Dream of the Salmon Maiden
by Ruth MacKenzie
“Whatthehellisthat?” is what my neighbors were probably thinking as Ruth MacKenzie let loose with a high-pitched earthy scream on her opening track, accompanied by the heady thump-thump-thump of drumbeats and a wicked set of Great pipes.
Kalevala: Dream of the Salmon Maiden is a Finnish/English album, sung mostly in English, revolving around the distinctly Finnish tale of a young maiden betrayed by her mother who set her up to marry and become “an old man’s comfort” to a 900-year-old magician/singer. The stubborn maiden refuses to enter the loveless marriage and flees, ultimately transforming herself into “a companion for all creatures, a fish among the fishes.”
This metaphoric tale of nature, relationships, love, transformation and personal power is sung by Ruth MacKenzie, a singer equipped with a set of vocal cords powerful enough to wake the dead and put a smile on their faces. Although I wasn’t much enthused by MacKenzie’s trademark Kulning songs (consisting of two tracks containing high-pitched Swedish songs for calling animals), I loved the Kulning-influenced vocals energizing “Salmon Dance,” the opening track overflowing with primitive passion and energy. Among the musical gems on this unique album is the catchy, spirited, and defiant declaration of independence titled, “Swimming On the Surface,” the life- affirming and powerful “Give Us Room to Roar,” and the traditional and very lovely, bittersweet folk melody, “If I Knew,” which wraps the album on this melancholy note: “But there’s no knowing if you come in front./ And there’s no knowing if you come behind./ There’s no knowing where you are at all./All I know is you are in my mind.” Simply beautiful.
RATING: 4 Broomsticks
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