How it’s New York: They are playing at Peter J Sharp Theater on Friday, October 16th as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.
How it’s Irish: Three of the five members are Irish, and the music is predominantly traditional Irish.
Having been raised in an Irish music and dance stronghold in South East Galway, and needing a couple of decades break from it, I have to admit that Martin Hayes was the first one to woo me back to the genre, so I might be a bit biased in this review. For me his fiddle playing, accompanied by Denis Cahill’s guitar, regenerates, agitates, and breathes new life and scope into the musical form. With my predilection aside, read on.
In this incarnation, Hayes and Cahill have collaborated with award winning seanós singer, Iarla Ó Lionáird, piano player, Thomas Bartlett aka The Doveman, and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on hardanger d’amour, (a ten-stringed fiddle-like instrument created by a Norwegian luthier). Bartlett plays with a number of other groups including Glen Hansard and Antony and the Johnsons, and also played a large part in this production. Ó Raghallaigh does too ~ I recently saw him with This is How we Fly at the Irish Arts Center. A trend seems to be forming for these masters of their instruments to spread their wings and enjoy musical collusion with a variety of groups. The album resulting from this alliance is a tight production of beautifully arranged pieces – mostly traditional tunes with some new compositions thrown into the mix.
Aside from the multitalented artists involved, the glue that holds this release together are the arrangements of each individual piece. One of my favorites, “Song 44”, has lyrics adapted from an original Irish language poem of the same name and creates a sound of haunting spaciousness, interspersed with the softly rousing fiddle of Hayes playing a traditional Irish tune. The track reminded me of the music of Icelandic group Sigur Ros.
The arrangement is spotted with exotic hushed sounds; echos and wind that whisper through as a cacophony of instruments tease their way into the piece – before it finally ends with a rousing finale.
The beautiful instrumental, “The Girl who broke my Heart”, with a counter tune playing a dissonant sound in staccato, alongside a traditional melody that takes the lead, in what could be described as a life affirming, ‘plenty of fish in the sea’, sort of way.
“The Old Bush” is a fascinating and uncategorizable piece. There is a traditional tune in there. There are also sounds of the African bush, modern jazz and the American South. The arrangement is spotted with exotic hushed sounds; echos and wind that whisper through as a cacophony of instruments tease their way into the piece – before it finally ends with a rousing finale. I am looking forward to seeing exactly what instruments are responsible for these sounds on Friday night at the Peter J Sharp Theater.
This is a wonderful atmospheric collection of tunes, with sounds that are perfect for the coming seasons and has more than one track I will be playing on repeat.