‘Gwynion ac Ysbrydion’
Review by Helen Adam
This debut album by Montgomery based band Teulu springs from the heart and hearth of a Welsh family steeped in the music and traditions of their country.
At times listening to this album, I felt I was sitting round a large wooden kitchen table enjoying a cuppa and slice of bara brith. Like my imagined old wooden kitchen table, the music is a little unpolished at times, reflecting the youth and relative inexperience of some of the band members. It is full however of delightful and genuinely musical touches and won me over completely.
The band consists of Gary, Eleri and Sioned Northeast, with family friend Emma Lincoln. At least two of these are still at school, judging by the photos of them recording in school uniform to be seen on their website! Between them they play fiddles, flutes, guitar, ukulele, button accordion, and harmonica. (Note the Welsh spelling of ukulele, ‘iwcilili’ in the track listings). The sound of Welsh clogging can also be heard from Emma. For me the strongest performances are the vocals, and especially some lovely close harmonies. Blood harmony refers to immediate relatives singing together and creating a special closeness of sound that cannot be achieved by any other grouping. Some stand out moments of such singing on this album are on ‘Mae Pentre Llanfihangel’ and ‘Gweddi Plentyn’, which is a real ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ number and worth the price of the CD alone.
The only track that is not Welsh traditional or newly composed Welsh folk music is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. It is a most relaxed and gentle version, no overblown sentiment here, but pure, sweet and reflective.
Recorded in a community studio in Llanfair Caereinion, Powys, by Dylan Penri earlier this year, this is a proper celebration of the fact that Welsh folk music is alive, well and in the ears and fingers of the next generation of musicians. For that I am profoundly grateful. Diolch o’r galon Teulu!
Find out more about Teulu and ‘Gwynion ac Ysbrydion’ on their facebook page.