Altan: The Gap of Dreams review – Family affair with room to evolve

The Gap Of Dreams
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Artist: Altan
Genre: Traditional
Label: Compass Records

It's fitting that Altan's first album in three years and their 16th since Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy formed the band in the early 1980s should feature new tunes from the next generation – from Ní Mhaonaigh's daughter Nia (fiddle) and guitarist Mark Kelly's son Sam (concertina).

These, alongside a pair of reels composed by Altan's most recent arrival, Martin Tourish on piano accordion, signal the band's appetite for evolution of the musical and familial kind.

Their duelling fiddle sound is no longer a feature since Ciarán Tourish's departure, but The Gap of Dreams is a beautifully realised collection of new and traditional tunes rooted in their home place of Donegal.

Ní Mhaonaigh contributes two gorgeous tunes of her own (including the evocative title tune) and her voice tends her pitch-perfect song choices with customary care, particularly on the beautiful Cumha an Oileáin.


The sense of internal refinement in the tune arrangements is heightened by the thoughtful contributions of bouzouki player Ciarán Curran and guitarists Mark Kelly and Dáithí Sproule.

Unhurried and richly stitched, with arrangements that let the music shimmer, Altan are back – with gusto.

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

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