Thursday, May 03, 2012


I last saw The Gentle Good as a five-piece band accompanied by a string quartet. Here Gareth Bonello, shorn of band, strings and even band name, was as sumptuously captivating as at Green Man Festival - even if the back room at The Castle Hotel is not as breathtaking as the Brecon Beacons. His six song solo set featured English and Welsh language songs, all softly sung, about lovers at dawn, burnt bridges and seafaring birds. The latter was from a forthcoming album based on the works of a Chinese poet and sung in Welsh. It may sound esoteric or specialist but it was utterly entrancing and instantly accessible. Bonello apologised for the length of time preparing for second song ‘Pamela’ but it featured an unusual tuning discovered when he dropped his guitar. A neat metaphor for the set – meticulous but spontaneous and filled with fresh discovery. Surprised to be saying it but I think I prefered these delicate songs without those string players tonight.

Richard James's recorded output may not be as erratic as fellow ex-Gorky Euros Childs but I have seen live performances of his that have veered from introspective folky intimacy to screeching rock melt-down. Tonight's gig followed the template of this month's album release however: quiet, exquisite finger-picked folk-blues, even opening and closing with first and last songs of that record ‘Pictures In The Morning’.

In this small room, the pain and the heart-break contained within them was starkly exposed but in a sweet confection of harmonies and gently interwoven guitars. The trio of performers, (Gareth Bonello returning on guitar and Andy Fung on hand drum) also gave us Welsh murder ballads ("everyone dies"), songs from the Pen Pastwn collaboration and hypnotic, almost Eastern, metronomic rhythms. For performers who already played a Marc Riley 6Music session and then got lost trying to find tonight’s venue, they were remarkably focused and assured. An evening of special intimacy and rare music-making that was a joy to witness.

The Set List:

All Gone
Baby Blue
Say It Ain't No Lie
Sun Instrumental
Shot My Baby Down
Familiar Roads
Cariad Y Wawr
Down To My Heart
Shake My Heart
Sinners And Movers
Wrth Y Llongau
Yes My Love Died

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