Aly Bain & Ale Moller | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Aly Bain & Ale Moller 

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Aly Bain and Ale Moller have both spent their careers exploring the links between musical styles. Bain fiddled for over 30 years with Boys of the Lough, whose repertoire included Scottish, Irish, and Northumbrian folk tunes as well as those of his native Shetland Islands. As a member of Frifot, Filarfolket, and the Nordan Project, Moller (a Swede born of a Danish father and a Norwegian mother) has blended jazz and Greek rembetika with Nordic folk material dating back to the Middle Ages. The two men didn't have to dig deep to find common roots for 2001's Fully Rigged (Northside), their first record together. Bain's native isles were settled by Vikings in the ninth century and didn't come under Scottish rule until the 1400s; that heritage turns up in the traditional Shetland tunes here. Several call for a typically Nordic fiddle tuning, and their subject matter--fjords, herding, and trows (also known as trolls)--are as Scandinavian as lutefisk. The duo plow into their material (which also includes three tunes from Sweden, two from North America, and a Moller original) so enthusiastically the disc sounds more like a hot night at a snowed-in watering hole than a musicological exercise. In keeping with the record's cross-cultural theme, Bain plays the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, which has extra resonating strings, as well as his conventional instrument. Moller generally sticks to an accompanist's role, reinforcing the rhythms and fleshing out the harmonies on mandola. But put him up front with one of his armful of wind instruments and he's an equal partner: when he plays "Da Day Dawn"'s serpentine melody on a cow horn, it's haunting. Sunday, October 20, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jerry Nelson.

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