A first time for everything: a Finnish album scored by the duo of Pia Leinonen and Joni Tiala, a Lapland vocalist and a guitarist from the port of Kokkola.
You picture Finland and you think cold but Koskenkla is imbued with a surge of warmth from Tiala’s sumptuous guitar and the duo’s infectious lyrics.
Vellamo is led by Leinonen and Tiala, but behind them is a band with enough finesse to gild their bright and breezy lyrics with filaments of gold.
Though Scandinavian use and understanding of English errs on the side of caution and clarity, Vallamo get away with almost anything because the rhythm is joined at the hip to the lyrics.
While Koskenkyla opens inauspiciously with Tule kanssani sisar, which is sung in the mother tongue, there is an ebullience to the playing which suggests a band comfortable in its zone.
Colours of the Meadow, in English, fulfils the expectations of Tule kanssani sisar, and while the words meander, as they do also on Palmikko, Sina ajat and Elama on hauras, the journey is nonetheless worthwhile.
I am unfamiliar, for the time being, with their earlier albums, recorded in quick succession in 2013 and 2014, but I can only assume that the influences on Koskenkyla – Fairport Convention, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez – were prevalent then.
Undoubtedly, Vallamo, who have among their ranks a really great bassist in Janne Ylikorpi, is a tight unit comfortable in its skin, and the sound and freshness of the recording is akin to studio jazz.
Therein is its appeal: yes, the vocal is ethereal, but not always, and the guitar is virtuosic, if on the verge of retro, but there isn’t a single dull moment on Koskenkyla, an album which should be played loud in the garden on a summer’s afternoon.
Pia Leinonen and Joni Tiala are as light as driftwood, and it is Ylikorpi’s bass and the drumming of Timo Tikkamaki which curbs their drifting too far out.