Rag Foundation
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Rag Foundation
Fflach CD 220H (1999)

Rag Foundation
South by Southwest (EP)
Ty Bach Records (www.ragfoundation.co.uk)

cd cover If one of the true marks of an album's rewards is an ability to convey intimacy, then Rag Foundation is a most delicious secret. Currently at the vanguard of the Welsh roots music scene, Rag Foundation's two official releases creep up on you.

Minka features the Rags as a trio: Richard Cowell on guitar, Kate Ronconi-Woollard providing fiddle and vocals, and Neil Woollard as lead singer. Woollard has a smooth, silky voice that glides through daring, bare-bones arrangements; just listen to the world-weariness of "Four- Loom Weaver." In their glorious rendering of "Bonny Bunch of Roses" the band shifts around some of the verses and tightens the narrative in this cautionary traditional tale starring Napoleon Bonaparte's son, leaving Woollard crooning "roses" at the end as if this was Velvet Underground rather than a Welsh folk group. Minka is also aided and abetted by such stars as Julie Murphy, Andy Cutting, and very tasteful hurdy-gurdy by Nigel Eaton.

South by Southwest indicates where the band is heading: more original songs, with strong ties to the Welsh tradition and language. The EP finds Rag Foundation expanded to a quintet, adding Nick Moore on bass and Huw Rees on drums. The result is yet another keeper. The first track, "Mower," is as perfect a modern roving-out song as one could hope for, fit for acoustic shoegazers everywhere. Learn the secret that is Rag Foundation, and then pass it on. - Lee Blackstone

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