Allan Yn Y Fan, Belonging (Steam Pie, 2006)
Delyth Jenkins, Aros (Steam Pie, 2006)

Everyone listens to folk music from Ireland, Scotland and England, often in that order, but it is harder to come by Welsh folk music...yet, it still exists and here are two recent examples.

When I reviewed Allan Yn Y Fan's debut album, I wrote that I was looking forward to the next one. And here it is. Belonging continues the journey laid out by Off the Map. It is an album of instrumentals, with a slightly higher percentage of own compositions than its predecessor, often sets with two or more tunes. Slow, atmospheric sets are mixed with fast and boisterous ones.

I feel that the group has gained confidence and that the experience of having recorded before works to their advantage. This time they have the guts to stretch out a little more, and the overall result is very pleasing.

As with many instrumental albums it is difficult to pick out individual tracks. Instead I feel that it works very well as a whole. Recommended to those interested in instrumental or Welsh music.

Delyth Jenkins's album Aros is about as Welsh as an instrumental album can be. She is no newcomer, having played professionally for 25 years. This is her third solo album, with another two recorded with her first group Cromlech and three with her next group Aberjaber.

Jenkins plays what could be described as the Welsh national musical symbol, the harp, and she is an expert at the instrument, also giving workshops and teaching it to others. But she has had the good taste to combine solo pieces with more instrumented and arranged ones, using her daughters Angharad and Branwen on fiddle and flute, Peter Stacey on the tenor saxophone and the flute, and the excellent Welsh guitarist Dylan Fowler, though this time on Darabuka. Except for Angharad's fiddle, the extra instruments only appear on one or two tracks each, with the fiddle featured on six. These appearances create variation, although it is always clear that this is essentially a harp album.

There are quite a few highlights here, like the suite "Wild Wales" with four tunes Jenkins created for the play with the same name. And the title track, "Hir Pob Aros" ("Every waiting is long"), which starts off and ends the record, is a lovely tune, which runs on effortlessly like a small stream. If someone put words to it, it would become a classic song. In all a very fine album, filled with great tunes and lovely performances. Highly recommended.

Both of these albums are released by Steam Pie. Their Web site is located here. In conclusion: Two good CDs that prove that Welsh folk music is alive and kicking.

[Lars Nilsson]