Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
September 16, 2022 - 11:54pm EDT
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Päivi Hirvonen is a Helsinki-based composer and musician who uses violin, voice and Finnish bowed lyre (jouhikko) as her instruments. With one foot firmly planted in tradition, she also has another boldly going in the direction of new traditions. A 2011 Master of Music graduate from Sibelius Academy, Hirvonen is currently pursuing a doctoral degree with her research in solo performance and storytelling. While involved with the bands, Okra Playground and The LempiLempi Duo, she also released a solo album in 2018 called Alku – The Beginning that received great feedback for its artistry, sensitivity and strength.

On Kallio, Hirvonen arranges her original music with both traditional folk sensibilities and pop aesthetics. Besides her impressive ability to simultaneously play fiddle and sing, Kallio incorporates multi-tracked vocal harmonies and programming to deliver effervescent warmth while addressing modern aspects of life ranging from mental health and women’s rights to childlessness and open polyamorous relationships. One track is solely instrumental, “Irti” (Letting Go), while fiddle and vocals seem to be her most preferred arrangement on five tracks including the opening “Kulkijat” (Travellers) that includes three guest background vocalists on its invitation into her land of the northern blues. A melancholy “Surulintu” (Sorrow Bird) that laments, “When sorrow breaks my tears of joy, and my mind is overtaken by blackened clouds, the sorrow bird spreads its wings and flies to me, fearless.” Her profoundly earthy sound was further developed on this project with the help of producer Oona Kapari and former bandmate Pekko Käppi.

For an incandescent sound, check out the different moods conveyed with bowed lyre and vocals on “Tuulen Tytto” (Wind Girl) and “Tie” (The Road). Closing with octave fiddle and vocals on “Vanha Ja Vapaa” (Old and Free), a deeper sound carries away old sorrows and seems to emphasize a type of transformative rebirthing. Lyrics of charming, warm-hearted sentiments and modest eloquence, combined with some enchanting atmospherics, provide a lyrically intimate and melodically compelling space on Kallio. It’s easy to see why the album has just appeared new at #15 on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 World Album Chart in early September 2022. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)