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BOB DELYN A’R EBILLION - Dal I ’Redig Dipyn Bach

BOB DELYN A’R EBILLION - Dal I ’Redig Dipyn Bach
Sain SCD2773

The band Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion is acknowledged for playing an integral part in the Welsh folk revival of the 90s, creating a fresh and eclectic approach to contemporary Celtic folk songwriting. “Bob Delyn” is the alter-ego of the group’s leader, Twm Morys, a recognised poet in his own right, who has joined with like-minded musicians in creating a performing style that both pushes musical boundaries and recreates and gives new life to the old traditions without recourse to bland or overt nationalist gestures.

Dal I ‘Redig Dipyn Bach (meaning Still Ploughing On A Little Bit) is the band’s fifth album, yet the first for well over a decade – Dore came out 14 years ago (the lengthy hiatus is largely a result of the difficulty in getting together the various band members who were scattered across Wales, for there’s no shortage of ideas and no awkwardness of execution). As ever, there’s a strong sense of the spirit of hiraeth (wistful longing for home) about Twm’s writing, and this is mirrored in the musical settings, which are imbued with a powerfully homely folksiness. Even so, the instrumentation often also betrays traces of Breton influence and folk-rock rhythms, and individual timbres are used sparingly but effectively. Twm has a gift for melody too, as on the sinuous line of the beautiful love song, Cân Begw.

As on the very opening track Cân John Williams, Twm’s songwriting often calls on a culture and history which may seem part of the past but which is being seen as increasingly relevant now that aspects such as the Welsh language are undergoing a resurgence. Other songs, such as Rhydd, convey a more direct (though refreshingly non-posturing) expression of unflinching national pride and the personal freedom it can bestow. Following through, the mellow, lilting Gyda Mwynder yearns for the return of this personal freedom where we can be welcomed into each other’s houses. As well as the self-penned material, the album contains two songs in Breton and others with traditional texts – Y Mab Penfelyn is a brief but evocative description of the effect on a boy of the sudden lifting of a raincloud, while Waliau Caernarfon restores the original Welsh text of verses set by R.S. Thomas.

In view of the band’s name, perhaps I shouldn’t make too much of the fact that the booklet note to Deryn Du carries mention of “boots of Spanish leather” within its text… But yes, Twm’s booklet notes, while not always supplying literal translations of the lyrics, nevertheless provide invaluable guidance for us non-Welsh-speakers, enabling us to better get inside Twm’s mindset and creative inspiration; all the while, though, the very nature of his music is sufficiently gently compelling in its own right to encourage further exploration.

David Kidman

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