FFYNNON - Adar Gwylltion

FFYNNON - Adar Gwylltion
Taith Records - TRCD003

What a joy to encounter a CD which requires the listener to do a little work and to find that the effort put in is rewarded on so many levels. I tend to recoil at music labelled 'fusion' because it brings to mind my first experience of the cocktail 'Black Velvet' (Guinness and Champagne) which I felt was a ruination of two fine drinks. But this 'jazz-soaked Celtic folk music' (a quote from Radio 2) is something else.

Ffynnon are Lynne Denman (vocals), Stacey Blythe (just about any instrument you can name), Emma Trend (fiddle) and Matthew Lovett (guitar and bass). Dylan Fowler also features on guitar and drum and the album was recorded at his Stiwdio Felin Fach in South Wales. I have loved Lynne's voice since first hearing her in a duo performance with the late and much missed bassist Dave Reid in about 2002. She has a jazz-tinged voice with power and subtlety in equal measure and she could sing the instructions from a workshop manual and I would enjoy it. Stacey also has a fine voice and is a multi-instrumentalist who brings influences from the many genres of music in which she has worked. Emma's fiddle playing adds welcome colour and Matthew's dark brooding bass makes the hair on my neck stand on end.

Do you get the idea I like this one? You bet. And I think I know why. Much of the singing is in Welsh (with a little French and English here and there). No explanations, apologies, translations or compromises (and quite right, too!). Sleeve notes are sparse. There is even a little humorous story told by Ethel Fronhaul (how did she get in?) and various other sound effects, noises off and snippets of conversation. I don't know why they are there but they seem to fit. Perhaps my lack of understanding of the words makes it easier to suspend one level of judgement and simply treat the voices as the beautiful instruments they are. This album reeks of jazz but feels like folk. I think it would be wrong to single out tracks. But I will. Listen to the jazzy Oer (which means 'cold' in Welsh), and then check out Stacey's own composition, Iain's Reel, featuring the low whistle. The contrast is astounding. Listen to it all, and then listen again. I did.

Phil Thomas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.