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Music Review

The Gloaming

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Label: Real World

Year: 2014

Duration: 55 minutes

1 of 1 The Gloaming - an Irish traditional supergroup at play
The Gloaming - an Irish traditional supergroup at play

The Gloaming created quite a bit of excitement through their performances in this country last year even before this, their first album, saw the light of day. A nice position to be in, and that very useful word "supergroup" is frequently attached. Indeed a kind of hushed importance surrounds mere mention of the band.

Sometimes groups of equally serious traditional musicians like to mask it all by pretending they are in it for the craic, but not these boys. Their record is issued on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label and the man himself has recorded his praise. “The Gloaming is a wonderful mix of soulful and passionate talents who have created their own genre,” he enthuses.

The five players concerned comprise master fiddle-player Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill, who are already a highly successful touring duo; singer Iarla Ó Lionáird; Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, the youngest member of the band, whose chosen instrument here is the Hardanger D’Amore. The Hardanger fiddle is a traditional instrument of Norway which takes its name from the area around Hardanger fjiord, where presumably it was first played. 

Pianist Thomas Bartlett has an impressive pedigree in terms of collaboration and production, having worked with Yoko Ono,  Antony (of the Johnsons), David Byrne, Nico Muehly, Bebel Gilberto and The National.

How he sees his point of entry to The Gloaming is most interesting, not least as he is listed as the record's producer.  “Maybe why this band is working well is that I don’t recognise the lines that the rest of this band sees. They’re very happy to go outside of those boundaries, but the fact that I don’t even know the tradition helps them (the lines) disappear.”

When you hear the New Yorker's remarkable piano work towards the close of the 16-minute Opening Set, you realise that his presence in the band is an inspired one. Indeed he lends limpid pianistic grace to the most beautiful song on the record, a musical adaptation of Michael Hartnett’s poem, An Muince Dreoilíní (The Necklace of Wrens.)

Poems set to music sometimes can come out po-faced, stuffy or spiky with awkward angles where the singing and the scansion somehow do not sit right. Not so with this loving treatment of the late-lamented Hartnett's poem, whose stanzas are sung with such feeling by Iarla. Even to name names, however, seems invidious, as each of the dedicated players concerned is integral to the final result. 

Paddy Kehoe

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