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VARIOUS ARTISTS "Ffidil" Fflach Tradd CD182H

This is a groundbreaking album.

The Welsh fiddle tradition is probably the least well documented of those of the British Isles. Replacing the crwth, a descendant of the lyre, during the eighteenth century, the ambience in which the fiddle flourished in Wales was all but lost by the end of the nineteenth century. There was also a tradition of church and chapel bands mirroring that across the Severn, which were similarly ousted by the arrival of the dreary organ.

I'm not aware of any field recordings of the older generation of Welsh fiddle players. By the time that mechanical recording equipment became readily available, the fiddle was played mainly amongst the Romany population. Contemporary Welsh fiddle playing draws heavily on Welsh manuscript sources and on Scottish and Irish fiddle styles.

Irish fiddle music wasn't unknown in Wales. A hundred and fifty years ago George Borrow records in "Wild Wales" an encounter with an Irish fiddler, and there were inputs from other sources. There was a brisk trade across the Bristol Channel, and the album contains a version of the "Gower Reel", a tune taken from the diddling of the Phil Tanner, one of the great singers of English traditional songs who lived on the (anglophone) Gower peninsula.

The performances on this album are at worst very competent, and at best spellbinding, but for me the highlight was hearing Robert Evans play "Kaingk Dafydd Broffwyd" on the crwth. There's something spine-tinglingly timeless about the instrument; an album of crwth music might just set off a revival to compare with that of the hurdy-gurdy! It's good to have the Welsh tile back in the mosaic of fiddle music of Western Europe. (If that last sentence sounds like a candidate for "Pseud's Corner", I apologise, but I can't think of a better way of putting it, and its getting late!)

For anyone interested in fiddle music, rather than narrow cultural nationalism this is an essential buy.

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.