Words by Fiona Talkington
Värttinä fans have been holding their breath ever since Miero in 2006. Not only has a new album been a long time coming but the band has gone through a number of upheavals and changes in personnel. They’re about to celebrate 30 years of Värttinä, which rather puts Utu under scrutiny. Without any disrespect to the outstanding instrumentalists who’ve contributed to the Värrtinä family over the years it has been the singers who have captivated audiences, with their beguiling harmonies, their extraordinary stage presence, and their graphic portrayals of powerful women of Finnish legend, from fishwives to wailing banshees. Luckily Mari Kaasinen, Susan Aho and Johanna Virtanen are still with us, and their relaxed enjoyment of the music and feisty performances are at the core of Utu.
Multi-instrumentalist Matti Kallio is new to the band, but he and Hannu Rantanen (on bass) are as assured and colourful as is necessary to carry Värttinä onwards. There are guests too, notably famous joik musician Wimme Sari on ‘Manattu’. Although this doesn’t rival the brilliant Ilmatar or Miero in terms of invention, Utu is nevertheless deservedly one of the most important Finnish releases and a continued powerful testament to what this band has done for Finnish music on the international stage. It’s fun, beautifully produced and an assurance to Värttinä fans worldwide that, despite the changes, there is no compromise in quality. Listen to the haunting ‘Kutsu’ or the compelling ‘Tantsu’ (Dance), and you’ll be more than happy to add this one to your Värttinä collection; it won’t be very long before you’re dancing and singing along.
Track to try: Kutsu