Jamie Smith’s Mabon Album Launch
St David’s Hall, Cardiff 17th November 2015
Jamie Smith’s Mabon album launch is tonight’s Roots Unearthed event starting with a difference before the first note with a complimentary drink as the crowds arrived. Jamie Smith’s Mabon, is Celtic infused contemporary sound that celebrates the links in tone and texture between the Celtic nations from Galicia in northwest Spain through Brittany in to the Cornwall, Wales, Ireland Isle of Man and Scotland. The music has a collective identity and form revolving around dance rhythms with its reels and jigs, but Mabon is more celebrating the Celtic languages and traditions which have been obscured within the mists of time.
The name Mabon in Welsh folklore is linked to Arthurian legend with a man Mabon ap (son of) Modron; but as with many things Celtic there is more than one interpretation. Mabon is also female Saint Mabyn in Cornwall whose day is celebrated 18th November halfway through Autumn and Winter equinox. In modern times Mabon has also been taken for the celebration of Autumn Equinox. The root of the name may be hazy, BUT there is nothing hazy about the quality of the music heard tonight, where we heard the whole of the album The Space Between and a selection of much loved tunes from this Celtic Welsh band’s back catalogue.
The five piece step on to the stage and the applause and cheers were full of the Capital city’s warmth delighted to be part of a special evening and the return of a favourite to level 3 at St David’s Hall. Jamie Smith’s Mabon bring originality to all their songs and melodies giving the band a distinctive worldly sound that has a bow in the past, a squeeze of the accordion in the present and a drum beat exploring the future. Mabon is Celtic inspired music that is not fixed in time or space. How do they achieve this firstly, the quality of the musicianship. Secondly, the interplay and timing creating tones and textures that keeps the ear in tune with the music and the feet tapping or dancing to the rhythmic shapes created. Lastly, Mabon is music that connects to your head and your body. Individually they are all five are masters of their instruments Upfront are Jamie Smith lead singer and accordion player of extraordinary dexterity; to stage left is fiddler Oliver Wilson-Dickson and Adam Rhodes on Electric Bouzouki. To keep these tunesmiths in order, tempo and shape is the rhythm section, Matthew Downer, bass upright and electric and percussionist Iolo Whelan.
Opening unsurprisingly with the title track of their fifth album, The Space Between the interplay between the fiddle and accordion opened the show with a Celtic infused sound. The story unfolds with lyrics that flow around the beat and adds another dimension to music. This is music that transcends ‘traditional’ Celtic music from wide-ranging cultures and fixes itself into its own space a blending and re-creating with love skill and understanding.
Much of the music is instrumental and the instrumentation lets your imagination go on a journey of celebration, sadness and wonderment as with Croeso Ioan a soft melody celebrating the birth of a baby. We move away from the album and the music has a Russian feel, and a tale that goes with it from when Jamie immersed himself in Romany music in Russia. The Tale of Nikolai, The Dancing Bear, is full of pathos mixed in with the dance inspired melody as it takes you to a land far away with its Eastern European musical cadences.
We had jigs and reels and traditional Welsh music people could not resist the opportunity to pick up the beat with their feet across the two sets, and plenty of opportunities to buy the album and chat to the friendly band during the break. At the start of the second set Jamie picks up an acoustic guitar for Returning from Where I’ve Never Been as the lyrics and melody explore the move from disappointment to a positive outlook and a mandolin added to the mix by Oliver, creating a sound that is acoustic pop proving that Mabon refuse to be pigeon-holed in the framework of traditional folk. We have the taste of Galicia with 48 in Ortegueira inspired by playing in a festival at 3 am in the morning. Inspiration form a trip to Brittany created a fabulous rhythmic instrument Go Kemper!, infectious with some jazz infused improvisations.
If I had to describe Jamie Smith’s Mabon to someone, they are like Bellowhead stripped down then restructured with a Celtic knot of tonal patterns. What you definitely will hear is strong instrumentals, songs where the words matter shaping a narrative that has a uniquely infectious quality.
The Space Between Album tracks heard tonight live.
The Space Between
Returning From Where I’ve Never Been
The Accordianists Despair
48 in Ortgueira
Drum ‘N’ Breizh