Excellent traditional Welsh album!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a fan of traditional Celtic music, you are going to love this album! It is sung entirely in Welsh, although English translations are provided on the cover. The album is relatively short in length, but it contains a good mixture of upbeat, energetic tunes and more ballad-like songs. I am a volunteer for the Celtic music show at our local public radio station, and I play something from this CD *every* time I do a show. I simply LOVE it!"
An Excellent example of Welsh Music
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carreg Lafar does for Welsh folk music what The Cheiftans have done for Irish!"
Another great Celtic discovery for me
BENJAMIN MILER | Veneta, Oregon | 03/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have just discovered Carreg Lafar, a great Celtic folk group from Wales. This is that rare example that I bought an album solely on just audio samples. I was thinking, this music is just as great as those classic British folk and folk/rock groups form the early '70s (like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, The Pentangle), but of course, with a Welsh twist, and a stronger Celtic feel, and you know what, I was not one bit disappointed! I have to admit I've been very much in the dark when it comes to traditional Welsh folk music. The Celtic music world has been very much focused on Irish and Scots music, but the Welsh had been largely ignored in the world. I felt the same way about Breton music, until I bought some Alan Stivell albums (but he also covered Irish, Scots, and Welsh folk music too). But I'm so glad to discover Carreg Lafar, they have to be one of the finest Celtic acts I've heard since Alan Stivell, and that's no kidding either! I now get to know some traditional Welsh songs in the process, other than that old lullaby "All Through the Night" ("Ar Hyd y Nos") (which Carreg Lafar did not cover) which I've been aware of since I was 14 (of course, when I was 14, Carreg Lafar did not exist). The group featured both male and female vocals (both Nick Dowsett and Linda Owen-Jones), plus some great fiddle work from Rhian Evan-Jones. She sometimes played chords on her fiddle, imitating a crwth (a Welsh bowed instrument). Both Nick Dowsett and Simon O'Shea (who I presume is Irish, or of Irish ancestry given his O'Shea surname) handle guitars, plus Antwn Owen-Hicks on additional vocals, bodhran (drum common in traditional Irish folk music), drum, and whistle, and James Rourke on flute and whistle. 1995's Ysbryd y Werin is their debut, and was released in Wales on the Sain label (a label that's existed since the late '60s specializing in Welsh music) and in the States on the Blix Street label. Their next two releases (1998's Hyn and 2002's Profiad) found the group expanding to include pibgorn (a Welsh hornpipe) and cwd (Welsh bagpipes), but on this release they hadn't used those, and when my mother heard this release, she thought she was hearing Irish folk music (because of the heavy use of tin whistles), I had to correct her. She's not able to identify Welsh sung any better than she would be able to identify Gaelic (Irish).
All but three songs on Ysbryd y Werin are traditional Welsh folk songs, but with songs like "Y Gleisiad yn y Gwanwyn" (written by Nick Dowset) and "Ar Ryw Noswaith" (written by Antwn Owen-Hicks and James Rourke) demonstrates they are fully capable of writing their own material as they do covering traditional folk material.
Linda Owen-Jones has a great voice, and she doesn't try to copy the greats of the past like Maddy Prior, Sandy Denny, or Jacqui McShee, but I really think she is every bit a great singer as those well known British singers.
"Can Merthyr" is a great example of what this group is made of, this was an odd piece where the lyrics constantly alternate between English and Welsh (the only piece on the album with some non-Welsh). The lyrics don't appear to make sense, and I don't believe they were supposed to, just more how they sounded. Vocals by Nick Dowsett, and his voice sounds like a Welsh version of Martin Carthy (or Tim Hart who had a similar voice). "Alawon fy Ngwlad" is a stunning ballad that reminds me a bit of the Pentangle, had that group been Welsh. Although played on acoustic guitar, I'm pretty certain the song was meant for harp, as the guitar playing has that harp-like quality (Carreg Lafar did bring in triple harpist Robin Huw Bowen on their 2002 release Profiad, as a guest, as he just appears on one cut). I was already familiar with "Ton y Melinydd", which is also known as "Can y Melinydd", thanks to a version done by Alan Stivell off his 1973 album Chemins de Terres (aka From Celtic Roots). I have to tell you that Carreg Lafar's version is just as great as Alan Stivell's version, this one features some intense playing, especially from Rhian Evan-Jones' fiddle. Many of these songs are full of great melodies, great fiddle playing, with use of the whistle and bodhran.
I have heard one music critic state that Carreg Lafar is to Welsh folk music what Steeleye Span was to English folk music, and I think they have a point there. I do get reminded a bit of Steeleye Span, but all acoustic, or The Pentangle (minus the jazz influence) had either group been Welsh. I really think Carreg Lafar deserved much more recognition, because I really think they're every bit as good as those well-known English groups I mentioned! Or Alan Stivell, for that matter. Unfortunately the group hadn't released anything new since 2002 with the release of Profiad (they were never prolific, they only released one other CD, Hyn in 1998).
Another thing worth mentioning is the production and the band's sound. Are you sick of too much New Age being passed as Celtic? Do you like Celtic music but the thought of Enya makes you run for that reason? Carreg Lafar has a wonderful, old time sound. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear this was recorded in 1969 or 1970, not 1995! And you'll also love the fact this CD has only 10 songs, at 3 to 4 minutes (the band knew to be reasonable and stick to about 40 minutes of music, rather than trying to fill up as much of a CD as possible), and the music never overstays its welcome. That meant had this been available on LP, it would all fit on one disc. So if you like Celtic music, but dislike the modern and New Age trappings that plagued too much of this kind of music since the mid '80s, you'll be happy with this group. This comes with my highest recommendation!"