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The Gloaming review – exhilarating folk from a classy, original group

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Wednesday March 04, 2015

From The Guardian

The Gloaming review – exhilarating folk from a classy, original group
By: Robin Denselow

The Gloaming are that rarity: a folk band who manage to be classy, original and commercial. An Irish-American five‑piece of distinguished but very different musicians, they mix tradition with experimentation and are better suited to the concert circuit than clubs or festivals. Tonight’s show came straight after three at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, and directly after this London gig this they were due to fly to WOMADelaide in Australia. Yet despite an exhausting schedule, they produced an intense, emotional performance of almost exclusively new material.

They came on in semi-darkness, with master fiddler Martin Hayes centre‑stage, alongside Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, who played a modified version of the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, and Hayes’s long-term musical partner, the US guitarist Dennis Cahill. They were joined by the young New York pianist Thomas Bartlett, AKA Doveman, who has worked with the likes of Rufus Wainwright, and by Iarla Ó Lionáird, a man with an exquisite voice but a constantly baleful expression. “I’m sorry if I look gloomy,” he said, “but that’s the way I came out.”

They started with a demonstration of their musical range that lasted for over 20 minutes. From a delicate wash of piano work, Ó Lionáird launched into a gently soulful new ballad, Pilgrim. Then the fiddlers moved in, easing the song into a finely played dance tune, with a reminder that sturdy Irish melodies are at the heart of the Gloaming’s appeal. The song veered off for a hardanger fiddle solo before building up to a furious climax. So it continued, with Bartlett producing muted piano percussive effects on Song 44 and the band slowing down for a new lullaby, Cucunandy, before Hayes launched into his finest fiddle solo of the night during the encores.

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