A beautiful example of modern folk-pop with equal measures of confidence and vulnerability...
Three years since the release of her debut solo album, 'Cockahoop' and Cerys Matthews returns with the follow-up, 'Never Said Goodbye', having just completed her first UK tour since 2003, which culminated with headlining spots at both the Cambridge Folk Festival and the Cardiff Big Weekend.
After an intro of shuffling beats and brash drums, as the vocals kick in to opener, 'Streets of New York', it's clear that in spite of her new Nashville home the former front woman of one of the most successful bands to have ever emerged from Wales still hasn't lost the Welsh accent that rocketed Catatonia to fame in the 90s, and there's still a curious innocence to Matthews' vocals that spills over into the warm sunshiny glow and cascading melodies of 'Bird In Hand'. 'Oxygen', however, takes you by surprise; despite beginning with delicate, rippling notes it grows into a powerful chorus, before morphing into a gigantic showpiece as Matthews lets loose with a final lung-busting chorus against a backdrop of big bass lines and hot brass.
'Open Roads' (the first single to be taken from the album and the track that the album's title is taken from) and the simply beautiful 'The Endless Rain' are both gentle and tentative songs, that exploit the vulnerable innocence of Matthews' voice with their wistful, thinly veiled sadness, interlaced with more delicate melodies. Meanwhile, 'Morning Sunshine' is an exciting and up-tempo track with strong, confident vocals and a powerful melody that blossoms to a huge finale before the shuffling 'Seed Song' takes root with a mixture of power and fragility in its decisive yet graceful instrumentation and often whispered vocals.
After the quick country-drawl of 'What Kind of Man', 'Ruby' (with its fast-paced drums and electronic beats) feels a little out of place, but its reassuringly catchy chorus reigns it back in and ensures its particularly radio friendly sound, before the lullaby-like 'Elen' finally brings the album to a close a satisfying close.
Seemingly a world away from the non-stop party lifestyle and excessive drinking and smoking that caused Matthews a nervous breakdown and a spate in rehab in the late 90s, 'Never Said Goodbye' brims over with organic natural imagery to create an album blooms and blossoms into a beautiful example of modern folk-pop with equal measures of confidence and vulnerability.