Record Review: Osian Rhys “Autumn Shades Of Gold” 

Autumn Shades Of Gold is a remarkable debut by Welsh singer-songwriter Osian Rhys, a thing of grace, elegance and beauty.

Backwater Records – 13 December 2019

The release of the Autumn Shades Of Gold marks the recording debut of Welsh singer-songwriter Osian Rhys.  Produced by Richard Woodcraft, (Neil Young, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead) it will be released across a variety of formats.

Blessed with a disarmingly irresistible voice, the music presented across the four tracks in many ways defies categorisation, suffice to say that Autumn Shades Of Gold is a thing of grace, elegance and beauty, bringing a welcome warm breath of folk-psych air to the rapidly falling winter temperatures.

The opening track, The Ballad of Mr Withers, is, in essence, a waltz, albeit a foreboding waltz like no other.  The opening gentle guitar notes entice the listener in and before long one is enveloped and snared by the soaring strings which herald the chorus to maximum ethereal effect.  Each stanza presents an almost photographic scene, a device echoed in the official video release, created on Super 8 by artist Clare Marie Bailey, which accompanies the song.  Whilst the chorus melody and arrangement are tenderness and sweetness personified, this belies the somewhat dark lyrics

‘Lovers embracing on bridges

Her jumper lies about the bruises on her arms’

The next track up, Tour Of Bedlam, presents almost as a modern-take on plainsong, celestial layers of vocals effortlessly weaving their way, for an all too brief two minutes and ten seconds, creating an alluring, hypnotic effect.  If there is such a thing as ‘diaphanous sounding music’, then this is surely it, although, once again there is an intriguing incongruence between the music and the lyrics, the somewhat bleak words painting  grim dystopic pictures, in a rather stark contrast to the sound

‘Come stroll through the slum

A tour of Bedlam

See how we live

Behind the pain and misery

There’s a crumbling country’

Track three, or first track on side B of the vinyl, is a re-recording of Osian’s debut single, ‘Long Time Gone’.  The opening harmonica notes, sharply contrasting with what has come before, introduce Osian’s tender guitar picking and then his plaintive, soul-stirring falsetto, which builds to a powerful crescendo.  Almost prayer-like in its delivery, thanks in no small part not only to the lyrics, but also to the production and recording values, this song represents an excellent example of high-quality acoustic-song composition.

‘Lord, let me be pure

Lord, cleanse my soul clear’

The final track Summer Sheds Her Green Leaves Into Brown, with its piano triplets, is a monumental song in which the movement of the leaves of the title is perfectly replicated by the sweeping, panoramic orchestral strings, organ and harmonium before the final crashing chords presage the end of the recording.

Autumn Shades Of Gold is a remarkable debut.  It stands up to all-round scrutiny – the musicianship, vocal delivery and production all being of the highest calibre.  Primarily, however, it is its ‘listenability’ which places it above other offerings.  In the most complimentary of ways, and without trying to be too prosaic, this is one of the most ‘religious-sounding’ secular records I have heard, in the sense that the beguiling sonic aesthetic created here manages, at times, to move the listener to another level of consciousness in the way identified by philosopher Steve Robertson.

It is to be hoped that a full album is not long in coming.

Source: Osian Rhys: Autumn Shades Of Gold (EP) | Folk Radio

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