The Wonderful World Of Cerys Matthews – BBC Radio 2, Wednesday 10pm
The premise of a musician presenting their own radio programme has evolved heavily from the days when Phil Collins would stand in for Simon Bates, turning
Radio 1’s Golden Hour into a predictable parade of Motown singles.
So essentially no different to when hosted by Bates himself.
Nowadays artists turned radio presenters have successfully proven that there’s more to them than the music they’re known for playing themselves, venturing from rap to ragtime all in the space of the same show, with masters of the art including Iggy Pop on BBC 6 Music and Scroobius Pip on XFM.
Both the examples above also privileged with being able to tell stories in their own distinct voices.
One musician whose surname doesn’t start and end with the letter “P” is Cerys Matthews whose Sunday morning show on 6 Music continues to pull listeners away from the Archers Omnibus, and introduce them to exciting undiscovered recordings blended with intriguing stories about the artists and musicians told in Matthews’ delightful Welsh lilt.
And for the whole of September, BBC Radio 2 has invited her to Wednesday nights, each week giving the spotlight to one recording artist,
though that doesn’t necessarily mean a show will solely feature just their music.
Promoted as a show that “takes well known musicians and see where in the world their lives take us” the series uses familiar names to draw listeners in to an eclectic array
of tunes including in the first programme themed around Paul Simon, a vintage
reggae offering from Jimmy Cliff, to Ethiopian jazz master Mulatu Astaque.
The latter being one of many renowned, but not widely well-known performers who have been given their chance to show off their exciting live
abilities and eccentricities on Cerys’s Sunday morning show on 6.
One distinguishing point of the show is the regular habit of “taking sharp turns”.
One such example in the second programme based on Johnny Cash where Cerys talks up to what the listener assumes is an accordion piece by Jimmy Shand reflecting Cash’s Scottish roots, but ends up being a cover of “Mack The Knife” by German singer Hildegaard Kneff, focusing on Cash’s time in the country as a radio operator
for the US Air Force.
The show also succeeds in the old adage of “leave the listener wanting more” by playing only half of Larry Adler’s harmonica arrangement of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue“.
An arrangement which at first had me chortling because it reminded me of “Sesame Street” (similar location surroundings I guess) but as it settled in it became quite a stirring arrangement.
“The Wonderful World” serves it’s purpose as a shop window the slightly looser proceedings of Cerys’ Sunday show on 6 Music, but overall it’s definitely a welcome
addition to the many offbeat outings that come and go from BBC Radio 2’s
late evening line up.
There’s definitely room for a second series.