"The Gloaming is a wonderful mix of soulful and passionate talents who have created their own genre." - Peter Gabriel
Fiddle master Martin Hayes, guitarist Dennis Cahill, sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, hardanger innovator Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh and New York pianist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) – The Gloaming are five master musicians, each with highly successful individual careers, who have come together to create new music which pairs memorable, yearning melodies with a progressive style.
Although charged by the traditions of Ireland, what The Gloaming do with the structures of Irish music is anything but simple nostalgia. They introduce deep wells of personality and experience. Lyrics are drawn from the history of Irish literature, old and new. The music is played with the authority of virtuosos. The result is unclouded by sheen or sentimentality. Instead, it's haunting and emotionally charged. It sounds ancient without being a mere reproduction.
Martin, Caoimhín and Dennis have been recognized for extending the Irish and Celtic music traditions, balancing traditional rigor with an energy that seems entirely new. Thomas has been identified with the independent rock scene for his work with artists as diverse as The National, Glen Hansard, and Antony and the Johnsons. Iarla has made many ground breaking recordings with the Afro Celt Sound System, his distinctive voice venturing far beyond the boundaries of any one genre.
In early 2011, the five musicians first met to explore their collaboration at Grouse Lodge Studios in Ireland's County Westmeath, an hour northwest of Dublin. They discovered a shared musical aesthetic that transcended the genres for which they’d become known. Later that year - newly christened The Gloaming - they went on their first Irish tour, including a sold out debut show at The National Concert Hall, Dublin. The sellout hints at the excitement surrounding their formation, as does the fact that Ireland's prime minister, Edna Kenny, was in attendance that night. Summer 2013 saw their welcome return with more packed concerts in London, Amsterdam, Paris & New York. The debut album, entitled simply ‘The Gloaming’, is produced by Thomas Bartlett and mixed by Patrick Dillett (David Byrne & St. Vincent). Will be released in January 2014, ‘The Gloaming’ has already been heavily touted by the Irish Times, NPR and The New Yorker Magazine, who recognized that The Gloaming “moves the music of Ireland in captivating new directions.”
“Vocals, two fiddles, a guitar and a piano – it doesn’t sound like a traditional band really,” says fiddler Martin Hayes. “It doesn’t sound like it should sound.” Hayes is the musical centre of The Gloaming – the player sat centre stage at their concerts, while the ethereal voice of the great sean nos singer Iarla Ó Lionáird envelops it.
“I remember the first time I heard Martin play,” says US pianist Thomas Bartlett, “and there was something that happened to my body that I hadn’t experienced before, where I felt like my heart would expand and contract with the way he was playing.” It’s a good summation of how many listeners respond to the master fiddler from County Clare.
With Hayes in the string section, Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh’s hardanger fiddle is the music’s expressive underworld, probing the depths with drones and abstract textures, setting the reels and airs in a musical chiaroscuro. “Caoimhin was part of a new generation of musicians, young and thoughtful,” says Hayes. “It’s not so easy in a traditional music form to find your voice; it’s a tricky thing, and he did, he found a unique voice and a very unique way of playing.”
US guitarist Dennis Cahill’s is minimal, percussive, punctuating playing that lifts and amplifies specific spots, like musical acupuncture. “It’s the mark of a great piece of music,” he says, “when it’s bendable, and it doesn’t lose its integrity, and I think the tunes are spectacular like that, they can be played in a lot of ways.”
Thomas Bartlett’s piano is perhaps at the furthest remove from the folk tradition that Iarla, Martin and Caoimhin share. “Maybe why this band is working well,” he says, “is that I don’t recognize the lines that the rest of this band sees. They’re very happy to go outside of those boundaries, but the fact that I don’t even know the tradition helps make them disappear.”
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