Review of Diane Jarvi’s Flying Into Blue

Published in The Finnish American Reporter March, 1999

I suppose it’s not surprising that the Twin Cities should become one of North America’s centers for music based on, or influenced by Nordic folk traditions.

A prime example is Diane Jarvi, the poet, singer, and kantele player, who has just released her third CD, “Flying Into Blue,” (Lupine Records LR 1005). In this recording, Diane explores the territories of lullabies and lyric poetry, and adds some original material in the same vein. For the most part, this is a quiet, gentle mixture, and Diane’s voice is, as always, a lovely, evocative instrument. The singing is complemented by tasteful guitar playing from the incredible Dean Magraw, a bit of accordion here and there from Dan Newton, some concert harp from Sunita Staneslow, a touch of mysterious percussion by Marc Anderson, tin whistle and flute from Laura MacKenzie, and Gordy Johnson’s bass and keyboards.

Following the lullaby strand of the recording, one finds the lovely Yiddish cradle song, “Raisins and Almonds” (which always stimulates my tear ducts), “Arullo” from Mexico, the Irish “Mullach A’ Tsi,” and our own American “All the Pretty Little Horses.” On the Finno-Ugric side, Diane sings Finnish, Ingrian, and Karelian lullabies, and a Sami joik by Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa. I am particularly taken by the Ingrian “Uni Tulee,” which Diane accompanies with 5-string kantele, and which has just a wisp of percussion to it. The Finnish “As Tuuti Lasta” is a lullaby, and is sung quietly, but with a driving urgency provided by accordion and guitar.

The poetry thread in this CD includes sung versions of poems by Christina Rosetti, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allen Poe. I especially like Diane’s singing of Poe’s “The Bells,” which was set to music by the late ’60’s folk singer, Phil Ochs. Diane’s finger-picked guitar evokes some of the old “folkie” feeling. Johnson’s bass keeps the time, and Dean Magraw produces some sort of guitar-synthesizer magic that sounds like distant bells that are not struck, but perhaps stroked. Beautiful stuff.

“Flying into Blue” is somewhat different from Diane’s previous recordings in terms of content, but as far as style and spirit go, it is pure Diane Jarvi—musically lovely, exquisitely produced, and poetic in spirit. I think that those who get this CD will be pleased.