It almost goes without saying that Martin Hayes (fiddle) and Dennis Cahill (guitar) have shaped Irish traditional music for the last quarter century and are recognised the world over for their sublime lyrical and melodic interpretation of almost everything they touch. What has kept them fresh and relevant across the years is their willingness to collaborate with musicians as diverse as Paul Simon and Yo Yo Ma while always returning to those within their own fold. They still perform as a duo but have periodic outings with the bigger sound that comes from the 5-piece The Gloaming, formed in 2011. Live At The NCH refers to Dublin’s National Concert Hall which now has become an annual pilgrimage for a seven night bonanza. Would that I could be there!
Cleverly, the band’s producer Thomas Bartlett started with six tracks from the band’s two studio albums and, for the live performance, allowed them to expand into six lengthy arrangements that encompassed other songs and tunes. Iarla O Lionaird’s plaintive Irish language vocals dominate three tracks, though my promotional copy gives no clue as to what the songs are about. Instrumentally, the sparse piano of Thomas Bartlett is striking but what really intrigued me was the Hardanger d’Amour (5+5) Norwegian fiddle of Caoimhin O Raghallaigh. The top five bowed gut strings plus the five sympathetic strings below give the fiddle a wonderful resonant sound. It’s both sonically and visually pleasing. Indeed, the whole album transports the listener to another calmer, holistic place.
London-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney follows up her 2015 Nonesuch debut, The Longest River, with Shelter on June 15th 2018. The album was produced by Thomas Bartlett (David Byrne, the Magnetic Fields, Sufjan Stevens, The National, St. Vincent, Florence Welch, Father John Misty, et al.) and features eight original songs, along with Chaney’s interpretations of Henry Purcell’s ‘O Solitude’ and Frank Harford and Tex Ritter’s ‘Long Time Gone’, first recorded by the Everly Brothers; the full track list is below.
Chaney describes her time writing songs for Shelter: “I had been on the road a lot and was struggling with the grit and loneliness of urban life. I think I’d been questioning what home, belonging, a sense of purpose, and my own culture even meant. I’d been craving wilderness and a return to essentials for a long time. Then, while touring in the US, I realized the place I needed was already in my life. It was ancient, barely habitable, and remote.
“Thus a crumbling eighteenth-century cottage in the austere but magical hills of the North Yorkshire Moors—a family retreat since my teens, with no electricity or plumbing, where the only water comes from a spring—became the home for my work on Shelter,” she continues. “We brought out an Arts and Crafts Bechstein piano and an old wood burner to the house; and as summer’s end turned to autumn’s shorter, colder days, the room with the upright and stove fueled my stay.”
Chaney says of working with Thomas Bartlett, “His close affiliation with such a varied and acclaimed group of artists was of enormous importance. His taste and sphere of understanding were as diverse as mine. He prioritized my compositions’ meaning and lyricism, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of noisy popularity. I wanted a recording as intimate as the songs and their form. The only other musicians are Thomas and Jordan Hunt, my longtime collaborator who adds strings and background vocals on select songs. It’s just the three of us playing every sound you hear, using our instrumental and compositional craft, and Thomas’ musician-producer’s ear extraordinaire.”
Born in Florence, Italy, Chaney grew up in Oxford, England, in a household whose intellectual and artistic engagement was complemented by an expansive musical soundscape. This included Billie Holiday, Mozart operas, Sandy Denny, Prince, Tracy Chapman, Bert Jansch, Michael Jackson, and Joni Mitchell. She studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where she took in everything the conservatory had to offer. Her curiosity led her further afield, from Ligeti to West African pop, Edith Piaf to Laurie Anderson, Mary Margaret O’Hara to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Sonic Youth to Sappho, Kate Bush to old-time country music—all while finding her own voice.
The range of artists she’s shared a stage with includes Robert Plant, Zero 7, the Labeque Sisters, Martin and Eliza Carthy, and Kronos Quartet, with whom she also recorded two songs for the 2017 Nonesuch album Folk Songs.
Most recently she fronted a Grammy-nominated album, The Queen of Hearts, forming a new outfit, Offa Rex, with the Decemberists. The Guardian’s review of that album said that “Chaney has a magical voice, full of heft, soul and sunlight” and fRoots said, “Chaney has never sounded better,” while the Arts Desk said it was her “voice, with its clarity, power and emotional weight, that carries Offa Rex to the heights.” The Financial Times added that “Chaney’s singing makes ‘Willie O’ Winsbury’ one of the best versions ever.”
Marking his third solo album, singer-songwriter Glen Hansard will release Between Two Shores on January 19 via Anti-. Following up 2015’s GRAMMY nominated Didn’t He Ramble, and his 2012 solo debut Rhythm And Repose, the ten-track collection was produced by Hansard himself for the first time. The culmination of more than six years of writing and recording, Between Two Shores came together in only a matter of weeks.
This past March, Hansard booked himself time at Black Box Studios in France with the original idea of taking inventory of his songbook. Working again with former Frames bandmate and producer David Odlum, Hansard was in search of a direction for his next record. As he trove through his previous sessions, various ideas and home recordings, a sketch of an unplanned record began to take shape.
The aptly titled ‘Setting Forth’ became the catalyst for the direction Hansard hoped to achieve with Between Two Shores. Recorded with drummer extraordinaire Brian Blade and members of his Fellowship Band the song tackles themes of self-doubt in a time when it’s impossible not to be riddled with uncertainty. The album’s lead track ‘Time Will Be The Healer’ is a hopeful plea to a forlorn lover that also speaks to the way forward in the current social climate. Indeed, it would be impossible not to in some way address the politics of the day, which Hansard does in ‘Wheels On Fire’ and its refrain of “We will overcome!”
While the record truly came together in France, Between Two Shores features material captured in New York and Chicago with a revolving cast of musicians. In addition to Blade, the record also features Thomas Bartlett, Brad Albetta and Rob Moose who appeared on much of Rhythm And Repose. However it’s Glen’s touring band – Joseph Doyle, Rob Bochnik, Graham Hopkins, Justin Carroll, Michael Buckley, Ronan Dooney and Curtis Fowlkes – that feature most prominently and take center stage on tracks like the upbeat E Street shuffle of ‘Roll On Slow’ and the Van-tastic ‘Why Woman’.
The album’s title comes from Hansard’s ongoing love of sailing and the sea. When one is equal distance between their starting point and their destination they are in essence “between two shores.” A less than ideal time to wonder whether you should turn back or continue on, but a thought that inevitably rears its head.
With Between Two Shores Glen Hansard has managed to capture that feeling of the big soulful sound of his large touring band while still retaining the intimate introspective nature of his acoustic shows. To which way the wind will blow on his next record remains to be seen.
Glen Hansard is a founding member of The Frames who celebrated 25 years as a band in 2015. He is one half of The Swell Season, which also features pianist Marketa Irglova. Together in 2007 they wrote the music for and starred in the movie Once. The song ‘Falling Slowly’ from the film was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original song. In 2013 the film was adapted for Broadway as Once, The Musical, winning eight Tony Awards including the top musical prize itself and an Olivier award in London for outstanding achievement in music.
Didn’t He Ramble, the second solo outing from acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard, is out now via Anti- Records.
Didn’t He Ramble was produced by Thomas Bartlett (The National, Sufjan Stevens), a frequent collaborator of Hansard’s, and Grammy winner and former Frames band-mate David Odlum (Paloma Faith, Tinariwen). The album, which was recorded in New York, Dublin, Chicago and France, is Hansard’s most intimate and elegant record since his work in Once and features guest appearances by John Sheahan (Dubliners), Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) and Sam Amidon.
Glen Hansard is the celebrated principal songwriter and vocalist/guitarist for the influential Irish group The Frames. Whether busking the streets of Dublin, where he got his start, or headlining a gig, Hansard has garnered a reputation as an unparalleled frontman. Hansard is also one half of the acclaimed duo The Swell Season. In 2007, he and Czech songstress Markéta Irglová took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song for ‘Falling Slowly’ off the Once soundtrack. In 2013, the Broadway adaptation, Once, The Musical, won eight Tony Awards including the top musical prize itself. His debut solo album Rhythm & Repose was released in 2012.