Llio Rhydderch’s Melangell, and Boys From The Hill’s Boys From The Hill

cover, MelanellTim Hoke wrote this review.

Welsh music isn’t something that’s easily found, at least not where I live. I have found that it’s usually worth the effort when I do manage to track some down. I was thrilled to hear these two discs. One documents an old, but still extant tradition. The other is more contemporary in sound, but the influence of that tradition is heard throughout.

Llio Rhydderch continues a centuries-old tradition of Welsh triple harp playing. On Melangell she plays traditional tunes gleaned from various sources, including her parents (both singers) and from the legendary triple harper, Nansi Richards. Some originals are also present, and these are indistinguishable from the traditional pieces.

The triple harp has a unique sound, very full and resonant, and the pieces are presented as variations on a theme. Rhydderch also explores other timbres by playing the lighter sounding small triple harp, and by playing the larger harp while standing, which increases the resonance of the bass notes. A teacher as well, Rhydderch is joined by one of her students on two tracks, and on “Waltz Trefforest” by Telynwyr Llio, an ensemble of harpers. This particular selection has a shimmering quality to it, as each musician cover, Boys From The Hillexecutes her own variations on the basic melody. Fans of harp music will find this CD to be a must-have.

Boys From the Hill are a trio of angry young men. Many of their songs rail against avaricious business and an indifferent government. Their Web site holds plenty of background information on the songs. That’s a good thing, as there is much more to some of these stories than can be conveyed in a few stanzas. The songs deal with subjects like Depression-era forced labor camps, the treatment of coal and asbestos miners, maritime disasters, and the attempt to attract tourism by adding a glossy coating to an already exploited land.

Musically, I’d consider the Boys’ sound to be a cross between the folk tradition and an acoustic version of grunge rock, which fits their material perfectly. Singer Andy Jones plays a thrashing rhythm guitar, Chris Pitson some aggressive bouzouki, and Martin Leamon some wonderfully earthy melodeon. Ceri Rhys Matthews adds bagpipes to a few tracks. The classic “Bells Of Rhymney” is arranged very starkly; only Jones’ voice over Matthews’ piping. It is the most haunting version of that song that I’ve heard. There is a lot of bile on this disc, but also a lot of good writing and good music.

(Fflach, 2000)
(Fflach, 2001)

[Update: You’ll find info about Boys From The HIll on the Fflach website.]

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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