Watching a city awaken on autumn morning through rivulets of rain running down a coffee shop window seems only fitting while while listening to the new album created by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh with his 10-string hardanger d’amore and pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman while musing on the implications of their selection of ‘Snow’ (1960) by pioneering photographer Saul Leiter for the cover.
The two have worked together since 2011 as members of the Irish/American folk supergroup The Gloaming where Bartlett describes their role as making “cloud shapes” around the band’s “volcanic” core, and this new solo record can be seen as something of a serendipitous outgrowth of that project. The initial spark came while The Gloaming was on tour in Mexico in the spring of 2015 and
“Compare having a conversation with one person, to sitting down around a table with five people. No matter what the language is, those are going to be fundamentally very different conversations and very different ways of interacting.” – Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
“It just felt so completely natural. There is a lot of delight between us, and I think both of us really loves the other’s playing, in a pretty uncomplicated way. I don’t want to listen to myself – it’s not of any interest to me. But the sounds that Caoimhin coaxes out of his instrument, I find so beautiful. That I can be a part of that, and facilitate, is just delightful to me.” – Thomas Bartlett
As for Saul Leiter’s photograph of silhouettes moving through a snow-covered cityscape through the blurred perspective of an interior window covered in condensation, it is an arresting image that teems with thematic possibilities that sees as intrinsically connected to the spirit of the music he and Bartlett set out to create.
To be sure, one could listen to these tunes without the benefit of any of this background and thoroughly enjoy them in all their exhilarant beauty, but those additional narrative threads and thoughtful references add layers of sublime nuance to take delight in. Add to that the spry elegance of ‘s impeccable musicianship and their seemingly effortless mastery traversing a wide swath of genres with equal attention to narrative and atmospheric texture and you have a special record indeed.
photo by Heidi Solander