JAMIE SMITH’S MABON
Roots Unearthed, Lefel 3 Lounge, St David’s Hall, Cardiff: November 17, 2015
It was an album launch party to end all album launch parties – and still the punters crowded in to cheer, sing, clap, dance, whoop and wish The Space Between every success. Jamie Smith’s Mabon had made the arduous six-hour journey from Colchester, braving Storm Barney most of the way as they drove home to South Wales in begin a Welsh mini-tour, before heading off to southern England and Penzance in Cornwall to plug the new CD once again.
But the band made a magnificent move when they decided that Roots Unearthed and the Lefel 3 Lounge should be the venue to launch the album. Jamie Smith’s Mabon were on their prestigious home ground, and they looked absolutely delighted as they bounded onstage and powered into the title song, with Jamie on lead vocals and flowing accordion. ‘The Space Between’, written by him, is a lonely cry of a musician who keeps touring and touring, and desperately missing his loved one and family. Oli Wilson-Dickson’s dancing fiddle was the perfect foil for Jamie’s acrobatic keyboard style, while Adam Rhodes’ adventurous bouzouki, Matthew Downer’s incredible electric and upright bass and Iolo Whelan’s inspiring percussion support and carry Jamie all the way. This is an awesome band to be reckoned with; Jamie Smith’s Mabon can hold their heads up and stand amongst a thousand rock, jazz and folk/roots combinations, and still come out on top.
Jamie is a brilliant, breathtaking accordionist and a prolific genius at composition. His storming tunes resemble a strong classical influence and melody lines that are brimming with good ideas. ‘Frank’s Reels’ are Jamie’s present to his little son; what starts off as a doomy four-square tune suddenly resolves itself into a number of glittering reels which easily test the musicians’ dexterity, finally ending six glorious minutes later in a furious climax. ‘Croeso Ioan’ is a complicated, syncopated fiddle-and-accordion-led delight, while the delicate ’48 In Ortiguera’ immediately transports the audience to the northern shores and estuaries of Galicia. ‘Go Kemper!’ resembles a Breton kost a’r choat, and Jamie transformed the dance into a stunning, exciting experience. ‘Drum ‘n’ Breizh’ is sheer heady Celtic joy – imagine hordes of drink-fuelled young Bretons crowding the floor in one of those chain-dances and, to coin a phrase, giving it dap.
Iolo is a little overshadowed by Jamie’s enormous composing talent, but he has written two beautiful, great songs; the band performed ‘Curu Pum Merch’, from the last album, Windblown, and Jamie sang ‘Yr Ennyd’ (The Moment) – the slow build-up is dramatic and so stunning. The inevitable encore came when the band saluted and thanked the fans – Sarah Smith, Jamie’s mother, amongst them. Oli and Jamie’s fingers were just a blur as Adam, Matthew and Iolo powered to a climax. There’s a video of Jamie Smith’s Mabon playing ’48 In Ortiguera’ – please watch it!