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MABSANT "Y Goreuon ar Sain" Sain SCD2302
ILIO RHYDDERCH "Enlli" FflachTradd CD2505

Putting these two albums into my CD player instantly transported me to the land of my birth and upbringing. And a very pleasant couple of hours I spent there, as both albums awakened the usually dormant sense of "hiraeth" inside me. Indeed, there were moments when they almost made me book my return ticket!

First, Mabsant. This group has over many years deservedly built an international reputation, and perhaps only Ar Log made a bigger impact amongst groups using the vehicle of the Welsh language. And listening to this retrospective "Greatest Hits" - type album, one can see just why Mabsant registered so well. For all the dazzling triple harp playing of Robin Huw Bowen, it has to be that ever-so-distinctive voice of Siwsánn George that gave the band its DNA. There are plenty of singers with much a bigger vocal range, but few I submit, with a voice quite so individualistic in its timbre. She is in top form throughout, and really CONVINCES the listener from the first moment to last.

For anyone wanting to be introduced to the body of Mabsant's work, I can think of no better primer than this album. And it is a very accessible one: the liner notes are (a) in black print on a white background (at last! Praise the Lord! Other CD producers take note: qv) and (b) more importantly, they contain translations of the songs into English.

And now to Ilio Rhydderch's album of harp music. Before I come to the "meat" of the thing, let me talk about the less important "two veg"! (By this of course, I mean, the packaging.) This album's liner notes, like Mabsant's, are worthy of comment, but alas in not-so-complimentary a way. The truth is that whilst aesthetically the words imprinted on a photo background look great, the fact is they were so hard to read. If only they'd taken a leaf out of Mabsant's book! But the big bonus here is a free DVD to accompany the CD, and it is mainly a film of Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island). This DVD is, like Bardsey Island itself, something of a landmark. It represents the first Welsh traditional music DVD. So the "two veg" over, let's get down to the meat: the CD itself. My giddy aunt! What an authoritative display of a mastery of her instrument. And how well she evokes a spirit of PLACE.

I swear to God that as I was listening to the CD in one ear, the late poet and priest R.S.Thomas popped up in my other ear with his bleak - but somehow never depressing - poems that like Rhydderch's music here, are so inextricably linked to this strange and haunting landscape of the Lleyn Peninsula. This is Rhydderch's third album for this label. She will not make a better one.

Dai Woosnam.

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.