With warm vocals and an innovative approach to the fiddle, Lena Willemark has risen to the upper echelon of the Swedish music scene.
Her solo recordings and collaborations with multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller
and bands Frifot
and Nordan Project have helped to bring the traditional music of her homeland up to contemporary standards. While she's been praised her for her "fine sensitivity and strength," The Planet noted that her "extraordinary, powerful voice can snap a listener's neck hairs to attention." A native of Evertsberg, a small village in Dalarna, Sweden, Willemark was first exposed to jazz and improvisational music in the late '70s. Her debut solo album, Nar Som Grast Det Vajar, released in 1989, received a Swedish Grammy and a German Music Critics prize. That same year she made her debut appearance with the Elise Einarsdotter Ensemble on Secrets of Living; she also appeared on their 1993 set Senses. Since 1990, Willemark has worked with Möller
, a flute, octave mandolin, shawn, accordion, trumpet, bouzouki, hammered dulcimer, lute, percussion, and folk harp player from southern Switzerland. They joined with upright bass player Per Gudmundson
to form Frifot
, a group devoted to improvising on traditional Swedish tunes. Willemark and Möller
formed a second band, Nordan, which specialized in reinterpretations of medieval ballads, in 1994. Willemark has increasingly drawn attention to her songwriting. In 1998, she debuted her composition "Windogur," written with composer Karin Rehnqvist
as part of the Ladies' Next series commissioned by the City of Stockholm in its role as Cultural Capital of Europe 1998. The tune, which she performed with Bobo Stenson
, Palle Danielsson
, Lisbeth Diers
, Staffan Larsson, Mikael Marin, and Mats Olofsson, was sung mostly in the regional language of Älvdalen. Additionally, Frifot
released a self-titled album in 1999.