Cerys Matthews- Cock A Hoop

Those lovely Welsh tones, how we've waited to hear them again if just for one more time. Cerys Matthew's voice seduces you from the outset and while there was always a plethora of Welsh Men waiting to take the crown from Nicky Wire as the true Prince Of Wales there was never any competition for Cerys as our Princess. Individual and with all the flaws of a real princess the last two albums Catatonia released, "Paper Scissors Stone" and "Equally Cursed And Blessed", were recorded during a period of alcohol abuse and never could match the heights of their breakthrough album "International Velvet".

"Cock A Hoop", produced by Bob Dylan's steel guitarist Bucky Baxter and recorded in Nashville, marks a shift from her old band and is propelled by her love of Welsh folk music. As a fan of bands such as Gorkys Zygotic Mynci it's not so far removed, but for fans of Catatonia it may be a shock to hear Cerys in such a different musical setting. "Caught In The Middle" and "Only A Fool" show that Cerys still retains that pop sensibility which produced the hits "Road Rage" and "Mulder and Scully". The latter, still after repeated listens, my heart melts whenever she sings "You're my black and my white....Oh I need you like I need salt in my water. Salt in my wounds, but I stay".

Although the album features a number of cover versions "Chardonnay" by Robert Cook" and "Weightless Again" by The Handsome Family) it's her own material which really excels. The low key ballad "Gypsy Song" is credited as a co-write with the departed Joe Strummer and in this live recording it allows the song to breathe. "If You're Looking For Love" is built around a Sax motif and brings to mind those classic sing along scenes from seventies movies that always occurred just before impending danger.

It feels as if she's never been away, but "Cock A Hoop" proves that Cerys is well and truly back. There's a timeless quality to the album which will ensure that he debut solo album may have much more of a lasting effect that her previous band. It will certainly be interesting to see how she works the songs live when she goes on tour next month, but you get the feeling that for most people a voice and guitar would be good enough because whatever genre she turns her hands to it's always the voice that shines through regardless.

Alex McCann

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