- Turning the world on its head, The Spooky Men's Chorale (image above) range freely from the ridiculous to the sublime. Whether rightly "Celebrated for their unique blend of thoughtful comedy and exquisite harmony vocals" as The Guardian has it, or "Just stunning" as Mark Radcliffe states, they play Bethesda (21st), Liverpool (23rd) and Cardiff (25th) as part of a 20 date UK tour in July. [More]
- For its natural location, warmth and informality, Llangollen is one of the best event settings in Britain. Chasing further superlatives for its home, the town's annual Fringe must rank as Wales' most eclectic arts festival - 2019's edition includes the Dub Pistols' energised spate of drum & bass, hip-hop, ska, dub and punk, the swirling dance beats of Electric Swing Circus, raw and rooted Welsh singer-songwriter Lleuwen, filmmaker / environmentalist Bruce Parry and life-affirming Afrobeat from Emmanuel Jal & Nyaruach. [Preview]
Reviews & Interviews
- Three years since his last EP, North Wales based multi-instrumentalist Tom Mason, again recording as Denuo, has released a new single, Lucid - a drift of fervent dream-pop that foreruns a new album later in the year. [More]
Rabbit Hole is the first of a series of singles bilingual Caernarfon singer-songwriter Sera has planned for 2019, all coming from a new collaboration with producer Andi Bonsai. It is a surreal, energised and rancorous rollercoaster of a song, heralding a fascinating creative reboot; as if to underline that impression, the accompanying video (below) artfully matches the track's spirit. [More]
Sera also joins Eve Goodman, Gwilym, Endaf, Kidsmoke & Y Cledrau as part of a strong North Walian contingent in the Horizons 12 for 2019.
With his new album Welsh-language folksinger Gwilym Bowen Rhys has delivered on the promise of his live performances. The songs and instrumentals on Arenig are transcendent; the contrasting emotional textures of the recordings are available to anyone irrespective of language - the poetry resonates in the music itself. Arenig is available as a download now, and on CD from 1 June. [More]
GWILYM BOWEN RHYS I Arenig
Inspired by the practices of Yolngu aboriginals of Northern Australia, Douglas MacGregor recorded The Pathway on a cold April day in the church (St Mary's, Welshpool) where his mother's funeral was held; the video then steps out into the freedom of the nearby rural landscape that was her home.
DOUGLAS MACGREGOR I The Pathway
- A scratchy guitar slowly riffs and sighs. It twists around a blank, hypnotic vocal - a sound surely captured by chance in the basement of a 1967 London squat, not deliberately in Snowdonia in 2019. Either way, In or Out is sour and splendid psychedelia. [More]
- Cynefin is a recording project led by folk musician Owen Shiers. The Welsh word he chose as a descriptive name for the venture translates loosely to mean a sense of place, belonging and familiarity in English. It's an apt title; Shiers has collected traditional songs and given them new life as resonant contemporary folk, whilst keeping their roots intact. A thirty minute showcase at FOCUS Wales 2019 demonstrated his genuine heft as a performer. [More]
- Following on from a clutch of impressive previous releases, Omaloma's newest single, Dywarchen, is a sketch of Elysian, sophisticated pop backed by the theme tune to a sci-fi series that doesn't exist; of such things true contentment is made. [More]
- Devon's Edgelarks are Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry; they won 'best duo' in the 2014 BBC Folk Awards, and have been nominated again twice since - Feather re-stakes their claim to be recognised amongst British folk's finest. [Review]
The last of Llio Rhydderch's five albums to get a digital re-release, Carn Ingli, is out now. To mark the launch, I spoke to Gorwel Owen about Llio's past work, and what makes the triple harp such a captivating and creative instrument in her hands. Read the interview.
Recorded at the Miner's Welfare Club in the Neath Valley, during a two-day session for a fifth album, Keys new single Black & White distills their love for raw-edged singer-songwriters and proto-punk into one heady shot.
KEYS I Black & White
- Watching BBC Alba's excellent series Port, which sketches the music found in different Scottish and Irish towns, yielded a sighting of Mike Vass when the programme visited Inverness. Normally associated with traditional music, Vass released an album of self-penned compositions, Save His Calm, at the start of April. His shift in form has produced nine songs of mellow rapture. [Review]
- 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.
- Having released two acclaimed albums of Americana-influenced folk, Norfolk trio Alden, Patterson & Dashwood made a first visit to Bangor's Blue Sky Café and tore the roof off the place in as quiet a manner as is humanly possible. [Live review]
- The day Blodau Gwylltion's Llifo Fel Oed was released I took a long bus trip to Caernarfon to satisfy the urge to buy a physical copy. 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. [Review]
- The first date of Liverpool singer-songwriter Nick Ellis' Speakers' Corner Tour was held in his home city at the Leggate Theatre last October. On that occasion Ellis held the audience spellbound with an hour long set built around his newest songs. The tour's finale, held a mile from its start, was an equal musical delight. [Live review]
- David Ian Robert's Travelling Bright has intelligence and grace; a 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. [Review]
- Ruth Notman released a pair of highly regarded albums a decade ago and has been mostly silent since. In the same ten years Sam Kelly has built a stellar reputation and gathered a string of successful collaborations to his name; a seemingly unlikely duo, but their debut together is an album of magnificent and bewitching contemporary folk. [Review]
- Bethesda based spoken word artist Martin Daws has a new collaborative project, Bardd, placing his own talents and those of Mr Phormula in front of the microphones, backed by two exceptional North Wales musicians, Neil Yates and Henry Horrell - reifying a new genre, Bardic hip hop, in the process. [Interview]
North West Wales' poet and author Alys Conran has a second novel, Dignity, due for publication in 2019. Her brilliant, award-winning debut, Pigeon, was the subject of one of the first few interviews uploaded to the From the Margins three years ago, and that conversation is worth revisiting for an insight into how Conran's roots inform her writing. [Full interview]
Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey, ably supported by Ian Prowse, gave Liverpool an untamed and celebratory St. Patrick's weekend gig to remember, bringing songs spanning his career to the O2 Academy stage. [Review]
- The cover of One Thousand Birds is an image of an art installation inspired by the story of Sadoko Sasaki, an innocent child victim of Hiroshima, who died from the effects of radiation ten years after the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city. Two tracks on the album deal with her tragic life - the rest mirror their slow-burning emotional intensity, and confirm Grice, who has worked with Richard Barbieri (Japan) on this, his third album, as a unique art-rock talent. [Full review].
- Jamie Smith's Mabon have been chosen to headline one of the prestigious evening concerts at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2019 (Thurs. 4th July) - marking the band's twentieth year, this new, live album spells out why. [Review]
Siobhan McCrudden's childhood home was resonant with traditional music and folk tales; that exposure and early connection is indelibly imprinted into her sound - out of time, but like a baton passed on, Icarus Girl is full of the seductive sense of otherness and mystery first found in early seventies English folk. [Review]
- Climbing the stairs to the intimate setting of Bangor's Blue Sky Café it was hard not to have high expectations of the performance due, as Tom Blackwell's latest album of subtle Americana, Memphis Volume 1, released in July 2018, is an understated classic. Two near-hour long sets from the Liverpool based singer-songwriter didn't disappoint. [Live review]
- Merry Hell's music is rooted in the cobbly backyards of Wigan, where the band's previous incarnation The Tansads first sparked their clogs. A new acoustic album ranges over a decade of the (new) band's always spirited musical development - and confirms the undeniable, irresistible pop edge found in their folksongs. [Review]
The diverse roots of the Ímar's members mean they bring a huge range of influence and experience to their work together; mostly self-penned, the tunes recorded on Avalanche represent a group of musicians able to effortlessly create irresistible moments of flow using traditional forms - an exhilarating achievement. [Review]
From the Archive
- 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.