Dyddiau Du, Dyddiau Gwyn
The three Hughes brothers were musically weaned in the small village of Rhos Botwnnog, on the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales, on a diet of Neil Young and Gram Parsons from their parents’ album collection together with a welter of traditional Welsh folk music. These influences bear direct fruit in their Welsh/Americana form of music that resonates with mystical wistfulness, and particularly in Dyddiau Du, Dyddiau Gwyn, their second full-length album. A stark poignancy is found in many of its lyrics, such as these lines, translated from the title track: Dark days and light days, they come and go like prayers on the wind. God knows what will become of us?
There are hints of 70s influences from the likes of Poco and the Eagles on this album as well as from English folk bands from at the time such as Lindisfarne. The slower, gentler tracks have a clear strength and beauty, with their delicious harmonies and echo-laden guitars, that enhance the plaintive quality of the Welsh lyrics. Track 4, “Gan Fy Mod I”, in particular, builds to a powerful harmony-laden crescendo before Iwan Hughes’ yearning solo voice closes the piece with quiet simplicity. The Welsh traditional song ‘Ffarwel I Langyfelach Lon’ also grows in intensity, featuring a rasping lead guitar break at the midway point that fits in well with the sombre feel of this lengthy anthemic number. Some of the mid-tempo songs are lighter in tone and contrast well with the Orbison-esque quality of the richer ballads.
Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog consists of Iwan Hughes (vocals, guitar, piano), Aled Hughes (vocals, bass), and Dafydd Hughes (drums), augmented by local friends and musicians – Euron Jones (pedal steel); Branwen Williams (vocals, Rhodes, organ); Llyr Pari (additional guitars). Production is by the multi-talented David Wrench, who has worked previously with a wide variety of artists, including Kathryn Williams, Michael Weston King, Bat for Lashes and Julian Cope.
Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog’s debut album Dawns Y Trychfilod was released in 2007 and topped the Welsh music chart for several weeks, with the band headlining several festivals over the next three years. The maturer Americana/Roots sounds of Dyddiau Du, Dyddiau Gwyn should gain a whole new fanbase for the boys from Rhos Botwnnog. A bigger and intriguing question is whether they can they translate their success onto a wider stage. Might they follow in the footsteps of their fellow countrymen Super Furry Animals, who scored a big commercial success in the UK, hitting the UK Top 20 album charts some 10 years ago with their Welsh language CD Mwng? They may not be aiming for such pop crossover success as the Furries, but the beauty and production quality alone should ensure that this album is heard and admired well beyond the confines of their home country.
(with thanks to Gerry Evans at TwickFolk for assistance with the Welsh)