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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Ultimate Guide To Welsh Folk

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Ultimate Guide To Welsh Folk
ARC Music EUCD2744

The title ‘Ultimate Guide’ was always a hostage to fortune for a CD showcasing the music of the Welsh ‘living tradition’. That being said, this is a very good compilation by Cerys Matthews, a rich eclectic mix; 48 tracks that illustrate many of the facets of Welsh music, both traditional and contemporary, that initially had me wondering what had been left out and how easily another disc could have been filled.

It starts with Pwt Ar Y Bys from Nansi Richards, the doyenne of Welsh harpers. Unsurprisingly there are a lot more harp tunes and songs accompanied by harp, from Georgia Ruth, Gwenan Gibbard, Elinor Bennett, Delyth Jenkins, Llio Rhydderch, Siân James and Robin Huw Bowen on triple harp. But it’s not all about the harp; Wales’ rich instrumental and singing tradition is well represented.

There are contributions from earlier generations, including a song from “our very own Cecil Sharp”, Meredydd Evans; tracks from those who brought the music to me when I arrived here in the late 1960s and from the young musicians grabbing hold of the tradition today. The songs are mainly in Welsh but one, from Phil Tanner, is in English; it’s lilting, but English lilting.

An interesting juxtaposition is Moliannwn, sung traditionally by Bob Roberts and then by Ghazalaw, a contemporary band who combine the Ghazal singing of the Indian sub-continent and our Welsh tradition. Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita explore the worlds of harp and West African Kora. Other tracks by 9Bach and Fernhill explore the boundaries of the tradition.

If you are new to Welsh music then you can just luxuriate in the sound from the discs, but if you would like to discover more, then the extensive sleeve notes give a good introduction and point the way for further exploration.

It was poignant hearing Siwsann George, who died far too young, sing the final track, Adar Mân Y Mynydd. It was she who, soon after my arrival in Wales, introduced me to the beauty of the Welsh language and its song tradition.

Iain Campbell

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.