Wild Goats & Unmarried Women She’Koyokh Riverboat/Fuse The Gloaming The Gloaming Real World/Planet
VIOLIN playing and arranging of startling luminosity unite starkly contrasting new releases that seem destined to pepper the “best of” compilations of folk and world music aficionados when lists are drafted at year’s end. The award-winning fiddle skills of Meg Hamilton and equally gifted colleagues has established She’Koyokh among the finest klezmer ensembles on the planet and rendered the 15 tracks of Wild Goats &
Unmarried Women one of the most striking aural experiences in a month of sabbaths. Kaleidoscopic arrangements permeate the British-based band’s splendidly titled third album, yielding an east European musical odyssey of verve, variety and virtuosity. By contrast, the journey offered by 10 tracks in
The Gloaming, the eponymous debut album of a new US-based Irish-American supergroup, is comparatively sedate. Yet its blending of ancestral Celtic music with contemporary acoustic scene motifs and textures is inherently more innovative. Violinist Martin Hayes is responsible for creating much of the light and shade that suffuses a beautifully contrasting and subtle set. It is the incomparable County Clare-informed fiddle playing of this six times All-Ireland champion, adroitly backed by long-time associate Dennis Cahill’s compelling guitar chords and producer Thomas Bartlett’s lithe piano lines, that also provides the album’s dramatic peaks, exemplified by cornerstone seven-minute and 16-minute medleys of traditional pieces that build mesmerisingly from simple beginnings to full-blown Celtic reel and jig, in the latter case via Middle Eastern and Indian modalities and jazzy rhythmic undercurrents. Earlier poem songs, featuring the exquisite sean-nos (old style) Gaelic singing of the Afro Celt Sound System’s Iarla O Lionaird, are hauntingly ethereal. Like the aforementioned epics, they gather momentum almost imperceptibly under Hayes’s educated violin and the more robust hardanger (Norwegian fiddle) of Caoimhin O Raghallaigh. Displaying chutzpah accrued during its busking origins on the streets of London, She’Koyokh flaunts the full range of flamboyant Jewish wedding music, Gypsy tunes and Balkan balladry in Wild Goats
& Unmarried Women. Virtuosic violin and clarinet lock in thrilling unison or alternate lighting lead runs in culture-hopping medleys, Bulgarian and Romanian romps and slowerbuilding Greek numbers. Hamilton’s fiddle runs hot over two-to-the-bar Hot Club of Francestyled guitar chord changes. A Moldavian dance tune is illuminated by Matt Bacon’s slick Django-esque soloing and Zivorad Nikolic’s amazing accordion acrobatics. Susi Evans’s clarinet chops and Cigdem Aslan’s vocals hypnotise in a more sedate Kurdish song. Flamenco-inspired guitar, Indian-inflected violin and wheezy squeezebox preface Aslan’s equally soulful singing in sad Sephardic, Greek and Bosnian love ballads. Ben Samuels’s mandolin tremolo sets up double bassman Paul Tkachenko’s guttural vocals in a waltz. In a Bulgarian horo (dance tune) and Serbian circle dance Tkachenko’s tuba provides a bass throb for flying lead fingers and fiddle-bowing brilliance. Vasilis Sarikis’s percussion percolates in a Turkish goat-herding eulogy.