From the Margins : News from Somewhere
Mike Vass is an award winning Scottish composer and musician, who has such a craft to his work that listening to one song or tune would usually be enough to create the itch to hear everything he has ever recorded. Save His Calm is his first album as a singer-songwriter, and it holds nine songs of mellow rapture. Read more.
MIKE VASS I They Never Found Me[22.03.2019]
Folk duo Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage have a date at The Brindley, Runcorn on Saturday 6th April [8.00pm I Tickets £16]. To mark the wider tour the gig is part of, a new single, Hidden Things, is released today - it is a delightful, soft-hued song, the video that goes with it is here.
Established as a live act across the UK and into Europe, Rhuddlan's The Goat Roper Rodeo Band have released a third album, Tall Grass, that showcases a new depth to their music and songwriting. A couple of guest musicians, including Joe Harvey-Whyte on pedal steel, also add a dash of instrumental diversity to the trio's sound. The resultant record is 'an uplifting and heartfelt trip through the dusty back roads of Americana' - read the review.
THE GOAT ROPER RODEO BAND I Unwrap my Bones[21.03.2019]
Breichiau Hir : Penblwydd Hapus IawnCardiff six-piece Breichiau Hir rest culturally somewhere between Bob Mould's Sugar and the front ranks of a rampaging mediaeval peasant revolt - they have the brutal guitar sound, melodic sense and dynamic shifts of the former, with the collective righteous primeval energy of the latter.
Although they have existed as a band for a decade, it is the clutch of singles released through Libertino in the last two years that perhaps properly define their genius. This new song (out 12.04.19), which, as Steffan Dafydd the band’s lyricist & vocalist explains: "is (about) a catastrophic birthday party I attended a few years ago where I witnessed the worst in some of the best people", confirms that run of form.
BREICHIAU HIR I Penblwydd Hapus Iawn[20.03.2019]
I Fight Lions : Single, Album, TourBangor's I Fight Lions have released a new single, Better Days, to forerun an album, By Chance or Design, which will be out on April 5th. The band, possibly in some sort of creative maelstrom, have recorded two LPs and an EP in less than a year, but quantity has not reduced quality, as the set of live dates to promote By Chance or Design will no doubt prove. Read more.
I FIGHT LIONS I Better Days[19.03.2019]
From punk roots in Cardiff, Gwenifer Raymond has followed a singular path to American Primitive guitar music. Now signed to a prestigious US label, and having released an energised, emotionally articulate debut album, she is one of this year's unmissable acts at FOCUS Wales - this interview explains her journey.
GWENIFER RAYMOND I Sometimes There's Blood
Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey, ably supported by Ian Prowse, gave Liverpool an untamed and celebratory St. Patrick's weekend gig to remember - read more.
Following February's release of The Well & The Flood, the second installment of
Douglas MacGregor's Songs of Loss & Healing, a series of guitar instrumentals dealing with grief, is From the Murk - a musical evocation of MacGregor's own path from despair. [More]
DOUGLAS MACGREGOR I From the Murk[15.03.2019]
It's two months to FOCUS Wales (Wrexham I 16-18 May) - all the acts have been announced, which is as good a point as any to mark the inclusion in the 2019 programme of the town's own Baby Brave, whose half hour set of visceral, squalling noise pop at Central Station was one of the definitive moments of last year's festival.
Baby Brave will appear alongside 9Bach, Cate Le Bon, The Lovely Eggs, Colorama and more than 200 other bands, including a very strong international representation. A weekend pass for the whole event is £40.
BABY BRAVE I Oyonnax[14.03.2019]
Gwilym Bowen Rhys : Album LaunchBethel folksinger Gwilym Bowen Rhys, one of Wales' most compelling live performers, will launch his third solo album, Arenig, at Caernarfon's Galeri on Wednesday, 1st May. Rhys will be accompanied by the mandola of Marit Fält (Norway), Scotland's Gwen Màiri (harp) and Patrick Rimes (fiddle), as he presents his new music to a home crowd. He then returns to the venue three weeks later as a member of alt. folk family trio Plu, supporting harp quartet Clouds. [Solo Date : Wed 01 May I 7.30pm I Tickets £8-12 - Clouds/Plu : Sat 25 May I 7.30pm I Tickets £8-12]
If you like a sense of security when watching comedy then
Conwy Castle's six foot thick walls will offer the perfect venue to see Tudur Owen & friends in a special show for St David's Hospice this May. Tudur is a superb raconteur and a very, very funny man - you'll know that if you have already seen him in full flight, you should discover it for yourself if you've not. [Conwy Castle I 7pm, Sun 31 May I Tickets £15]
Out on 15th March, David Ian Robert's Travelling Bright has intelligence, grace and a definite poetry; an hour long, cinematic double LP that allows you the time to fully immerse in the music's pastoral flow. It's an album that grows in impact with every listen. [Full review]
Roberts also has a wide-ranging set of live dates (some as support) planned:
- Fri 15 March : The Bunkhouse Bar & Music Venue [Swansea] More
- Fri 22 March : The Gate [Cardiff] More
- Fri 5 April : Cwtch Coffee [Pembroke Dock] More
- Sat 27 April : The Lost ARC [Rhayader] More
- Mon 6 May : Clun Green Man Festival [Clun] More
- Wed 15 May : The Greenbank [Bristol] More
- Fri 21 June : Penarth Acoustic Club [Cardiff] More
- Fri 28 June : West Street Loft [Shoreham-by-Sea] More
Blodau Gwylltion's Llifo Fel Oed was released I took a long bus trip to Caernarfon to buy a physical copy; the first time I had such a strong need to own an album immediately for a decade. The music the CD holds is as beautiful as it is understated -
Manon Steffan Ros' vocals a hushed lullaby of sound, Elwyn Williams'
guitar invariably a quiet, exquisite frame. It's almost a year since my bus journey, the review of Llifo Fel Oed written at the time is here.
Produced working closely with Dónal Lunny, Daoirí Farrell's new album, A Lifetime of Happiness, is a rich showcase of evocative Irish folksong; each of its tracks is delivered as if it were a found treasure.
Farrell's live shows are an equal source of delight - as this review of his Galeri show last year attests. To promote the new album there are four Welsh dates in March/April, and one just over the border, as part of a much wider tour:
- Fri 29 March : Acoustic at The Angel Inn [Llandeilo] Tickets - 07501 228 273
- Sat 30 March : Theatr Mwldan [Cardigan] 7.30pm / Tickets £14 (£3 11-18 yr olds)
- Sun 31 March : Wyeside Arts Centre [Builth Wells] 7.30pm / Tickets £14
- Mon 1 April : Acapela Studio [Cardiff] 8.00pm / Tickets £12
- Mon 15 April : Henry Tudor House [Shrewsbury] 8.00pm / Tickets £12
- Fri 29 March : Acoustic at The Angel Inn [Llandeilo] Tickets - 07501 228 273
Pop Hack : Selected Reviews And Interviews From The Beach Boys To Boy AzoogaA little while ago I was asked to write the foreword for South Wales based music writer Kevin McGrath's collection of reviews and interviews, Pop Hack - the text I provided can be condensed into three paragraphs:
I found Kevin McGrath’s writing when taking tentative first steps to explore the contemporary Welsh music scene. It was as if lost I had found a faultless, handcrafted map. You are here, it said, try here next, and you’ll soon find your own way. And I did – always checking back to see what Kevin was writing about to make sure I stayed on track.
The earliest piece I read was a 2015 interview with Matthew Frederick, front man of Pontypridd’s Climbing Trees. The article still reads like an open conversation between a musician and someone who has taken a long time to understand their work. You feel you are sat over the interviewer’s shoulder. Get to the end of the interview and you just want to hear the band.
McGrath is an unsung champion of Welsh music. The highest praise you can give him is that if he writes about music it is always worth your attention, and the way he writes means you will always want to give it.
Kevin has been a staff writer for Wales Arts Review for a decade, and has contributed to PluggedIn, PopMatters, Buzz, New Sound Wales and From the Margins. Pop Hack came out on 1st March; it is a brilliant retrospective - a guide to the nooks and crannies of Welsh contemporary music, and much more; you can buy a copy here.
CLIMBING TREES I Lost[03.03.2019]
If you have been waiting for an exhilarating sci-fi folk/synth-pop/indie concept album that narratively bagatelles in tone between War of the Worlds and Ripping Yarns, then Quiet Marauder have been working overtime to meet your needs.
The first single from the collective's new 30 track LP, The Discovery, can only hint at the flights of fancy and haphazard genius that are in store; the album itself, The Crack and What It Meant, is due to be released by Cardiff label Bubblewrap on 30.04.2019. Vivian Stanshall will be humming in heaven.
QUIET MARAUDER I The Discovery[01.03.2019]
International showcase FOCUS Wales has announced the addition of a new film festival to its programme. Supported by Ffilm Cymru and 73 Degree Films, the event will take place on Saturday 18th May, at the Grove Park Theatre, Wrexham. The inaugural edition will be marked by awards in two categories: Best Welsh Short Film and Best International Short Film. Applications close on March 24th - all the details are here.
- Beth Celyn : Troi
Beth Celyn is a young singer-songwriter from Denbigh, who has recently returned to North Wales after three years in London. In that context her enchanting debut EP, Troi, sounds like a definitive statement of intent.
- Fiona & Gorwel Owen : Releasing Birds
These songs were written and recorded one each month through 2014, with slow metronomic discipline despite what life turned up in the year. The album in its entirety features a consummate mix of acoustic folk and electronic instrumentation, threaded through sinuously by Fiona's rich, warm vocals. Each song is a distinct delight.
- Goat Roper Rodeo Band Live : Blue Sky 2016
There is an irresistible sport, the luge, in the Winter Olympics where athletes slide down an iced toboggan track with unstoppable momentum on what looks like a spray painted silver service tray. Watching The Goat Roper Rodeo Band in full flight is something akin to that headlong rush. With the animated stage show, bodies and instruments jolting incurably with the music, it's probably just as dangerous in close proximity.
- Findlay Napier : Glasgow
Findlay Napier's brilliant second solo album, Glasgow, has eleven songs - five covers, three co-written with producer Boo Hewerdine, three solely self-written. Each track essentially takes the lyrical form of a vivid short story with a film-maker's eye for detail, focusing on his home town for subject matter.
- VRï : Tŷ Ein Tadau
VRï are a folk trio that formed in 2016, intent on combining "..the energy of a rowdy pub session with the style and finesse of the Viennese string quartet." With Tŷ Ein Tadau, their debut album, they have realised this singular aim emphatically.
- Blodau Gwylltion : Llifo Fel Oed
An exquisite, muted mix of folk and country influences, this debut album from duo Manon Steffan Ros and Elwyn Williams will be one of the first chiselled into 2018 end of year lists.
- Bob Delyn a'r Ebillion : Dal i 'Redig Dipyn Bach
Fourteen years after Dore, Bob Delyn a'r Ebillion have released a new album, Dal i 'Redig Dipyn Bach (Still ploughing on a little bit). From a band credited with putting fire into the 90's Welsh folk revival, the new album does their heritage full justice.
- Daoiri Farrell / Elidyr Glyn : Galeri : 15.05.18
Award winning Irish folk musician Daoirí Farrell and support, singer-songwriter Elidyr Glyn, offered remarkable performances at Caernarfon's Galeri
- 9Bach : Anian
'... challenging, experimental and a graceful triumph'.
- Bendith : Bendith
A collaborative project between Carwyn Ellis of Colorama and Snowdonia's Plu has produced a beautiful collection of songs.