Whilia
fernhill
CD only BEJOCD-30
 

The third album from fernhill is an exilariting journey through the rich Welsh-language dance/song tradition. WHILIA ('talking') brings a thrilling contemporary dynamic to a still-neglected heritage of words and music. From the exultant celebration of dawns o gwmpas (dance around) to the dark malevolence of dole teifi (Teifi meadows) this is an urgent and expressive album which embraces love and landscape in a wealth of different ways. Fronted by the passionate voice of Julie Murphy the music ebbs and surges, sometimes with lyrical sweetness and sometimes with raw, barbaric attack. It is easy to see why fernhill have won international recognition as Wales's leading traditional music group.

Track listing -
1 whilia 6.03
2 fi wela 3.45
3 dole teifi 4.33
4 dawns o gwmpas 9.01
5 cariad fel y môr 9.01
6 dawns tro 9.36
7 chwant 8.12 

total running time 50.09

credits -
julie murphy vocals; andy cutting button accordions; ceri rhys matthews guitar, clarinet, bombo, pibe cwd; tim harries double bass, cass meurig fiddle; owen thomas recording, mixing and mastering

What the critics have said...
fROOTS Critics Poll of Year 2000
A Top Twenty Album (placed 16th)

'If a band as gifted as Fernhill played more pop-oriented music their faces would be plastered all over mass circulation publications and web sites. But instead, Julie Murphy (vocals), Andy Cutting (button accordion) and Ceri Rhys Matthews (guitar, clarinet, bombo, bagpipes) put their talents to work creating a beautiful vision of Anglo-Welsh roots music. As you'll discover on Whilia, Murphy, Cutting and Matthews have an incredible empathy. These people were born to play music together. Each member knows just what to do in concert with the other two.; whether its Matthews and Cutting trading riffs on faster instrumental pieces or playing just the right accompaniment for Murphy's marvellous singing. It's also remarkable how full an orchestral sound these three musicians make just between themselves. What's more, this recording has a great 'live' feel even though there was at least a little overdubbing. Except for a brief excerpt from Tim Buckley and Larry Beckett's 'Song to the Siren' all of the material on Whilia is traditional, and with performances this good, to just sit back and listen would be fine. Those who are interested, however, will be pleased to know that the CD booklet includes full English translation of all the songs.'
Sing Out! (USA)

The Best Thing I've Heard All Year
'I couldn't decide between Eminem's album The Marshall Mathers LP and a Welsh language album called Whilia by Fernhill. I dunno how you would describe it - it's very beautiful sounding but very sort of rhythmic, quite French sounding kind of Celtic music, y'know? It's like fiddles and boxes and, what d'you call them, pastoral oboes. They just do Welsh language stuff mainly. The singer is my favourite singer in the world, Julie Murphy. And yeah, it is folky but it's very picturesque. She's got a very beautiful voice, pure sounding, and she's got such a way with singing, she's really lyrical and very lilting - beautiful, beautiful singing. It's really nice to listen to very late at night, y'know, on a Sunday. It's quite intricately arranged, but just fantastic. It's on Beautiful Jo Records. I think it's their third album. Incredibly beautiful - I just sat there listening to it going, Oh my God.'
(Eliza Carthy in Mojo Magazine)

'Fernhill have come a long way in a short time. At the very heart of an encouraging renaissance of Welsh music right across the board - rock band Super Furry Animals have just released a Welsh language album - they are not content merely to be revivalists, innovatively blending the spirit of Wales with music of other environs. Last year's challenging but superb Black Mountains Revisited solo album by Julie Murphy underlined the fact that here's a highly focused outfit with horizons way beyond the Severn Bridge.
This time Murphy, Ceri Rhys Matthews and Andy Cutting strip away all extraneous baggage for a predominantly Welsh language album of potent purity. Murphy's singing seems to have acquired an almost mystical edge even since Black Mountains, that takes on an even richer presence given appealing arrangements and unlikely instrumentation. Cutting's button accordeon will never be anything less than a joy while Matthews contributes a constantly appealing selection of accompaniments varying from clarinet to bombo. Dawns O Gwmpas is a nine-minute track but never palls for a second such is the vitality contained in the mesh of vocals and instruments, notably Matthews' compelling piping. Never as harsh or as inaccessible as you imagine, it is in fact a very bright, upbeat collection sometimes recalling Breton dance music, at other times portraying images of rural beauty and intrigue.
Nothing, however, is quite as jaw-droppingly arresting as another nine minute epic, Cariad Fel Y Mor, which opens with Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren, which Liz Fraser took into the charts with This Mortal Coil in the '80s. This variant is no less mesmerising or enchanting. Whilia - which means Talking - is an album of both charm and beauty. Welsh without tears.'
Colin Irwin, Folk Roots

'Original, ambitious and modern... the album is full of great tunes... an important landmark in the renaissance of Welsh culture'.
Julian May, Songlines (voted one of the top ten new releases, Summer/Autumn issue)

'Redefines the very parameters of Welsh music... cooks like fury'
Mick Tems, Taplas

'An absolute treat... the songs hold one mesmerised throughout'
Mel Howley, The Living Tradition

'I first came across Fernhill when Folk on 2 played a recording of theirs a few years ago. I was immediately struck by Julie Murphy's beautiful, pure, evocative voice and my next encounter was at London's Barbican Centre. Fernhill played for free and I sat spellbound throughout the entire set. Although completely skint at the time, I compulsively bought their first two CDs 'Ca Nos' and 'Llatai'. I've never regretted it, having played them half to death and I feel honoured to be reviewing Whilia, their third CD. Fernhill are a highly individual and innovative band and they have a distinct sound which is uniquely their own. The only music I've heard that bears any resemblance to Julie Murphy's singing style, is on a very ancient and obscure French LP that I own. It features Francesca Daga singing with Pop Occitana. This may have something to do with Julie's French connections, as before adopting Wales as her home she spent some time in Brittany and was obviously greatly influenced by this style of music... Although there are only seven tracks on this CD each one is like a little saga in itself, often comprising several different songs and tunes. I do find Julie Murphy's singing extraordinarily powerful and moving (stuff to give you goosebumps) particularly on 'Song to the Siren'. I love all the tracks and feel they go together as a whole. I look forward to many more Fernhill CDs and hopefully I'll be seeing them live again soon.'
Cathy Smart, Traditional Music Maker

Recommended by Late Junction's Verity Sharp in BBC Music magazine

Italian review Keltika magazine visit digilander.libero.it/alfstone/fernhill.htm

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