Words by Michael Quinn
Their live performances last summer positioned The Gloaming as one of the most exciting developments in Irish traditional music in a generation or more. Their eponymously titled debut album confirms that impression with an astonishing marriage of the old and the new in music as modern as it is ancient, as epic as it is intimate. It’s a powerhouse quintet of virtuoso soloists drawn from both sides of the Atlantic. The Irish contingent includes vocalist Iarla O Lionaird and fiddlers Caoimhín O Raghallaigh and Martin Hayes; the American comprises Hayes’ sometime guitarist partner Dennis Cahill and pianist Thomas ‘Doveman’ Bartlett.
Seamlessly reciprocal, The Gloaming make chamber music of operatic intensity and symphonic scale; the expansive, 17-minute ‘Opening Set’ is both a technical tour de force and hauntingly emotional. Even allowing for perfectly pitched and polish contributions throughout the album, there’s a compelling rawness to the end result, which is exquisitely caught in the hushed magic of ‘Samradh Samradh’, the noble hymnal ‘Freedom’, and the magnificently rich interplay between Hayes’ regal fiddle and Bartlett’s beautifully economic piano in ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’. O Lionaird’s evocative vocals and O Raghallaigh’s expressive Hardanger fiddle add their own inimitable contributions to a superbly framed recording that is brilliantly innovative and executed with masterly conviction.
TRACK TO TRY: ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’