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MABON Live at the Grand Pavilion

Live at the Grand Pavilion

Private Label  E0TR01

Drawing principally from their second release OK Pewter: The Original Celtic Brew (2007), rising Welsh instrumental band Mabon present a CD of a live performance on home turf at Portcawl, and a bonus DVD, mostly of the same material, of a concert at Newport on the Isle of Wight. Both effectively celebrate a growing reputation built on successful, high profile festival performances across Europe including the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Inter-Celtic being an express and useful summation of their ambition.

Central to Mabon is brilliant accordionist Jamie Smith with his prolific and consistently interesting compositions drawing on a wide array of Celtic tunes, modes and rhythms and blending them with wider European dance music traditions. Support here is provided by Ruth Angell (Rainbow Chasers), Young Scottish Musician of the Year Calum Stewart (wooden flute and pipes), Jamie’s father Derek Smith (acoustic guitar), and the propulsive rhythm section of Matt Downer (electric basses) and Iolo Wheelan (drums and percussion). The instrumental agility and prowess of the players is a given and there’s some exceptional fiddle and flute/pipes work. Overall the composed arrangements create interesting soundscapes for Smith’s tunes with ample texture and dynamic range. Funk, fizz and ferment are typical words used to describe the music of this energetic, punchy and rhythmic band.

Anyone interested in the music of Lunasa, Flook, Lau and Michael McGoldrick’s work, solo and with Capercaillie, and the Breton group Guichen, will find much to please them. Performances at both concerts are tight and fluent, almost to the extent of studio recorded precision, perhaps begging the question; since there are only three previously unrecorded offerings, why record a live album? However, for me, having the filmed footage, the so-called ‘bonus’ is a good enough reason!

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.