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Gwilym Bowen Rhys Gwilym Bowen Rhys
Album: O Groth y Ddaer
Label: Fflach
Tracks: 13

O Groth y Ddaer ( From the Womb of the Earth) is the debut solo album of Gwilym Bowen Rhys (GBRh).The whole album lends itself to a feeling of intimacy and conjures up pleasant evenings by the hearth or in some rural tafarn accompanied by a few select friends. In this album GBRh is worlds away from the rock band, Bandana,that he plays with. Gwilym may be more familiar to most as part of the group Plu which he is a member along with his sisters Elan and Marged. in his solo album he has more in common with Plu than Bandana and lends a featherlike delicacy to the songs on the album many of which are pared down ensuring that the voice and selected instruments become the main focus rather than the production, giving the listener the feeling that they are indeed involved in the performance as though they were in the same room.

It is not necessary to know the Welsh language to appreciate the beautifully crafted tunes or lyrics, some tunes may already be familiar to listeners and a brief overview is included in the accompanying booklet. Many of the songs have repetitive chorus or lines which the listener can pick up on, however for a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the lyrics a knowledge of Welsh may be desirous and for some may spur them on to learn this beautiful lyrical language.

The album is a mixture of traditional songs such as Gwydwr Glas and self penned tunes some of which sound more contemporary in feel yet retaining authenticity.In Gwydwr Glas (the blue glass) or in this context window pane telling the tale of love or unrequited love as is often the case in Welsh folk music about a girl leaving a message for her love telling her lover that if he comes to knock for her upon the pane she had been taken away by a lad in the neighbouring parish.Some of the traditional songs have been added to by GBRh as in Gwen Lliw'r Lili (Gwen the colour of Lilly) which combines traditional lyrics which have been added to by one of the Founders of the modern Eisteddfod Iolo Morgannwg in the C18th/19th and now by GBRh and is a song celebrating not only a beautiful girl but "nature's intoxicating sights and sounds in summer" I personally enjoyed the 30 second ditty about beer. Cân o Fawl i'r Cwrw ( A song of praise for the Beer) which uses the C18th folk poetry as influence and internal rhyme.Owain Lawgoch (Owain the red handed) tells the tale of warrior Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri last heir to the native throne of Aberffraw who was given his nickname due to his ferocity in battle. ( ap denotes son of)

Another one of Gwilym's own song compositions the tune he first heard from Moeldrehaern Trio Cwch Dafydd 'Rabar ( Dafydd 'Rabar's Boat) tells the tale of shipping slate to the four corners of the globe, the the different activities and places in Carnarfon and a legendary ferry man Dafydd 'Rabar (Dafydd of the mouth of the river) who hailed from the town and incidentally is the nearest town to GBRh home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album and have been introduced to traditional songs and poems that I have not heard of previously and also to newly crafted songs which surely will go down in Welsh folk music history.The album lives up to it's name in using the people and local environments to give a flavour of the people who once dwelt, worked, fought and loved in this beautiful country.

Sian Northey