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YR HWNTWS - Gwentian

Sain  SCD2645

Here’s something different – a whole collection of songs sung in the almost extinct South Wales regional dialect Gwentian by a group whose very name (Hwntws) denotes “South Walians”. The record’s release celebrates the coming of the National Eisteddfod to Ebbw Vale, and Gregg Lynn – who was brought up in the town – proves an ideal ambassador for these songs of Gwent and Glamorgan. On the face of it, a project like this might potentially seem unduly esoteric and exclusive, but the reality is that the music on this disc is unreservedly accessible and enjoyable – even if in the end you don’t understand a word (and even many native Welsh speakers can be forgiven for owning up to that here). For the good thing is that virtually everything you’ll need to know is there in the accompanying booklet: full original texts of the songs (admittedly, not the exact translations), with copious background notes and all necessary personnel credits.

And the performances are vital and committed, replete with energy. It helps that Gregg has a suitably talented lineup to call upon – in addition to his own lead vocals, the group boasts two fiddles (Bernard and Gerard KilBride) and guitar (Danny KilBride) with occasional use of gaita, whistle and keyboards to vary the texture and further charismatic vocal support from Jethro Newton and guest singer Nia Lynn. Together they produce a solid and confident (if slightly rough-hewn) sound that positively encourages complete listener involvement, whether tackling rousing, upfront material like Ar Ben Waun Tredecar, Trip I Aberystwyth, the song of the tinker Bachgen Bach O Dincer and the tale of the 1898 miners’ “lock-out”, or the more reflective moments such as Tanchwa Llanerch (a ballad concerning the Llanerch pit disaster of 1890) and Synnwyr Solomon. Along the way, Gregg himself also turns in four brilliantly spirited unaccompanied performances; one, Y Cap O Lâs Fawr, is a duet with Nia, whereas another, Gower Reel, is a piece of lilting mouth-music which might be familiar to some listeners from an earlier recording by Phil Tanner. Do give this invigorating disc a try.

David Kidman

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