Wilfie Gilbert must be one of the most under-exposed, self-effacing legends of the Northern Ireland music scene. You could say he’s a musician whose time has come, with the release on 1st March 2019 of ‘Miner’s Gold’ – his first full collection of ten outstanding original songs.

First off though – that voice! We need to hear more of it here in Northern Ireland and frankly, so should the whole world. Forgive me if this seems like hyperbole – but this is genuinely world class stuff. Pure, raw, liquid gold. The rich textures of each tune revealed in the emotional resonance, delivered with such ease – just the right measure of raspy gravel in the voice.

Wilfie has been around the Belfast music scene for some time. The first time I heard him was singing covers in the John Hewitt some years ago, where you couldn’t help but be impressed by this natural talent. He seemed like a sound soul too.

He’s obviously held in high regard by contemporaries. Another local legend Gareth Dunlop worked closely with Wilfie on ‘Miner’s Gold’. He’s launched a few EPs in the past but this is the first full length album. He was well received in Nashville when he went a few years back courtesy of the Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters’ Festival, where audiences in the famous Bluebird Café and at the Music City Roots Show were impressed.

Opening with ‘Blindsided’, a melodic track with a catchy chorus, covers that overwhelming feeling of being blown away by a new love interest. In fact the first three songs could probably be linked as a reflection on a relationship – from overwhelmed in ‘Blindsided’ to knowing it’s not quite right but not yet over in ‘Give This Up Just Yet’, to the rather beautiful third track, ‘Garden’, rather poetically reflecting on the fallout and aftermath of relationship neglect.

Grief is a key theme in this album and what struck me is the honest feelings explored when we lose a loved one. ‘Today I Turned The Light Out’ gently, hauntingly, describes those moments and days after death – the emptiness of the domestic space reflecting the emptiness inside. This flows into ‘Miss You’ – taking forward the theme of grief – a ghostly apparition, reminiscence, memories and how we feel a bit lost in the midst of it all.

The opening of ‘Hang On’ changes the tempo with a new beat – a singalong chorus with swayability. Love this track! ‘Hey Ya’ also has a similar vibe – instantly memorable and you just know the crowd will love these live.

‘Hold You’ returns us to a simple, melodic love song – the emotions that make us human, how the hands of the ordinary working man can reach up to the highest nobility of soul. Beautiful.

‘Lift Me Up’ is a natural follow on. A prayer for salvation following those bi-polar effects of the wine – that empty feeling the morning after and the darkness that ensues – the need to escape it all. Who hasn’t known that amongst us?

The last track, ‘I Will Feel Again’, is just stunning – the drum beat that sees the sense of rising from the lowest point, to knowing everything will be okay in the end, with a little help from our friends or the power that remains a mystery.

Despite the themes of numbness and emptiness featured in these songs, the irony is they are full of feeling. ‘Miner’s Gold’ is a collection of emotionally charged songs, ranging from the upbeat to the hollow lows – but each delivered in the amber honesty of a great voice and a giant soul.

‘Miner’s Gold’ is released on Friday 1st March 2019.

Visit WilfieMusic.com for more.