Named after the location that inspired much of the music for this project, The Gloaming’s Martin Hayes and his three collaborators have produced an exquisitely played and executed record.
The Blue Room of West Cork’s Bantry House was clearly an inspirational environment for musical partners Doug Wieselman, Liz Knowles and Dennis Cahill; employing an organic model of sitting in a circle with fires blazing, playing traditional pieces over and over and making note of how they evolve and develop before committing to record.
Aside from the Hayes fiddle, the contribution of Liz Knowles’ hardanger d’amore adds a classical richness and deploys her diverse skills in what turns out to be an experiment in expression and trust, as the musicians freely add their own interpretations within the group format.
Whilst keeping traditional Irish music at its core, elements of chamber music, classical and jazz that weave their way into the arrangements give The Blue Room a sense of uniqueness.
The Orphan is a typical example, starting almost tentatively with a caution that has the musicians finding a connection that soon emerges in a boldness and a confidence. It sees the piece start to rise and swell as the quartet start to come together, moving in the same direction and then striding boldly onwards.
The Humours Of Scariff is similar in the way it tentatively finds its feet and develops into not quite a frenzied, but certainly an intense composition.
The Wieselman clarinet is showcased as it dominates Mo Mhuirnin Ban while the overall impression as the album ebbs and flows is of a soothing and tranquil presence washing over proceedings across the majority of arrangements, where the four instruments respectfully find their places, alternately giving way and taking the lead.
Lighter moments shine through in the knee-tapping Tommy People’s Reel, as the fiddles again dance effortlessly over a repeating pattern that just cries out for a tickle of percussion, and the album closes with another pair of lively but short tunes - another reel and Monasteraden Fancy - in one last release.
Martin Hayes has called the project, “an honour and a privilege to play with these three musicians” and although it’s his name on the cover, he’s been very open in clarifying that The Blue Room is a free and equal collaboration. A fascinating partnership of musical discovery and evolution that would serve as a model for musicians everywhere.Mike Ainscoe
Released on 27 October on 251 Records. Recorded in Bantry House, West Cork.
1. The Boy In The Gap
2. The Orphan
3. Brennan’s Reel
4. Port Sadbh
5. Mo Mhúirnín Bán
6. My Mind Will Never Be Easy
7. The Humours of Scariff
8. Tommy People’s Reel
9. Easter Snow
10. Joe Bane’s Unusual Key
11. Paddy Fahy’s Reel
12. Monasteraden Fancy