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Llio Rhydderch
"Melangell" Fflach Tradd CD234H
Various Artists
"Megin - Traditional Accordion and Concertina Music from Wales and the Marches" Fflach Tradd CD212H
Ceri Rhys Matthews and Jonathon Shorland
"Pibau " Fflach Tradd CD202H
Rag Foundation
"Minka" Fflach Tradd CD220H

As an enthusiast of folk-traditional music for many years, it is not often these days that a recording comes my way that is different enough to make me wonder anew at how varied the tradition is. So when four such recordings turn up at once - well! The four CDs under review are just such recordings, and this is remarkable enough, but when they all come from the same label it is quite astonishing.

All four CDs are of mainly Welsh music - three are instrumental and the fourth features some amazing vocals. The instruments played on the first three will be familiar in some degree to readers of this magazine being triple harp, accordion, concertina and bagpipes. The music and most of the musicians will be less familiar I suspect, particularly to those of us not from Wales. Thanks to a lucky purchase back in the seventies of a Nansi Richards LP (qualiton Squad 115), Melangell by Llio Rhydderch is for me the most accessible on first hearing. It is without doubt the best recording of harp music since that Nansi Richards LP. This is traditional music at it's best. Beautifully arranged and played with all the skill, flair and sensitivity that the triple harp demands. Llio Rhydderch is truly a master musician. Stunning.

Apart from the instruments my only familiarity with Megin is that John Kirkpatrick is one of the featured musicians - and that should give you an idea of the musicianship to expect. The music is wonderfully varied and is, to quote the notes, "ancient and modern at the same time" - intricate and stylish. Wonderful stuff.

I have no previous experience of Welsh bagpipe music but this music ranks from the best in any tradition, sounding more akin to continental piping than anything else. Ceri Rhys Matthews and Jonathon Shorland play with great skill and assurance. An excellent and unusual addition to any collection of recorded pipe music.

Rag Foundation are Neil Woollard - vocals, Kate Ronconi-Woollard - fiddle/vocals, and Richard Cowell - guitar. On Minka they are aided and abetted by some excellent guest musicians including Nidel Eaton - hurdy-gurdy, Ceri Rhys Matthews - bombo/pibgorn/pipa cwd, Julie Murphy - vocals and Andy Cutting - button accordion. They perform unusual arrangements of mainly traditional material all beautifully accompanied. Each item is a dramatic, almost theatrical, and intense performance. Tremendous stuff if a little strange at first. Haunting.

I congratulate everyone involved with the above releases. I am sure that the resurgence of interest in Welsh traditional music can only be furthered by these recordings. If you like something a little different give yourself a treat and but any or all of these CDs. Recommended.

Danny Saunders


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This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.