Ye Vagabonds is the folk-infused venture of Carlow-born, Dublin-based brothers Brian and Dermot Mac Gloinn. This, their first full-length effort, follows on from the relative success of their debut EP ‘Rose & Briar’, released in 2015, and the noteworthy backing of such familiar names in the Irish music scene as Lisa Hannigan, Roy Harper, and Glen Hansard.
The Mac Gloinn brothers have already established a sound that is rich in harmony, Appalachian-style singing, and ‘60s folk revival stylings on their earlier recordings and in a live setting. What is clear from the outset is that their self-titled album strives to build upon that sonic foundation, propped up by gently-picked, intricate acoustic guitar arpeggios but furnished with thick layers of strings and harmonious drones throughout; a tone that is set in opening track Go Where You Will.
Wake Up showcases the duo’s knack for knowing when to use additional instrumentation, bringing what sounds like banjos, mandolins and pipe organ into the mix. Album highlight Half Blind includes some tasteful, twinkling keys whereas the fable-esque number Way Up On The Mountain features plucked strings alongside some sombre guitar picking.
‘Ye Vagabonds’ also showcases the Mac Gloinn’s talent for writing beguiling, thought-provoking and often sincere lyrics. On heartfelt ballad Whistling Wind we see a juxtaposition of how spirituality can be found in either religion or in more earthly things (And you talk about angels/ In a holy choir, well/ I’m not sure about things with wings/ But there’s a song in the whistling wind). Song Long Forgotten sets a bold, life-affirming tome to a climbing chord progression (And the air was golden/ And the clouds were cotton/ And they were singing/ A song long forgotten).
The album is closed out with the gorgeous traditional ballad Lowlands of Holland, which was lifted from a songbook called ‘The Legendary Ballads of England and Scotland’ and inspired by the version previously sung by Paddy Tunney but the brothers Mac Gloinn breathe new life into it, truly making it their own.
‘Ye Vagabonds’sews together stark, thoughtful and charming lyrics into melodies and musicality that cloaks its audience in seldom heard ethereal bliss.