It seems that folk is becoming increasingly perceived as something to be bolted on to indie music by earnest young guys in beards and holed cardigans. In these times when the mainstream music press appears not to know it’s arts from its Elbow and who try to convince us that Mumford and Sons represent something highly original, it’s nice to know that some people are not only keeping the more traditional side of folk music alive, but moving it forward with the respect that it deserves. I give you Mabon.
The drive of this Welsh instrumental six piece is formed with flute, fiddle and the accordion of band leader Jamie Smith, but the modern feel of the band comes as much from the rhythm, beats and stylistic non-folk leanings of the bass, drums and guitar as it does from the lead players. The result of this approach is a heady blend of familiar traditional flavours garnered from the Celtic fringe and spurred on by more contemporary elements so that amongst the expected jigs and reels the odd funky bass line, jazz dynamic or Jethro Tull-esque vibe creeps in.
It’s certainly a set that keeps you guessing, just when you have got them pinned down as ressurection men for yet another Celtic dreamtime, they take you off on a klezmerical jaunt, Polish mazurka or wistful, romantic lilt. Although the nature of Mabon’s music begins in a traditional setting it easily moves through both culture and time creating the kind of evolution that the genre needs. Folk music isn’t some museum piece to be garnered from the past Cecil Sharp style, to be peered at through glass fronted cases and placed on a pedestal, it’s a living entity and this is exactly the sort of process it needs to be treated to, ensuring it represents the present as much as drawing on it’s heritage.
And although the title on the front of the CD is Live at The Grand Pavilion, it comes with a DVD of a different show around the same time. The great thing about this inclusion is that it neatly captures all the virtuosity and energy that the band has to offer live. If you are looking for a worthy successor to bands such as The Oysterband, Wolfstone or The Rattlers, those great acts whose music straddles the divides and appeals to both progressive and traditional folk camps, then you need to look no further, make sure you catch Mabon soon.