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JAMIE SMITH’S MABON - The Space Between

JAMIE SMITH’S MABON - The Space Between
Easy On The Records EOTR05

Formed as Mabon in 1999 and re-christened as JSM in 2011 (recognising piano-accordionist JS’s centrality and leadership, and coinciding with the addition of songs to their self-styled ‘interCeltic’ repertoire), this second release under the revised monicker is the latest expression of Jamie’s complex compositions and skilful band arrangements that draw much from the contemporary Celtic music of Brittany (especially) and Spain, with a host of liberal seasoning from elsewhere.

Mondial now in their festival reach and experience, JSM continue to excel in their instrumental accomplishment. Deliberately furiously paced fulcrum piece, The Accordionist’s Despair, and twin Breton suite, Go Kemper!/Drum ‘n’ Breizh, (savvily showing collective absorption a l’aise Breizh in their echoic referencing), typify their pulsing rhythmic groove and energetic drive laced and layered with masses of melodic cross currents from accordion, fiddle and bouzouki/mandolin. More pronouncedly hefty in its rock muscle and energy than their last release, there’s still ample sophistication in the dynamic range across the album.

The two English language songs are the slightly less convincing component. Averagely sound and catchy enough, both lyrically and as vocally expressed, they somehow simply don’t achieve the fascinating finesse of the instrumental pieces. Iolo Whelan’s pleasing poetic Welsh language piece Yr Ennyd, their parting piece, may have less commercial potential but (as with his atmospheric Caru Pum Merch on their last album Windblown) feels more authentic and right. Most of those Breton bands much esteemed by JSM’s membership choose passionately, even to some degree defiantly, to use their native Celtic tongue…with good reason.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.