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REVIEWS of Neil's album "Scwîsbocs": (also available from Sain Records)

NEIL BROWNING - "Scwîsbocs" - Sain SCD2211

Neil Browning is in his own way pioneering, not just because this is a Welsh album using the accordeon, an instrument seldom associated with Welsh music, but also because it serves as a window on the instrumental side of a tradition that should be as widely known as its obvious Celtic relations. In Browning's words he's out to "release these tunes into the wild", a job he does with obvious aplomb and huge doses of flair.

Not only is he acting as an enabler but he plays just about every other instrument which ranges from bouzouki to crumhorn, offset by splendidly diverse settings, wigged-out space rock, strict tempo dance sets, easy listening lounge shuffle and even in the case of the closing Machynlleth trad jazz! A barmy, but wonderfully diverse recording which blissfully raises the same wayward drive which infects Rod Stradling and round here there is little higher praise.

- Simon Jones (fRoots)
[Scwîsbocs cover]

NEIL BROWNING - "Scwîsbocs" - Sain SCD2211

This is a deliberate attempt to produce an album of Welsh Music for the melodeon ("Scwîsbocs" in Welsh!) and is a varied and tuneful effort by Neil, who gives a very competent account of himself on his Hohner G/D and Salterelle C#/D "scwîsbocses" (is that the plural?). He's also able to demonstrate his considerable banjo skills- listen to "Y Delyn Newydd" (The New Harp). For English eyes, bilingual notes and tune titles are given and I'd say that for English ears, many of the tunes would be accessible to English box players. It's striking that this (technically) "Celtic" music seems more akin to that tradition than to the Scots and Irish, despite the "multiple overdubbed bodhrans" on "Y Hen Gwcw" - it isn't as bad as it sounds!

[pic of Neil]
"Iach I ti Gymru" (A Health to You, Wales) is a lovely simple arrangement of Neil's Salterelle treble side only and Paul Airey's tasteful guitar playing. "Ar Lan Y Môr" (By the Sea) is an interpretation of an old song-tune, very enjoyable in itself, if a little "mystically Celtic" a la Clannad. Tunes taken from old manuscripts seldom have immediate impact- maybe why they were forgotten in the tradition and there are a few here. Neil Browning doesn't shirk from imaginative treatment of "well-known tunes" and the album notes imply he doesn't take it all too seriously- a valuable quality in a box player!

I'm not sure what "well-known tunes" means in a Welsh context, but this is an original and thoughtful attempt to broaden a neglected tradition - there's no phoney nationalism here; the music is consciously Welsh and proud of it, all credit to those concerned.

Jim Bainbridge (Issue 37 of Living Tradition)

NEIL BROWNING - "Scwîsbocs" - Sain SCD2211

If, like me, your only acquaintance with Welsh folk music is "The Ash Grove," you must acquire Neil Browning's Scwisbocs right away.

Not that "The Ash Grove" is on it -- far from it. What you get on Scwisbocs is a varied assortment of Welsh folk tunes performed mainly on Browning's "scwisbocs" ("squeezebox," in Welsh phonetics). In addition to Browning's various accordions, plus a staggering array of other instruments including piano, fiddle and crumhorn, backing musicians include Paul Airey (guitar), Jen Walley (hammered dulcimer), David and Meg Browning (bodhran) and Kate Browning (clarinet).

From the first notes of the first track you start thinking "I know that! It's -- oh wait, no, it's ---?" If you look at the liner notes, you'll see it is a set comprising three Welsh tunes "Y Lili (The Lily)," "Seren Y Bore (The Morning Star)" and "Aden Y Fran Ddu (The Black Crow's Wing)." It's lively happy appealing dance music. Apparently, Browning chose many fairly common tunes, but if so, the uninitiated are doubly blessed in their ignorance in that the music is new to the ear.

Browning plays with the music on "Yr Hen Gwcw," a set of the tunes "Hen Ferchetan (Old Maiden)," "Nyth Y Gwcw (The Cuckoo's Nest)" and "Processional Morris," trying different rhythms and incorporating a variety of cultural and historical influences before it erupts into a full blow Morris dance. "Ar Lan Y Mor (By the Sea)" follows the exuberance, and in contrast, it is edgy with electric guitars and a slower melody deceptive in its simplicity.

Not all the music is traditional, as demonstrated in the track "Good Friends." The three original tunes sound true to tradition with a contemporary flair.

Scwisbocs is a good introduction to a branch of Celtic music that doesn't get quite as much attention as the Irish and Scottish. This CD is a delight from start to finish and should earn a place in any traditional folk music collection.

Donna Scanlon - Rambles,13 September 2003

"Neil Browning proves with this album not only that he is an excellent accordeon player, but also a multi-talent on more instruments than you can count with your fingers... Another great album from Sain Records - the amount of internationally yet unknown talent in Wales seems to be amazing..."

Michael Moll (Folkworld online magazine)

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