Myllargutens Gammaldansorkester: Vol. 2
Myllargutens Gammeldansorkester

Only the most unrepentant curmudgeon could resist Myllargutens Gammaldansorkester when the Rauland, Norway-based ensemble's music is so joyous and high-spirited. Fifteen members strong, the group specializes in happy, quasi-traditional dance music from Scandinavia and casts its mission as spreading the spirit of old-time Norwegian dance music to the world. Its second release follows an early 2016 set and features nontraditional arrangements of gammaldans (a Scandinavian folk music style) and traditional tunes, some of them spanning the last 100 years.

As dedicated to MGO is to Norwegian music, sounds of other countries surface, too, due at least in part to the fact that half of the group's members hail from France, Germany, England, and Sweden. Fiddle (seven by my count), mandolin, guitar, accordion, contrabass, harmonium, and percussion are the instruments involved, and a few songs even include vocals of a predictably rousing character. The album's thirteen songs originate out of different parts of Norway, and traces of Scottish and Lithuanian polkas can be heard in a couple of places. Adding to the music's gleeful feel are song titles like “You so Funky” and “Foxy Frode,” while the group's affable nature is succinctly conveyed by the title of the zydeco-tinged polka “Good Night and Joy Be With You.”

The group's joyous character is evident the moment “Mardalsfossen” inaugurates the release with four minutes of folk-tinged swing, and its penchant for singing fiddle melodies is well-accounted for in tunes such as the sweetly melancholic “Vals etter mor” (“Waltz After Mother”) and the rustic folk tune “Had(e)land.” Hints of ragtime jazz surface during “To små fugler på en gren” (“Two Small Birds on a Branch”), where the outfit even sounds a bit like some large-scale, Norwegian folk version of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, while a funkier side comes to the fore during the vocal drinking tune “På Sønderled.”

Don't be misled by the rather lugubrious expressions the group members sport in the colour photo in the accompanying twelve-page booklet: the forty-four-minute release is largely a joy-filled collection from start to finish. Images of children dancing and grandparents bobbing to the music come quickly to mind, though the fact that MGO's music has such multi-generational appeal hardly argues against it. One could picture the group performing in a formal concert hall, but a more fitting venue would be an outdoor festival where listeners would be able to less restrainedly surrender to the rustic folk music's charms.

August 2017