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JULIE MURPHY & DYLAN FOWLER "Ffawd" fflach:trad CD248H

A whole album of the thrilling, clear voice of Julie Murphy is certainly good news. Here she is accompanied by Dylan Fowler, a guitarist of no mean technique, but more importantly of great imagination. Whilst Murphy is best known as vocalist with Fernhill, Fowler has a more jazz background and has collaborated with such varied figures as Danny Thompson (as a member of 'Whatever'), Loreena McKennit and Dick Heckstall-Smith and although he is no slouch on wind instruments, here he has preferred the challenge of using only strings. During the course of this well-filled CD ('Fate') the duo tackle a range of songs from Welsh tradition, often from unnamed singers which range from short unaccompanied pieces to lengthy narrative songs. One of the latter is "Can o glod I Mwynyn Penrhiwrmenyn" (a song of praise to Mwynyn Penrhiwrmenyn). Treated like a long ballad, this 'ox song' sings his praises, his love of music, strength, gentleness and so on, and lasts for over 10 minutes. Murphy and Fowler uses various techniques to maintain interest and keep the flow of the song going - alterations in the pace, a wordless, sung tag at the end of verses, an accompaniment which develops through guitar, the rhythmic use of plucked violin open strings, subtle shadings from mandolin, changes in the dynamic - this is a mighty construct and a towering performance. In contrast, there is a beautiful unaccompanied performance of the popular "y deryn du a'I blufyn shitan" - like many of the songs full of lyrical beauty and a haunting tune which tends towards the reflective. Throughout, the accompaniments are equally imaginative, with a variety of approaches being taken, from the impressionistic to the rhythmic to produce a range of glittering aural backdrops upon which the voice can be placed. This CD is definitely something special.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.