Tag Archives: Folk

Review, Road to Ruin, Dan Jordan & The Warbirds, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Dan Jordan and The Warbirds evade categorisation. They are poetry. They are music. They are outlaw country. They are moody blues. They are folk storytelling. They are heavy metal vocals. The only seminal thread that runs through their latest album, Road to Ruin, is main man Dan’s clear connection to the music of Bob Dylan. He may not readily admit to such an influence being a conscious thing, but it is apparent that his time spent with Dylan over the course of his first album has had a lasting effect. His vocal delivery may not be to everyone’s taste, but one should at least be able to appreciate the hard-felt poetry that emanates from it.

Opening track Slow Burn may get off to a slow start but its first few moments of silence create a real sense of anticipation. A whirring cymbal then comes spinning into existence before being knocked sideways by the hard keys of a piano. It introduces the heavy beat which symbolises much of the album’s dark veneer, Jordan’s own smoky Dylan-esque vocals then coming in to add further shade. There is a sultry otherworldliness to the piano and electric guitar which gives it a certain intrigue and stops it descending into a black hole. The various mixing of genres, from the Latinized Country of Rider to the Metalized Blues of Run, have a similar effect, the poetic nature of Jordan’s lyrics also contributing to this sense of fascination which surrounds much of the album.

Each track is greeted with surprise. Each offers something slightly different from the rest. Ain’t Got Nothin’ may have a classic Blues structure but Matts White and Taylor bring some wonderful organ and electric guitar respectively to give it an added dimension. The soft and delicate composition on Seven Deaths of You creates a beautifully light atmosphere which allows deeper access into Jordan’s poetry. There is a real slice of folk storytelling here, delivered rather nicely through a deep voice that contains the faint presence of delicacy and vulnerability. Sweet City Ruin manages to uncover this further in lines like “stumbling through the city like a spectre” and “all you want is for the world to know that you were here” even as they are hidden behind the up-tempo, western swing style music.

There is a mythical quality to Elena which could be said to draw on folk tradition. The track that follows, Nightingale,certainly seems to suggest a strong folk influence upon Jordan’s work. His always gritty and grave delivery never allows for the same cadences that one might find among the typical folk singer however, meaning the loss of emotionality to some degree. What is lost here though is made up for in another unexpected musical addition, this time the introduction of pop elements followed by a sudden flurry of different instruments that take the album in a completely different direction. It means that, even as Jordan’s vocal starts to feel staid, there is enough originality to keep you listening right to the end.

Final track This Land has No Name is definitely worth sticking around for. On its musical surface is a wild west evoking landscape, complete with tolling bell and front porch guitar. It is the country music of the outlaws, reclaiming their rural roots from the urbanisation of an earlier sound. Dig a little deeper into the lyrics, and you begin to see the parallels. Yet this song speaks not of a place across the pond but a land much closer to home. Those “structures… crooked… battered” are the stone houses dotted across the countryside. The “roofs made of tin” are the barns stood in fields “still breathing [though] barely alive”. The bar, “as dry as a bone” and “the shops, boarded up” represent the communities who have lost their amenities to the forces of globalisation and capitalism. It is a depiction of Wales that is keenly felt and of which Dan Jordan seems acutely aware, no doubt garnered from his own geographical movement across the nation’s map. It is a protest song, if you will, inspired, whether conscious or not, by folk pioneers such as Bob Dylan, with a contemporary resonance that ensures Road to Ruin finishes with a political bang.

To find out more about Dan Jordan & The Warbirds, click here. To listen to album on Spotify, click here.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Review, Cabaret Pontio with Gareth Bonello, Georgia Ruth & Toby Hay, Pontio Arts Centre by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Considering they had never played together before, Gareth Bonello, Georgia Ruth and Toby Hay seemed like a long-established trio. Their first gig as a three-piece was certainly an enjoyable one. Coming together from Cardiff, Ceredigion, and Rhayader respectively, these three folk musicians brought real warmth to what was a pretty wet night in Bangor. With songs inspired by land, place and people, this concert, as part of Pontio’s Cabaret series, was a gently inspiring, fairly lucid affair. Transforming Theatr Bryn Terfel into a downtown night club, the ambient lighting and tight staging made this a really intimate experience. It felt refreshing, relaxed, and played well to a hushed and attentive audience.

Taking the form of a songwriters round, the evening began
with Bonello, who performed a straight-up folk number before handing over to
Hay. The highly-accomplished guitarist began with a short piece, inspired by
home, before providing us with a wonderfully atmospheric version of his song ‘Starlings’.
Hitting such high, soft and delicate notes on the guitar, the addition of Ruth’s
harp and Bonello on the harmonium created an incredibly visual sound that hung
in the air long after the last note was played. It was then over to Ruth for a
performance of her song ‘Terracotta’. Its hauntingly beautiful tones struck me as
being very reminiscent of 9Bach’s ‘Anian’,
and was just as good. It was then the turn of Bonello again for a performance
of his song ‘Pen Draw’r Byd’ before we returned to Ruth for what was, for me,
one of the highlights of the night. Watching Ruth’s fingers gliding gracefully
across the strings of the harp during ‘Clychai Aberdyfi’ was mesmerising. And
with Bonello keeping a steady beat on duitara and then double bass respectively,
and Hay strumming gently on the guitar, it made this a song to savour, both
visually and aurally. To finish the first half, Bonello played a song written
as a tribute to his grandmother, who used to pick cockles down by the local
river. The low notes of the double bass and deep echo of the electric guitar,
along with the yellow lighting, created a truly evocative scene of a river at
sunset. It made ‘Merch y Morfa’ a beautiful tune with which to close before the

The second half opened up with Bonello performing ‘Y Deryn Pûr’
before handing over to Hay for another double header. Asked by his fellow
singers to choose a traditional folk song from his home county to perform, a
lack of forthcoming material meant that we were treated to two originals by Hay
himself instead, both inspired by his local landscape. The first, ‘Radner Lily’,
was gorgeously performed under glowing lightbulbs hung from the ceiling. The
gentle grace of the electric guitar and accompanying harp led to a delightful
skip into the second song, ‘Water Breaks Its Neck’, from Hay’s forthcoming
album. Ruth then performed ‘Week of Pines’ from her latest album to rapturous
applause and cheering from the audience – a clear fan favourite. Bonello then
treated us to two tunes written specially as part of his PhD on the duitara.
This Indian folk instrument proved a fascinating listen on both ‘Maid Marian’
and ‘Diamonds’, the former’s medieval associations really evoked by the sound
of this four-stringed cousin of the guitar. It was then back to Hay for a
performance of an as-yet-untitled song that I recognised from his recent gig at
Focus Wales. It was excellent then, and with the addition of the double bass
here, it was by far another standout moment of the night.

To finish, Bonello, Ruth and Hay took to the forefront of
the stage to perform off mic. With only the harmonium for company, once Bonello
had found the right vocal range, the three performed a gorgeous final number
that was received extremely well by the audience. It rounded off an impressive
night. They left the audience wanting more. Any nerves they may have been
feeling did not show. There was no sense of awkwardness or any hint that this
was their first time performing together. And after such a positive reaction,
my guess is that it won’t be the last. Keep your eye out for future dates. I’d
be surprised if there isn’t more to come.


Review, Kitty MacFarlane, Record Journal Live, Gwaenysgor Village Hall by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

On a cold Autumn evening, I ventured through the country lanes of North East Wales to the village of Gwaenysgor. It seems a very innocuous place to attend a gig with one of folk music’s brightest upcoming stars. Yet the small village hall, nestled in a corner just off the main road, was the perfect setting for an evening with Kitty MacFarlane. No sound system. No microphone. No fancy stage lighting. This was just Kitty and her acoustic guitar.

Hosted by the Record Journal Live, this wasn’t your average concert. In many ways, this was the epitome of a gig organised and run by people who are passionate about bringing live music to the local community. There’s something quite special about wandering in and finding your name written on a piece of paper, ready to be ticked off; being handed a cup of tea in a random mug that’s been poured out of a stainless steel teapot; entering into a hall whose tables and chairs have had to be laid out beforehand. No technology. No paid bar staff. Just a warm and friendly atmosphere into which MacFarlane’s gentle vocals and whimsical guitar chords beautifully contribute.

Beginning with ‘Only Human’, MacFarlane proceeded with a delectable mixture of stories and songs. It was a fascinating insight into both her songwriting process as well as her wider world. From it, I sensed a deep affinity with nature. There was clearly a deep connection to her local area too – the Somerset Levels. To be given a context to songs like ‘Man, Friendship’, written in response to the 2014 floods, a picture of which adorns the cover of her debut album, gave them an extra dimension. Told with light humour and gentle passion by MacFarlane meant that they became ever more compelling too. Such light humour peppered most of her anecdotes. Her passion was especially evident when it came to ‘Glass Eels’. Introducing the song, she recounted how she’d spent a day with some wildlife conservationists, studying these fascinating creatures. Such an experience clearly left its mark on her, her continuing interest in eels all too evident and somewhat infectious too. It gave a real insight into the careful crafting that has gone into each of her songs. Every one featured in this set had a tale to tell, and was sung with tender conviction.

One of the most captivating moments in this set came during her rendition of David Francey’s ‘Saints and Sinners’. With the guitar placed to one side, this was Kitty MacFarlane truly unplugged. If it wasn’t enough to enjoy the sole sound of her melodious voice, once the familiarity of the chorus had been claimed by the audience, they joined in with her to create a finish to the song that was truly transcendental and awe-inspiring. It perfectly encapsulated the emotion of the whole evening.

Kitty MacFarlane is as warm and welcoming offstage as she is on. She has received huge commendations for her debut album Namer of Clouds, and rightly so. It is a superb record that deserves your listening ear. In some respects, the twee surroundings of a local community hall is exactly where you expect her to be. To hear her live is a real treat. To be in such an intimate environment when you do is a bonus. The Record Journal has tapped into something here. They’ve kept it sweet and simple. On this occasion, it suited MacFarlane’s performance perfectly. Stripped back and laid bare, this was folk at its finest. A concert that was well worth attending.

Click here for tour dates and further info.


Review NDCW Autumn Tour ‘Folk’ by Tanica Psalmist

A surreal world, with fanatical weight
Performed eight, Eastern-European dancers, with different mental state’s
With significant traits, they all took us on a visual journey
Dancing their way through a contemporary, dynamical theory.
Whilst individually reaching their peak, through dancing only did they speak,
Expressions, Tones, intertwined mixed emotions frantically
Erupt, corrupt you saw poison in each character’s guts
Each motion, devastation, made you attentive to their synchronisation
Each subtle flow, every blow, every dramatic move, each hard gesture that looked smooth
One scene was a circular pattern with no gaps, just them walking in bare feet,
Tight, narrowed direction they walked, as the drumming tone hit home
Witnessing to all, who gathered interpretations of their own
Mine was the constant spinning of a world, that we live in
Formulating different connections and identities to who’ve we’ve grown in.
The elements of every dance move, physically so strong, gripping you at your feet as they exhilaratingly, followed along.
Enchanting your mind, through the multiple conventions,
The tree upside down, made you wither into your own imagination
Native tongue, of French descent, grasped a different interpretation.
Charismatic music echoed, as the dancers moved in utter fabrication.
Different themes of love, social dynamic’s was explored in a world of dark, comic indication.
Animated features, made you laugh, a penguin and its posture, of what the dancer conveyed it to be, was interestingly unique.
Another power scene, portraying to the viewers that your interpretations to what exists, in your head is how it ought to be.
Freedom to express, talk as you like, stand up, obnoxiously move in a crowd, being big, swaying loud, being persistent in what you do and speaking in your comfortable native tongue in a community, where no-one understands accept you, Is entirely down to you.
That was my connection with Folk, and the production design as well as the dancing crew, grew on me.
So fortunate to attend, and watching the dancers pull through till the end.
Folk to me is living in a surreal world that mentally, emotionally and physically, comes alive as a believable, existing world where you desire to survive and let your feelings stay alive.

Review NDCW Autumn Tour ‘Folk’ by Helen Joy


 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Profundis, They Seek to find the Happiness they Seem, Folk


In whispered tones of reverence, I am told: it is, oooh, wonderful, you’re in for a treat…

A woman in purple stands hugging herself in dance. She is singular, beautiful.

The spot light shifts to a gloriously sexy scene, a woman in white revelling in her spot-lit body writhes on the stage. She is right in front of me, I can see into her eyes. I am mesmerised. Carted away by men in black, the performance erupts into a fantasy of colour, dance, commentary, music and comedy. It is at once surreal, curious and charming. Sinister. Younger audiences find this funnier; we are awkward, we laugh in the wrong places. The dancers say that they find their voices in dance not in language but have enjoyed this challenge, being free to be themselves, to speak, to interpret freely within the confines of the psalm. De Profundis.

It is the creation of genius. It has the feel of a masterpiece. It is an abstract painting come to life. It is Kandinsky dancing. Of all the images, I am left with the man in red knuckling his way across the floor, man as ape as movement to music. A treat, indeed.

The Seek to Find the Happiness They Seem

Dance partners in black and navy and they trip through the dark, faces lit like portraits looming out of Rembrandt. Oh, this is exquisite. They are so lovely to watch. Perfectly in unison, Fred and Ginger ducking and diving and dancing in front of us, I can feel the warm swoosh of air across my face as they sweep past.

To Richter, they fail, their sense of loss and confusion is complete.


Bosch. It is a Bosch in all its painted madness cavorting in front of us. It is a crazy world. It rises from the soil of Autumn leaves into this crepuscular land. It is a topsy turvy place, a slight inversion, sensitive to struggling personality, to groupings, pairings and isolation.

Something warm and heavy, muted and visceral, carefully cadaverous, so beautiful from a distance but gently sinister close up. It is a convoluting palette of earth. It is breathtaking.

To see these dancers up close and personal, the bandages on their toes, the straps around their knees, the sweat on their faces, each muscle flexing, is to see perfection. To hear their feet feel the ground, to see expression in every tiny movement, is to see beauty.

I want to pull this piece into the night air, I want to let them free to scatter real leaves, dancing under real trees.

I want to press Stop: I want to fix them like statues and examine every moment. I cannot watch it all and I have missed so much but oh, I have taken something magical, ethereal, wonderful away with me.

Enjoyed:         14th November, 2016 at NDCW, Cardiff
Choreography:             Roy Assaf
Music and Sound:       Uoon I, Alva Noto (Vrioon Electronic)
Enta Omri, Umm Kulthum (Original 1964 Live Recording)
Lighting Design:          Omer Sheizaf
Costume Design:          Angharad Matthews
Costume:                     Deryn Tudor
Angharad Griffiths
They Seek to Find the Happiness They Seem
Choreographer:        Lee Johnston
Music:                                    Max Richter
Lighting:                     Joe Fletcher
Costume:                   Zepur Agopyan
Dancers:                    Matteo Marfoglia, Elena Thomas
Choreographer:        Caroline Finn
Visual Artist:             Joe Fletcher
Music:                                    Assorted (see website below)
Lighting:                     Joe Fletcher
Costume:                   Gabriella Slade
Dancers:                    Josef Perou, Camille Giraudeau, Matteo Marfoglia, Mathieu Geffre, Angela Boix Duran, Elena Thomas, David Pallant, Josie Sinnadurai, Ed Myhill