Meic Stevens

Meic Stevens is a legend in his native Wales, even as he remains somewhat unknown outside of that country, due chiefly to his insistence on singing in his native Welsh language. The psych-folk singer and guitarist is often referred to as "the '60s Welsh psych-Dylan" and compared favorably with fellow astral-travelers like Syd Barrett. He was discovered by Jimmy Saville, a DJ who saw Stevens (from Solva, on the West Coast of Wales) performing at the Manchester University folk club in 1965. This discovery led to Meic Stevens recording his first single -- with producer John Paul Jones (later of Led Zeppelin) -- for Decca Records that same year. Stevens continued to perform around Britain and Wales during the '60s, playing on recording sessions and even reportedly turning down a five-album, five-year record contract with Warner Bros. in 1970 -- they wanted to turn him into the "Welsh Van Morrison" -- in order to concentrate on recording in his own language. His 1970 album Outlander, which features sitar and tablas courtesy of Magic Carpet's Keshav Sathe, is today -- like most of his albums -- considered quite rare and highly collectable among psych-folk fans.

Stevens continued to record for various small labels throughout the remainder of the decade and backed other Welsh musicians. In 1978, he was in the short-lived subversive folk trio Y Bara Menyn with fiddle player Siân Phillips and vocalist Heather Jones, in addition to leading his own groups with their own revolving membership. (The Shevells -- who backed Stevens when he was using the name "Mike Stevens" -- are also known as the Welsh Conquerors.) In 1992, Stevens' best-of CD, entitled Dim Ond Cysgodion, was released. It concentrates heavily on the Welsh-language material that Stevens recorded between 1971-1992. In addition to numerous EPs that have been issued during his career, Stevens' songs have occasionally appeared on various-artists compilations, including tracks that appeared on two consecutive Electric Psychedelic Sitar Headswirlers releases. Stevens was featured in Mojo magazine's "Top 100 Cult Heroes." In 2000, the Welsh pop group Super Furry Animals released their own all-Welsh-language album, Mwng, which was inspired by their hero; they have often played Stevens' "Y Brawd Houdini" (aka "Houdini's Brother"), though their own version has yet to appear on any of their own recordings, unfortunately. Stevens continues to perform in Wales, where he is treated as a national hero. 2001's Y Baledl compiled Stevens' recordings from the previous 30 years, drawing from his early classics from the '60s to the present. The Sunbeam label reissued two compilations in 2006, Rain in the Leaves: The EPs, Vol. 1 and Sackcloth & Ashes: The EPs, Vol. 2, and Stevens released a collection of all-new material, Icarws/Icarus, in 2007. ~ Bryan Thomas

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