THROUGHOUT THESE last couple of years, Ye Vagabonds have steadily built a following and a fair measure of respect, culminating in their nomination for a 2018 BBC Folk Award on the strength of their self-released debut album.
Tomorrow sees the release of their second album, The Hare's Lament, via River Lea, an imprint of Rough Trade - a further mark of how far the band, Carlow brothers Brían and Diarmuid MacGloinn, have come.
Given Rough Trade also released Lankum's extraordinary Between The Earth and Sky, it is tempting to compare both acts. They clearly draw from Irish folk's fertile and groundbreaking 1960s/70s period, but from there go in different directions. Lankum are grittier, tougher, more confrontational, more progressive. Ye Vagabonds are mellower, more laid back, more deliberately polished in sound.
Both are inspired by Planxty, with Lankum drawn to that band's wilder elements, and Ye Vagabonds to Planxty's quieter, more delicate, aspects. In this sense, they reflect the opposite sides of the same coin Irish folk/trad can be, and show there is space for both.
The MacGloinn's warm vocal harmonies, which allow space for vulnerability, are beguiling to the ear (witness their take on AL Lloyd's 'The Foggy Dew' ), while the dextrous bouzouki, mandolin, and guitar work (particularly 'The Hare's Lament/Ocogovska Oro' ) is technically accomplished, without descending into muso self-indulgence. They also have a strong sense of how to create atmosphere as revealed on 'Seven Little Gypses'.
Despite a weak closer in 'Willy O'Winsbury', a carbon copy of the peerless Sweeney's Men take, and a tendency to be a little too reverential in places towards the source material, The Hare's Lament still emerges as a satisfying album. It will be interesting to see where the MacGloinns go next.