Bluelight Records, No Number
The hearts of hard-driving, honky-tonk, traditional bluegrass music fans will be gladdened by the release of the 11th album from Jussi Syren & The Groundbreakers from Finland. A prolific songwriter in the traditional style, Syren’s seven original songs fit easily with four covers from his musical heroes. His style was born in smoky honky-tonks and crowded bar rooms where one has to “play hard and holler loud.” In fact, this is the type of venue they still frequent most often. Given these origins, it’s not surprising to hear similarities to American bluegrass groups who worked in Baltimore and Detroit bars in the 1960s.
Award-winning fiddler Michael Cleveland guests on this album for Bluelight Records. Syren sings hard in an authentic country vocal style and accent, and he plays Monroe-style mandolin close to the bridge, with authority and attitude. All cuts are strong, but standouts include the beautiful “Okinawa Waltz” and “Road To Tammelund,” both originals with the latter sporting twin fiddles. Jussi’s authentic, a cappella cover of “Walking In Jerusalem Just Like John” sounds like an old radio show recording. His “Ode To Bluegrass Mandolin” is a tribute to some of his favorite musicians, with instrumental quotes from Bill Monroe, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, John Duffey, and Alan Bibey.
Syren’s “Put The Bible Back In School Rooms” would bring a Midwestern bluegrass audience to their feet. Another original, “The Ballad Of The White Death,” evokes imagery from the Winter War of 1939 when Finland fought to repel an alien nation from its soil. Fans of Red Allen, Jimmy Martin, Jim Eanes, the Lilly Brothers, Don Stover, and the Stanley Brothers will enjoy the music of Jussi Syren & The Groundbreakers. (www.amazon.com)NCW