Jarkka Rissanen Tonal Box – Trimmed and Burning
CD: 10 Songs, 35:00 Minutes
Styles: Gospel Covers, Traditional Gospel Blues
Gospel blues has always been a sub genre one can clearly pinpoint and recognize, no matter how unique its interpretation. Trimmed and Burning, the latest release from Jarkka Rissanen Tonal Box, demonstrates this like few albums have. This ensemble hails from Finland – one of the furthest nations from the Deep South in the U.S. Faith in the songs of “that old-time religion” has spread further than its originators ever suspected. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, year after year, generation after generation. Even though all ten tracks on this album are familiar, though, it’s hard to know what to make of them. Maybe yours truly, approaching forty, is a fuddy-duddy. Maybe the outré arrangements of classics such as the title track, “Up Above My Head” and “John the Revelator” become more beautiful the more one hears them. Or maybe, just maybe, the Tonal Box is on to something big. Maybe they’ll be trendsetters as the 2010’s draw to a close.
Instead of three-part harmony and traditional accompaniment such as washboard and hand drums, Jari “Jarkka” Rissanen and company add postmodern flair. As well as doing vocal duties, Jarkka plays all guitars, mandolin, Fender Rhodes, percussion and drums. With him are Jussi Kettunen on drums and percussion, guest star Dave Forestfield on organ, and Jorma Välimäki on double bass and tuba. Yes, that’s right. Who knew a little oom-pah-pah could liven Gospel music up even further? These four pour their heart and soul into tunes that are part of the bedrock of Christian belief.
The third song on this release is no doubt the catchiest, even though it’s a warning.
Track 03: “Can’t Nobody Hide” – People justify and rationalize their behavior all the time, trying to conceal their faults from others. Yet Rissanen reminds us: “You can hide from your elders, but you can’t hide from God. Can’t nobody hide from God.” The atmosphere of the instruments is at once merry and menacing, making listeners laugh and wince at the same time. Sing along if you dare. Keep doing so because you must. We all know this one, if only in spirit.
Tonal Box’s fans will love their take on Gospel favorites, keeping their lamps Trimmed and Burning!