Not for the faint-hearted.
Chris Jones 2003-03-18
Its a crazy world where certain mainstream artists can, nowadays, release maybe one album in five years, work in one instantly recognizable (and utterly safe and marketable) genre and still consider themselves working musicians. Yet there are people who never stop working, collaborating and expanding their musical range, and can truly be regarded as consummate musicians. People like Dylan Fowler.
Fowler is best known as a guitarist, yet has mastered oboe, cor anglais and mandocello. He's released only two other solo records yet has worked on albums by Richard Thompson, Danny Thompson, Tina May, Dick Heckstall-Smith and has been a key member of influential bands such as Szapora and Frevo. And that's not to mention his wonderful duo CD, Black Mountains Revisited with singer Julie Murphy. Such commitment to music alone would make a mockery of any, more established, artist's output; but in addition, Ffynnon Ofor is an incredibly focussed and beautiful work.
Mainly centred on Dylan's stunning acoustic guitar technique, the album covers a vast range of influences and styles, but never appears arbitrarily flung together. Fowler's theme throughout is set out by the opening track, ''Another Songline'' - drawing lines between music of disparate cultures around the world. So, we get his take on folk tunes from Bulgaria (''Sandenska''), Lapland (''Gula Gula''), and, above all (naturally) his native Wales. Not only this, but his extensive travels and studies have leant him the ability to draw on just about any genre with ease. From the abstract jazz of Keith Jarrett's ''My Song'' to the homage to blues-rock genius, Peter Green (''Albatross''), Fowler never falters; never sounds out of his depth in works of startling complexity; and never, ever sounds like he's showing off. Quite a feat.
At all times Fowler's passion for his heritage (particularly on the stomach-churningly sexy ''Ym Mhontypridd mae fyng Nghariad'') and masterful attack makes the album far more than a peaceful 'Sunday morning background' set of nice tunes. This is music with heart, soul and, above all, a bullish determination to ignore recognised 'boundaries'. Not for the faint-hearted.