Originally posted on The Indiependent:
We’re used to seeing a darker more twisted side to Welsh actor Iwan Rheon with his portrayal of the villainous Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones. What you probably didn’t know is he’s a big old softie at heart, and the release of his debut album Dinard proves it. Produced by Jim Unwin and James Clarke, the 11-track compilation is a restrained affair, written primarily on an acoustic guitar in trailers and hotel rooms between seasons of the hit show. The record takes its name from Dinard in northern France, where he first met his girlfriend Zoe Grisedale, and is chiefly an ode to love and their relationship.
Opener ‘Give’ is a slow starting simply strummed arrangement. Rheon’s voice remains relatively unaltered and untouched; mesmerising fans with his naturally relatable sound. The serene aspect to his vocals marries well with the mellow ring of his acoustic guitar. The ensuing tracks are a mixture of lyrically stimulating and reflective songs. ‘Diaries’ and ‘Can’t Avoid The Sun’ are particularly memorable for their robust upbeat tempos and vocals that have an uncanny Jamie Cullum vibe to them.
‘Courthouse’ and ‘Feel It Coming’ each encompass a faint ethereal chanting that strengthens as the music reaches the pinnacle of their respective choruses. According to Rheon’s Twitter page, the former is his favourite on the record and with lyrics “kiss me with those tired lips / Let us stumble and fall / It’s cold I know / Just keep holding on” and uplifting instrumentation it’s not difficult to see why.
With the aid of his brother, Aled, on backing vocals, ‘Rhodd’ is an eloquent exhibition of the brotherly bond sung entirely in Welsh. Its vocal layering and modest use of guitar, deliver an air of confidence and pride in the 30-year-old’s roots that transcends its language barrier. Rheon’s Welsh accent gives not only this track, but the entire album a unique sense of character that is lacking from regular acoustic-folk songs.
As the title track to his first EP, you’d expect nothing less than a full band performance on tune ‘Tongue Tied’. From the onset it’s acoustic country-folk spirit is one you would predict after its nine predecessors, until melancholy violins and heavy drums break the illusion. It’s one of the more animated productions off the album.
Despite being relatively undiscovered in terms of his music, Rheon’s efforts on Dinard are absolutely stellar. There’s a timeless quality to the album with compelling songwriting elements built in the melodies and harmonies, making this an exciting prospect for future things to come from the Welshman.
Words by Nizza Munoz