Gf Morgan / Magenta / Album Review


“Magenta,” is a captivating exploration of Celtic music, taking listeners on a heartfelt journey across the rich musical heritage of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Veteran musician Gf Morgan takes us on a heartfelt exploration of Celtic music with his latest album, “Magenta.” Released in March 2024, the album showcases Morgan’s 40-year mastery of the genre, blending his masterful musicianship with a deep respect for tradition.

“Magenta” is a follow-up to Morgan’s critically acclaimed “Driftwood,” further solidifying his position as a prominent figure in American Celtic music. His delicate fingerstyle guitar work is a constant delight, weaving intricate melodies throughout the album. This is further complemented by his skillful playing of the concertina and mandolin family instruments, which add depth and warmth to the soundscapes. The album is a rich tapestry of instrumental and vocal pieces, drawing influences from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

“Magenta” is to be celebrated for its depth and richness.  The album beyond its traditional tunes, is a meditation on these motifs, offering fresh perspectives and thoughtful arrangements.  Morgan doesn’t shy away from showcasing his compositions alongside the classics, resulting in a cohesive and harmonious listening experience.

  1. An Mhaighdean Mhara/Southwind  (The Sea-Maiden/South Wind)

The album opens with the enchanting “An Mhaighdean Mhara/Southwind  (The Sea-Maiden/South Wind).” The gentle intertwining of Morgan’s fingerstyle guitar and the warm tones of the concertina create a soundscape as serene and transportive as the sea breeze itself. “An Mhaighdean Mhara” (The Sea-Maiden) is a traditional Irish song based on the haunting tale of a mermaid, while “Southwind” evokes a yearning for home. Together, they weave a beautiful tapestry of Celtic mysticism and longing.

  1. Bonnie George Campbell

The second track is a powerful rendition of a traditional Scottish Child ballad. The tragic story of a wife awaiting her husband’s return from war is brought to life by Morgan’s contemplative vocals and evocative guitar work.

  1. The Moth and the Candle

A shift in mood takes hold with this original composition.  Tthis track takes inspiration from a moth’s mesmerizing dance around a flame. Morgan’s peaceful guitar work captures the essence of the moth’s attraction to the flame, a beautiful metaphor for the allure of music itself.  This instrumental piece is a meditation on light and shadow, a tranquil soundscape that allows the listener to contemplate its own interpretations.

  1. Henry Martyne

A rare Scottish pirate ballad, this track brings a touch of drama and adventure to the album.  “Henry Martyne” recounts the exploits and demise of a pirate Andrew Barton, a tale passed down through generations.  The influence of Joan Baez, from whom Morgan first encountered this ballad, can be felt in the powerful delivery.

  1. Josephine’s Waltz

A touch of melancholy graces this track, a traditional slow Irish waltz originally composed by Roger Tallroth.  The sparse melody, with its hint of nostalgia, is reminiscent of a bygone era.  This waltz is a beautiful example of how Morgan honors the essence of traditional music while infusing it with his own subtle touch.

  1. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming / Planxty Irwin

This track is a beautiful fusion of tradition and innovation.  The anonymous German hymn “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” receives a fresh interpretation with Morgan’s guitar work, while the 18th-century harp piece “Planxty Irwin” by Turlough O’ Carolan retains its elegance.  This thoughtful arrangement highlights the enduring beauty of Celtic melodies across the centuries.

  1. Vale of the Red Wolf

A fusion of Welsh and Breton melodies unfolds here, creating a vibrant tapestry of sound.  The hypnotic rhythms of the Breton An Dros dances intertwine with the traditional Welsh tunes “Hyd y Frwynen” and “Rhuad Teirw’r Dyffryn,” transporting the listener to a mystical realm.   The influence of the artists who inspired Morgan, such as Carlos Nunez and Robin Bullock, is evident in the intricate and captivating performance.

  1. The Great Sun

A poignant and introspective piece emerges with “The Great Sun.”  The traditional Welsh tune “Morffa Rhuddlan” merges seamlessly with a poem by Charles Causley, resulting in a powerful meditation on faith and mortality.  The lyrics, inspired by a 17th-century Normandy crucifix, resonate with a timeless quality, further accentuated by Morgan’s thoughtful arrangement.

  1. Slán le Cara Maith (Farewell to a Dear Friend)

This track transcends language, expressing the emotions of loss through a heartfelt instrumental medley.  The traditional melodies “Ó Riada/ Walsh” serve as a poignant farewell to a friend, a wordless expression of grief and remembrance.  The inclusion of “Women of Ireland” (Mná na hÉireann), a poem that honors the enduring spirit, adds a layer of solace and strength to this beautiful tribute.

  1. Roselyn Castle

A haunting melody graces this penultimate track, a Scottish regimental march that has transcended time and location.  The mournful quality of “Roselyn Castle” reflects its origins as a funeral march, yet it also carries a sense of stoic resilience.  The transformation of this piece from a military march to a contemplative instrumental showcases the versatility of Celtic music.

  1. Magenta

The title track arrives as a culmination of the album’s journey.  The romantic fantasy evoked by the color magenta is reflected in Morgan’s original composition.  His guitar strums with clarity, weaving a mosaic of sound that is both passionate and introspective. Morgan’s ability to capture the essence of the color’s symbolism – a balance between passion and control is a fitting end to an album that celebrates Celtic heritage in all its richness and emotional depth. “Magenta” serves as a microcosm of the entire album – a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation.

Gf Morgan’s lifelong dedication to Celtic music shines through on “Magenta.” Morgan invites listeners to explore the rich heritage of Celtic lands that is both beautiful and profound, offering a glimpse into a world of timeless myths, legends, and emotions.

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