Album Review: Jamie Smith’s Mabon – Twenty Live!

This year saw the astounding musical maestro’s behind Jamie Smith’s Mabon release their latest album, Twenty – a live and raucous introduction to their phenomenal sound. Naming themselves after the God of Welsh mythology, as you can imagine there is something incandescent and ethereal to their sound.

Twenty is a rich and affirming exploration of folk music that is as versatile and robust as the weather. Powerful and jubilant the album opens with The Ridiculous Thinker, a joyous springtime jig that will get your blood pumping. Demanding your attention the album progresses with steady speed and a soft and playful nature that makes their music so addictive. Their music is constantly growing and is quick to adapt. Frank’s Reels plays out like a miniature album in itself, starting out with a rumbling and aggressive sound like a thunderstorm but as the clouds part and the sun shines through once again the track lapses into a vibrant and jazzy number that brighten up your day no end.

Jamie Smith’s Mabon have a charming ability when it comes to stitching old and new together. Gently tethering traditional folk stylings from around the world and blending them with funky, jazzy melodies and sultry guitar riffs. This overlap see’s the birth of a stunning collection of melodies each with it’s own vibrant charm and tact. The album combines stunning fiddle pieces that seem to hark from the gypsy stylings of old and overlaps them with tunes which could have come directly from the local opera. Tunes such as The Tale of Nikolai, The Dancing are superb examples of the rich cacophony that the band create. Their tumultuous and unpredictable songs leave you constantly wondering where they are going next and what strange alley their track might veer off down. It’s an aspect that leaves you constantly waiting for the next big thing.

Atop all of this is the fact that the album is live. The first thing to hit you is the realisation that this set is precise and perfect. Not a note missed, not a finger out of place – each and every song sounds as though you are right there in the room with them. The second thing to hit you is the fact that when you close your eyes as the crowd claps and stomps their feet to the beat you join in with them and really believe that you are in the thick of it. The versatility and collaboration between these young musicians has made for some of the most whimsical and enthralling songs of 2018 that will echo in your mind for days. Astounding, unafraid and experimental, Twenty is one of the most stunning albums this year.

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Review by Joe Knipe

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