Sunday, 4 April 2010

Day 11 - Pencader

Alright, this is the CD that I first heard Julie Murphy and Ceri Rhys Matthews.  I also heard them on an album backing Siwsann George.

This is a must buy, absolutely.  I must have heard this back in 1995 or so.  (Recent edit - just talked to Martin about this, he figures it was in 2000 or so... oops!)  I had been very discouraged by what I had heard coming out of Wales.  Most of it was either too cheesy or too operatic for my taste.  Mainly too cheesy.

You know, each to their own.  If you're into opera, hey, why not.  To be honest, I'm into any type of music be it ska, funk, folk, pop, jazz, bluegrass, whatever...  I don't even need Welsh music to be particularly Welsh, if you know what I mean.

For me personally (and I can only speak for myself) there are really only a couple of things that I listen for when deciding if music is good or not.

The first is honesty.

The second is emotiveness.

Which leads into the third, which is good storytelling.

And lastly, the performer is fully present.

That's it really.  Pretty simple but very amazing how few musicians actually pull it off.  I don't really pull it off myself, but that's the direction I try to take.  Flea says it best...

“Above all, just don’t be lame.  Be true and don’t be lame.  Be true to yourself... and just play what you like, the best that you can. And just be yourself as hard as you can and do what you do, as best as you can do it.  If you wanna be pretty and pink like a soft rose growing in the springtime then be that, as pretty and beautiful as you can.  And if you wanna be just the biggest ugliest monster that scares everybody away, do that as best as you can.  If you wanna be a clown in the circus, be a clown in the circus.  If you wanna be a bright golden statue of liberty, then be a bright golden statue of liberty.  But just do whatever it is that you do and be true to yourself and be yourself and just play your hardest and your best.  And you know, always play every note as if it’s your last.  And just really care.  If you really care, then you’ll get somewhere.”

And that's what I love most about Julie and Ceri R.  They're completely true to themselves.  They're full on.

I have this friend in Swansea, a real nice guy and into the Welsh folk scene so bless him.  But he did say to me once, "Julie's got a great voice, fantastic, the best in Wales... but be careful, she's got a Breton influence."  I say, "AND... so the hell what!"  Good music is good music.  Who cares what the influence.  Julie's the best singer in Wales.  That's all you need to know.  Finally, some good Welsh music, who cares the influence.  But that's Wales for you...

Anyway, went to Pencader today.  Julie and Ceri were as welcoming as always.  We had a great supper and cake afterwards and of course wine.  We traded stories.  I congratulated them on the album, Blodeugerdd and Ceri R. congratulated me.  I had to tell them  how great I thought the album "Blodeugerdd" was, because it is so great.  And again, it's the honesty of the album that is so striking.  Ceri R. added that it's also very naked.  He was pleased to have won the Independent music award because he really thought he was going crazy.  The CD had a very poor reception with the establishment.  But that should be a sign of exactly how good it is.

Anyway, I told them stories about Canada and they told me stories about Wales.  It's funny the things I remember about Canada.  The trip to Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump, the Powwow we accidently found ourselves at, all the trips with the ska band, the BC interior, playing in Yellowknife... It's funny how we can take for granted all of the very interesting things in Canada.  But for these Welshies, it's all very romantic and unfathomable.  And their stories equally so to me...

When Welsh people tell stories, they tend to move from laughter to weeping and back to laughter at break neck speed.  Both Julie and Ceri are no exceptions to this.  Both are fantastic storytellers!  

Check out their websites...
and Ceri Rhys

The CDs to check out would be Ffawd by Julie and Yscolan by Ceri Rhys, but more on that later.

Pencader itself is a small village with a remanent of a bailey motte on the hill. Henry II was here in 1163 and of course this is the town that Giraldus takes his wonderful quote from.  It was also here that the Lord Rhys paid homage to king Henry II.  

The view from Julie and Ceri's is very picturesque.  There are some new windmills built in the horizon which don't really spoil the view thankfully.  The hills are great rolling green with nice old houses dotted around the valley.  

"Everyone comes to Pencader." as Ceri Rhys once said.  It's sort of the frontier town.  In the old days, it was the last town before you hit west Welsh wilderness.

Anyway, more about Pencader and the epic session...

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