Eivør Pálsdóttir has an astounding voice. I was speaking with two of my folk-music heroes at a folk festival the first time I heard her sing, and I stopped mid-conversation to find out who had hit that range of notes with such a clear and pure sound. In fact, the entire album of Eivør is about clarity and purity of sound, tempered by human concerns.
When the chance to review this album came up, I jumped for it. Eivor meets my high expectations. This vocalist from the Faroe Islands sings in four languages (Faroese, Icelandic, Swedish, and English) on this album and sounds beautiful in all of them.
I often get bored of albums full of love-songs, but in this case there’s plenty of variation. There are songs here about love of her home and family and friends as well as romantic love. And there are songs ranging from the accessability of “Only a friend of mine” to the mysteriousness of “Tröllabundin.”
The arrangements are minimalist and tasteful, with instruments supporting Eivør’s voice but not getting in the way. I was surprised to see just how many instruments are on the album — my first impression was that it was only Eivør’s voice and Bill Bourne’s simple, clean guitar. There’s no pretense on this album, just exquisite sound.
The album opens with “Vi_ gengum tvö” — a torch song. I don’t understand a word of the Icelandic, but the yearning is clear. (And the translation to English in the liner notes is a lovely touch. Thanks to whomever decided to include that.) A similar song, “veit _ú kemur,” convinces me that French has nothing on Icelandic for a seductive sound. At least the way Eivør sings it.
“Only a friend of mine” by Bill Bourne is a simple song, kept moving by Borne’s guitar, which never lags. The beat is as steady as a Johnny Cash song, but the rhythm cradles you like a summer evening on the front porch rocking chair. The two songs that Bourne sings on, “If I needed you” (a Townes Van Zandt cover) and “Mær leingist” have similar rocking chair feels.
Eivør wrote five of the twelve songs on this album, with a notable range of tunes. One of her credits is “Sweet sweet song,” a country-tinged lullaby in waltz time, complete with twangy guitar. The guitar is a high point on “Where are the Angels,” lilting behind Eivor’s lament.
While she doesn’t indulge in many vocal gymnastics, when she reaches high on the register she hits the notes effortlessly. I couldn’t choose a favorite song — the worst I can say is that “Må solen alltid skina” isn’t as memorable as the others. This is an amazing album.
(12 Tónar, 2004)