Mabon Live at the Grand Pavilion Review

Live. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Wonderfully energetic Welsh group delivers a storming set.

Sid Smith 2010

Spend any time on the folk circuit these days and the chances are that only a few minutes will have elapsed before a tightly-drilled, rambunctious ensemble filled with absurdly talented players swings by. More often than not they’ll be blurring musical boundaries and generally having themselves a right old knees-up as they make a righteous, joyous racket. And here’s another one to add to the list.

Hailing from Bridgend in Wales, Mabon (the name means autumn equinox) are led by accordionist Jamie Smith, who not only has a jaw-dropping command of his instrument but is also an accomplished composer. On this live album, in front of an enthusiastic and supportive home crowd, his wonderfully energetic group delivers a storming set.

Though they cite a variety of pungent musical influences, Smith’s writing is entirely distinctive. On The Buck Rarebit he displays a yearning melodicism that builds an emotive tune without recourse to sentimentality. This band would be good whatever they played but when the writing is as smart, sassy and direct as this, the ensemble becomes really fired up.

With nothing stylistically out of bounds, drummer Iolo Whelan ensures the band can cut with ease from a traditional tempo into a swaggering backbeat that Led Zeppelin would have been proud to strut their stuff to. Flautist Callum gets his turn under the spotlight with the jazz-flavoured Mazurkas, while Matt Downer’s bubbling electric bass adds rhythmic impetus, often pushing the material into funk-tinged territories. Ruth Angell’s uncluttered fiddle lends a lyrical elegance but also ramps up the drama on Easy on the Reels, which brings the concert to a thunderous, mesmeric conclusion.

Coming with a bonus DVD of the band in cracking form at a gig on the Isle of Wight, as appealing packages go this is about as impressive as you could want.

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