Sitting down to decide what to write and share about American fiddler Casey Driessen is like trying to pick your favorite piece of candy to share with the world. There is simply so much goodness there, so much creativity, and plenty of inspiration.
As a violinist/fiddler myself I will admit that each time I hear Casey, especially live, I sort of have to retreat into some sort of a professional shame cave for a day or two before I can come out and be ok with the fact that I will die never having had my toes where Casey has his heels. I suspect some of you might feel the same way, but let it be for inspiration and not despair! The man is both a hard working and creative machine, as well as being an endless source of new ideas and techniques.
I am pretty sure Casey can take responsibility for making the “chop” bow/groove technique as popular as it is today. It is rare now to run into traditional bowed string players, especially young performers, who don’t incorporate the chop into their vocabulary.
Casey Driessen in Otherlands
Because I think this particular project of his should get all the attention in the world, I am going to share with you a bit of Casey’s adventures in Otherlands, a 10 month music collaborational travel through Spain, Ireland, Scotland, India, Japan, and Finland from September 2019 to May 2020. His plan was to continue his trip from Finland through Norway and Sweden, but he barely made it to Finland in March of 2020 when Covid had hit everywhere and travel restrictions prevented any further escapades.
Casey and his family settled in a cabin in Kaustinen, Finland, a place that is well known for its folk music and dance festival each summer. There, Casey was lucky enough to be able to collaborate with some members of the Järvelä family, a family that has helped carry on a fiddle and folk music tradition in Finland that is going on three centuries.
Esko and Antti Järvelä are cousins who both play the fiddle like their grandfather, and listening to each of them play with such strong traditional roots reminds me of the importance of carrying on the musical traditions that exist everywhere. Of course Esko and Antti are modern musicians who bring their own twist to what they do, just like Casey does, so their collaboration feels quite natural to listen to even though they come from different cultures.
I believe I saw Casey somewhere liken his fiddle connection with Esko to being brothers from another mother, and that does not surprise at all when you watch their collaboration of tunes here. On the surface at the very least it seems they are made from the same cloth and it is pretty magical.
I really love that Casey shares his process of learning the traditional Finnish polskas with us, to learn that he finds the ¾ Scandinavian groove particularly elusive, just like it is for the rest of us who are not used to it. He also shares details from learning the music he performs with Antti and Maija Pokelo (kantele and voice) in another post here, and I encourage you to watch their performance of this love song to the end to see their humorous discussion on the ¾ groove.
To see two more collaborations with the Järvelä cousins, Maija, and Esko’s sister Aili, check out my video playlist, and definitely visit Casey’s recap and detailed account of his stay in Finland and watch all the wonderful videos he has produced so well. His video storytelling is actually quite mesmerizing, with beautiful local scenery that gives you the feeling that you are right there with him on this rich journey.