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World Music CD Reviews Celtic & Irish

FFYNNON

By ROB WEIR
Published April 14, 2006

Celtic Music From Wales
Green Linnet

DAFYDD IWAN A’R BAND
Yn Fyw!
Sain

Wales may look like a mere postage stamp on the world map, but there’s tremendous musical diversity pulsing within its truncated borders. New releases from Ffynnon and the Dafydd Iwan Band are about as far from Methodist choir music (of popular stereotype) as one can get. Ffynnon is a folk trio soaked in minimalist jazz brine spicing the already tasty vocals of soprano Lynne Denman, alongside Stacey Blythe (accordion, keyboards) and Dave Reid (bass, guitar, keyboards). Many arrangements opt for little more than drone and bass instrumentation and allow Denman to carry melodies. The trio has good sense to intersperse uptempo selections like “Chwarae” with moody, introspective tunes. The album could use more pace changes, but its quiet magnetism draws in the listener. Since the 1960s, Dafydd Iwan has been an activist for Welsh autonomy and language. Cofounder of Sain Records, this live album is prelude to retirement, capturing Iwan and band in full-tilt pop/rock mode. Iwan’s voice is anything but smooth (a gravelly mix of Neil Diamond and Christy Moore), but his energy is as undeniable as his commitment to social justice. Generic rock arrangements keep this from greatness, but anyone wanting to tap into Welsh pride could do worse.