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CHRIS JONES - Dacwr Tannau

CHRIS JONES - Dacwr Tannau
Gwymon CD020

I’ve known Chris Jones and his singing for 20 years, and have always felt that he was under-appreciated, both as a singer and as a fount of knowledge on Welsh traditional music and song. Now, at last, he is starting to reach a larger audience, largely as the result of the BBC taking an interest in him and his singing, which he regards as a “tradition in development”.

One spin-off of his higher profile is this CD, which I feel certain will be welcomed by those who’ve heard him sing in the past, as well as by new listeners. To describe Chris’s voice as rich is an understatement – he has a voice in a million. He knows how to use it too; the sensitivity of his treatment of (say) the Fair Flower Of Northumberland or Ffarwel i blwy Llangywer is matched by the power and attack with which he unleashes his baritone on Dacw ‘nghariad. All the tracks are accompanied, either by Chris’s own excellent guitar playing or by his bouzouki, a more recent acquisition. Both instruments provide a commentary on the songs, as good accompaniment should. On one track a whistle (Alex Plows) makes a guest appearance.

There are nine tracks – four in English and five in Welsh. Several of them, in both languages, express a yearning for things that cannot be, and Chris’s voice is ideally suited to this kind of song. His interpretation of all his songs, grounded as it is in his native North Welsh culture, transforms songs like Willie O’ Winsbury or Llangau Caernarfon and makes you see them from a fresh viewpoint. This is done partly by adapting the tune to his own style and also by his obvious identification with the song’s subject. He does tend to cut off the initial words of a line on occasions, which for me impinged on my listening to the story, but the impact is minimal. The bilingual sleeve notes, which include brief synopses and salient verses translated from the Welsh, enhance the pleasure of listening for those of us with little or no Welsh.

There are things I would like to have included (but these are very subjective comments): I would like to have heard more of the unaccompanied songs that I know he can do so well; and I would love to hear more from the melodic beauty of his Welsh language repertoire; but above all, it would have been good just to have had more songs! If you get this CD, you’ll understand what I mean – once you start listening to Chris Jones, it’s addictive. You have been warned!

John Waltham


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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.