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Ye Vagabonds: Nine Waves review – a gently engaging follow-up

By Neil Spencer
Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn, AKA Ye Vagabonds.
Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn, AKA Ye Vagabonds. Photograph: Rich Gilligan

As elsewhere across these isles, Irish folk is gathering momentum. Ye Vagabonds – brothers Diarmuid and Brían Mac Gloinn – boast a peer group that includes Lankum, Lisa O’Neill and Brigid Mae Power, all of whom are refurbishing tradition in deft, inspired ways. Here, the Carlow-born, Dublin-based Mac Gloinns set aside the Irish songs of The Hare’s Lamenttheir first album for Rough Trade offshoot River Lea, a label becoming a Hibernian force – in favour of traditional and original pieces sung in English. Irish-speaking Donegal, their mother’s home, is still powerfully present, though, on An Island, an evocation of Arranmore that recalls early Paul Simon, and Blue Is the Eye, an elegiac piece for a lost friend and fisherman.

Sibling harmonies are at the heart of the Vagabonds’ sound, delivered softly and unfussily, but the brothers are adept guitarists, and augment their arrangements with cello and bass from classical group Crash Ensemble, and with harmonium concertina and sax. A brace of short instrumental interludes suggest avant-garde ambitions, but songs take centre stage; the Child ballad Lord Gregory, and the similarly antique Máire Bhán and Her Mantle So Green, the last a fraught encounter between maid and soldier. Gentle but engaging.

Listen to An Island by Ye Vagabonds.
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