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Carreg Lafar
Hyn/ Traditional Celtic Music of Wales

I have occasionally noticed, in both myself and others, an urge to pontificate on why Welsh music has not reached the popularity that its Celtic cousins have enjoyed. In the past decade, there have been several bands who have come achingly close to being the "first true Welsh supergroup" (the Planxty of Wales, if you will). For my money, Carreg Lafar may be one of them.

Formed in Cardiff in 1993, the band features strong singing, a diversity in instrumentation, and an ability to seamlessly mix tunes with songs. Hyn is the second release from this quintet. All members of the band sing (exclusively in Welsh), and play flute, fiddle, whistles, Welsh bagpipes, guitars, mandola, viola, cello, bodhran and percussion.

All but one of the 10 tracks on Hyn are traditional. The CD opens with "Yr Hen Ferchetan [The Spinster]," a rousing number about a woman unlucky in love. "Cariad Cywir [True Love]," a gentle song about unrequited love, illustrates some of the connections between Breton and Welsh music, a wonderful a capella version of the ritual song "Mari Lwyd [Grey Mare]," that celebrates the Welsh choral tradition. Two instrumental tracks, including a set of tunes from the bagpipe and pidgorn tradition of Wales, show some Breton flavor.

Carreg Lafar have the passionate experimentation that marks bands of great promise (as one can hear in the fiddle attacks on "Blewyn Glas [Fresh Grass]"). There is also a level of maturity in the combination of voices and instruments, one never letting the other fully take the upper hand, as in the final track "Dau Rosyn Coch [Two Red Roses]." Hyn has a powerful acoustic soundthat makes it a highly recommended release. - Ivan Emke

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