Queen of the Rushes/
Brenhines y Brwyn

(independent, 2003)

"All the Celtic lands awaken, each one its tongue, each one its song...."
-Dafydd Iwan, Yr Anthem Celtaidd

It's unusual for Celtic musicians, at least in North America, to include Welsh traditional songs in their set, as Irish and Scottish tunes tend to prevail. But Wales, Brittany and other Celtic lands have their great songs, as well, to contribute to the Celtic songbook.

Afan, a band from the American desert state of Arizona, succeeds in blending the various Celtic strands. On Queen of the Rushes, the Phoenix band has brought together the various Celtic traditions of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany in a delightful mix. (The band's name, by the way, is pronounced "A-van" -- the letter "f" in Welsh is pronounced as in the English word "of.")

Afan's John Good, (alias Sioni Dda), hails from (where else!) Cwm Afan, near Port Talbot in South Wales, an area probably better known more for producing actors than musicians. His influence ensures that Afan acknowledges the real connections between the Celtic peoples across Europe. Good, who emigrated to the U.S. from Wales in the 1970s, has clearly not forgotten his roots.

Afan, who would not be out of place in a pierside pub in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or in any Celtic area, is genuinely fun to listen to, and this recording is sincerely likeable. There's some fine musical chemistry between Good (whistles and flutes), Billy Parker (mandolin) and Caven Clark (pipes). Clark also contributes on the harp, while Kevin King (bodhran) provides a solid foundation. All are accomplished, if not always spectacular instrumentalists. Vocals, though used sparingly throughout the recording, are in both English and Welsh (and some are macaronic: that's a Welsh tradition where the two languages alternate, line by line).

Although production values on this recording might not be of the very highest, Afan truly enjoys what they are doing, bringing a little Welsh "hwyl" (good fun) to the desert, and surely inspiring the drinking of barrels of "Cwrw da" (good beer) in a thirsty climate.

If you live near Phoenix, and have a little Celt in you, you will probably want to check these guys out live.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 1 May 2004

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