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Fernhill - Llatai
FERNHILL "Llatai" Beautiful Jo BEJOCD23

At last! An exciting band from Wales, vibrant, soulful and even tumultuous in places. Then again, with a line-up of Julie Murphy, vocals; Andy Cutting, button accordion; Ceri-Rhys Matthews, guitar and clarinet; and Jonathan Shoreland, pastoral oboes, flutes, whistles, clarinets and bagpipe, how could they not produce an album of this calibre?

This is their second CD (debut - "Ca Nos" BEJOCD14) and makes you think of ... not male voice choirs, women in tall hats pluckin' 'arps, nor masses of the green clad wellie brigade at the annual "Eisteddfods" (Competitions). It's full to brimming with erotic overtones, using some well known love songs.

With much of that Breton influence, it may not be to everyone's taste - but what the heck - Fernhill are definitely a band to listen to, live or on CD.

Fernhill have interpreted some old Welsh, English and Breton songs by chopping, dividing and introducing alternative melodies and rhythms, successfully. An uncompromising passion for making music and song accessible to all "Celtic" cultures will certainly blow out anyone's aspirations of hanging up their miner's lamp and joining the choir practice down the pub! In fact quite the opposite - I'd rather stay at home with this one - it's definitely not one to listen to alone! Hm Hm?

"Llatai" translates to love-messenger (such is the nightingale), a "psychological aid to illicit love". It's also their first song, based on the weight of love untold and its release through the magical powers of the nightingale.

Fernhill use children's songs in "Cariad". It becomes a fuller more revealing story by stringing four songs together. Superb arrangements completely lose the normally innocent lyrics in a moody performance.

Sitting in my beanbag, haunted by tones of Andy and Julie with occasional clarinet, I relaxed into "Pontypridd", only to be stirred, then thrown by the introduction of Gallow Dance tunes, at force! Now the mood had been completely reversed as Julie belted out the same lyrics but in keeping with the style.

"Welsh and French - Ne Comprend!" It doesn't matter". If you're a musophile, let the band's synergy and the powerful yet empathetic voice of Julie Murphy, guide you through the moods of each song.

To all budding accompanists out there - listen to the guitar work - it's flowing, driving, tactful and precise.

Fernhill's "Llatai" has been put together skillfully and sensitively - worthy of a place in any folkie's music collection.

J. Gwenllian

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.