A Gower Garland
Wild Goose (

cd cover Calennig paints a musical portrait of a Welsh past redolent with surface familiarity, especially in its conformity with contemporary nostalgic notions of Christmas, but also deeply challenging in the pagan pageantry implicated in Yule traditions. On A Gower Garland, their tribute to the late Gower Peninsula minstrel Phil Tanner, Mick Tems and Patricia Carron-Smith's dual accordions offer high-spirits and incipient goofiness, but without an overtly humorous intent. Tems' vocals are so spirited you can hear his smile; Smith adds open-toned, slightly over-the-top accompaniment.

"Gower Reel" sets the stage musically, with a heavy yet bouncy accordion rhythm, peculiarly Welsh vocal scat, and spoon percussion. Surrounded by light, lilting jigs, accordions like church organs with their walking bass lines, "Sandy Banks" resolves into a joyous Christmas tune. The minimally accompanied but vocally dense "Brandy's Song" and "Poor Old Horse," with its deliberate chorus and swinging verses, are likewise Yule songs, lyrics strangely compelling, but relatively impenetrable without detailed knowledge of Horse Head customs.

Calennig shines brightest on their story songs. "Gowerton Fair" is a first person narrative of an amorous swain thwarted by a coy miner's wife. On "The Mistletoe Bough," a piano and violin waltz, Tems and Smith exchange lead lines in the tale of the tragic forbidden love of a man and a fairy. "Soap, Starch, Candles" is a nuanced a cappella tale of a man, his sweety, and her father's corner store, to the proprietorship of which he reluctantly but happily succeeds. A Gower Garland is a triumphant preservation of a peculiar past, one in which it is a pleasure to become lost. - Jim Foley

Audio:(c)2000 Wild Goose Studios, used by permission
Calennig Web Site

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