Sunday, 29 September 2013

Polkabilly Rebels

by Veli-Matti Järvenpää, J. Karjalainen, Mitja Tuurala and Tommi Viksten

In case you were ever wondering — which I doubt — whether Finnish folk music could possibly mix with hilbilly, here’s the answer. Or maybe not. For the most part, it sounds like American old-time songs, just sung in Finnish. Out of twelve tracks, only three could be reasonably called polkas (or polkkat?): Kauppias Intiassa, Vingelska (the only instrumental piece here) and Karjalan poikia. So what? It is all jolly good stuff. I can imagine these guys playing in a pub (which they probably do) and people actually dancing to this music.


This album is dedicated to the memory of Jenny “Jingo” (Viitala) Vachon (1918—2009), a Finnish-American musician, artist, writer and local historian. According to the liner notes, or, rather, the short commentaries to the songs, “Jingo made American songs out of Finnish songs and vice versa”.

If you want to sing along, the lyrics are there. For the benefit of non-Finnish speakers, the lyrics are translated to English too (while many of the texts originated as Finnish translations of American folk songs, as, for example, Wabash Cannonball, which was translated from English by Jingo Viitala).

I am not quite sure whether Polkabilly Rebels is just the name of the album or also the band. The CD cover has the names of the four musicians on it. Amazon and some other sources, including Wikipedia, list Polkabilly Rebels as one of J. Karjalainen solo albums. But then Amasa Blues is presented as “A Polkabilly Rebels original”. To be sure I don’t forget anybody, here are the complete credits:

    J. Karjalainen: vocals, guitar, 5-string banjo and fiddle
    Veli-Matti Järvenpää: 1- and 2-row button accordion
    Mitja Tuurala: upright bass
    Tommi Viksten: electric guitar
    Marjo Leinonen: vocals on Hopeinen veitsi (The Silver Knife)

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