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Cwcan 04:30
Dwyn Dwr 03:38
Golau Glas 02:32
Y Cariadon 03:38
Cynara 03:50
Cwmwl Pluog 03:05
Dwfn 02:53


Never one to sit still, Carwyn Ellis is continuing his voyage into Latin Americana with the release of a new album with Rio 18, “Mas”.

Like its predecessor, the acclaimed “Joia!”, this album is a collection of songs sung in Welsh combined with distinct pop and South American flavours drawn from Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Samba and Tropicalismo styles, recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Caernarfon and London.

“Mas” feels strangely right for our times: an album whose title means several things, as befits its global outlook. “Mas” means “out” in Welsh, “more” in Spanish, and “but” in Portuguese: these meanings filling that single syllable with promise, potential, but also the subtle edge of a warning. It’s a mood that fits the more political tenor of Rio 18’s second turn around the world, as Carwyn and his friends explore some substantial subjects: the drowning of villages, climate change, migration and the rise of megacities. They do so not in sober, serious settings, but beautiful, uplifting songs. Other tracks also celebrate the vivid pleasures of love, nature and our essential humanity. Having recorded the bulk of the album in Rio de Janeiro in late 2019, the initial plan of finishing it off through 2021 and releasing in 2022 was quickly scrapped in March of this year when Carwyn found himself at home in Cardiff with time on his hands as COVID put a stop to all his planned sessions and extracurricular touring as keyboardist in The Pretenders.

As lockdown eased in the summer, Carwyn zoomed into Caernarfon to record backing vocalists Elan and Marged Rhys, then went to Shawn Lee’s studio in London to polish the production and the result is an album full of moments of joy, bouncing between musical styles from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico and back again. It’s there in songs like “Y Cariadon” (The Lovers), inspired by those moments when young people are tentatively, nervously starting to get together. It’s there in “Cwcan” (Cooking), a track inspired by King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Stew, where he throws in a pinch of guitar here and a half teacup of bass there, and the great conguero music of percussionists like the brilliant Cuban players, Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto. It’s there in “Cynara”, an homage to the legendary Brazilian singer and member of prolific girl group Quarteto em Cy, Cynara Faria: Carwyn is delighted to add he’s now friends with her on Instagram. There are also gentler songs like “Cestyll Papur” (Paper Castles) about someone Carwyn knew as a child in West Wales: “a man not given to the standard day to day routine who walked miles every day, carrying papers in plastic bags - the kind of person the world is only starting to properly understand, as we realise not all of our minds work in the same way.”

He also wrote a new song for the album, “Ar Ôl Y Glaw” [After The Rain], a “lockdown-flavoured reaction to the horrible swirling nastiness in America,” he says, after the horrific killing of George Floyd. The song talks of hope that we have to cling to after such horrors, its mood inspired by a YouTube clip Carwyn loves of Donovan and Sergio Mendes singing Donovan’s song There Is A Mountain together. Marged Rhys co-wrote it, Carwyn sending her the original demo and chorus, which she finished, he laughs, “unlike me, at lightning speed”. Carwyn Ellis put this most recent moment at the start of the album, which feels right, as it crackles with anticipation for the future. From the present moment, “Mas” then looks out: exploring our world beautifully without shying away from it, asking us for more faith and love, without forgetting the optimism and love we should hold firm in our hearts. Mas is a record of beautiful songs that says, wait, listen, delight, come together, then act. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, to our beautiful world.


released March 19, 2021


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Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 Cardiff, UK

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