Allan yn y Fan : NEWiD2016 : Steam Pie
A literal translation of Allan yn y Fan is 'out in the van', and sharp out of the blocks with its release the band have already toured NEWiD around Wales and into Europe. The album is cleverly named (in Welsh 'newid' is 'change', in English it suggests a new identity) and it is their sixth in twenty years - as expected it presents a mix of new and traditional folk songs and tunes, with a standard of musicianship that is spellbinding.
For the record they are bolstered by two excellent new recruits - the striking, clear voice of singer Catrin O'Neill and the spry, dynamic fiddle of Alan Cooper; they join the two decade nucleus of Geoff Cripps (guitar, bass, bouzouki, vocals), Kate Strudwick (flute, alto flute, recorders, whistles, vocals), Chris Jones (accordion, flute, low D whistle, vocals), and Linda Simmonds (mandolin, mandola, bodhran, vocals). The wide range of instrumentation options the line up presents is an opportunity they don't waste in the arrangements.
There are twelve tracks - opening with the gracefully sung traditional tune Marwnad yr Ehedydd which leads into the sprightly Tune for a new bought accordion. They then showcase their prowess on Sbaen Wenddydd - a really spirited track given life by Cooper's dancing fiddle.
Amongst all the dynamism and delight there are two real standouts - although just over minute long Dafydd y Garreg Wen (Trad.) is sung by Catrin O'Neill acappella to arresting effect, and Tune for Lilian (written by Kate Strudwick) is a lovely, evocative instrumental piece. The reputed first recording of the Beaufort, Ebbw Vale collected 19th century protest ballad Gorthrwm y Gweithiwr offers another notable highlight.
The album closes perfectly with the traditional song Ym Mhontypridd Mae'n Nghariad (according to the notes a love song whereby a young farmer seeks to woo his beloved Gwenfron with his speckled cows - normally a failsafe strategy, but probably not in the lamenting world of folk song) - guitar, flute and fiddle elegantly frame Catrin O Neill's flawless, slightly disconsolate vocal.
Listening to NEWiD you hear the interplay between voices and instruments with the clear sense that, as well as the unalloyed talent evident, real love has been invested in putting the music together; and the result is a magnificent Welsh folk album.
ALLAN YN Y FAN I Gorthrwm y Gweithiwr