The folk music tradition in Wales is among the richest in the world; centuries old, it is as vibrant today as it has ever been. This collection highlights the best of the current folk scene from ‘the land of song’.
Lleuwen is known to combine acoustic, folk and jazz influences to create her own unique sound. Now living in Brittany, she performs in both Welsh and Breton. Her latest album, ‘Gwn Glân, Beibl Budur’, (Clean Gun, Dirty Bible) is certainly her most experimental album to date, exploring Welsh hymns and spirituality together with disconnection in an era of connectivity.
Calan bring together the remarkable talents of five young musicians giving a fresh and vibrant sound to traditional Welsh music. With a contemporary and lively approach, they breathe new life into the old traditions through their sparkling melodies, foot-tapping tunes and spirited, energetic performances of Welsh step dancing. They blast their way through some of the old favourite reels, jigs and hornpipes with fast paced and uplifting arrangements before melting into some of the most beautiful and haunting songs. The group, who’ve raised some eyebrows with a deliberate policy of eye-catching clothes and presentation, despite the ancient roots of their music, see themselves as a new generation of ambassadors, striving to take their new sound to new audiences, while raising the profile of Welsh traditional music on an international level.
Welsh singer-songwriter Ryland Teifi has made a name for himself as a singer in his native tongue, Welsh, and also in English. His debut album ‘Heno’ released in 2005 and along with subsequent albums received critical praise both in the UK and in the States and by now he has released his fourth studio album, ‘Man Rhydd’. Ryland admits that music, and folk music in particular, has always been in his blood. His father was a folk singer who ran his own folk club and therefore Ryland was influenced by a home filled with music - from local Welsh musicians to records by Nat King Cole and Johnny Cash. His marriage to fellow musician Roisin Clancy, daughter of the late Bobby Clancy of the Clancy Brothers, brought a further Celtic influence to his music.
Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion
Welsh bands come and Welsh bands go, but Bob Delyn goes on forever! Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion put a new hat on an old tradition in the 1990s, and played a major part in the Welsh folk revival. Their latest album ‘Dal i ‘redig dipyn bach’ on the Sain label has them throwing a glance or two back over their shoulders to their folk beginnings. Bob Delyn is the alter ego of one of the towering figures of contemporary Welsh music and poetry, Twm Morys. A recognized poet in his own right, having won the chair in the National Eisteddfod of Wales for poetry in the ‘strict’ metres of ‘cynghanedd’, his talent with words is combined with his musical talents in the songs of Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion. Twm has gathered around him some of Wales’ best musicians, who share the same belief in giving the old traditions a new life. Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion do not sing folk songs, but have recreated a tradition in their own unique style, and in so doing has made Welsh folk music a far more interesting place.
‘Yr Hwntws’ (meaning ‘The South Walians’) are a folk band from South Wales. Their repertoire includes traditional songs and tunes that originate from Glamorgan and Gwent. The songs are sung in an ancient dialect known as “Gwenhwysig” or “Gwentian”. Gregg Lynn founded the band in the early 1980s and over the years they have toured extensively in Europe as well as appearing on BBC, S4C and Radio Cymru. More recently Gregg has dedicated his time to researching old Welsh manuscripts and songbooks at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, collecting examples of the unique “Triban Morgannwg” poetic form. The old poets and singers used the tribans as a means of conveying stories about ordinary people — they are funny, sad, irreverent and punchy. The musicians infused the poetry with symphonies (short refrains of varying lengths) between the lines that were sung. History notes that the tribans were sung by ox drivers as a way of motivating the oxen whilst ploughing. They would also shout chants like MAHO! (Onwards!). Yr Hwntws continue to develop the tribans in this way – highlighting the musical and lyrical with as much punch as ever. Their new album ‘Y Tribanwr’ (the triban man) is a collection of over 70 tribans assembled and arranged to traditional songs and tunes by Nia Lynn and Bernie Killbride.
Ar Log was formed in August 1976 specifically to represent Wales at the Celtic Festival in Lorient, Brittany. Following the festival, on the advice of The Dubliners, the band decided to continue to perform and earn their living through touring. The band succeeded in touring full-time for seven years, spending nine months of each year abroad. The band has performed in twenty-one countries across the UK, Europe and North and South America promoting Welsh traditional music and songs. Between 1978 and 1996 Ar Log released ten albums and two singles. Their latest album, ‘Ar Log VII’, was released in 2018.
Blodau Gwylltion is a two-piece band, featuring singer Manon Steffan Ros and guitarist Elwyn Williams. Their intimate, low-fi sound and approach gives a very personal feel to their music, which is a mixture of original material with folk and country influences and some traditional songs. Their album, ‘Llifo fel oed’, has a strong theme of the trickle of time, and many of their songs feature water – the sea, lakes and rivers of Wales.
Bwncath are Elidyr Glyn and Meredydd Wyn. They began performing together as a band in 2015, but had been jamming together for years. Elidyr was the first to win the ‘Alun Sbardun Huws Memorial Prize’ for composing an original song at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and from then on has been composing and performing his own material, and appearing live at many festivals here in Wales and beyond. Their appeal is their raw, but soft style of performing and the sincere and personal themes of their songs.
Although her feet are rooted deep in the earth of Eifionydd, Gwyneth’s gaze is always drawn to distant horizons. A poet, singer and playwright, she sees herself as an artist-adventurer who thrives on experimenting with different forms. In her latest collection of songs, ‘Tro’, Gwyneth encompasses all her recent influence and experiences. It is a collection that traces the journey back to her roots – from Cardiff, where she lived for many years, back to her native environment in Eifionydd, north Wales; the heart’s journey back from darkness to light, and the soul’s journey from a distant, foreign desert to the fruitful greenness of the very place where it belongs.
Gwenan Gibbard stands at the forefront of today’s thriving Welsh traditional music scene with her unique, contemporary arrangements of Welsh traditional music and songs. She also specialises in the unique art of ‘Cerdd Dant’, the ancient form of singing Welsh poetry to the accompaniment of the harp, and is one of the few people who performs this music selfaccompanied. Her most recent solo album, ‘Cerdd Dannau’, explores old and new perspectives on this ancient tradition, and her latest EP, ‘Y Gorwel Porffor’, is a new collection of songs relating to the history of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia. Gwenan has performed in Europe, North and South America and Asia and has collaborated with renowned musicians such as Cerys Matthews and Beth Nielsen Chapman.
Carreg Lafar performs Welsh traditional music described by Sing Out! as “a dense flurry of vocals, fiddle, pibgorn, flute and guitar”. The band has changed many people’s view of Welsh music through their use of strong traditional melodies, inventive arrangements and lively, passionate performances. Lead vocals are sung by Linda Owen Jones, her voice described as pure, mesmerizing, and passionate. She is supported by Rhian Evan-Jones, whose fiddle style is dynamic, yet lyrical and soulful; James Rourke’s flute is soaring and breathily atmospheric, whilst Antwn Owen Hicks punctuates songs with pipes and pibgorn, as well as adding warm vocals and harmonies. All is underpinned by Danny KilBride’s sensitive, rhythmic and driving guitar. Carreg Lafar has toured in the UK, France, Spain, Belgium and North America six times, performing at some major festivals and arts centres, including Piping Live! Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Celtic Colours and Gooikoorts. The band has released four albums with Sain Records.
Liner notes: Gwyneth Glyn biography courtesy of Theatr Mwldan. All other biographies courtesy of Sain (Recordiau) Cyf.
Photo Credits: (1) 'Best of Welsh Folk', (2) Calan, (3) Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion, (4) Ar Log, (5) Gwyneth Glyn, (6) Gwenan Gibbard, (7) Carreg Lafar (unknown/website).