‘Tell Me World’ – Tapestri

5 stars (out of 5)


Here’s another project that’s been touched by the shadow of COVID. Lowri Evans and Sarah Zyborska met for the first time at the 2019 Festival Interceltique de Lorient after each had been gigging individually on the Welsh circuit for several years. It’s been a long flash-to-bang time for the project, but they finally got there and the end result is an album of rare beauty influenced by Americana, country, indie the opening song ‘Tell Me World is an uptempo nod in the direction of Belle & Sebastian’s ‘The Boy with The Arab Strap’) and Celtic folk. ‘Tell Me World’ is ten original songs written by Lowri and Sarah (eight together and one each individually). At the risk of sounding blindingly obvious, ‘Tell Me World’ is an album that sounds very Welsh (both Lowri and Sarah are bilingual and two of the songs have Welsh lyrics) and generally the songs have a female, or even feminist, perspective. The one obvious exception is ‘Workshop’, inspired by the contents of an old man’s garden shed, which serves as a metaphor for a place we can escape to indulge our creative urges.

The album’s a very delicate piece of work, ethereal, with a nod in the direction of bands like Clannad with layers of vocals and subtle, underplayed band arrangements from a group of musicians that includes Christians’ singer and keyboard player Henry Priestman. With a variety of musical stylings and lyrical themes that range from the intensely personal ‘She’s A Lover’ (about Lowri’s Mam) and ‘Genes’ (a clever play on words inspired by the birth of Sarah’s daughter) to the more socio-political ‘Waiting in the Background’ and ‘Crazy, Crazy Times’, there’s one constant; the beautiful vocals. Sarah and Lowri’s voices blend together perfectly whether it’s in simple homophonic harmonies or as a celestial choir.

The feminist perspective is obvious in the album’s second song, ‘Waiting in the Background’, which looks at the perceptions of women’s roles in various recent historical eras and highlights the fact that there’s still a long way to go. ‘Crazy, Crazy Times’ also has a socio-political slant, asking us to take responsibility for our own actions rather than just blaming it on a crazy world. At the other end of the scale, ‘She’s A Lover’ is a hymn of (mainly) praise to Lowri’s mam which has a Celtic country feel and features some delicate pedal steel. The album’s closing song’ ‘Atgofion’ has Welsh lyrics, which is fitting for a tale of an emigré’s memories of a Wales she will never see again.

The album’s a lovely mixture of styles, band arrangements, lyrical themes and even languages which is held together by great group of musicians and two stunningly good voices. It wraps itself around you like a warm blanket while giving you plenty to think about as well. It’s certainly the best debut I’ve heard in a long time.

‘Tell Me World’ is out on Friday March 24th on Shimi Records (SHIMICD0028).

Here’s a lockdown video of ‘Crazy, Crazy Times’:

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