[10 July 2014]
WNYC’s New Sounds series allowed me to catch the Gloaming for the first time, a band I had been following for the past nine months or so having missed their prior performance in New York with the Kronos Quartet. During that time, their debut self-titled album was released and though it may have only found a small audience so far, it earned massive applause from the primarily European outlets that picked up on it. The Gloaming has its primary roots in Ireland and consists of Iarla Ó Lionaird’s traditional sean-nós vocals and organ, Thomas Bartlett / aka Doveman on piano, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh playing the hardanger fiddle, Martin Hayes on fiddle and Dennis Cahill on guitar.
Their album is one of my favorites of 2014 and also one of ‘New Sounds’ host John Schaefer’s favorites as well. With as much music as he sees or hears, that ought to be a big deal made even more notable when he shared with the audience that he was actually on vacation that week but felt compelled to come in to introduce and chat with the band. Video of the conversation and performance is below and you should check it out—as Schaefer said, “anytime I’ve got people to sit down and listen to [this album] they’ve loved it too.” If you don’t have a chance to stream it now, I’ll share some highlights. Pay close attention to Ó Raghallaigh’s impressive Norwegian hardanger fiddle as the custom designed piece has numerous sympathetic strings, some made of gut, that is a challenge to play and even to tune (Hayes and his violin are the center-point for a reason though). The hardanger isn’t an instrument I was familiar with before.
The band’s name derives from the Old English word for twilight and the sensation of an approaching dusk within their music is palpable. Darkness is primary a theme, but it does not dominate all the the whole evening. At times, Hayes sent his fiddle into a delightful, playful routine particularly on “Slan le Maigh” (“Farewell to the Maigue”) which plucked at memories of youth springtime fairs. Each folk tune is so wonderfully evocative of bygone epochs—they are after all rooted in and derive from Irish culture centuries old. (The last entire album I recall that could transport me so effortlessly was The Toure-Raichel Collective’s Tel Aviv Session. The band opened the show with the sixteen minute “Opening Set” (not the first track on the album) which ticked off all the thematic elements in their repertoire including the mournful sound of Ó Lionaird’s voice and his droning organ, the minimalist piano from Bartlett, Cahill’s vital guitar rhythms and the intertwining fiddles from Hayes and Ó Raghallaigh building to a climax exonerated from the foreboding first half.
Stream the full The Gloaming album here:
Fall ‘14 Tour: