AL LEWIS – Te Yn Y Grug (Al Lewis Music ALM023)

Te Yn Y GrugThere is a story behind this album and it’s somewhat involved so settle down at the back, please. Te Yn Y Grug (Tea In The Heather) is a novel, or perhaps a collection of short stories, written by Kate Roberts and published in 1959. It tells the story of three young girls growing up in Gwynedd at the turn of the 20th century but, sadly, it seems to be long out of print. Two years ago Al Lewis was commissioned to write the music for the National Eisteddfod of Wales’ choral musical based on the book. The lyrics were written by Karen Owen and Cefin Roberts with one song written by Frank M Davis and Mary A Kidder. The intention was to perform one show in Llanrwst which seemed a bit wasteful so Al gathered together a band and members of the volunteer choir to record the piece for posterity.

The result is a contemporary sounding set of songs in the style of a folk-rock singer-songwriter with all the trimmings supported by thirty-eight members of the choir. I can’t be sure but I suspect that Te Yn Y Grug has been mutated to appeal to a less specialist audience. It rocks in a smooth way, although rocks is perhaps not the best word. For example, the odd song not wrtten by Al, ‘A Yw Fy Enw I Lawr?’, is performed by the choir in the style of a hymn and it’s followed by by ‘Mae Bywyd Yn Berfformans’ on which Al duets with Glain Rhys. It sounds very romantic but is more philosophical in nature.

It’s all in Welsh, of course, and punctuated with archive spoken word passages. Translations of the songs are helpfully provided although one title, ‘Ciaridŷms’, seems to be one of those words that defies translation. Ignore the language barrier, the album sounds absolutely gorgeous and I’m content with that.

Dai Jeffries

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