Jamie Smith:”I have been singing for many years.” (Interview)

Jamie Smith:”I have been singing for many years.” (Interview)

Check out our column Huzzah! Featuring: Sue Aston, Leza Mesiah,  Carlos Nuñez and Solas.

Jamie Smith side view

Jamie Smith

The phenomenal Welsh singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Jamie Smith talks to The Celtic Music Fan about recording, performing and singing for the first time in an album.

Jamie Smith remained a mystery for years to the Celtic music circle. His accordion playing is electrifying. He possesses great showmanship when onstage. He is charismatic. With his band, they fill out venues as live performers. Late last year was the release of their much anticipated third album called Windblown. I noticed that they  are exploring new avenues of musicality.They also seem to posses that relaxed attitude in playing live and building their online presence to their listeners.

As a band, Jamie Smith’s Mabon captivated the imagination of everybody. They also brought with them the mystical sound of Wales. At the same time, they worked in fusing that sound with other styles from any Celtic nations.

As an individual performer, Jamie Smith brings something special to the music culture. I think it  is his passion and also the way he abandons himself to the music that he plays. This in turn gets into the audience and the sincerity of it all is the core of his artistry. He has a strong presence in the recording and live performance. It is hard to explain and you have to own one of their albums to understand.

 Before the end of 2012, we talked about creating this interview. At that time, his band was on tour so it was a busy month. But true to his word, he made it here.  So here he is, Jamie Smith!

Hi Jamie, your band formed in 1999 with your father Derek, Iolo Whelan and his brother Gareth. You must have learned a lot after being exposed to many live performance at a young age.What are the things you have observed in the Celtic music scene, in terms of releasing albums and performing the songs live?

One thing I have learned is you can always improve on what you are doing. It’s amazing to look back down the years since the early days of the band and see how we’ve gradually transformed over time. I think it’s important to keep moving or else you can stagnate and lose interest. Another thing I have observed is that the tracks the band likes best and are most proud of often aren’t the ones the audience likes the most! 

 The new album is a pleasant departure from the previous ones. You did vocals for the first time! And you made a great job singing. Your voice is such a fantastic instrument that can move between haunting deliveries to a more pop rock kind of style. Who encouraged you to finally take the mic? 

I’d been thinking about it for a while and my wife, Gráinne, gave me the extra push to actually go for it. It’s good to have new challenges and we’re looking forward to working on more new songs this year. I have been singing for many years, just never in Mabon. I have become more interested in songs within the Celtic/folk genre over the last few years, which is partly what led me to want to try writing songs for the band. 

How’s the whole experience making Windblown? Anything to share about your own experiences and also the quirks that happened during the whole songwriting and recording process?

Making an album is a strange and often obsessive process: you spend a long time working on it and constantly thinking about it, then when it’s done you quickly put it to one side and look forward to the next challenge. I’ve hardly listened to the album since we got the final copies back! We had some great moments in the studio and a lot of fun experimenting with overdub ideas, some of which made the final mix.

What’s your favorite track off this new album and why?

I don’t think I can pick out one track sorry! Something that has pleased me since releasing the album is that everyone seems to have a different favourite track. It’s fair to say Caru Pum Merch has got a lot of fans, because it sounds so different, but quite a few of the others have been singled out as favourites by listeners too.

If a young person asks you for an advice about the best way to maintain a creative working relationship with a band, what would you tell him/her?

Enjoy playing together and try to do it often! If you are all enjoying playing music together then it should be easy to be creative.

What do you like about being a musician and also being in a band?

I like entertaining people by playing music and being in a band is more sociable than touring on your own! Apart from the making and performing of music, the next best thing is getting to travel to so many different places both home and abroad.

 You are also part of Barrule which is an amazing band based in the Isle of Man. How do you maintain a balance between working with the Barrule project and JSM?

Barrule’s in its infancy still so it’s not too bad at the moment, although recording albums with both bands back to back was a mammoth undertaking. If it does become more difficult, at least that means we are all doing well!

What are the other talents you have apart from those we already observed?

I play guitar, but not in Mabon. I’m pretty good at whistling actually. Drives my wife up the wall though!

For more updates visit: http://www.jamiesmithsmabon.com/


Jamie and the gang will kick off their March tour and here’s the list: http://www.jamiesmithsmabon.com/concerts/





Welcome to the second part of this blog which is the chatty part. Yes it’s called Huzzah! Which is also one of the track titles in Windblown by Jamie Smith’s Mabon whose lead singer is our featured artist this week.  Yes yes I will talk about anything and be natural as much as I can. Now those of you who are following my facebook page have already seen this video by Cornish violinist Sue Aston. For those who are new to her music, she is actually based in Penzance Cornwall. She is both influenced by Classical and the folk music. What’s fascinating about her is that she writes and plays everything. She also runs her own record and media company. To quote American singer/songwriter Jim Wearne regarding this video: “Wonderful tune, and beautiful Cornish scenery, not to mention a Cornish fiddler who’s easy on the eyes. Celtic festivals? Are you listening?” Yes like Jim said are you listening festivals?

About the video: Dedicated to everyone who has lost someone special to them. Taken from my album ‘Inspirational Journey’ written for my Dad and Nan who I miss everyday. Sue


Four days ago I launched a discussion thread via Linkedin. I’ve been with linkedin for heaven knows how long and it became so boring I stopped visiting. Then, while perusing through the links four days ago, I found a group called Irish Music. Bam! Things just started taking off.  I now have a reason to go there everyday. I met wonderful people from that group includingvocalist Leza Mesiah. Here’s a link to her songs: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lezamesiah “The back story on my Ren ‘Character’ is your generic African Musician Princess living in Scotland, having fallen in love with a Scot.”She said.


Great news about the amazing Galician piper Carlos Nuñez

I stumbled upon this through his site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/feb/03/carlos-nunez-philip-pickett-globe My fascination with his music went back to early 90s when Windham Hill started releasing albums worldwide. Celtic albumswere hard to find at that time. But compilations made it possible. So my big thank you to Windham Hill and The Chieftains for introducing this amazing artist to me!


With Celtic band Solas making it on the same page as Beyonce just goes to prove that Celtic music is BIG in the United States  http://soc.li/CXRcSvD


So do you have any Celtic music buzz to share? Feel free to comment on the thread and post your own. Yes this is open for all and ideas are welcomed.  This is what I learned lately: When you are in the world of marketing(that includes independent musicians and writers) playing nice really helps. We don’t live in a vacuum. And we create things not for our self but for the audience. Being ‘accessible’ and ‘community minded’ do help. Good luck everyone 🙂


The Celtic Music of Asturias

Hello Celtic people. After a few days of rest, I am back to spin the latest news of what’s happening around in terms of music , concert as well as social networking sites these artists have. We can’t deny the influence of networking sites like MySpace and facebook in terms of music marketing. Gone are the days when artists had to tour just to get the music out there. Now, through YouTube, music video channels and even twitter , they can reach millions and court listeners. But there is a downside to this.

Though the internet is a good medium in spreading music, there is a huge competition that artists have to go through in order to be heard. Even amateurs with horrible stuff can make it out there. I am not really an expert or authority here but what I do is, I highlight bands and individual artists who are already generating the buzz. When this happens (the buzz), it means that these artists have already built a following and a credible sense of musicianship that set them apart from the rest. And yes we already have established and successful acts like Carlos Nunez, the Chieftains, Clannad, Altan, Ashley McIsaac, Capercaillie and Solas (among others) that make the headlines These headlines are important in keeping our community visible and alive. But it is also through these new acts that make all this writing about music all worthwhile, don’t you think?

Moving to Spain…..

You can now listen to the official Carlos Nunez MySpace page. You can check out pictures, latest news(however I warn you this is in Spanish) and also listen to the artists he is associated with. www.myspace.com/carlosnunezoficial is now playing tracks from  his latest album Alborada do Brasil (Sony Music). Fans in Morocco   can catch him this 26th of June at the Festival Tarab de Tanger . Here are the details(in Spanish) of his concerts taken from his official website www.carlos-nunez.com (the bottoms is the latest up to August at the top):


Metz – France

Parc de Seille 21:30



Neuchâtel -La Tène Festival – Switzerland

La Tène Festival
Grande scène 21:30
Neuchâtel – Suisse
+ info: www.latenefestival.ch



Gijón – Spain

Semana Grande de Gijón
Playa de Poniente 23:00



Pleuhiden sur Rance – Brittany

La Chapelle de Mordreuc 20:30
Pleuhiden sur Rance (22)



Íllora, Granada – Parapanda Folk – Spain

Parapanda Folk
Íllora – Granada



Festival de Cornouaille – Brittany

Festival de Cornouaille
Espace Gradlon 21:00
+ info: www.festival-cornouaille.com



La Seu d’Urgell – Spain

Claustro de la Catedral de Santa Maria 22:30
La Seu d’Urgell

venta de entradas:
Precio de las entradas: 20 € a taquilla // 17 € en venta anticipada.
Sitios de venta anticipada:
Turisme Seu (Avda. Valls d’Andorra s/n) 973 351 511
Turisme del Consell Comarcal de l’Alt Urgell (Passeig Joan Brudieu, 15) 973 353 112

Y, si no se agotan las entradas, el mismo día en taquilla desde las 21 horas en la entrada del Claustre de la Catedral de Santa Maria d’Urgell (C/ Santa Maria s/n)



Pollença – Spain

Festival de Pollença
Claustre de Sant Domingo 22:00
+ info: www.festivalpollenca.com



Santiago de Compostela (Special guest with Jordi Savall) – Spain

San Domingos de Bonaval 20:30
Santiago de Compostela

+ info: Lamentos e folías célticas, das fisterras atlánticas ao novo mundo
Festival Via Stellae www.viastellae.es

JORDI SAVALL viola soprano & lyra-viol
ANDREW LAWRENCE-KING arpa céltica & salterio

invitado especial :

CARLOS NÚÑEZ gaita e frautas

ENTRADA LIBRE previa recollida de invitación dous días antes do concerto no Punto de venda de entradas do Festival Via Stellae (Teatro Principal, rúa Nova, nº 21, Santiago de Compostela). 981565027.
Os posuidores do abono completo do Via Stellae terán prioridade para retirar a súa invitación a partir do martes 29 de xuño.



Tanger – Morocco

Festival Tarab de Tanger
Borj l-Hajoui 21:15

For a blend of Spanish folk meets world and Celtic is Aulaga Folk www.myspace.com/aulagafolk.

From Casas del Monte – Extremadura, Cáceres Spain, The band combines passionate acoustic guitars mixed with flamenco flavor and irresistible beat that borrows from all sources. Beautiful, melodic and distinctive, the music takes you on different landscapes and cultures yet distinctly Spanish. Band members are(In Spanish because I got this from the band site http://www.aulagafolk.com) :

Carlos:Percusión tradicional, flautas, cajon flamenco, pandero cuadrado

Javier:Guitarra flamenca, española, acustica, electrica, laud

Lourdes:Voz, percusión tradicional

Juan Carlos:Voz, flautas, percusión tradicional.

Enrique:Laud, bandurria.


Liber:Bateria, Kongas, djembe, percusión tradicional.

Tómas:Bajo electrico.

Jose:Violin, acordeón.

The music of Asturias….

According to this article The music of the region of Asturias in northern Spain has more in common with Brittany, Wales and Ireland than Spanish music from Castille or Andalusia. Traditional Asturian instruments include bagpipes, called the Gaita, the harp loom and Asturian drums.

Brenga Astur is Celtic music fused with Spanish influences.Laced with beautiful melodies , hypnotic rhytms and evocative voice of the female vocalist, here is your chance to experience the landscape, the people, the thoughts and feelings  that shaped the music. Brenga Astur is composed of 10 band members with two Asturian pipers, bouzouki, bodhran, flute, electric and acoustic guitar, accordion, mandolin, drums, keyboard, vocals and more. Cekc out http://www.brengaastur.com/ for details and updates. Information and pics courtesy of http://www.ndoylefineart.com/index.html

Llan de Cubel is a popular name in Asturian Celtic music . The band has released seven albums, the last UN TIEMPU MEYOR was released way back 1999. According to official website: During the last years the band has been making a big database with Asturian traditional tunes. The members of the band have been investigating old songbooks, field recordings by ethnographic groups, old recordings from the begining of 20th century and even recordings by Asturian exilées after the Spanish Civil War. The band has also been writing new tunes in the traditional style that together with the music compiled in the database will be the alma mater of the new studio work that Llan de Cubel intends to record and release in 2010. Please refer to http://www.llandecubel.com/ and for updates about the band http://www.llandecubel.com/concieng.html . No I can’t find their MySpace page but if you have the address, please give it to me and I will post it here.

CMF pays tribute the spirits of  Carlos Redondo and Igor Medio, members of the Asturian Celtic band Felpeyu, who passed away on 2006 from a car crash.

This is an article from World Music Central released in 2006:

Spain – Carlos Redondo and Igor Medio, members of Asturian Celtic band Felpeyu, died today in Zuya (northern Spain) in a vehicle accident. The group was traveling from a gig in Corvera (Asturias) to another venue in Barcelona. Felpeyu’s van exited the road and overturned. Two members died and four are severely injured. Firemen were called to rescue the injured passengers from the wreckage.

The untimely death of the two well-known musicians from the Asturias region of Spain has shocked the Spanish folk music community, specially the Celtic music scene.
Carlos Redondo joined Felpeyu in 1994. He played guitar, bass and lead vocals. He was the member of the band with more professional musical experience. He worked intensively as a rock musician, teacher, producer and sound engineer. He was mainly known in Asturias as singer and bass player of the legendary Asturian pop-rock band Los Locos. He got into folk music in the early 90’s by producing some Asturian bands; Felpeyu was one of them, and he joined the band right after producing its first recording, Felpeyu, in 1994. Carlos was born in Gijón (Asturias, Spain).

Ígor Medio had a heterogeneous background. He grew up into an atmosphere of choral and Asturian singing -which both his parents and family developed- and was also into classical music studies and blues/rock experiences before being introduced to folk music. As a folk musician, he developed a personal and eclectic way of arranging and performing Asturian traditional music. He played guitar and mandolin in the band, choosing the bouzouki as his main instrument afterwards. He played bouzouki, guitar -only on studio-, bass pedals, and sang lead and harmony vocals. Ígor was born in Gijón (Asturias, Spain).

Felpeyu recreates Asturian traditional music by combining both the Asturian orchestration and the more general and current Atlantic European types without losing its distinctiveness.

The band was formed by a group of students with similar musical tastes in 1991. Felpeyu initially performed at folk pubs and small venues. Later, it played at large stages and festivals in Asturias. In recent years, the group has performed at numerous international Celtic and world music festivals in Europe, Australia and North America.

Felpeyu has recorded four CDs: Felpeyu (Fonoastur, 1994), Tierra (Fonoastur, 1997), Live Overseas (Urchin, 2000/Tierra Discos, 2003) and Yá! (Tierra Discos 2003).

[Photos: 1 – Carlos Redondo, 2 – Ígor Medio, courtesy of Felpeyu].

From Asturias we go to Wales…

Mabon has started their UK with a blast. They have four appearances this month and 10 for August! Mabon is originally formed by Jamie Smith’s father Derek . The band has released two albums Ridiculous Thinkers (2004) and OK Pewter (2007). The beauty of Mabon is that the band infuses the influences from all the Celtic nations and yet making the sound distinct with Jamie shaping the musical path and doing the research. If you haven’t heard of them yet, well you can isten to the samples at  www.myspace.com/mabonband.  Here’s the list for their major appearances this month and beyond(See all here):

Sat 19th Jun 2010

Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival

Middlewich town centre

web: http://www.myspace.com/middlewichfolkandboat

Sun 20th Jun 2010

Village Hall concert

Village Hall
N. Wales

Details tba.

Sat 26th Jun 2010

Private Function

Sat 10th Jul 2010

Priddy Folk Festival


Headlining the Dance Tent.

web: http://www.priddyfolk.org

The Cranberries to Head the 40th Interceltique Festival in Lorient France

After a long public absence, Irish rock band The Cranberries will make a public appearance at the 40thInterceltque Festival in Lorient France. This is the band’s first in so many years since lead singer DoloriesO’ Riordan made a solo project. Scottish band Capercallie will also be appearing which will clear rumors that the band has finally parted ways. You can download the complete program on the link provided on the upper right of this site.


Here’s a video showcasing Carlos Nunez with The Chieftains on the beautiful Minnho Waltz.. This was shown at a Galician TV.


Carlos Nunez:When Galician Pipes Come to Brazil

There is a great deal of rich,melodic and rhythmic music in Brazil. This undeniably inspired Galician composer/piper Carlos Nunez to compose Alborada do Brazil released 2009 under Sony Music. This kind of musical direction is very much welcomed since I am also a big fan of Brazilian music especially of Juan Carlos Jubim. As we might be aware of, Celtic music is also making a wave in this country especially the harp revival movement. I gathered this a few months ago when I met a Brazilian blogger and musician who opened my eyes to this knowledge.

The album has 13 tracks of tango,samba and bossa music that you can simply crank anywhere. It is artfully crafted making it both an attraction to lovers of urban,jazz and even hip hop.There is also a great deal of natural  sounds.  The first track Alborada De Rosalia is a mix of funky loops and samples with Brazilian rapping around a supple, slick female vocals singing in native tongue. A few years ago there’s this trip hop band called Smoke City and this track reminds me of the band’s music.

Vou Vivendo is typically Nunez in his flute accompanied by a bossa beat. Play it in your car  while driving on the beach or just simply stretch on your easy chair and watch as summer moves  to greet the flowers and butterflies outside.

Alvorada De Cartola’s drum beats and a spoken word create a great intro to this piece that sounds like the Trios Los Panchos had just had a round of Guinness with Carolan in Galician fields. The male vocals capture the easy lifestyle and if you listen closely you can hear other sounds of people in marketplace. The only problem is that this is a short song around 2:23.

Nau Bretoa has a nice flute fused with the maritime flavor of Britany. Here we can here Carlos Playing his Galician pipe known as the gaita over other instruments. This one makes me get up and do some step dancing. Halfway we hear a male chorus chanting . This is how haunting music meets the carnival.

Gaita is sung in a way that Astrud Gilberto would. It has a kind fo  feeling that you get when you wake up in a sunny morning ,open your window and see this  view of an ocean stretch in front of you . The elegant  piano line is soothing.

Xotes Universitarios sounds like it has been talking out of a 60’s movie playing samba. There are dialogues sampled …perhaps students discussing about music with a professor.

Coracao Brasileiro is acoustic guitar driven with fiddle, keyboard instruments and flute around that silky female vocals. Gentle drums finish this off with a high note from Carlos.

In Y-Brazil we are once again greeted by the distinctive and festive playing of Nunez which I first discovered in his Galician Carol released by Windham Hill a few years ago. There is  again the presence of the Galician pipes in the foot- tapping tempo.

Ponta De Areia has this mournful feel of the Irish countryside with all pipes congregating .The harp adds a dream feel to this beautiful piece.

In Padaria Electrica Da Barra Carlos treats us to a powerful fusion of traditional and pop . The collage of electronic drum loops , sampled sounds, and male vocals make this song a candidate for top 40 music.There is this part in the chorus that chants ‘Galicia, Glalicia’… And I know how enthusiastic it can get!

Maxie De Ferro is a piece that could have been played in a movie like Casablanca. The piano in this track is simply exquisite.The syncopated snare drums, wood winds and happy tempo just take the blues of a long day away.

Feira De Mangaio is a sad melody  riding in a happy tempo. This reminds me of being along in a windswept sunny countryside. Bosa and Celtic music has never been this good. Great saxophone and Spanish guitar too.

The last track Assum Preto, Asa Branca another mournful tune embellished with gossamer guitar ,accordion and a melody that cries for aother glass of wine.

Though this album is a fusion between two musical cultures Carloz Nunez has a style that is so distinctive that even if he plays heavy metal or rap, you’ll still know it’s him. This is a perfect soundtrack for spring and summer ….and life is a beach.

Spanish Celtic Music

There is power in letting go, the power in forgiveness… and in accepting that all beautiful things come to an end. There are times when I trust my pain more than my happiness. I think the first time I read the poems of  St John of the Cross I was shaking. The intensity of his writings shocked me.  I think nothing comes close to the beauty of  The Dark Night of the Soul:

Once in the dark of night
When love ignited me, I yearned and rose
(O stroke of sheer delight!)
And went though no one knows,
Leaving behind a house in cold repose.

In darkness all went right.
By secret ladders, in clandestine clothes,
(O stroke of sheer delight!)
In darkness I arose
Leaving behind a house in cold repose.

And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.

It guided me and shone
Surer than sunlight in the noonday blue
And lead me to the one,
The one I truly knew
Who waited with nobody else in view.

O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
A lover and loved one moved in unison.

And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.

And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.

I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.


As our thoughts turn to Spain, nothing comes close to the beauty of the music of Carlos Nunez. I came across this very interesting interview article  about this legendary Spanish musician.