Gwyneth Glyn ‘Tro’ (bendigedig) 4/5

Welsh folk singer Gwyneth Glyn is a talented and creative artist who has been involved in theatre, song and even theology as part of her undergraduate study and if one had to make any kind of parallel, then it might be Julie Fowlis, the Scots-Gaelic singer. However, Glyn is now firmly focused on singing duties and the relationship that exists between poetry and song and this is where she created her own niche. This is the debut album for Glyn, on the bendigedig label, and it proves to be an enterprising collaboration between, on the one hand, the Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, and indie world roots label, ARC, on the other. Gwyneth Glyn possesses a gentle voice with a softly spoken delivery on a song such as ‘Y gnawas’, with the subtle use of percussion and the simple guitar riff created by the leader.

The singer is rightly proud of her Welsh language roots, but offers some variety via three songs with English language lyrics. The lovely ‘Far ago’, is the pick of the trio with a repeated guitar motif and the use of banjo from Rowan Rheingans. Instrumentation has a strong US folk influence, yet the combination of US roots meets Welsh word actually combines seamlessly, and one wonders why other singers have not sought to achieve the same blend and attract a wider audience beyond a strictly Welsh speaking one.

Her musical influences are wide-ranging and include western classical music, the jazz arrangements of Keith Tippett and folk singers who have a strong storytelling quality from Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell. Glyn is in fact indebted to the oral tradition of storytelling via both her mother and grandfather, while US folk music has clearly guided her in what have become regular performances at the Smithsonian Folk Festival in Washington DC, and has spoken there in 2013 on the status of the Welsh language within the context of endangered languages. Gwyneth Glyn will be touring in spring 2018 as part of a support act for Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita. The promotional copy did not contain any lyrics translated from Welsh into English and thus this non-Welsh speaking journalist was unable to comment on the lyrical content other than in English. However, fluent Welsh speaker and fellow compatriot Cerys Matthews has mentioned the impressive use of the language on her Radio 6 show, and Glyn has been the recipient of the prestigious Welsh poet laureate award in 2006, and Matthews is but one of the numerous DJ’s championing the cause of Gwyneth Glyn. To which this fellow Celtic journalist can now be added.

Tim Stenhouse