Scotland meets Sweden in Foogy, the new album from Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson, which features traditional and new music.
McKay, well-known as harpist in the band Fiddlers’ Bid, here plays her instrument to create a dynamic sound with Johansson, who plays the Swedish nyckelharpa. This instrument, literally key harp, dates back to the 14th century Gotland and is related to the hurdy gurdy.
The harp and nyckleharpa combination of sound is “fresh, charming and dynamic”, according to the music magazine Roots, Rock, Blues and Beyond. Fast-paced and rhythmical, or slower and lyrical, their musical collaboration displays virtuoso performances from the young pair which demand to be heard again and again.
Although the music may initially sound unfamiliar to anyone not used to the genre, repeated listening will reveal the artistry of the couple. They conjure sounds from their instruments reminiscent of the violin or harpischord in an incredible fashion.
Foogy features stories penned by both players. Johansson reveals his talent for composition in pieces such as 1st class to Glasgow, a celebration of a train trip to Glasgow when he and McKay were upgraded to first class by a ticket inspector who loved their playing, the plaintive Rain, composed on a rainy day in Zurich, and Mr Fish, about a mythical fish swimming in a Swedish lake.
Like several of the compositions, Mr Fish features a change of tempo showing the versatility of the instruments.
Johansson has also turned his hand to dance music, with Astrids Vals, a waltz for his youngest daughter. McKay has done likewise, with Olov’s Polska, specially for Johansson. She has used the dance form again in Early Sun Polska, about an early morning or a late night, “both of which have their challenges”.
Three new reels written by Johansson and McKay are featured on the The Foogy Set, which demonstrate fast and furious fingerwork.
The pairing of instruments works extremely well, blending into a uniform sound, and has been developed since they both played at the Celtic Connections concert in 2007, although they met for the first time in 2002.
Foogy is played by past masters of their instruments – Olov is the first nyckelharpa world champion and founder member of Vasen, Sweden’s top traditional group and Catriona’s last album, Starfish, was nominated for Album of the Year ar 2008’s Scottish Trad Music Awards and named Classic Album at Celtic Connections 2009.
- Foogy from Olov Johansson Musik will be released on 18th May.