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GWEN MÀIRI - Mentro 

GWEN MÀIRI - Mentro 
Erwydd Recordings ER004 

My first listening was while driving, and I thought this CD was good, so I put it on again and drove on. Unfortunately, I had to turn it off in order to concentrate adequately on driving safely – it’s very good indeed.

Gwen Màiri’s a Welsh harpist who grew up in Scotland, studied pedal harp at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and went back to her Welsh musical roots. So she’s imbibed Scots (and, by the sound of it, some Irish) influences in her playing. The style and content, while traditionally based, is largely contemporary in its delivery with an element of the classical formality I tend to associate with the harp. Add to that a fine voice with a thrilling vibrato and two excellent accompanists in Welsh musicians Gwilym Bowen Rhys and Jordan Price Williams and you have a recipe for success.

It’s hard to pick out highlights – there are plenty, but the atmospheric Rhosyn Saron (Rose Of Sharon) illustrates the all-round quality of harp, voice, accompaniment and production. Her playing is faultless, nimble and precise, and yet with a feeling for the material. The accompaniments are well judged, and there are some wonderfully dramatic endings to some tracks.

It’s always good to have a booklet for track information, song words and so on, and the lack of one here is a shame. Being lazy (and a bit Luddite) I don’t want to have to look elsewhere for information about the recording, especially when it’s as good as this – undoubtedly one of my favourites this year.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine