Carreg Lafar has the talent, the energy and the dedication to emerge from the Welsh music scene into the world and Celtic music marketplace. Their name, which means "echo stone," reflects their dynamic sound.
On their third album, Profiad (Experience), the Cardiff-based folk group has produced a recording featuring high-quality engineering by Lawson Dando, the soaring voice of Linda Owen Jones and the beautiful fiddle of Rhian Evan Jones. Profiad is a step forward from their very capable first two albums, Ysbryd y Werin and Hyn.
While Carreg Lafar mines some of the same traditional material as Welsh artists Sin
James, Plethyn and others, they bring an up-tempo sensibility to the songs. (The CD liner notes don't provide full translations, but give you at least a sense of what the songs are about.)
Profiad opens with the nice a cappella number "Y Dryw Bach," and soon gets even better. The rousing title track next up is especially stunning, with both energy and atmospherics. Antwn Owen Hicks is brilliant on the pipes. Owen Jones delivers the lyrics "Mae byd yn gweni arnaf, fel yn y dyddiau gynt (the world is smiling on me, as in the old days)" from the Welsh children's song with spirit.
This is followed by another fine, if more sedate piece, "Lloer Dirion," which is in the Loreena McKennitt mode; wistful and romantic, with Claudine Cassidy on cello. Hicks does the male lead vocal on "Dic Penderyn," also a showpiece for the guitar of Lawson Dando. It's a song about the Welsh hero and martyr of the 1831 riots. Davies adds an acoustic "heaviness" not present in the first two albums.
The vocal tunes are interspersed with a nice selection of reels, jigs and airs of both original and traditional origin. "Dyffryn Cletwr" is a more traditional song of "hiraeth" or longing, sung by Antwn, with a flute punctuating the a cappella verses.
"Cariad Cyntaf," a beautiful song about first love -- with the unforgettable opening line: "Mae'r prydferthaf ail i Eden (Your beauty is second only to that of Eden)" -- is another excellent version of a traditional song.
I like this album very much, it's fun to listen to and really energizing. But this seemingly perfect gem of an album is missing something. Perhaps the contemporary production itself makes them sound emotionally disconnected from the folk tradition they are interpreting. It remains to be seen, then, whether this CD passes the test of time.
But this is not to downgrade a very attractive package of songs, beautifully produced and enjoyable to listen to. Overall, the musicianship is a high quality. This band does what it does very, very well.Despite the fact that Dylan Davies has left the band, Carreg Lafar could be the first Welsh group that makes a mark outside of Wales.
- Rambles -
written by David Cox
01 - Dryw Bach
02 - Profiad
03 - Lloer Dirion
04 - Dic Penderyn
05 - Llanllechid
06 - Y Gwanwyn
07 - Dyffryn Cletwr
08 - Seren Y Bore
09 - Cariad Cyntaf
10 - Tri Pheth
11 - Iechyd O Gylch
Linda Owen Jones (vocals)
Rhian Evan-Jones (fiddle)
James Rourke (flute)
Antwn Owen Hicks (pipes and vocals)
Danny Kilbride (guitar)