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Reviews: Zenobia, I vintermorkets Hal; and Helene Blum, Linden Sol

[Editor’s note: Yes, winter’s over in the Northern Hemisphere, but it comes back every year!]

Zenobia
I Vintermørkets Hal
[Go Danish Folk Music GO1810 (2010)]

Helene Blum
Linden Sol
[Pile House PHR0410 (2010)]

These two new Danish recordings feature strong female vocalists singing winter-themed songs.

This second recording by Zenobia is much stronger than their first release from 2008. The songs are winter seasonal in nature, some carols, some Christmassy, reflecting back to an earlier, simpler time. Louise Stojberg’s strong crystal clear voice is still the groups’ focus, but the backing by pianist Charlotte and accordionist Mette Kathrine Jensen is more supportive, and the melodies are much more engaging. The arrangements this time are more expansive as well, with a string quartet on a number of tracks and bass, trumpet, and trombone on others. Helene Blum, Jullie Hjetland and Karen Mose provide backing vocals on a lovely version of “Mork er november.” There are two instrumental tracks featuring Jensen’s accordion, the first a duet with harmonica and the second with electric trumpet. Overall, the music has a warmth and clarity to it that is most endearing. An album to curl up with on cold winter nights. [www.zenobia.nu]

Helene Blums’s latest recording, Linden Sol (“Little Sun” in English) is winter themed as well. The title track is an old Christmas song to which she wrote a new melody, and others deal with the cold and snowy nature of winter in the Danish countryside. Her husband, Harald Haugaard, adds fiddle and octave mandolin to the simple, yet full arrangements that include acoustic guitars, mandolin, double bass, jews harp and percussion. Her voice has a captivating warmth and presence that transcends the language she sings in. Blum is also an accomplished fiddle player and performs on the instrumental selection “Julefest.” This nine tracks recording might be short (31 minutes), but it’s a nice addition to any collection of seasonal music. [www.heleneblum.dk]

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

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