I've said it before, but this time I'll claim it without trepidation : Welsh music is happening!
I've watched every programme in the last series of Jools Holland and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the proliferation of very ordinary acts. Imelda May from Ireland may have been retro but was always thrilling and I enjoyed the dark but vibrant country of Hurray For The Riff Raff (a band which unintentionally plugs one of Loach's best films!).
However, not one Welsh act featured, not even regulars the Stereophonics.
Some may say - 'Well, there's not a lot out there, is there?'
Except......there's a plethora of talent!
Like literature and art (everything but world class footie players, in fact) Cymru just doesn't come into it.
But maybe it's time to stop moaning about the London-based media and simply celebrate.
In terms of bands we have three of the very best - like the era of Gorkys, Manics and Supper Furries - these being The Joy Formidable, Future of the Left and Paper Aeroplanes. Like the days of Cwl Cymru, these represent north, south and west of the country.
While average groups on the London scene such as Vampire Weekend and London Grammar gain all the plaudits, these three offer so much diversity and originality.
While 'Wolf's Law', The Formidables second album doesn't quite match the spark of their first , there is still enough to excite. It opens powerfully with 'This Ladder Is Ours', but I was most impressed with the songs which stepped outside their characteristic driving rock. 'Silent Treatment' showed why they chose to cover Roy Orbison's 'It's Over' on a previous e.p. and 'Forest Serenade', 'The Turnaround' and the well-hidden title track, all prove there's so much more to the band, with poignant melodies and ever-intriguing lyrics.
They hail from Y Wyddgrug/Mold and are due to release a series of e.p.'s in Welsh. The cover of one ,' Tynnu Sylw', is to be created by Merthyr artist Gus Payne.......I'm really looking forward to these.
Cardiff's Future of the Left also branched out in their latest offering 'How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident'. While they maintain the bass-powered , raw sound and often surreal humour, there are interesting departures.
The half-spoken, half-sung 'French Lessons' is actually a gentle song and 'Why Aren't I Going To Hell?' packs the spirit of Beefheart.....the most iconoclastic band since Datblygu.
They're unique and very funny and would probably make Jools swallow his immaculate suit and spit it out.
Milford Haven's Paper Aeroplanes reflect the west coast sound, with words about coast and sea just like Gorkys. Based around the harmonies and song-writing ability of Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn their latest album 'Little Letters' is full of melancholy and songs about relationships, often failed ones. The exception is 'When The Windows Shook' an environmental song about their home town which manages to understand both sides of the story.
Theirs is a folk-rock to rival the wonderful Thea Gilmore, with mood and tempo varied so subtly and words which are never sentimental.
The Welsh language scene matches the one in English and, as with literature (writers like Jon Gower, Gwyneth Lewis and Graham Davies) some of the acts record bi-lingually.
9Bach have just released their first album on Peter Gabriel's Real World label......Welsh language music becoming 'world', and why not?
Once a straightforward folk band, they now explore an area of trip-folk which really suits the vocals of Lisa Jen. I love their combination of the traditional with echoes of Portishead and Massive Attack.
They have given a re-birth to the harp , as has Aberystwyth's Georgia Ruth. She moves freely from English to Welsh on 'Week of Pines' with traditional and country influences and the imagery of Aber prevalent.
Merthyr alone boasts three Welsh language singer-songwriters , all of whom also sing in English at times. They are very distinctive performers, with Jamie Bevan singing about the town and its characters, Kizzy Crawford (still only 18!) moving more into jazzy interpretations and Delyth McLean with a voice which can soar to mountain top then drop to valley bottom :her new e.p. 'Lost in Sound' promises to show off this wide range.
All this and I haven't even mentioned the astonishing Gruff Rhys with his concept of 'American Interiors' (album, film and book) which shouldn't work, but absolutely does : it's so funny, quirky and moving.
Amazing times for Welsh music........but is anyone listening?
WE CAN SING
All the Big People walk past us
ignoring us on their way somewhere else.
We're on the margins,
busking, selling magazines or juggling.
We can sing or recite a verse
and they might turn heads to listen.
We're glad of a few coins
dropped into our cloth caps.
At night we sleep under bridges,
in empty car-parks, hidden doorways.
We wrap ourselves in the flag,
but it's no woollen blanket.
The Big People meet to discuss
what to do with us :
need us there as a warning;
our questions disturb their success.