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Biography

Folque formed in Oslo in 1972 with the aim of making a Norwegian form of folk-rock, using guitars and banjos instead of the traditional treatment with Hardanger fiddle or solo vocals. Their first album, ‘Folque’ (1974), also included adaptations of two Scottish folk songs (among them "Allison Gross" in a similar arrangement to the 1973 Steeleye Span version, although with Norwegian lyrics), but for the future they stuck to Scandinavian material. For this reason, ‘Kjempene På Dovrefjell’ (1975) and ‘Vardøger’ (1977) are usually considered their best albums, offering great insight into Norwegian folklore, i.e. medieval ballads, old Norse poems set to music, fiddle instrumentals and traditional dance music. Their musical ability is impeccable, highlighting fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer and electric guitars. The arrangements always function well, meaning that the bass and drums do not disturb the original rhythm and rhymes. On top of this, Lisa Helljesen had a clear and strong voice (a bit similar to Maddy Prior in Steeleye Span and Mandy Morton in The Spriguns), perfectly suitable to the music. There is no better starting place than ‘Vardøger’, where their own blend of folk-rock was fully developed.

After some personnel changes, Folque signed to the political left-wing label Mai after their Philips contract expired. Jørn Jensen and Trond Villa were later involved in Kong Lavring and the group Folk & Rackare (along with Swedish musicians). ‘Dans, Dans Olav Liljekrans’ (1978) revealed the new line-up to be as musically competent as the previous one, but the new female vocalist Jenn E. Mortensen had a rougher voice (and a strong North-Norwegian regional accent) that might be disturbing to those who dislike her more aggressive attitude (less suitable to Folque's music, in my opinion). ‘Fredløs’ was a transitional record with a wider musical span than their previous records. Their last two original albums contained increasing numbers of self-penned compositions, ‘Sort Messe’ (1982) being dominated by the competent songwriting of Morten Bing.

Folque were undoubtedly the most influential Norwegian folk-rock band and arguably among the best in Europe, on a par with Malicorne in France or Ougenweide in Germany.

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