For many people, the reputation of Wales as “the land of song” probably calls to mind either a capacity crowd belting out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau at Cardiff Arms Park or a tuxedo-clad male voice choir emoting their way through Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech. And while I’ve no wish to denigrate either of these venerable musical institutions, the stereotypes do tend to obscure the reality of the flourishing and diverse music scene in Wales today. There are many fine musicians and singers who have made (and continue to make) valuable contributions to the music scene, not just in Welsh popular culture, but internationally – from Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, through the Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia, to Lostprophets and Goldie Lookin’ Chain. Alongside this is a well-established tradition of solo singer/songwriters: Dafydd Iwan, Meic Stevens, Cate Le Bon and Cerys Matthews, for example. But nothing stays still forever and so it is that there are always new voices to be heard and Lowri Evans currently finds herself in this category, despite having been making music for most of her life with a string of record releases since 2005.
On first listen, Lowri’s new album, Corner Of My Eye, is a relaxed and mellow affair, nevertheless it quickly gets under your skin. The summery feel and sweet harmonies of opening title track (and first single) Corner Of My Eye has already been played on BBC Radio 2, while Martin Simpson’s slide guitar (his first of three guest appearances) on Because Of You is judged to perfection.
Treacherous Heart is a keening slice of Americana driven by John Honour’s subtle percussion and Lee Mason’s Hammond organ with Martin Simpson’s resonant guitar to the fore. The spartan arrangement of Can’t Say For Sure showcases Andy Cutting’s accordion, and Nerys Richards’ well-placed strings allow Lowri’s heartfelt vocals to take centre-stage. Martin Simpson returns to the mix for Deep Inside, a tale of the vagaries of love with some nice harmony vocals by Lee Mason and Phoebe Partridge on an incredibly catchy chorus; for me, this is one of the highlights of the album.
Pizzicato strings and some flowing accordion embellish the slow waltz that is Hello Love, before the delicate fingerpicking of the folky Talk To Me floats in with Lowri’s clear and confident voice front and centre. Again, backing vocals by Lee Mason and Phoebe Partridge add depth and colour; it has to be said that the harmony arrangements throughout are a real pleasure to hear, they sit well in the mix, enhancing but never overpowering Lowri’s singing.
Easy And Slow continues the folky feel and is tastefully embellished by Lee Mason’s lead guitar while My Friend is a dreamy musing with lovely vocal harmonies from Phoebe Partridge. The lyrical quiet storm of Love Hate further explores the Celtic Americana idiom with a fine ensemble performance and brings the album to a natural and satisfying conclusion. Corner Of My Eye combines polished arrangements with a relaxed atmosphere; yet its hidden depths call you back for repeated listenings and give Lowri Evans the ideal platform to find the wider recognition that her music deserves.
Review by: Helen Gregory
Autumn UK tour dates:
October 17-20th SWN Festival, Cardiff Saturday October 19th Live session on Radio Cardiff
Saturday October 19th Bloomsbury Festival, London
Saturday November 2nd Fishguard Autumn Festival
Friday November 22nd The Senses Festival, Llandeilo
Friday November 29th Rhos y Gilwen – supporting Martin Simpson
Corner of My Eye is released via Shimi Records on November 4th.