Dave Beeby of The Living Tradition
reviews The Whispering Road by SeriousKitchenIt was a Saturday morning and my wife had gone to the local supermarket leaving me my normal list of household chores to do. For what I thought was going to be background music, The Whispering Road by Seriouskitchen was placed in the CD player. From the opening notes of a strange wind instrument and the haunting vocals asking to "seek me, find me, come to me", I realised this was something different.
Seriouskitchen have been developing this work for a number of years and via a number of performances, before they thought it ready to record for posterity. It is basically two stories from Sweden and Norway, joined seamlessly together with music written in the style of Scandinavian traditional song. The stories are told by well known storyteller, Nick Hennessey, who uses all his skill from years working in the oral tradition. The style is akin to poetry, as every word is there for a purpose (change of pace and volume, strong adjectives, repetition) to make this story come to life. For me, it the use of silence that is really special.
Vicki Swan plays nyckelharpa, and Swedish bagpipes who knew they existed as well as being fluent in that language. It is her voice that provides the haunting songs here, whilst Jonny Dyer plays lots of stringed things. He is also responsible for the wind instrument mentioned earlier which turns out to be the ancient Viking instrument, the Kohorn.
No spoilers here, but The Whispering Road is about a ring (not the same one as Tolkein's, but equally as epic), a prince on a quest, and trolls, with lots of other elements on the way.
Before hearing this offering from Seriouskitchen, I would have doubted that a story in the oral tradition would have worked on CD. This has completely changed my mind. It benefits from repeated listening and some tracks are good enough to stand alone.
Doug Bailey at Wildgoose has done a great job in capturing the feel and the clarity of this recording. At all times the voice is brought right to the front, whilst the instruments are just at the right level. I really hope to see a live performance of The Whispering Road soon because I am sure it will be something special.
I urge you to spend 70 minutes listening to what is an unusual CD. I did. My jobs had to wait. They got done eventually.