Ye Vagabonds live @ Grand Social, Dublin, December 2nd 2015

The human voice, the purest instrument, on its own the power to move, to emote, to raise the hairs on the back of the neck, but, with another voice singing in perfect harmony, that’s the magic right there. Undiluted Pure Magic. I’ve left the Grand Social tonight with an understanding that’s a magic Ye Vagabonds have in absolute buckets.

Ye Vagabonds are two brothers, Diarmuid and Brían Mac Gloinn, originally from Carlow, now living in Dublin. My first introduction to them was some months back when Myles O’Reilly ( Arbutus Yarns ), who tonight is represented in lamp form which the lads mention he’s lent in return for his absence on the evening, began documenting their work with his beautiful films, there’s no album yet, one in the pipeline for 2016 and before tonight I’d never seen them play live.

Even before the tunes there’s a real sense of being invited into the neighbours parlour in 1950’s Rural Ireland. The stage is lit with 3 living room lamps, nothing else, straight away you’re invited in, atmosphere and warmth. Nothing contrived, just atmosphere.

Bouzouki’s Mandolins, a fiddle and a banjo and an acoustic guitar are the sum of everything else that decorate the stage. Support act Sean Fitzgerald has warmed the room, with a relaxed and wonderfully haphazard set of Sean Nós and spoken word and musical journeys through the centuries.
It appears a big gig for the 2 brothers as they mention from the off as it’s probably the longest set that they’ve ever played and that the idea of road testing a batch of new songs leaves them daunted. It shouldn’t have.

There’s a glorious Fleet Foxes like harmony between the voices, hints of the deep roots of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. I’m convinced it’s a sibling thing, Carpenters, Everly’s, shades of the great Planxty, Bothy Band, and the playing of the instruments is simply impeccable.

To closed eyes, and listening only, which I did quite a lot, you’d reminisce of the great Folk Venues this City used to have, Mother Redcaps, The Wexford Inn, long before the smoking ban and the Indie Discos. An era of purity of song, of the craft of the instrument and of sawdust on the the bar room floors.

With remarkable ease they spin off a row of new tunes to start the set before settling back into the more familiar tunes, which have gotten them massive coverage on YouTube; ‘Willie O’Winsbury’, ‘Go where you will’, and the highlight of the night for me ‘Lowlands of Holland’, all feature. All impeccable. Their recent European tour dates with Glen Hansard have rounded the corners and smoothed any performance edges. Their apprehension of the evenings proceedings being a step further than they’ve ever stepped before, long gone. Faultless.

It’s that time of year again for the lists and the records of the year are on people’s lips, I walked away from tonight thinking, a debut record, recorded in the purest form they can manage, capture the magic, the essence, no bells, no whistles, than these guys will surely feature on any Best of 2016 Albums list, they will certainly feature on mine.

Words by Patrick M Barrett

Photo: Arbutus Yarns

Ye Vagabonds play Walsh’s Pub in StoneyBatter every Monday night