Väsen and Hawktail in concert

OK, so I haven’t been paying close attention, but I signed on to go see Väsen and Hawktail on a damp February night in Oregon. Because I’ll pretty much always go see the contemporary Swedish roots musicians of Väsen when they’re nearby, and I figured some Americana act would be an added attraction. But it turns out that Hawktail isn’t just some Americana group but in this case is the acoustic supergroup I formerly knew as Haas Kowert Tice, and they’re not opening for Väsen but playing along with them in a sort of super supergroup! It was the best night of music I’ve enjoyed since before the pandemic began four years ago.

Väsen, which formed as the duo of Mikael Marin and Olov Johansson, has been making music in various configurations since 1983. After playing for many years as a trio with guitarist Roger Tallroth, and occasionally with the addition of percussionist André Ferrari, Marin and Johansson are again touring and recording as a duo, with Johansson on nyckelharpa and Marin playing either a blue electric bass viola and a violoncello da spalla (a small cello played under the chin like a violin). They share a deep knowledge of Swedish folk music and an apparently bottomless well of creativity, combined with telepathic communication when they perform.

Hawktail started out as Haas Kowert Tice, three young roots players who bonded over their common love of the music of Vãsen: fiddler Brittany Haas (who’s had a stellar solo career since 2004, and recorded and toured

Members of Hawktail and Väsen

Väsen and Hawktail publicity photo from their 2023 tour: L-R Mikael Marin, Brittany Haas, Olov Johansson, Paul Kowert, Jordan Tice.

with the likes of Crooked Still, Steve Martin, David Rawlings, Darrol Anger, and Chris Thile among others); bassist Paul Kowert, best known as a member of Punch Brothers; and guitarist Jordan Tice, who has at least a half-dozen solo albums. They adopted their new name with the addition of mandolinist Dominick Leslie, and have recorded three albums so far.

The quintet of Vãsen and Hawktail played to an appreciative crowd of about 400 in the Shedd Institute‘s Jaqua Concert Hall, which is about half of the hall’s capacity – a very good showing in this small city on a midweek night for a Celtic/Nordic/Americana act. They opened with a handful of full ensemble numbers, then the Hawktails sat out as Väsen Duo played a few, mostly from their most recent albums Melliken and Duo. The full group played another handful before the break, after which Hawktail played a short solo set that included Tice’s “Tell Me Whatcha Gonna Do Now” and Kowert’s “Leadfoot,” both from Haas Kowert Tice’s You Got This. But most impressive were three unnamed pieces from a new suite that will be on an upcoming album: two uptempo pieces and one slow one, each of which highlighted the contributions of one of the three members while demonstrating the ensemble’s unity. Marin and Johansson returned for several more Väsen tunes by the whole group, a standing ovation, and an encore of Haas’s sweet tune “Unless,” the title track from Hawktail’s 2018 debut.

The Eugene show was the anti-penultimate appearance of a West Coast tour that began in Felton, Calif., on Feb. 13 and wrapped at the Wintergrass festival in Bellevue, Wash., Feb. 24-28 – so by the time you read this the tour is over. One can only hope they’ll be able to do it again, and perhaps record something together down the line. These musicians together capture magic in a bottle. Here’s a look at a performance in Vermont in 2023.

I had a chance to chat with Kowert and Marin after the performance. Paul confirmed my guess that his greatest influence is Edgar Meyers. Marin said he first met Brittany and her cellist sister Natalie when they were quite young at a fiddle camp near Santa Cruz, California, probably Alisdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp.

(Jacqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, Eugene, Oregon, Feb. 20, 2024)

We’ve reviewed Vãsen Live in Maine, and at Celtic Colours in Cape Breton Island; and their recordings Gront, Keyed Up, Linnaeus Väsen, Live På Gamla Bion, Trio, Väsen Street, Brewed, and Hállidan; André Ferrari and Olov Johansson’s In Beat Ween Rhythm.

Haas Kowert Tice | Bandcamp |

Hawktail | Bandcamp | Instagram | Facebook |

Väsen website | Facebook |

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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