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Erwydd Recordings ER003 

With Gwilym Bowen Rhys you can guarantee that you’re going to sit up and take notice, and the very first track on his latest offering will shatter any preconceptions you might have about Welsh music. The second song takes you back to more familiar territory, and the variation in pace and attack continues throughout this CD.

I’ve always been impressed by the expressiveness and the vocal range of his singing, and he uses that ability to the full here. In addition, he can call on an impressive band of fine musicians, and it was good to have some fine instrumental tracks showcasing their talents. The harp, in particular, stood out for its adaptability to so many styles and moods, and the fiddle reminded me of one or two of the more ‘progressive’ Irish players. But the overarching impression is of the inventiveness of GBRh himself.

Using the tradition he’s so familiar with as a springboard, he and his conspirators have come up with some excellent arrangements for both the traditional songs and those he’s newly composed. As is sometimes the case with Welsh music, one can occasionally hear elements of Breton, and Jeri Bach Gogerddan is a case in point. I especially enjoyed the setting used on the poem, Arenig, recited by its composer Euros Bowen (GBRh’s great uncle) on an archive recording.

Altogether, this is a recording that grew on me, and which I will play for some time. It’s not for everyone, but well worth a punt if you want stimulating music that’s performed with passion.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine