29 / 03 / 2017
CD / LP / DL
I first listened to The Gathering late in the day, late in the year – the year of Trump, of Brexit, of tides of darkness rising fast on all sides. And for a bright hour, Toby Hay’s music cast strong light, fought the shadows back a little. The tracks of this album – quick-fingered, deep-felt – open landscapes in the mind’s eye. It feels, listening to them, as if they have a little of the power – the power that linguists call ‘illocutionary’ and magicians call ‘conjuring’ – to summon things into being, or bring pasts briefly back to life. It came as no surprise to learn that Toby has sometimes hoped that the playing of ‘Starlings’ (in which the notes teem and swoop and swarm) might one day call up an actual murmuration. Place, memory, nature, loss and dreamed-of geographies are the subjects of this beautiful music: that gathering of feelings that go by the untranslatable Welsh word hiraeth. There is a sadness at what has gone here, but not a nostalgia. The world’s dew gleams on this music, but the world’s dust swirls through it too.
Something of a young troubadour, Hay makes compositions that feel both incredibly detailed and beautifully light. A rising star and so much more.
Toby Hay manages to marry craft and melody like few others in contemporary Welsh Folk. His appreciation of the melancholic and melodic voice of his guitar brings out an experimental, gorgeously elongated picking style that touches on American Primitivism and the likes of Bert Jansch or John Renbourne, but with an inviting, graceful air
One of our returning favourites, Toby Hay plays some of the most devastatingly beautiful music we’ve ever heard. Our easy comparison whenever Toby plays is with film scores, and we’re still sticking with that. His instrumental folk builds up an entire world if you only you stop and listen. Sometimes instrumental musicians describe what a song is about as though even without words it can still tell a story. If you’ve ever struggled to understand what they mean, come and see Toby Hay. He’s one of the finest storytellers we’ve ever had at Folkroom, and he’s never sung a word
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