Glain Rhys : Atgof Prin06.07.2018 : Rasal (Rasal CD043)
I first saw Bala's Glain Rhys two years ago at Sesiwn Fawr, Dolgellau's annual summer folk festival. She played and sang in the corner of a room, a minimal makeshift stage, watched by thirty people. Initially diffident, almost hidden behind her guitar, she was enchanting and clear voiced for the full half hour.
This, her debut album, represents an incredibly steep trajectory even from the real promise of that performance. Although it ranges across genres, at its heart it is a confident, compelling collection of folk-pop songs that match the tone, impact and reach of Patrobas' Lle awn ni nesa'?, released a year ago on the same label.
Atgof Prin was recorded at SAIN Studios, with Robin Llwyd producing (plus contributing guitar & organ), and the band assembled for the record was clearly exceptional - including drummer Carwyn Williams (Patrobas), Marged Gwenllian on bass (Y Cledrau), and a guest appearance from Bwncath's Elidyr Glyn - whose spirited fiddle on Yr Hyn Wnes I elevates the song to being an undoubted highlight.
The album opens with Ysu Cân, which sets the tone for much of what follows - a pattern of well arranged, understated instrumentation framing a consistently remarkable lead vocal. After one run through of the chorus of Ysu Cân you know that something significant is happening here, but you don't yet know what it is. No worry - the rest of the songs spell out a definition in detail, as the vitality of the whole set reveals itself. Atgof Prin is a very even offering, and despite the creative strength of the self-penned songs, the majestic version of the traditional song Marwnad Yr Ehedydd is the probable peak.
Amongst many successes on the journey to this recording, Glain has featured at the National Eisteddfod and been in the final of Wales' national song competition, Cân i Gymru - singing Ysbrydion by Aled Wyn Hughes. But crucially, whatever the path to it, this album is the sound of someone finding a perfect stage in a recording studio.
Glain Rhys joins Beth Celyn and Eve Goodman as part of an exciting, disparate cohort of emerging artists who, working with an ingrained knowledge of Welsh folk music as their base, create something contemporary and phenomenal from what has gone before. As a singer-songwriter she is a magnificent, charismatic new voice, and because of that Atgof Prin is never less than a delight; genuine folk-pop sorcery.