Friday, 2 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #83 - Ar Log & Dafydd Iwan, "Rhwng Hwyl a Thaith"

Made my final shop at Cob Records in Bangor today. The shop's been there in Lower Bangor since 1979 and supplied many of my friends with their first record purchases and is going to close in a couple of weeks' time. Sad times. So I went back on St David's Day and bought a few last pieces of vinyl to go with the second-hand tapes and CDs I'd bought there over the years. And this album caught my eye.

A group of intent looking fellas, early Eighties tasches and tight leather jackets, leaning on a table with a map of Wales stretched on the table. They're all looking up from the table to camera. It's "It Takes A Nation of Millions..." six years early and with stocky Welsh guys instead.

The sleevenotes on the back set the scene (once I translate them) of a tour in 1982 with Dafydd Iwan, a big name in Welsh language music and folk singer, and the folk band, Ar Log - which means For Hire. They decided to make an album ("Between Fun and Touring") of some folk tunes and some political numbers about the Falklands crisis and a controversy around Special Branch bugging a public phone in Penygroes near Caernarfon with a view to catching Meibion Glyndwr activists.

I'm a sucker for harps - and there's harp action from the start on "Dail Y Teim" (Leaves of Thyme), which is an old school tune that I recognise. Maybe it's my Irish heritage or a vague osmosis of hirael from my Anglesey upbringing, but my heartstrings are plucked along with those of the harp. Or maybe the stealthy approach of my fifth decade has robbed me of my contempt for middle-aged folk-rock?

The fact that there is some political sinew to this album and the straightforward aesthetic of the cover and the sense of records meaning more in those narrower times wins me over. "Maen Nhw'n Paratoi at Rhyfel" is about the build up to the Falklands War: "They're preparing for war/To keep the world free". I can't really measure the lyrics as again I'm not Welsh enough, so they could be uninspiring doggerel, but the performance is convincing. Then "Abergeni" is a flute and guitar instrumental with Henry VIII style flourishes.

"Dechrau'r Dyfodol" could come from a musical about the first blossom of Spring in terms of the music, eddying in far swirlier musical waters than the rest of the album. Stand out track, although what is starting, I don't know. "Ciosg Talysarn" decides to treat the phone-tapping story with an ironic generic twist, a Thirties boogie woogie feel, but I can hear the anger corroding the air from here and now.

"Lleucu Llwyd" I recognise from something by Cymric Cassetteboy-likes Y Lladron, something simple and folky and harpy. Then "Cerddwn Ymlaen" (Best Foot Forward) closes the album with more uplifting fiddle and harps and all I can cling to are the harps and Dafydd Iwan's winning voice. And so ends my experimental-ish vinyl voyage into Welsh folk for another wee while.

Rating: 1982 Wales Staring out of Condemned Shelves

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