Martin Hayes & The Common Ground Ensemble: Peggy’s Dream – A magnificent collection

This ensemble feels like a natural extension of Hayes’s partnerships with the late Dennis Cahill and with The Gloaming

Peggy's Dream
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Artist: Martin Hayes & The Common Ground Ensemble
Genre: Traditional
Label: Faction Records

An unquenchable affinity with the melody line has defined Martin Hayes’s musical odyssey, along with an insatiable appetite for adventure.

Among his many collaborations, the Common Ground Ensemble feels like the most natural extension of his partnership with the late Dennis Cahill (to whom this recording is dedicated) and his perambulations with The Gloaming. The jazz pianist Cormac McCarthy, the cellist Kate Ellis, the Brooklyn Rider guitarist and arranger Kyle Sanna, and the Tulla Céilí Band’s Brian Donnellan on bouzouki, concertina and harmonium bring a wealth of influences to bear on Hayes’s tune choices.

Balance and control are at the heart of this magnificent collection, which takes its title from an air borrowed from the Canon Goodman collection, and on which Hayes doffs his cap to his late mother, Peggy. Ellis’s gift for bold exploration and her delight in the patterned repetitions of Steve Reich (on, for example, Longford Tinker) fit seamlessly with Donnellan’s concertina, sitting cheek by jowl with Hayes’s fiddle lines on Peggy’s Dream, while Sanna’s guitar ekes out space along the spine of the melody line with little intention of hijacking the limelight but lending colour just where needed. McCarthy’s improvisational flourishes are a joy, particularly on Magherabaun Reel, and elsewhere the album shimmers in a heat that recalls the frenzied highs of so many of Hayes’s performances.

This is a musical conversation that gets better and better with each return visit.

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

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