Calan announce 10th anniversary album


It’s 10 years since the masters of Welsh folk Calan released their debut album – Bling. It’s fair to say that during those 10 years they’ve blasted their way through the old traditions giving a fresh and contemporary sound to traditional Welsh music. Credited for their sparkling melodies, foot tapping tunes and spirited and energetic performances of Welsh step dancing, they’ve taken Welsh traditional music to international audiences.

Following the release of their debut album, Bling in 2008, which attracted four star responses from the critics, the five piece have played to big audiences and rave reviews at concerts and festivals around Britain, USA, Australia and Europe. It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the band, there have been a few hiccups along the way, the biggest crisis being Sam and Patrick’s night in a cell at Chicago O’Hare Airport and their deportation back to the UK the following day! Despite this not so nice experience the band’s love of touring the States has continued as they’ve recently returned from a successful few weeks of gigs that included a performance for the radio programme Mountain Stage – produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and distributed by NPR to more than 240 stations across America.

Highlights from the last 10 years include performing at the Royal Albert Hall with Bryn Terfel and Sting, singing in the rain at the Borneo Rainforest Festival and performing to 25,000 people at the coveted Cropredy Folk Festival. They’ve toured Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Australia and the USA and have performed several times at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Brittany, where they’ve received the award for the best group and they will be returning this year to perform alongside other Welsh artists such as Manic Street Preachers, Alaw, Vri and Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita.

Calan have released three further studio albums – Jonah, Dinas and Solomon and the compilation album Deg |10 is a combination of their favourite tracks along with three brand new songs, two live recordings and two brand new remixes of previous singles ‘Apparition’ and ‘Synnwyr Solomon’. Calan are heading out on tour again and we are looking forward to see where the next 10 years will take them!

The new song ‘Irontown’ tells the story of the Chartist uprising of November 4th 1839 when iron workers and coal miners from the valley towns of south Wales marched into Newport in support of the People’s Charter.  A charter which called for universal suffrage, secret ballot, a salary for MPs, giving those who did not own property the right to vote. Waiting for them were troops from the 45th Of Foot who opened fire on the crowd. By the end of the protest 22 men were dead and 50 wounded. The troops were defending the Westgate Hotel where it was rumoured some Chartist supporters had been taken prisoner.  The hotel still stands today and it is believed the bullet holes can still be seen in the fabric of the walls.

Artists’ website:

‘Apparition’ – live:

CALAN – Solomon (Sain Records SCD2749)

SolomonI was a little nervous about reviewing the CD Solomon by the Welsh band Calan, released on 14th April. After all, it’s been more decades than I care to think about since, as a student in North Wales, I picked up a few words of Cymraeg, and those few words are long gone. Fortunately, while most of the songs are sung in Welsh, the notes are in both Welsh and English, so I’m in with a chance of not getting my facts terribly wrong. Even more fortunately, there are some great sets of tunes as well as songs that feature lovely vocals and harmonies, so not understanding most of the lyrics didn’t impair my enjoyment at all.

Calan are Bethan Rhiannon (main vocals, accordion, step dancing, percussion), Patrick Rimes (fiddle, Welsh bagpipes, pibgorn, whistle, hulusi, vocals), Angharad Jenkins (fiddle, vocals), Sam Humphreys (guitar, percussion, effects, vocals), Alice French (harp, vocals). The band is augmented on this recording by Greg Sterland (saxophone), Josh Barber (trumpet), Lloyd Pierce (trombone) and Nigel Jenkins (reading an extract from his poem The Creation during the song ‘Kân’).

Track Listing:

  1. ‘Kân’ is “a patriotic song about the future of the Welsh language and culture“. If I didn’t have the review copy, I’d probably buy the CD on the strength of this song alone. Nigel Jenkins has one of those resonant Welsh voices – think Richard Burton. The chorus is based on a style of psalm chanting that used to be popular in West Wales, but don’t expect a churchy feel: here, it gives the recording added punch.
  2. The resemblance in the title ‘Ryan Jigs’ to the name of a certain Welsh football player is entirely intentional: this set of jigs is dedicated to the Welsh side, and comprises the traditional tunes ‘Crwr Da’, ‘Breuddwyd y Wrach’ (which you may know as ‘The Hag’s Dream’), ‘Y Facsen Felen’ and ‘Ffidl Ffadl’ (I love that name). And if that set doesn’t propel the team to further success, I don’t know what will.
  3. ‘#Deportationselfie’ is a set of tunes “inspired by Sam and Patrick’s adventures getting into the US” – a story of visa misadventure that attracted some attention on social media, as I recall. The individual tunes are the well-known ‘Black Joak’, plus ‘Chwi Fechgyn Glân Ffri’, ‘Ooh-Eeh, Nasty Devil’ (apparently by Patrick Rimes) and ‘Naid Dros Llannerch’.
  4. ‘Apparition’ is a Calan original in English, and while it’s “based on some entries in the diary of Edmund Jones speaking about the fairy realm in South Wales” there’s nothing twee or fey about it: it’s an excellent folk-rock-ish song.
  5. ‘Hayes and Quinn’s’ is also an original, described as “a wedding tune written for our dear American friends…” A very attractive tune and arrangement.
  6. ‘Madame Fromage’ is a set of tunes dedicated to Carrie Rimes, maker of the band’s own Calan Cheese. But there’s nothing cheesy about these tunes. ‘Madame Fromage’ is by Angharad Siân Jenkins, and Y Folantein is traditional.
  7. ‘Pe Cawn i Hon’ (If She Were Mine) is beautifully sung and accompanied by restrained and very effective electric guitar.
  8. The writer of ‘Yr Eneth Ga’dd ei Gwrthod’ (The Rejected Maiden) is unknown, though it is based on a true event of the mid-19th century: the sadness of the theme is evident even across the language barrier.
  9. ‘Synnwyr Solomon’ (The Wisdom of Solomon), a song learned from the collector/performer Meredydd Evans (Merêd), is rather less mournful, telling of a man who finds that the women of Wales are a little too feisty for him to marry.
  10. ‘Dennis, Polca!’ consists of three tunes: ‘Welsh Morris’, ‘Anastacia Riddles’ and ‘Polca Cefn Coed’. Described by the band as “a banging set” and I won’t argue with that. I’ve always felt happier sitting in the band than being out on the dance floor, but my feet haven’t tapped so much in decades.
  11. ‘Yr Hwiangerddi’ (The Lullabies) brings the pace down with a delightful set of traditional lullabies: ‘Y Lili Ymysg y Drain’ (Also known as ‘The Colour Of The Lily Amongst The Thorns’.), ‘Si Hei Lwli’, and ‘Mil Harddach’.
  12. ‘Big D’ is a “slamming” set of tunes that starts off with a clog dance. Which is a better idea than it sounds. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to finish a super CD. ’27 Club’ is written by Bethan; ‘Y Fasged Wyau’ is traditional; ‘Composition 11’ is credited to P E Rimes (I guess that’s Patrick); ‘Roaring Hornpipe’ and ‘Pibddawns Morfydd’ are both traditional.

If this is Brythonic folk-rock, I wouldn’t mind hearing quite a lot more of it.

David Harley

Artists’ website:

‘Apparition’ – live and street-smart: