Tuomari Nurmio is in many ways the quintessential Finnish rock musician. His work draws inspiration from both American roots music and traditional Finnish popular music. His resulting sound transcends either by juxtaposing various styles in unique yet accessible ways. You're as likely to hear klezmer and flamenco as you are Delta blues and rockabilly flavors in his music. His literary lyrics are insightful snapshots of big city bars and streets. Nurmio has recorded popular and roots music, schlager, blues, country, tangos, new wave, and combinations of the above. He released two albums in English under different band names: Meet the Meatballs as the Meatballs (1984) and Hillbilly Spacecraft as the Barnhill Boys (1994). An early single was released under the name Judge Bean, Jr., a moniker he used again in 2007. As an aside, Nurmio has a higher degree in law and theoretically could work as a judge. His stage name, "Tuomari," translates as "Judge." Born in Helsinki, Finland in 1950 as Hannu Juhani Nurmio, he began his musical career in 1977 when his first band, Dusty Ramblers, had one song featured on a joint EP. Two years later his first album, Kohdusta Hautaan (From the Cradle to the Grave, 1979), was an immediate popular and critical success. Two 7" releases from the album were simultaneously on the singles list at first and third positions. Nurmio's sophomore effort, Maailmanpyörä Palaa! (The Ferris Wheel Is on Fire!), was recorded in 1980 with a new band. The record improved on its predecessor, as did his third album, Lasten Mehuhetki (Children's Soda Party, 1981). But it is his fourth album, Punainen Planeetta (The Red Planet, 1982), that proved to be the culmination of his early efforts, and a storm warning of things to come in the following decades. It delivered on the promise of the first three albums with a jazzy and bouncy eloquence, surprising and pleasing audiences who had come to expect offbeat roots music, or Beefheart-inspired post-punk sounds. Kohdusta Hautaan was listed in a 2005 critics Top 50 poll as the most important rock album released in Finland. Maailmanpyörä Palaa!, Lasten Mehuhetki, and Punainen Planeetta were all in the Top 15. His albums from the '90s experimented with new styles and forms, and in any given year his sound might evoke performers as disparate as Tom Waits or the Gipsy Kings. He rarely missed a beat after a slight lull during the period following Punainen Planeetta and continues to make exceptional music whether solo, as in Luuta ja Nahkaa (Bone and Skin, 1997), or in collaborations with underground bands, such as 1992's Hullu Puutarhuri (The Mad Gardener) with the Hungry Tribal Marching Band and Kinaporin Kalifaatti (Caliph of Kinapori, 2005) with Alamaailman Vasarat. Tuhannen Kapakan Lauluja (Songs from a Thousands Taverns, 2005) was a comprehensive, double-CD retrospective followed by Tangomanifesti (Tango Manifest) in 2006, Nurmio's first album since the '80s to break into the Finnish Top Ten and his first album of tangos. Tuomari Nurmio has made music to appeal across generations of casual and committed fans, and by doing so, has expanded his audience's appreciation for all styles of music. He has published books of poetry and lyrics, and there are two tribute albums to his music. He has appeared in small acting roles, including one in a film by Aki Kaurismäki, and there is a 50-minute TV movie based on his music and lyrics. A modern renaissance man, Nurmio has remained a vital force in the Finnish music scene for over three decades, sustaining the rarity of both artistic integrity and popularity from his first album forward. ~ JT Lindroos
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