REVIEW by Rhian E Jones

NWR Issue 102

Hook, Line & Singer, A Sing-along Book

by Cerys Matthews

Noël Coward’s line on ‘the potency of cheap music’ has a truth beyond snobbish detraction. There has always been a powerful pleasure to be gained through participation in singing, as well as a sense of comfort, catharsis, and community. To be Welsh, in particular, is to be linked in stereotype with song, especially with singing en masse, whether chapel hymns or rugby-crowd chants. At another level, music has always functioned to document social and cultural history – often the history of those otherwise neglected by more highbrow academic perspectives – offering insight into the present as well as the past. In Hook, Line and Singer, Cerys Matthews draws on both these aspects to satisfying effect.

Cerys herself needs little introduction. Her celebrity within Wales now approaching the kind of single-name recognition accorded to Madonna or Diana, she is no less familiar a fixture on the UK broadcasting and curating stages. In a relentlessly processed and pre-recorded pop culture wedded to well-worn narratives of youthful fame and instant acclaim, Matthews’ progress to this point has been refreshingly roundabout. From her early days busking in Cardiff and wandering in Spain, her picaresque path has taken her through international fame with Catatonia, an early 2000s sojourn in Nashville, an unexpected foray into tabloid renown with I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! to, eventually, her current elder-stateswoman platform on BBC 6 Music and The Voice. Throughout all this, Matthews has retained a near uncanny ability to appear engaging and populist without being pedestrian or patronising...

Rhian E Jones grew up in south Wales and now lives in London where she works in retail and writes on history, politics and popular culture. She is the author of Clampdown: Pop-Cultural Wars on Class and Gender (Zero Books, 2013)]. Her blog can be found here

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previous review: Bert: The Life and Times of AL Lloyd & The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs
next review: The Drive


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