‘John ac Alun’ release their first collection of new songs for 10 years
It’s 10 years since John and Alun released their last album, and as the title suggests, this release has been hotly anticipated. The reason for this delay was partly to do with their desire to shape every aspect of the work, including the choice of songs, their interpretation and the type of production that would best suit each song.
The recording took place in Alun’s own home in Tudweiliog, across a period of two years. Alun is also responsible for most of the arrangements on this record.
As John explains, “it was great to be able to drop by every now and then to listen to the tracks and to record the occasional vocal – and to do so in a relaxed atmosphere, over an extended period of time.” John Williams from Bangor was responsible for the piano and keyboards on the album, whilst he also contributed many great ideas for the songs.
“I already had a song called ‘Merch y Dre’, and we’d performed it live many times” says John. “So that was a start, but we needed more songs, so I picked up the phone and spoke to several songwriters including Alun ’Sbardun’ Hughes. Fair play, he sent me a wonderful song with the title ‘Hir a Hwyr’. We’re pleased to say that ‘Sbard’ heard the song before he passed away recently, and he was delighted with the finished product.
Generally, this record leans less on their country influences and moves more towards a mixture of acoustic and rock styles. According to Alun, this change of emphasis is partly due to their desire to have a greater flexibilty in expressing the nature of each song and also the influence of their radio show ‘Rhaglen John ac Alun’ on Radio Cymru. “The programme has helped us listen to new material and to expand our horizons” says Alun, “but also to appreciate the need to develope and to offer something different.”
Next year the programme will have been on the air for 20 years and it attracts an audience of 20,000 or more every week. John and Alun are keen to showcase the talents of old and new artists and whilst the show supports the relationship with their own audience, it also provides an opportunity for them to forge relationships with the latest generation of Welsh musicians. “It’s great” says John, “that ‘old stagers’ such as us can share a stage with young bands.”
This is exactly what will be happening during ‘Taran Tudweiliog’ on the 13th of August. “This will be the 4th year” says Alun, “and it’s a pleasure to see many of the young people recognising our songs and singing along with us!” John and Alun will also be performing on Sunday afternoon, the 28th of August, at the Copperfest in Amlwch, before they go over to the BBC in Bangor for their live radio show. “This will be the first opportunity for us to play the new material with a full band” says John, “and I’m realy looking forward to it.”
The official launch of the album will be in Y Galeri, Caernarfon, on Septmber the 9th, where John and Alun will be sharing a stage with Gethin Vaughan and Glesni Fflur. Glesni also provides some wonderful backing vocals on the new album.
The list of other co-writers on the record is a very impressive one, including Eurig Wyn, Myrddin ap Dafydd, Idris Charles, Emyr Huws Jones, Geraint Davies and even the iconic Welsh poet Nantlais. Alun’s arrangement of the hymn – ‘O’r fath gyfaill ydyw’r Iesu’ is a translation by Nantlais of the famous English hymn – ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’.
“Whilst the process has been slow and difficult at times, it’s been an incredible experience” says Alun. “This collection reflects where we’ve have arrived musically – today. Our greatest hope now, is that it is well received and that our audience enjoy listening to the new songs!”
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