Album Review of
Bluegrass Christmas

Written by Joe Ross
December 1, 2020 - 7:31pm EST
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

It’s always interesting to hear how bluegrass music is interpreted and played in countries around the world. From Finland, mandolin player and singer Jussi Syren has been playing traditional bluegrass for over 40 years. His current band, The Groundbreakers, has been together since 1995 and also features Tauri Oksala (banjo), J.P. Putkonen (guitar) and Tero Mäenpää (bass). Guest fiddler Arto Järvelä appears on three cuts. Bluegrass Christmas, the band’s twelfth album, presents several holiday favorites along with Syren’s new original material. Their exuberant, hard-driving approach to bluegrass has plenty of heart, soul and emotion. The band is well-rehearsed and likes to record their music live with few overdubs. Recorded in a six-hour session, the album achieves a high level of energy reminiscent of bluegrass LPs of yesteryear. Opening with a heartfelt greeting and invitation to rejoice, Pekka Simojoki’s “Christmas Has Come,” the band then kicks into their lively bluegrass mode for Syren’s “Bluegrass Christmas,” and Oksala’s instrumental “Northern Chimes.” Syren added in his resonator guitar on two tracks, his self-penned “Riding in the Open Sleigh,” and Dick Staber’s “Call Collect on Christmas.” With their more standard and classic Christmas fare, the band’s trio vocals excel on “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” The band’s a capella presentation of Syren’s “A Son is Given” displays poignant, emotionally-charged vocalizing. Jussi Syren and the Groundbreakers are known for their rustic purity that’s at the heart of bluegrass, and it’s a treat to hear them put their distinctive stamp on this enjoyable set of holiday material. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)