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J. Karjalainen: Lännen-Jukka

Album Notes

Imagine, if you will, Tom Petty composing original songs in the style of Dock Boggs and performing them with a sole banjo in a barn by himself. That's roughly what popular Finnish superstar, J. Karjalainen, did. Disenchanted, in a creative rut, and feeling he was repeating himself, inspiration struck in the form of tales told and songs sung to Karjalainen by Lännen-Jukka ("Jukka of the West") in the early '70s while visiting his grandmother's countryside home. Lännen-Jukka had been a part of the Finnish emigration to the northern U.S. in the early 1920s when some half a million men and women took the voyage. He spent time and played with the bluesmen of the Mississippi Delta and Appalachian mountains as he traveled across the land. The story, as told by Karjalainen, is reminiscent of the travels of Hiski Salomaa, who also did some of this and recorded songs that are now as strong a part of Finnish musical heritage as Charley Patton or Clarence Ashley are of American blues and folk tradition. So, what then of this CD? Quirky only in context, old and traditional in the best sense of the word, this is a superb and vital modern country blues record that channels the spirits of the past. Song subjects run the gamut of the traditional, with melancholy love songs like "Minun Kultani Kaunis On" ("My Love Is a Beauty") to songs of hard life and making moonshine during prohibition. "Sormus Se Kulki Itteksensä" ("The Ring Moved on Its Own") tells the story of a man whose sweetheart has disappeared, and as the song progresses, a ring on the ouija board spells the letters "D-E-A-D". Sounding hoarse and adding a slight American accent to his singing voice, Karjalainen manages not only to surprise and delight his listeners, but appears to have revitalized his own work and sparked his fans' interest in an increasingly unknown style of music. The recording comes packaged in a hardback book the size of a CD with extensive notes and lyrics in both Finnish and English. Karjalainen toured extensively in support of Lännen-Jukka, performing in various folk festivals from Europe to Minneapolis. ~ JT Lindroos


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