When dealing with folk bands that take as much inspiration from a pub jig as they do from modern pop tracks, there’s plenty to work with but sometimes it can fall into a weird mash-up that pleases nobody. Calan, a Welsh folk band, manage to avoid all the pitfalls of this genre by mixing things up and merging the traditional with some quick fire pop sensibilities.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than on the opening “Kan” which features the harp, the pipes, the fiddle, a spoken passage and a quick fire jaunty almost rap like verse. It walks that tightrope between genius and over thought and balances it perfectly because as its heart, it’s a foot tapping, head bouncing jig. This fluidity is what really elevates the bands work throughout the album. “Ryan Jigs” is a sublime Celtic themed instrumental that showcases instrument after instrument. Each one has its few bars in the sun before the track shifts mood and complexity to its next centrepiece. The shifts in mood are brought out in “#DeportationSelfie” which starts off like a little firecracker and concludes as an explosive fanfare of guitar, fiddle, drums and strings. Voice isn’t used throughout the album but when it is, it’s used to great effect. Single “Apparition” is a cracking track that merges Welsh and Irish traditional sensibilities into something you’d hear on the radio. It’s not quite world music, because things lumbered into that category often feel a bit surface deep. This track has more depth and a slight chill in its tale and chord progression too.
Calan can do ballads too as the sumptuous “Hayes and Quinn’s” shows. “Madame Fromage” is a fantastic track name (and a band name surely?!) and shows that mid tempo acoustic pieces are also a string to their bow too. The interplay between fiddle and pipe is excellent here.
Interestingly, the shift in tone happens at half way. For a Welsh folk band, everything til now felt very Irish but the Welsh side marches in for “Pe Cawn I Hon (If She Were Mine)” which is an afterglow electric guitar and vocal piece. “Yr Eneth Ga-dd Ei Gwrthod (The Rejected Maiden)” pushes things back to the folk side but you can hear the difference in band set up. The guitar and harp are front and centre and the violins are more naturally low in sound and as a support act rather than the main melody. This track also showcases the vocal talents of everyone with some great melodies. “Synnwyr Solomon (Solomon’s Wisdom)” continues this acoustic dream with a bittersweet track before the bouncy “Dennis, Polca!” introduces brass and a Russian Polka flair for an all round party track that would not be out-of-place in a Disney track. Closing the album are two opposite tracks. The harp and duet vocal “Yr Hwaingerddi (The Lullabies)” is absolutely beautiful whilst “Big D” returns to a more Celtic full on jam out session.
It’s been a while since I’ve been so enthused over a Celtic styled band but Calan have talent in spades. The album gives you the best of all kinds of folk music. The mixture of Celtic and Welsh styles fuse together well and you’ve a track for every mood. Time for a yard of ale mate!
Recommended Track : “Ryan Jigs”