The Free-Reed Review
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CD Review: Lars Karlsson
Lars Karlsson Band


ForResten 2:06
Jazzpolska 4:26
Swing Over 2:51
Lidhultarns Vals 3:09
Bluesbuttons 2:29
Svenskens Schottis 2:28
Hysterisk Snoa 1:40
Octaviana 2:06
Tango Draperio 3:40
Roccopolco 3:08
Lufsens Sista Vals 2:42
Durdragarnas Ganglat 3:25
Pizza-shuffle 2:41
Norska Polkan 1:52
Hemfarden 1:59
Lerefanten 1:48

total time: 42'32"
recorded in 1998
review date: July 2000

Order from: Karlssons Musik AB
SE-430 33 FJARAS
Telephone 0300-54 51 19

Review by Thomas Fabinski:

Two of the most satisfying pleasures of my job as a writer for The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. are discovering new talented accordionists from around the world and being able to share their artistry with our readers. Lars Karlsson is one of an exciting new breed of young accordionists. He is stretching the proverbial musical envelope of his native Swedish folk songs. Lars composed all the songs on this CD. And as the accompanying letter from Sven Karlsson notes with a tone of understatement, "some of the mystical styles are typically Swedish and some are definitely not."

All the melodies are lively and witty. The accordion playing is technically right on the money. When Lars duos with one of his fellow accordionists, it's difficult to separate them - their playing is so together.

Lars' back-up musicians add to the over-all drive of the group. I still can't figure out how Lars can get so much music out of those 29 diatonic buttons. The looks of his instrument are indeed deceiving. In fact I would swear that Lars has accompaniment even on those tracks where none is credited.

Fortunately Lars did not let the literal name of our website dissuade him from sending these CDs. Because as I hope you've discovered by now, his music does not fit the long-haired classical accordionist stereotype (whatever that might be?!) Maybe one way to convey to you the originality of his music is to give you his translation of the track titles (translations which Lars acknowledges may be approximations) along with his brief description of the tracks.

ForResten - a tribute to in Sweden the well-known group "Osten ma Resten"

Jazzpolska - First made as a traditional polska but then I thought this song was suitable to modernize a bit and "let the old meet the new."

Swing Over - Making songs in swing style is something of a "new tradition" among diatonic accordionists. This melody also makes a big change and ends in samba style.

Lidhultarns Vals - Made for Kjell Nilsson in Lidhult on his 60th birthday. He is father to Bjorn Nilsson who plays the bass on this recording.

Bluesbuttons - Both me and Thomas and Goran in my band have played a lot of blues before so therefore I thought it would be fun to play some blues-influenced music on diatonic accordion.

Svenskens Schottis (The Swede's Schottis) - A couple of years ago some Norwegians kept calling me Svensken (The Swede) and I thought this would be a suitable name for this melody.

Hysterisk Snoa (Hysterical Snoa) - A paraphrase of "fast polka."

Octaviana - Some years ago I made this "octave practise" as a "supreme practice piece" to have in the end of some courses (definitely not in the diatonic courses I normally have) but I also thought this could be something in a melody. Therefore I made this a 2nd turn and added a 1st turn and a 3rd turn and this is the result.

Tango Draperio (Tango Drapery (or Tango Drapes?)) - An allusion to the well-known Tango Jalousie.

Roccopolco - A paraphrase of "rock-polka."

Lufsens Sista Vals (Lufsen's Last Waltz) - In 1995 my beloved dog Lufsen died. When we buried him I played this melody for him as a goodbye.

Durdragarnas Ganglat (Durdragarna's Marching Tune) - Some years ago the diatonic accordion group "Durdragarna" asked if I could make a melody for them and I made this tune which is quite simple and suitable for diatonic accordion groups.

Pizza-shuffle - Another blues-influenced tune. On this I thought it would be perfect to have a Hammond organ in behind and so it went. The name came by itself when I was eating after the tune was finished.

Norska Polkan (Norwegian Polka) - A polka in a little Norwegian style. There are many good diatonic accordionists in Norway.

Hemfarden (The Journey Home) - I made this song as a hambo in the beginning of the 80's when I just had started to play the diatonic accordion. I sat in the back seat and played the diatonic accordion all the way home from Norway so the bass strap galled my skin on the left arm. For this recording I changed it to a mazurka which I think it is better as.

Lerefanten - I thought the intro with a toy ocarina and the foot stamp became a funny thing. Toy ocarina is called "lergok" in Swedish. "Lera" means clay and "elefant" means elephant. As you can see in the middle of the picture inside the CD-folder the toy ocarina is shaped as an elephant and the title "Lerefanten" is a little shorter version for what in English would be "Claylephant" or "Clelephant" (or something).

Here's my reviewer comments on the individual tracks:

ForResten - This is toe-tapping, good time, wipe that frown off your face, music. After two times through, Lars runs the accordion through a wah-wah device for an interlude, then he does a little musical trill that sounds like whimsical wink and then runs through the song again straight.

Jazz Polska - A brief introduction that almost sounds like the beginning of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." Then the main theme which sounds like a slow waltz rather than a jazz polka (whatever that's supposed to sound like - but hey, I'm not quibbling). A nice controlled but relaxed bellows phrasing adds warmth to the melody. Some nice picking on an acoustic guitar fades the piece out.

Swing Over - Musette tuning. Final time through is like a bolero/calypso/cha... cha, cha.

Lid Walz - 2 accordions blend nicely on this slow waltz. A sweet, melancholic melody. Lars ends the piece with a subdued accordion yodeling effect with octaves.

Blues Buttons - Lars gets a lot of mileage out of an arpeggiated run. A blues guitar takes a couple choruses before returning to solid rhythm strumming accompaniment. BB King meets Clifton Chenier.

Svenskern - Both accordions join again in this light romp through the countryside. It's wonderful to hear the two accordions playing so tightly together.

Hystick - I've never heard 2 accordions play parallel sixteenth notes so beautifully. A musette accordion plays some rapid sixteenth note triplet arpeggios before returning to the original theme.

Octaviana - Again both accordions play together as if one. It's hard not to smile at their wonderful technique.

Tangoi Drapier - A bright tango with both accordions.

Roccopolco - This is my favorite piece - but hard to describe because of its curious mix of musical colors. There's a 2 bar drum solo plus a 2 bar bass solo which make up the intro. Later a 4 bar drum solo, a tremolo/wah wah guitar bridge for starters.

Lufsense - Lars returns us to a more traditional waltz in this canine ode. He has a wonderful compositional touch. Simple, direct and eminently hummable.

Durndragums - One more light tune.

Pizza-Shuffle - The Hammond B3 and electric guitar add a delicate but not overpowering saucy seasoning for the accordion. My credit goes to Lars for having the musical courage to mix together all these wonderful instruments with the accordion and pull it off with style and wit.

Norka - Again the 2 accordions play as one. If your toes aren't tapping along by now, you better call your podiatrist because, I'm sorry to tell you but you've lost the feeling in your toes.

Hemfarden - Did I mention that these two accordion dudes are musically grafted to each other? (By the way, this one's in the key of A but unless you're really listening for a key change, you probably won't even notice it.)

Lerefarten - Ocarina and some boot stomping introduce this piece. When the CD ends, I'm left with the only sad moment. But a moment of sadness that quickly ends when I promptly hit the re-play button.

This CD just makes me want to smile. The apparent simplicity of it all. The 29 buttons. The G, C, D7 and occasional F chord. What makes it all work is the joy Lars and his band bring to their music.

Now for some background on Lars and his group. The "Inspiration" CD (see a forthcoming review) was recorded in 1996. In 1998 he followed it up with this CD. At the time of "Inspiration's" release, Lars was 25 years old. He had been playing the diatonic accordion since he was 10. He won the senior class in the international diatonic contest in Ransater, Sweden in 1993 and received his community's culture scholarship in 1995 (the first accordionist ever to receive this honor.) He performed in the gala concert at the 1995 Coupe Mondiale in Sweden. Two CDs pre-date "Inspiration" - "Lufsen" (1993) and "Durspelsduell" with the Norwegian diatonic champion, Bjornar Haugen (1994). His 1999 CD, "Min Tos" was recorded with Anders Larsson and is more traditional in style. Lars also plays bass with rock and blues bands; influences which I'm sure find their way into his CDs.

It's always a little surprising to me that accordionists in Europe CAN enjoy commercial popularity on radio and TV. Last year, in fact, Lars spent 3 weeks on Sweden's "Svensktoppen" (roughly equivalent apparently to Billboard's Top 10) with his blues-based "Pizza-Shuffle" which made it to 6th place. This was the first time a diatonic accordion melody ever "made the charts" in Sweden. Sven Karlsson reports that these CDs have sold very well in Sweden and Norway as well as in Germany, Austria and Denmark. And Petosa in Seattle has also purchased them (perhaps as a U.S. distributor?)

Lars also sometimes performs with Jorgen Sundeqvist and Oivind Farmer and Bengan Janson. When he's not performing, he works with Sven Karlsson at Karlsson's Musik. He's also been to Italy helping to develop diatonic and accordion models.

Lars' tuneful melodies are being played by other accordionists - most notably when the 17 year old Kristin Verket became Norwegian champion in 1996 performing 3 of his compositions. Lars has also submitted a collection of his sheet music called "Noterat" which means "noted" or "put on paper" in Swedish) which we will be reviewing soon. All the melodies were composed for 2-row diatonic accordions although Lars reports that most of the buyers are "standard accordionists" that is, piano accordionists. Lars and Sven have a website at which has a tab for more info on Lars. When I last visited the website, their English tab was still under construction. And they are still in the process of adding photos and text to their website.

I enjoyed reading the personal musical tastes of the core band members - Bjorn Nilson enjoys Celine Dion and RadioRix. Goran Vilsten likes Tower of Power and Jimi Hendrix. Thomas Andersson prefers "alla som spelar med sjalen" (which probably does not mean "everything about caves and Zweeland). And Lars goes in for Deep Purple, Gary Moore, Steve Ray Vaughan and Status Quo m.m. Undoubtedly this cross-fertilization from the other band members helps to makes this C D such a rich sampling of musical styles. The back-up musicians provide a solid supporting rhythmic accompaniment. But they still have room to express themselves musically. I particularly enjoyed this CD for its eclectic musicality.

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