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ALAW - Melody

ALAW - Melody
Taith Records TRCD00016

Fiddle and accordion music from Wales, with guitar and a touch of vocals: Alaw is based around the fiddle of Oliver Wilson-Dickson and the accordion of Jamie Smith (not sounding too Welsh so far, but Jamie does play in a group called Mabon). Oliver also sings and Dylan Fowler ties the whole thing together with guitar and mandocello. Their music ranges from the dark Breton-tinged Cariad Newydd to the distinctly Irish Jig Owen, avoiding the clichés of Welsh song and harp melodies. Punchy, rhythmic and eminently danceable, Alaw's jigs and reels have a vitality which is rare indeed. Even the vocal number Y Ddau Farch has a toe-tapping quality which reminds me of Quebec bands like La Bottine or Le Vent Du Nord, maybe more of that Breton influence.

The English-Welsh crossover is also apparent. There's a driving reel Nyth y Gog, a version of the hornpipe Cuckoo's Nest, and Y Gwr a'i Farch is a familiar melody from the Northumbrian tradition. Several tracks start slow and get faster and two stay slow throughout: Ar Foren Teg and Will a'i Fam are spine-tingling airs which sound as though they crawled out of the dark hills in a bygone age. The combination of sad-sweet fiddle and staccato accordion gives Alaw a much broader palette than we are used to from the Welsh tradition and this album should have a correspondingly broad appeal. I'm not sure if Melody is the album title, as it is the English translation of the Welsh name Alaw. The CD number shows forward planning for at least ten thousands releases, so we can expect more from these three.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.