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FERNHILL - Na Pràdle

FERNHILL - Na Pràdle
Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD51

Na Pràdle is a live offering from this formidable Welsh band, recorded here as a trio by Czech radio in Prague, March 2006. Na Pràdle, the name of the venue, translates as "the laundry" or "yr olchfa," in Fernhill's native Welsh.  Julie Murphy's haunting vocals are to the fore throughout the recording -- vocals that could hold their own without any instrumental accompaniment, and rightly providing the focal point for this set.  Murphy is at her most alluring when performing in the Welsh language, singing with a crystal clear enunciation that exudes appeal and authenticity. Ceri Rhys Matthews provides some solid guitar work and occasional flute, whilst Tomos Williams plays piano and remarkably subtle yet moody trumpet, lending a contemporary jazz-tinged ambience to the trio's sound.

Songs like Llatai (Love Messenger) and Gwalch (Nutty Man) find Matthews driving out a dynamic guitar rhythm that supports the light and shade of Murphy's gripping vocals, leaving Williams to inject his improvisational charisma on the trumpet. The sheer pace that these performances gather as they progress builds to a most intense finale. Lloer Dirion (Tender Moon) finds Williams ditching the trumpet in favour of some sparse and evocative piano with Murphy's soaring dramatic vocals sending shivers down your spine -- Matthews completes the sound with his mellow and creative flute arrangement. It is Matthew's evocative and pulsating flute that also provides the backbone of Folantein (Valentine), with Murphy's plaintive vocals completing this almost medieval-sounding piece.

Na Pràdle is one of those delightfully sparse and intimate recordings that nevertheless captures the full force of Fernhill's distinctive sound, giving each musician just the right space to demonstrate their virtuosity. It is however, the strength of the songs, married with Murphy's potent vocals that provide the greatest draw on this most enjoyable recording.

Mike Wilson

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This album was reviewed in Issue 75 of The Living Tradition magazine.