ALLAN YN Y FAN – NEWiD (Steam Pie Records SPCD10185)

NEWiDMusic has a rare ability to stir deep emotions in us.  One of the best is happiness and that is exactly what NEWiD, the latest album from Allan Yn Y Fan, does.  It’s a glorious celebration of music performed with a buoyancy and lightness of touch that only good musicians who are having a good time can produce.

Newid is the Welsh word for change, but it also works in English as new id and both of those apply to this band.  The addition of Alan Cooper and Catrin O’Neill  to the existing quartet of Geoff Cripps, Chris Jones, Linda Simmonds and Kate Strudwick give them an enormous range. Between them they can summon five vocalists and more than a dozen different instruments.

The majority of the twelve tracks on the album are traditional Welsh tunes, sung in both Welsh and English, opening with the traditional song ‘Marwnad yr Ehedydd’ or ‘Skylark Elegy’. Catrin O’Neill’s wonderfully clear voice certainly soars in response.

In an album full of absolute gems it can be difficult to pick out just a few tracks to give the flavour of the whole but Chris Jones’ ‘Bishop of Llandaff’s and Frank Hennessey’s Kairdiff Quickstep’ deserves mention not just for the title length but for showcasing the range of instruments the band can play at such a high level.

‘Can Merthyr’, sung a capela, show another facet.  This story, as old as time, of a man thinking he can get the better of his better half is a salutatory warning to husbands everywhere but also an example of the vocal abilities of the band, which they use to such good effect here.

The final stand-out track to mention is Kate Strudwick’s  beautiful and moving ‘Tune for Lilian’ which has a back story involving her University landlady, a legacy and possibly a dead cat.  She tells the story far better than I could so it’s the final inducement you need to see the band live at the first opportunity.

The album is released on the 16th September and is available to pre-order now on Propermusic.

Tony Birch

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Allan Yn Y Fan live at this year’s Shepley Spring Festival:

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