The veteran Welsh band Mojo checked in last year with its first album in a decade. This one is in the folk-rock tradition and is a very lively and professional production.
Mojo is Bedwyr Morgan (vocals, guitar) and his brother Tudur Morgan (bass, vocals), also the main songwriters and producers. Bandmates are Peter Elias Jones (drums), Simon Barton (percussion), Ken Jones (synth) and John Williams (keyboards). There's also some wild sax by Keith Donald.
Ardal is Mojo's fourth Welsh-language album and fifth in total. (Their first record was reportedly the last vinyl LP made in Wales.) It crosses over enough ground that it should also achieve some popular success. Other than the use of a Celtic language -- and some Celtic themes -- there's not much here to suggest the many Celtic connections of this group; it has rather more of a West Coast (U.S.) feel.
There's nothing not to like about the first five tracks, which come out in a burst of energy, unless of course you don't have a pulse or don't like music. Yes, it's commercial enough to be played on the radio, but it's just darn good, full of superb licks, fine vocal harmonies and memorable hooks.
"Gau ydy'r gwir" is probably the most memorable track; one that sounds happy and upbeat, at least if you don't speak any Welsh. The theme is a bit more ominous though, more or less: "what's happening around here, and how do we distinguish the truth from lies." Another fine track is "Angel y Wawr (Angel of the Dawn)" written for the wives and children of the band members.
Mojo does not maintain this pace through the 10 songs on the disc; there's some variety such as the more balladesque "Cofnod Cyfnod." The various pieces fit together nicely, with the artistic ethos harkening back to the 1970s, but the sound very contemporary at the same time. Jackson Browne and the Eagles come to mind, but that's not exactly a fit either.
The songs are mostly love songs spiced with a bit of politics, including a tribute to Tryweryn, an iconic and sad moment in Welsh history when a Welsh-speaking community was destroyed to make way for "progress" in another country. On another track, the Morgan brothers pay a tribute to their grandfather, who emigrated to Manitoba, and their father, who came back to Wales.
Overall, this is a solid disc by veteran musicians in the folk-rock idiom.
24 November 2007