HUW WILLIAMS Brilliant originality – that’s Huw! - by Mick Tems
(review of Llantrisant gig 2015)
It was a full house for Huw Williams, and rightly so. The man is a brilliant songwriter, champion Eisteddfod clog-dancer, adventurous guitarist, bizarre storyteller, Welsh bagpiper, manager of Cool Cymru ambassadors Calan and erstwhile half of a duo with Tony Williams, who conquered the folk clubs and concerts of Britain before they decided to ‘retire’. Huw dropped out of the folk-club scene for a long time; however, he was a vital member of the Welsh supergroup Crasdant for many years, and he maintained his prominent profile by tutoring and teaching clog-dancing at trac workshops.
He took the decision to return as a solo artist, and now he is a sought-after and highly-respected musician who can hold the audiences of both folk clubs and festivals spellbound and smiling.
Huw tells his fascinating and funny story of how an unemployed Brynmawr teenager became a prominent songwriter, with famous folk artists such as Fairport Convention and Calan queuing up to learn his material. His patter is that it was just pure luck that got his songs noticed; but his highly-original and utterly mesmerising repertoire spoke much more than that. He waded in and hooked the audience with the Huw and Tony favourites ‘The Flanders March’ and ‘People Of The Heavens’; you could hear the crowd singing those old familiar songs in harmony.
But Huw’s compositions do not date, and he inspires and enchants the folk world by writing new material to this day. The punters must have heard the songs time and time again, but there are still new delights to discover and savour. Calan have recorded his latest penning, ‘Giggly’, and he polished up and delivered ‘Giggly’ and stamped it with his own special style. Geoff Cripps has worked hard and long in promoting folk in Wales, but the public does not give him the recognition he deserves; however, Huw made sure of that when he saluted Geoff for recording the first Huw and Tony album and the follow-up for his fledgling Steam Pie label. The reason he became Calan’s manager was his daughter Bethan, who plays exciting accordion, sings lead vocal and clog-dances for the band; Huw threw in a gorgeous little number showing his love for this little child, soon to blossom into a grown woman and a cracking musician. He even added a clog-dance in his inimitable style, the old North Wales ceremonial dance ‘Cadi Ha’ to his own unaccompanied singing.
The audience stayed on to Huw’s final set, which was a measure of his well-crafted and finely-honed songs, each one an absolute belter. Many songwriters could take a lesson from his brilliant chord progressions and his thoughtful and entertaining lyrics, but his magic touch just about seals it and cajoles the listening public to come back for more – and more and more.
Jonathan Nicholas is an acoustic blues musician hailing from the industrial heartlands of the South Wales valleys. With a passion for playing Delta Blues from a young age starting after hearing Robert Johnson for the first time He has immersed himself in the Delta culture. Having mastered the playing style and with guitars from the 1920s and 1930s he is able to produce a sound as authentic as you could wish for in any Juke Joint.
Merlin's Beard was founded by Alice Day in 2014 so that she and her family and friends, who had been folking around together for many years, could give something back in the way of entertainment. All of the group are from the Carmarthen area and have been/are part of the Welsh folk dance group Tipyn o Bopeth, with whom they have danced throughout Europe. In Merlin's Beard, they now focus on the clogging tradition and like to sing and play music too whenever possible, though not yet all at once. The group has previously had outings at Pontardawe Summer Fest, Lowender Peran and Cwlwm Celtaidd, and also runs twmpaths.
FAKE THACKRAY (John Watterson)
The LOST Will and Testament of Jake Thackray by John Watterson
‘A hilarious and heartfelt celebration of the life and songs of one of this country’s finest and funniest wordsmiths. Highly entertaining whether you are discovering Jake for the first time, or an ardent fan.’
The late Jake Thackray is being increasingly acknowledged as one of the greatest English songwriters of the twentieth century, a unique talent, whose songs are full of poetry, wit, irreverence and humanity. His intelligent and hilarious lyrics, talent for storytelling, clever wordplay, occasional, artful use of vulgarity and surreal imagination delighted many viewers and outraged some. Since his death in 2002 there has been growing recognition of his genius and a resurgence of interest in his work. His admirers include Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner, Don Black, Thea Gilmore, Cerys Matthews, Benjamin Clementine and Neil Gaiman.
John Watterson is the UK’s leading performer of Jake’s songs. As Fake Thackray he has toured with Fairport Convention and performed at Latitude, Cropredy and the Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. He has also played for Jake’s family and appeared on Radio 4’s ‘Great Lives’. For the past three years John has been researching to write the first biography on Thackray, with the help of Jake’s family, friends and fellow performers. In the course of this research, John has uncovered 15 wonderful songs written by Jake but never released - some have lain forgotten in the BBC archives for decades, others found in Jake’s personal papers haven’t ever been heard. These songs, along with never-before told stories from the biography research plus several much-loved Jake classics, feature in John’s new show.
The ‘lost songs’ span two decades of Jake’s writing. They take a wide variety of approaches: comic songs from Braden’s Week (The Ferry Boat, When Lucy Comes), topical ‘point numbers’ about items in the news (The Municipal Workers’ Strike and the startlingly direct and political God Bless America) and songs written as jokes for family and friends (e.g. the surreal Our Dog and Tortoise, two children’s songs such as only Jake could have written). You will also find here serious, mature masterpieces from later in Jake’s career, the songs of a true Yorkshire chansonnier, bearing the influence of his hero, the legendary French singer, Georges Brassens. The Bull is a brilliant, ballsy (literally!) attack on hierarchies, celebrity culture and pomposity. The Cenotaph and The Remembrance are astonishing and profound anti-war songs, and Side by Side, focusing on the tribal barriers people erect, could scarcely be more serious or relevant. Also included are what may be the last song Jake wrote (The Berm House – an eco-friendly love song), and a legendary, unfinished song (Kinnell), reconstructed from Jake’s manuscript.
‘We are so pleased that Dad’s work lives on through John’s brilliant performance’.
‘John Watterson’s joy in performing Jake’s wonderful songs is obvious. My dear friend Jake was a modest and shy man, but I think he would be quietly grinning in approval… a wonderful celebration of the life and work of a unique and sadly missed artist.’
‘Long may John continue to keep Jake’s memory alive so skilfully’
Sir Richard Stilgoe
‘Brilliant! We can’t have Jake back but this is the next best thing’
‘Wonderful stuff. If Jake was right, and there really is an afterlife, he'll undoubtedly be looking down and giving his gruff approval.’
‘BouZaTina’ combine their love of iconic popular and traditional ballads with their passion for traditional Irish music. They have been described as performing ‘inventively interpreted songs from well-known names, interspersed with lively Celtic tunes - an unusual, but surprisingly comfortable mix!’
'BouZaTina' are multi-instrumentalists Val Marciandi and Keith Whiddon, showcasing Val’s beautiful voice accompanied by Keith’s unique bouzouki style. The name 'BouZaTina' is a combination of their main instruments: Bouzouki and Concertina.
Living in Bishop’s Castle in the South Shropshire Hills, as well as performing as a duo, Val and Keith form half of the traditional Irish band 'The Flying Toads' and play regularly at festivals and venues across Holland and Germany as part of the Dutch Celtic band ‘The Wild Geese’.
Glais Rugby Football Club
609, Birchgrove Rd.
Glais, nr Clydach
Swansea SA7 9EN
01792 425231 01792 425231 Enquiries
01639 633611 Bookings
(See contacts page)