nordic traditional music.

Happ comprises eleven tracks, many of them sets which pair compositions by band members with traditional tunes. MacPherson, Valdal, and Summers (who rejoins the group for a number of the tracks on the album) each contribute compositions while all band members add to arrangements of contemporary and trad pieces. There are waltzes and lively dance pieces, quite song and driving tune. Playing for dancing is a big part of the music in the Scandinavian countries as well as in Scotland, and one of Fribo’s strengths is a fluid integration of the varied strands of dance music ideas in a way that respects and suggests the tradition while offering a sound not quite like what has been heard before.

Notable tracks include a set which joins the traditional tune Pipevise with Outlaws Don’t Dance Waltzes, written by Summers, and a set which finds MacPherson singing the Robert Frost poem Miles to Go paired with his own winter reflecting tune The Promise. All the tracks are keepers, indeed, and it is an album that’s meant for more than one listening to reveal all its depths, as well.

Fribo have been nominated for recognition at the Scots Trad Awards, and voting is open through 18 November. Should you take a look at that site you’ll find Emily Smith, the Unusual Suspects, and others you have met here along the music road up for awards as well. Best wishes to all.