If we were going to make a list of British music’s most underrated and undervalued artists, or simply to list down the ones that have simply and consistently been amongst the best then surely Gruff Rhys would be… I dunno… top 243? I’m not really into making lists, but you get the idea. It’s almost as if Rhys enjoys being quietly and secretly brilliant, quite happy with people simply writing him off as a bit of an oddball and getting on with releasing more fantastic albums while hiding behind the facade of being strange. Gruff’s fourth solo outing quite easily deserves to be lined up beside the very best of an extremely consistent back-catalogue. The Whether (Or Not) may be the 21st century’s finest clap-a-long song, and Rhys’s voice is as similarly underrated as other facets of his ability but just try listening to the wordless chorus of Lost Tribes and not melting. A concept album of sorts built around the story of John Evans, who traversed the USA in search of mythical fellow Welsh speakers and ended up plotting the Missouri River, all of which I of course worked out on my own just listening to it.
You have to admire Gruff Rhys, perhaps other artists would have based their record around John Evans’ story but few would show the dedication required to make their own little John Evans Muppet (sat to picture’s right) to complete the impression.