|CD only BEJOCD-43|
fernhill's new album hynt is now available by mail order and released to the shops on monday 11 august 2003.
It is the band's fourth album and the follow up to their acclaimed and influential cd whilia 'possibly the best welsh album ever made' taplas
hynt was recorded live in two days at dreamworld studios in pembrokeshire with julie murphy on vocals, ceri rhys matthews on guitar, tomos williams on trumpet, cass meurig on fiddle and crwth and tim harries on double bass.
this is acoustic music at it's most fluid and inventive, specifically welsh in origin but universal in communication. tradition meets innovation and town meets country throughout this extraordinary album.
one track features a spontaneous freestyle by nobsta nutts, one of britain's finest rappers.
the critics have said...
'Not since Pentangle over thirty years ago has
their been a band that blends jazzy lyricism with Anglo-Celtic folk elegance
as seemlessly as Fernhill... Fernhill really is a band to whom the word unique
can be applied. Their acoustic Anglo-Celtic folk/jazz blend has no exact peers
currently on the scene. Hynt is a fascinating record with great singing and
Sing Out! (USA)
Fernhill don't let the grass grow. Each album shifts
and morphs both personnel and material, yet with the voice of Julie Murphy and
the guiding hand of Ceri Rhys Matthews constant, each album comes over as fresh
yet familiar. So it is with Hynt.
Recorded in just two days with a live atmosphere that's almost tangible, the music found here is challenging, intuitive and liquid. The mesh of instruments creates atmospheres and textures that constantly provoke the listener into readjusting critical facilities. It's not every band that'd choose a line-up of vocal, fiddle, guitar, trumpet and bass, let alone have a clue how to use them creatively.
'Wasod', from French sources gives Tomos Williams the chance to prove just how effectively brass can be used as main support to a voice, a remarkable rolling wave of a track that builds and builds. 'GreyCock' in English with a Welsh refrain has great chunks of extemporisation, but nothing that really prepares your senses for 'Gwalch', where mid section the folk jazz is nudged aside for an instant hit of rap. Phrases and images tumble freeform out of Nobsta Nutts - not sure about the name, chum - as his brain races to think of the next connective. Taking risks, forcing creativity into such a short time frame means that you can almost empathise with Fernhill as they think on their feet. The results could have been messy but instead what comes out is bold experimentation, a resolute determination to move between forms and sources and another footstep forward for a band that continues to exert a remarkable influence. Hynt is ambitious music that comes from Wales, but touches on and uses so much more.
Simon Jones, fROOTS
'A Welsh journey in sound that's ambitious and
Julian May, Songlines
'More daring musical deconstructionism from the
When it comes to the conception of original albums,
Fernhill have few rivals. Their last release, Whilia, was a masterpiece
and is difficult one to follow. Yet follow it they have, with something very
different, but equally challenging.
With line-up changes, a different sound is inevitable and the key to this is Tomos Williams' ethereal muted trumpet, which combines effectively with Ceri Mattews' delicate guitar, Cass Meurig's eloquent fidddle and crwth, Tim Harries' dancing double bass and, of course, Julie Murphy's exquisite singing. But, they have another trick up their sleeve - their weapon of mass construction - Swansea rapper Nobsta Nutts, whose witty way with umpromptu lyrics provides occasional spontaneous combustion.
As the title implies, Fernhill take us on a journey - or, maybe, a series of journeys through both space and time. Most tracks are medleys of thematically linked songs, with Murphy switching freely from English (including a song from the Appalachians) to Welsh and, in one instance to French (no Fernhill album would be complete without a Breton link).
The album is another Fernhill classic.
Keith Hudson, Taplas
It's been three years since GMR last encountered
Fernhill, via their album Whilia, and the intervening period has seen several
changes for the group. The most significant difference is the decision to replace
a departing accordeon player (Andy Cutting) with a trumpeter (Tomos Williams).
Perhaps equally surprising is the fact that Ceri Rhys Matthews has (for this
CD, at least), set aside his bagpipes and reed instruments and concentrated
purely on the guitar. While this bold "pruning" could, unhappily,
have resulted in something far less distinctive than the "familiar"
Fernhill sound, the band has actually succeeded in achieving the opposite. Rather
than remaining a 'grouping' of hugely talented individual folk musicians, Fernhill
are now a genuine aggregation with a cohesive and startlingly contemporary approach
to Welsh folk music. Tim Harries bass and Matthews' guitar combines in endlessly
inventive rhythmic and harmonic variations, while Williams' trumpet, and the
fiddle and crwth (early Welsh violin) of Cass Meurig cross stylistic boundaries
effortlessly and delightfully.
Speaking of crossing boundaries, the guest contributions of hip-hop 'freestyle' vocalist Nobsta Nutts may well set alarm bells ringing among many of our readers, but his style sits comfortably in the overall style of this music. Amid all this 'brave New World' adventurism, there's one component of the Fernhill sound which remains as irreplaceably intact as ever, and that is the voice of Julie Murphy. Regarded by many as one of the finest singers of these islands, Murphy's elegant vocals provide the single most compelling argument for investigation of this album. Standout track for non-Welsh speakers (like me) will be the ballad 'Grey Cock', which slides between unaccompanied voice and full band, English and Welsh, and ancient and modern in a mesmerising demonstration of what this incarnation of Fernhill is all about.
A cohesive and startlingly contemporary approach
to Welsh folk music
Green Man Review
FERNHILL LIVE at Telford's Warehouse, Chester
Fernhill is a very contemporary sounding band stretching the boundaries of folk and making audinences re-assess any set of expectations about what a Welsh-based band should sound like. The band consists of Ceri Rhys Matthews' lyrical guitar, Tim Harries' resonant double bass both bowed and plucked, Christine Cooper's sensitive and restrained fiddle, Tomos Williams' jazzy trumpet and, most crucially, Julie Murphy's heartfelt voice that can make your imagination soar. Although it would be too simplified to define the music as simply Welsh, there is nevertheless a real Celtic feel to it.
Telford's warehouse provided a clubby and atmospheric venue, despite a modestly sized audience, that added to the intimate jazz ambience. The opening song, 'Impo', immediately made an impact through the beauty of the Welsh language lyrics and a modernist sound particularly emphasised by the trumpet contributions. 'Wasod' summed up the band's radical and independent spirit through the contribution of a freestyle performance poet, Nobsta Nuts. His participation both here and in other numbers was quite extraordinary and unexpected but highly effective in underpinning the narrative strengths and creativity of the songs. His direct rap style certainly blew away any cobwebs from the tradition!
A song about Robin Hood managed to be quirky, hip, and laid-back and yet, at the same time, passionate, serious, and poetic too. Indeed, the band's chameleon nature is one of its key characteristics. 'Gwalch' built up its impact through hypnotic repetition and a pleasingly expansive sound. Murphy described the title song from the band's latest album, Hynt, as featuring rural songs from South and West Wales that had "gone urban". A sense of poignancy here was created through haunting singing and mournful trumpet. Murphy's vocals seemed to contain aspects of jazz and folk simultaneously with a power and range reminiscent of Eliza Carthy. In 'Desire' there was even an element of darkness after a more positive beginning and echoes of Southern Europe too.
This was a fascinating gig. Although Fernhill can
hardly be described as a band for casually easy listening, they have a depth
and originality that is challenging and startling, and ultimately rewarding
Andy Jurgis, The Living Tradition
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