It is easy to forget Wales when considering Celtic music. After all the Welsh language is very different from the Irish or Scottish Gaelic and the music of the country is performed at a much slower pace than the breathtaking instrumentals of Ireland. But if you care to take the journey you will find a gentle tradition, filled with beautiful ballads and haunting airs. The two main instruments of Wales have always been the human voice and the harp.
Ffynnon is a three-piece with a rather unusual line up. Lynne Denman, lead vocals and the occasional bodhrán, Stacey Blythe, keyboards, accordion and vocals, and Dave Reid, bass (six-stringed variety), keyboards and vocals. The main body of music on their first major release is, of course, the traditional music of Wales. But they also include “The Goshawk,” a Scottish border ballad, “Felton Lonnin,” a song from Northumbria, and “Le petit cordonier,” a song from Breton, as well as a few of their own compositions. Ffynnon is mainly a group playing songs. Denman has a smooth alto voice that really suits the slower songs and the Welsh language. The backing is mostly kept simple, with Blythe mainly sticking to keyboards.
Reid bass lines are more complex, with him often treating the instrument more as a tuned down guitar than a bass. He uses his own “Y Rhaeadr (The Waterfall)” as a showcase for his unorthodox approach to the instrument, and the title of this composition is most appropriate. Another fine example of his work is found in the backing of the song “Beth yw’r haf I mi?” where he has double tracked his instrument, with Blythe just laying down the chords on the keyboards and adding harmony lines on the accordion.
Ffynnon also treats listeners to a few a capella-songs, like “Brothen I’r buarth” and “Cwew Fach.” They mostly feature the female voices of the group, adding to the variety of the CD.
I have always had a weak spot for Welsh music. It may not be as instantly catching as Irish or Scottish music, but once you start to dig into it, is equally rewarding. For those new to the music on this path, Ffynnon’s Celtic Music from Wales is as good a place as any to start. They are a little less traditional in their approach than groups like Calennig or Ar Log, but are a fine way to start developing a taste for what could be considered as the little sister of Celtic music. Full Welsh lyrics with English translations add to the experience.
(Green Linnet, 2002)