Roaming in the Gloaming

The Gloaming and The Gloaming 2

The late George Martin was one time quoted as saying

“can you tell me what music is? It’s completely intangible. It grips you, gets into your soul”.

That quote came to mind when listening to Martin Hayes leading his Gloaming comrades out of their own composition ‘Fáinleog’ and into the first few bars of the traditional jig ‘The Holly Bush’. I wish I could describe the feelings that the transition and Hayes’s fiddle-playing create, but all I can say is, go listen to it.

The Gloaming first got together almost five years ago – a fantastic concert in Triskel Christchurch in December 2012 was one of their early gigs. Since then they have often been referred to in the media as a ‘trad supergroup’. Whatever about that there is no doubting their standing in the world of roots music – Iarla Ó Lionáird (voice and keys) is the leading exponent of the Muscraí singing tradition, and Martin Hayes is the king of east Clare fiddle-playing. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a wonderful fiddler as well, playing the Hardanger d’amore, his own creation, Thomas Bartlett, from Connecticut is on piano (and organizer / producer in the studio), and Irish–American Denis Cahill, on guitar, is Hayes’s long-standing music partner.

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The Gloaming

That difficult second album! One of the hoariest old chestnuts in music. The Gloaming have got around it with their second, by creating a companion for their first. Not really a continuation, not the same as the first, but together they form a whole, greater than the sum of the parts. The feeling that the two CDs are a pair is reinforced by the visual presentation of the records by the Real World label — beautiful packaging it has to be said. Both have striking but elusive sepia images on the cover, photos by Robert and Shana ParkerHarrison. The back covers and the inside spreads are also very similar, encouraging us to see them as a pair.

Centrepiece of the first CD was ‘The Opening Set’, track 8 on the album! This is a 16-minute masterpiece in its own right, starting with a traditional song from the Muscraí tradition, and building, layer by layer, through six tunes and airs to a cathartic climax.

There is nothing resembling this on The Gloaming 2, and rightly so. It would have been impossible to equal it. But what we have on both are group compositions using Gaelic poetry, the earliest from the Fiannaíocht or Fenian Cycle, and a 16th-century poem, but most are recent — Sean Ó Ríordáin’s ‘Saoirse’, and Michael Hartnett’s ‘An Muince Dreoilíní’ on the first album; The Gloaming 2 begins with two poems from Ó Ríordáin’s Eireaball Spideoige.

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The Gloaming 2

Their versions of ‘Samhraidh, Samhraidh’ (on the first album) and ‘Slán le Maighe (on Gloaming 2) are worth the price of entry alone. These take their place among the jigs, hornpipes, reels, hop jigs, and slides.

The music on The Gloaming 2 might not be created for dancing, but I would challenge anyone to stay sitting quietly when listening to tunes like ‘The Rolling Wave’, ‘Music in the Glen’ and ‘The Holy Bush’. Iarla sings the old lullaby ‘Cucanandy’ which he learnt from the singing of Bess Cronin from his home parish of Baile Bhúirne. The Gloaming’s version wanders off mid-way but returns to finish with a credo that would apply to any musician:

“Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Yerra I wouldn’t sell me pipes for all the wives in town”.

The Gloaming last played Cork at a sold-out show in the Opera House last year. The way they’re going they will fill the proposed Events Centre, and still leave disappointed fans outside.

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian

The Rolling Stones: growing old (dis)gracefully?

When Barrack Obama visited Havana in March 2016, the first American President to do so in over 70 years, it marked the end of decades of a political, trade and cultural embargo imposed by the huge neighbour to the north. One of the few hopeful signs of 2016 so far.

Hot on his heels came the Rolling Stones playing their first ever gig in Cuba. It is surely remarkable that this legendary rock group is still going, never mind that they apparently left the Havana audience baying for more.  Three of the blues-loving youngsters who played their first gig in 1962 were on stage in Havana – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts.  In the late sixties the odds of all of them being alive in 2016, never mind still playing at the highest level, would have been negligible, especially after the death in tragic circumstances of founder Brian Jones in the summer of 1969.

Nevertheless it cannot be pretended that they are as vital as they once were, although in fairness that is because nothing can compare with the music they produced, on record and on stage, between 1968 and the early 1970s.

The run of records from Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main Street has never been equalled:

  • Starting with Beggars Banquet which came out in December 1968 (with tracks like ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Street fighting man’), the Stones produced an incredible string of rock classics;
  • Let it bleed followed in December 1969, and included ‘Midnight Rambler’, ‘Gimme shelter’ and ‘You can’t always get what you want’;
  • Get your ya yas out, one of the all-time great live albums, was recorded at the Madison Square Garden gigs in November 1969, and released the following September;
  • Sticky fingers – ‘Brown sugar’, ‘Wild horses’, ‘Dead flowers’came out in April 1971; some of the tracks were recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, between the Madison Square Garden gigs and the ill-fated free concert in Altamont near San Francisco at the end of 1969;
  • Exile on Main Street, released May1972; this double album of 18 tracks (incl. ‘Tumbling dice’, ‘Sweet black angel’, ‘Let it loose’) was recorded in the south of France where the Stones had relocated to escape UK taxes. This brought the run of classic albums to a close.

 

When the Stones turned up to meet the world’s media in Havana there were just four of them in front of the camera – Jagger, Richards, Watts, and Ronnie Wood, who has been with the band since 1975, joining them after Mick Taylor’s exit.

On stage in Havana, however, there were quite a few more musicians who, crucial though they are to the sound, are not ‘Stones’. It has always been like that.  Ian Stewart, the piano player, was the original sixth Stone in the 60s, but was deemed too old looking and too straight by manager Andrew Loog-Oldham to fit in with the band’s image.  He did not make the photos, but they could not have done without him on stage or in the studio.

Similarly the classic albums and performances listed above would not have been what they were without Bobby Keyes on sax, Jim Price on trumpet, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and often Billy Preston on organ. Percussionist Rocky Dijon, Muscle Shoals pianist Jim Dickinson, and even Ry Cooder were others who added hugely to the Stones output in the late 60s early 70s.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you bring in the right musicians, you get what you can!

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian

 

Turning Point for Mile Twelve

Formed in late 2014, Mile Twelve is a fresh, hard driving young band beautifully walking the line between original and traditional bluegrass. Based in Boston, Massachusetts and fast gaining recognition for their outstanding performances throughout bluegrass and folk circles, Evan Murphy, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, Nate Sabat and BB Bowness create captivating songs and daring instrumental pieces from diverse influences. Banjo Luminary Tony Trishcka says, “Mile Twelve is carrying the bluegrass tradition forward with creativity and integrity.”

In May 2016 the band will embark on their first Irish tour and we are very excited to play host to them on Saturday 7th May. As usual with RGML gigs, there is no admission charge and the show will begin at 1.00 pm.

MileTwelve
Boston’s bluegrass stars, Mile Twelve

 

If you would like to know more about the band, please visit their official website here:

http://www.miletwelvebluegrass.com/

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Video: Discorde Quartet in Cork City Library

A couple of weeks ago we were delighted to have Cork’s own, Discorde Quartet, performing in the City Library as part of an event to commemorate the centenary of the birth of poet, Seán Ó Riordáin.

They played a beautiful selection of Irish airs & melodies to a captivated audience and made a wonderful accompaniment to the Irish language poetry readings from Peann agus Pár.

We captured the performance on video and we thought it might be nice to share it with you.

So, sit back and enjoy!

 

 

A Moment of Discorde

Cork has a new string quartet featuring some very young, but very experienced and talented Musicians. Discorde Quartet will play their debut performance in Cork City Library, Grand Parade as part of the Seachtain na Gaeilge programme.

On Saturday 12th March at 3.00 pm, Cork City Libraries will celebrate the centenary of the birth of Seán O Riordáin with an event entitled ‘Ceol agus Filíocht.’

Ceol_Agus_Filiocht

Discorde Quartet will play a selection of Irish Melodies while Irish Language poetry writing group, Peann agus Pár, will read from their own poetry and from the works of Seán Ó Riordáin.

Discorde Quartet
From left to right: Meadhbh Campbell (Cello), Caoimhe Browne (Violin), Cian Adams (Viola) and Maggie O’Shea (Violin)

The first violinist, Maggie O’Shea, studied the Suzuki method and has been playing music since the age of 3. Maggie was a member of the Cork School of Music Orchestra, Cork Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.

The second violinist, Caoimhe Browne, began violin at the age of 7 when she was inspired by watching a performance of Riverdance on the Late Late Show. She currently studies under the guidance of Gregory Ellis. She is looking forward to what this newly formed quartet will achieve in the future. 

Cian Adams, who plays the viola, has been playing music since the age of 6. He studied under maestro Constantin Zanidache. He performed in the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. He has been a member of many quartets including the Prima Vera Quartet.

Meadhbh Campbell started cello at the age of six, and is currently studying with Chris Marwood. She has enjoyed playing in a variety of chamber music groups from the age of ten and is a former member of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.

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Discorde Quartet on Facebook

 

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Gibbons lives in a Perfectamundo!

William Frederick Gibbons, or Billy Gibbons, as he prefers to be called, waited until his sixty sixth year to release his first solo record – Perfectamundo. With about forty years worth of ZZ Top under his belt, and iconic status in the world of blues/rock guitar already copper-fastened, there was a fair amount of excitement mixed with trepidation as to what kind of sermon the Reverend would deliver. Would this album consist of nothing more than a collection of ZZ Top out-takes, or maybe it would just serve as a vehicle for some self-indulgent fret board noodling? …. Or maybe something else?

Photo: Antti Salonen, Finland 2010
Photo: Antti Salonen, Finland 2010
‘Got Love if You Want it’ kicks off the record with a bombastic, staccato intro and before you get a chance to wonder where this is all going, it settles into a sultry, Latin groove with Billy’s guitar cutting through like a hot knife through butter. No creamy, suave ‘Santanaesque’ style licks to be heard here though, just Gibbons’ trademark gritty, edgy, tone sprinkled with enough dust from a Texas desert to remind you of just who’s in charge. The song pretty much sets the tone for what’s to follow; a mix of blues, rock and Latin jazz set to a backdrop of Cuban rhythm with Billy Gibbons’ gravelly voice box and cutting guitar taking centre stage.

Request from our catalogue!
Request from our catalogue!
There’s a real natural flow to the music and it doesn’t sound contrived or forced in any way  – BG really pulls it off, but then again why wouldn’t he? As a kid, Billy began his musical career as a percussionist and was sent by his father to study with the great Tito Puente in New York. There’s always been a shot of Havana in the ZZ Top cocktail – album titles such as Deguello or Tres Hombres for example. Their minimalistic style of blues rock always relied heavily on a solid beat, and odd percussive breaks are littered throughout. To Billy the beat has always been king and I think making this record really gave him a chance to bring that part of his musical persona to the fore.

Photo: Craig O'Neal from Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Craig O’Neal from Wikipedia Commons
Gibbons has always shown himself to be wide open to influences from outside of his comfort zone and this record is no exception. There are even echoes of the type of sonic experimentation which characterised classic ZZ Top albums such as Afterburner or Eliminator, especially evident on the title track ‘Perfectamundo.’

The guitar work on the album is superb. Gibbons isn’t trying to break new ground here. He’s just doing what he does best, and he’s the best at what he does. His understated, relaxed, almost lazy style of pentatonic based blues guitar has sustained him through an era where neo-classical, super-sonic shredding was standard fare and it sustains him still. He’s got that rare gift among guitarists in that he can cut you in half with three notes. Also, when you hear him play, you know it’s him.

This album is the product of a musician who in recent years has really been on top of his game. The 2012 Rick Rubin produced ZZ Top album, ‘La Futura’ is arguably one of the finest in the band’s catalogue and with his first solo album Billy Gibbons is showing no signs of slowing down.

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