Welsh Geoff, aka Geoff Beynon, resident of the parish of Dronfield, is without doubt one of the most distinctive of performers ever to be unavoidably accorded the hoary term “singer-songwriter”. And a Welsh Geoff song is quite unlike the creation of any fellow-s/s: suitably idiosyncratic, sure, but in the nicest possible way.
Geoff’s four CDs to date have embraced the gamut of his songwriting, and his fifth offering, Spotty Dog, gives us the best of all worlds with a batch of ten strong and memorable new songs. Inevitably the first thing you notice – on opening track The Ogmore River – is Geoff’s close personal affinity with, and clear fond affection for, the landscapes and history of his native South Wales, as often as not garnished with a quirkily individual turn of phrase and a gentle, if often more than mildly surreal sense of humour. Responding to the genius loci by making personal visits to places, Geoff delights in recounting fascinating (and sometimes obscure) local legends, unearthing unusual aspects of these tales and bringing them to life in front of your ears. The CD’s title track tells of the much revered, beach-dwelling Celtic saint St. Caradog (spot the connection!), while False Lights’ eerie recollection of the practice of wrecking around the coast of Gower is triggered by an account of a motorcyclist who rode over a sea-cliff for no apparent reason. Geoff’s long-standing predilection for vintage motorcycles is indulged on the blues-inflected Riding On My BSA which evokes halcyon trips to Port Talbot in his formative years.
Other songs which bear a historical import include John Beynon, the true (if odd) story of a solicitor (apparently no relation) who in 1814 fought the last documented fatal duel in Wales, and Leather Trousers Just Like Lou Reed, which on the other hand (logically enough!) concerns the time the clock stopped on Chesterfield’s crooked spire. Of the remaining songs, The Strong Anthropic Principle takes delight in positing some everyday effects of that key cosmological conundrum (look it up!), whereas the somewhat “quarky” Standard Model Blues voices a maddeningly familiar reminiscence with a warm, “un-frigid air” and a trusty John Hurt-style country-blues setting. Finally, Shack On The Shore combines an early-ISB-like spirit of whimsy and a Woody Guthrie-esque robustness to convey its genially wistful-thinking musing.
Geoff’s easygoing performance style is thoroughly engaging, The companionable intimacy of his conversational singing mode enables the lyrics to be heard and savoured for future delectation (for, unlike other writers’ material of a similarly genially hilarious nature, Geoff’s creations bear, indeed demand, repeated listening). His skilled troubadour-style self-accompaniment strikes a neat balance between interesting musical statement and deft unobtrusiveness, whether on guitar or banjo (the latter taking in both clawhammer and frailing elements), always both respecting and enhancing the melody line.
Welsh Geoff is a treasure – not least for his uniqueness; yes, he’s far from what you might call the “standard model” singer-songwriter!
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