Album release: 'Ruins/Adfeilion' by The Gentle Good
Release date:  14 October 2016
Label: Bubblewrap Collective
More info: Band Soundcloud

October  sees  the  return  of  acclaimed  Cardiff  singer-songwriter  and  folk  musician  Gareth Bonello,  also  known  as The  Gentle  Good.  A  collaborator  of  a  great  many  beloved artists, including  Cate  Le  Bon,  Richard  James  (Gorky's Zygotic  Mynci) and  Welsh  Music  Prize winner Georgia Ruth, Bonello’s fourth album Ruins/Adfeilion is one that’s title alone serves best to reflect the disparate themes within. Although not represented by a single concept, the songs have common themes of history, identity and social commentary. The title refers to a realisation that there is no true freedom to make the world as we would choose, but instead have  to  live  amongst  the  ruins  of previous  generations.  Some  of  these  ruins  are beautiful links  to our  past,  providing  a  sense  of place  and cultural  identity  for  instance, whilst  others are dangerous obstacles that hinder our progress.  

As  the  follow-up  to  2013’s Y  Bardd  Anfarwol  (The  Immortal  Bard) –  an  ambitious intercontinental project  during  which  Bonello  travelled  to  Chengdu,  China,  to  create  a project combining both Welsh and Chinese traditions - Ruins/Adfeilion looks much closer to home,  but  with  no  lesser  global outlook. Gwen  Lliw’r  Lili  (Gwen  colour  of  the  Lilly)  is  a fitting  album  opener  -  being  a  traditional Welsh  folk  song  from  the  Maria  Jane Williams Collection,  Ancient  National  Airs  of  Gwent  and Morgannwg (1844) –  and  an outward statement on the influence that the continuing influence of Welsh folk music on his writing. The guitar instrumental Un i Sain Ffagan (One for Saint Fagans), for instance, is Bonello’s own ode to his former place of employment, Saint Fagans Natural History Museum, and the spot where he himself first discovered traditional Welsh music. 

Many of the songs featured here pay tribute to the past whilst others address, in very direct terms, contemporary issues.  

Rivers of  Gold is  a  plaintive and  simple  protest  song  tackling the  subject of  trickle down economics, written in response to rising wealth inequality and the fact that it is the poor that have  had to  bear  the  brunt of  austerity.  Here  Bonello  channels Guthrie,  Dylan –  complete with harmonica solo –and there’s a touch of Stuart Murdoch in the lilting refrain “Rivers of gold / What a sight to behold / They’re the rivers that never will run.”In turn, Bound For Lampedusa tells  the  story of  Lampedusa,  a tiny  Italian  island close to  the Libyan  coast, noted  for  its acceptance of  thousands of  African refugees,  fleeing  conflict and  poverty.  The song was penned in despair at the lack of an appropriate response from both the UK and the EU to the refugee crisis, with the scale of some of the journeys taken perhaps reflected by the song’s near 7-minute length, as Bonello explains; “Thousands have lost their lives and many more continue to  risk  everything to  make  the  crossing in  search of  a  better life in  Europe. The song is told from the perspective of a group of refugees drifting in the Mediterranean, wondering    what    their    fate    will    be.    Seb    Goldfinch    wrote   the   string   and brass accompaniment so  beautifully  performed by  the  Mavron  Quartet,  and Jack  and  Callum provided  the  rhythm  section.  Profit  from  this  track  will be  donated to Oasis  Cardiff,  a centre  that provides  much  needed  social  services to  refugees  and asylum seekers in  the city.”

Elsewhere, Suffer   The   Small   Birds(a   deliberate   misquote   from   Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus)  makes the  political  point of  not  ignoring  the  little  voice. “The eagle  suffers the little birds to  sing  and is  not  careful  what  they  mean  thereby, knowing  that  with  the shadow of  his wings, he  can at  pleasure  stint  their melody.” Winston  Churchill is  said to have  used  the  quote after  World  War II,  his  attitude being that  they  needn’t  listen to  the concerns of the smaller nations, ultimately sowing the seeds for future conflict in the region.  

Tradition is then turned on its head for Pen draw’r Byd (The Far Side of The World), a song Bonello describes as  his “feminist  zombie  folk song”, saying; “This is  a  song  about  a young girl awaiting the return of her sailor boy. These tragic females commonly appear in Welsh folk song  and  their  role is  almost  always to  wander some bleak shoreline  and  helplessly yearn for the return of their lost love, who usually never comes back. I wanted to turn the tradition around  and so in  this  song  the young  lady curses the  sea  and wishes it be  left to the lonesome  cries of  the  seagulls. In  the  last verse she tells  herself that  even if  her  young love  should  return  from  the  dead  complete  with a crown of  sand and  seaweed in  his  hair she  would  still  beg  the  moon to  drag  the  sea and everything in it to  the  far  side of  the world.”

Album  closer Merch  y  Morfa  (Estuary Girl) makes  up  the album’s  sombre  lament  for  his late   grandmother,   featuring   a   field   recording   of   a   Curlew’s   fittingly   mournful   cry. Ruins/Adfeilion is  The  Gentle  Good’s message  to  world in  2016;  a  biting  commentary,  a dance with the past, a scorning of the present, and a new perspective on the traditional.  

The Musicians - Fiona Bassett (French Horn), Gareth Bonello (Lead Vocal, Guitars, Piano, Harmonium, Harmonica), Callum Duggan (Double Bass), Jack Egglestone (Drums & Percussion), Dylan Fowler (Mandocello & Lap Steel), Ceri Jones (Trombone), Georgia Ruth Williams (Harp & vocals), Tomos Williams (Trumpet) Strings performed by The Mavron QuartetChristiana Mavron (First Violin), Katy Rowe (Second Violin), Niamh Ferris (Viola), Beatrice Newman (Cello) 

Press reaction to date

**** - Mojo

“Spell-binding” – Uncut

“Relaxed but sturdy Celtic melodies.” – The Guardian

“Certain to glide into people’s sonic subconscious as gently and wonderfully as Gareth Bonello’s alias suggests.” – The Line Of Best Fit

“The Gentle Good, and its delicate, beautifully arranged songs deserve to reach a wider audience.” – The 405

“Unassumingly lovely.” – fRoots

“Exceptional.” – Folk Radio


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