Chris Jones : Dacw'r Tannau2014 : Gwymon / SAIN
A collection of nine songs, four sung in English and five in Welsh, sparely but evocatively accompanied by bouzouki or guitar, effectively joined on Daew 'nghariad, Fair Flower of Northumberland and Llongau Caernarfon by Alex Plows' whistle; this album is traditional folk delivered with sufficient skill and warmth to transcend any preconceptions of the genre.
Chris Jones was raised in Cwm y Glo, near Caernarfon, and went to Bristol University to study Fine Art. He began singing Welsh songs unaccompanied before extending to music from all the Celtic countries and those learnt from England's folk scene.
Jones has listed Wales' Meic Stevens and Plethyn alongside Christy Moore / Planxty, Dick Gaughan and Nic Jones as his key influences. It is the style and accomplishment of the latter two with traditional songs that are most evoked throughout Dacw'r Tannau.
Opening with Hen Ferchetan you immediately catch the quality of the production of this album (recorded at Stiwdio Sain, Llandwrog, with John Lawrence as producer), which has a rare intimacy of performance. The first anchor of the whole collection is the second song, a powerful rendition of the Irish song Next Market Day with subtle picked guitar and the rolling strength and depth of Jones' voice. Fair Flower of Northumberland showcases a fine way with a story telling song (and the closest on this album, in clear influence, to the deftness with which Dick Gaughan, who he learnt the song from, delivers such material).
The second anchor point Ffarwel i blwy Llangywer is a tale of economic hardship from the viewpoint of someone forced to leave Y Bala for work in England. It is rich and emotive, sung with real heart. Following this the version of Sam Hall is adept; the ballad Will O'Winsbury, the first song he ever learnt and arranged in English, again a tale gracefully told, and the closing Y Gwydr Glas is poignant.
The CD comes with commentaries, especially useful on the Welsh language songs, but to be honest there is so much soul-stirring depth here in all nine that this is an exceptional instance were notes do add to understanding, but are still scarcely necessary.
Yearning, resonant, grounded in real human stories, beautifully performed; Dacw'r Tannau is what folk music should be.
CHRIS JONES I Next Market Day