Not sure how long ago, must be over ten years, that I heard Hayes and Cahill guest on Later with Jools Holland. Their haunting fiddle lament built into a jig, then a reel (not that I am sure I could define the difference between those two) with Dennis Hayes' acoustic guitar, often simply staying on one chord and providing more rhythm than tune, accompanying Martin Hayes virtuoso playing.
I went out and bought their album, The Lonesome Touch next day.
Holy Trinity Church Nailsea, re-ordered without clutter or anything that might soak up sound, provided the perfect setting for their music last night. As the audience settled down, that solitary fiddle sound, single string at a time, perfectly clean, cut through the ancient atmosphere and left us all spellbound.
The Hayes and Cahill methodology is to mash-up at least five or six different traditional Irish folk tunes, segueing seamlessly into each other and building in speed, rhythmic power and imagination. The second half of their set was built around just two substantial pieces of such music, the second launching off into a giant piece of improvisation, and their single encore was achieved by taking requests and linking them together.
But the moods are not all upbeat. I doubt if this ancient church has ever heard a more lovely piece than Lament for Limerick (I played it on Good Friday a few years back) and I felt an urge to specify it as my funeral music. There won't be a dry eye in the house, not because of my loss (it will stop the laughter and glee) but because of the tune.
In between these extended pieces of music Martin Hayes lists the songs, the composers, a bit of biography and, in a lovely dry way, amuses his audience whilst, presumably, recovering some energy to play again. That neither of them appear to break sweat in an immensely physical performance carried out sitting on chairs, is remarkable.
Absolutely brilliant night out and a real coup for David Francis of the Nailsea Folk club to have achieved it. He's got Martin Joseph coming in June. For the town that gave the world The Wurzels the quality is being stepped up.