Album of the Week - The Gloaming 2: a richly textured thing of beauty

The Gloaming 2
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Artist: The Gloaming
Genre: Traditional
Label: Real World Records
Building blocks and recurring patterns: both are in abundance in The Gloaming 2. This five-piece coalition has already blown the door wide open on traditional music’s possibilities as it wends its way into the 21st century.
Their debut carved a fresh swathe through a rich musical landscape, unencumbered by any notion of predestination. Now, with countless road miles tucked beneath their belts, The Gloaming have distilled their original musical ideas further, and what emerges is a deeply meditative and richly textured thing of beauty.
Iarla Ó Lionáird sups deep at the well of Irish language poetry and myth, revealing previously unimagined layers in his pairing of Seán Ó Riordáin’s Oilithreacht Fám Anam and A SheanFhilí Múinídh Dom Glao (A Pilgrimage of My Soul and Old Poets Teach me the Call) in the opener, A Pilgrim’s Song.
His intuitive relationship with pianist and producer Thomas Bartlett is blossoming in earnest on this collection, with Bartlett shepherding the essence of each song to corners further than any pianist in the tradition has ever dared to venture.
Martin Hayes’ fiddle finds its natural groove, his love of the spare essence of the tune enabling even something as familiar as The Rolling Wave to reveal itself anew, with his Gavin Bryars-like ability to celebrate the strange in the familiar, the surprise in the recurring melody line.
Riding shotgun to Hayes is Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh with his hybrid Hardanger fiddle – and the pair revel in darting in, out and between the sleepy hollows of the music, particularly when they segue with Ó Lionáird’s vocals. His choice of Cucanandy – ostensibly a toddler rhyme which Iarla got from his late aunt, the renowned Cúl Aodha singer Bess Cronin – finds a deeper resonance in its final verse, where matters of love and music intersect beautifully.
Guitarist Dennis Cahill is ever-present, book-ending with Bartlett each song and tune, shaping the space for fiddles and voice to add further substance. The Gloaming have risen to a gallop, and our tune and song store is much the richer for it.
Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about traditional music and the wider arts