Lofoten Calling is the brainchild of The Kittiwakes' lead vocalist and violin player, Kate Denny, inspired by the landscapes, wildlife and traditions of the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago in the county of Nordland, Norway, that lies within the Arctic Circle. Lofoten Calling sets these inspirations in a melodious landscape that draws heavily on the traditional music of both Britain and Norway, though the music and lyrics are all original. There is something enticingly eccentric about the music and performance here, that is sure to set this recording apart from anything else you will hear. The arrangements are refreshingly honest and unfussy, remaining true to the actual sound of the instruments, resulting in a delightfully uncluttered listening experience.
The sounds of maritime traditions chime proudly throughout Lofoten Calling, largely thanks to the fluid and illuminating accordion of Chris Harrison, adding much depth with its bass notes, whilst accommodating the more nimble melodies with great aplomb. The vocal arrangements are nothing short of inspired, with robust and alluring harmonies. Kate Denny's precise and penetrating vocals are delightfully animated, flooding her stories with whimsical character, whilst the more resonant tones of Jill Cumberbatch provide the perfect foil, and more than the occasional nod towards the illustrious Maddy Prior. Various string instruments are plucked and bowed with great elegance and purpose, and an occasional piano brings a refined touch.
By bringing together the folklore and natural history with the personal lives of the Lofotens' past and present, Kate Denny has crafted a collection of lyrics that offers a bewitching insight into this unique landscape. The islands' maritime and fishing industries feature heavily, where songs pay tribute to the work ethic and the inevitable love and loss that accompanies such enterprise. The unique natural characteristics of the area are represented by songs about the maelstrom, the long days of midsummer, and the long nights of midwinter, whilst "Lynx" offers a fanciful folkloric take on how nature conspired to create the Lofoten Islands.
Lofoten Calling is a unique endeavour that rewards with both fine musicality and the rich imagery that is woven by Kate Denny's inspired lyrics, that should rightfully win a place amongst the best folk releases of 2009.