Ida Elina
Capital Letters
Hello World Records (release date: August 26, 2022)

By Robert M. Marovich

It’s a guitar…it’s a dulcimer…it’s a…kantele?

From Finnish singer-songwriter and YouTube sensation Ida Elina comes Capital Letters, a collection of a dozen bite-size songs that span the spectrum from pain and questioning to profound joy.

And on them, she accompanies herself on the kantele.

For those unfamiliar with the kantele, it is a traditional Finnish instrument with plucked strings not unlike a zither or a lap dulcimer. What Ida contributes to the kantele, however, is a slap-guitar style that makes it as much a percussion as a melodic instrument.

Kantele notwithstanding, Ida reminds me of Christian artist Nichole Nordeman. Both ladies write melodies and arrangements that combine contemporary folk music with elements of rock and country—basically the ingredients of much of today’s top CCM music. Both Ida and Nichole explore spirituality through the peaks and valleys of life’s uncertainties. For example, the title track of Capital Letters and “Heaven is There for Me” acknowledge the inevitability of troubles and express gratitude that there are heavenly remedies for them. Of the album’s dozen selections, “Heaven is There for Me” has the most gospel DNA, due largely to the full-throated choral responses to Ida’s singing and kantele playing.

There will be storms, and to get through them, one must assume personal responsibility in addition to having faith, as the growling and sassy “Work It” declares (“you got hips so you can move”). Demonstrating bravery and faith in the face of challenges is also the theme of “Pouring Down.”

“Dear God” is a humble prayer for forgiveness and strength when the rainbows don’t come when they ought. Then, after pleading one’s case to the Most High, “Tears Aren’t for You” offers a swift musical kick in the backside to get beyond the grief and suffering, embrace the warmth of the sun, and revitalize deferred dreams. It contains the same tough love message as “Work It.” On the other side of the emotional spectrum, the infectious “Sunshine” is exuberance personified and has plenty of pop potential.

“In the Kingdom” is a clarion call for unity. It argues that we are not only from “the same humankind,” but we share the same fire in our hearts for justice. A bonus track is the Finnish-language “Viimeinin Ilta,” (“The Last Night”), an introspective ballad on which Ida draws out the kantele’s bell-like resonance.

Capital Letters gets sweeter with each listening so the messages, no matter how unflinching, go down easy.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Heaven is There for Me,” “Sunshine”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.