My first encounter with You Were Never Much of a Dancer, the debut album by Welsh multi-instrumentalist Gwenifer Raymond, was almost mystical. I was flying over the Middle East, at 40000 feets above the ground, looking at the clouds formations over the desert, when the sound of Raymond’s guitar started playing in my earphones. In that specific moment all the sensory stimuli that I was absorbing carried me into a state of great excitement, it was like if the beauty of the music and the landscape, all together, were too much to be processed by my mind. From that moment on I feel a special connection with this album, which perhaps transcends the simple and objective beauty of its songs.
Gwenifer Rayomnd is a young but extremely talented musician, originally from Cardiff but now residing in Brighton, in England. His biography explains that she began playing guitar at the age of eight and soon become attracted to the so-called American Primitive Guitar, which is a characteristic and easily recognizable style of playing the guitar with the finger, that has become in all respects a genre of music on its own. American Primitive Guitar emerged in North America in the early 1960s and became popular thanks to the inventive ant the talent of artists like John Fahey, Skip James, Peter Lang and Leo Kottke.
In more recent times the style of American Primitive Guitar was revived by the great and incomparable Jack Rose, the prolific american guitarist who unfortunately departed – at the age of 38 – only a few years ago, and also Daniel Bachman.
And now, almost like a miracle, we have another great performer dedicated to this special and unique kind of music, a skilled interpreter and composer who brings with her the promise to achive a prominent role in the world of folk music. She is Gwenifer Raymond.
You Were Never Much of a Dancer is an impressive collection of instrumental pieces, mostly played with solo guitar and a few tracks with violin and banjo. Many different elements emerge from the songs of the album. First of all there is Raymond’s technical expertise. She demonstrates to be an incredible performer: the amount of musical lines that Raymond plays in parallel on the strings of her guitar is mindblowing. The sound remains always clear even in the fastest pieces, and we can appreciate also some inventiveness in the way she faces some critical passages. Another element of great value of this record, actually the one which made me fall in love with the album, is the incredible capacity that’s demonstrated by Raymond to evoke, with her music, thick atmospheres that are full of restlessness, anxiety and melancholy. In this sense the slowest songs played with the guitar (like Off to See the Hangman Part II and Sack’Em Up) are in my opinion the most successful of the entire LP.
You Were Never Much of a Dancer is a strong and powerful record which makes us feel the isolation, the folklore and the atmospheres of the Appalachian region. This is a must have for all the fans of folk music and guitar, but it should be generally listened (again and again) by all lovers of good music.
You Were Never Much of a Dancer can be streamed from Spotify and on Youtube there are videos of Gwenifer Raymond playing most of the songs of the record.