The St. Patrick’s Season is upon us now with lots of great music and dance opportunities all around as Irish musicians and dancers gear up for the increased demand and interest in their talents.
Here is my first survey of the scene, cherry picking some highlights coming up in the next couple of weeks hoping that you, like me, are a big fan of live music and like to show off your Irish IQ when it comes to some choice music.
The timing couldn’t be better for that Waterford songbird, Karan Casey, to be coming out with a new CD entitled Two More Hours as she embarks on another American tour.
Thanks to a very successful crowd sourcing campaign via Kickstarter last year, she was able to realize her dream of producing an album containing all her own songs which come along at a critical stage in her life and career. When her mother Ann Casey passed away in November of 2010, Casey’s world was upended personally because theirs was a very special and close relationship, one where her mother’s love and affection and nurturing helped bolster Casey’s work as a singer and her roles as a wife and mother of two children.
It shouldn’t come as any great surprise that an emotive singer like Casey would have to deal with her own grief and take some time to evaluate her life and find a way to give voice to those personal feelings that surrounded her.
Sure, she penned some songs before, but now it became more important to her that her new material reflected a lot of that soul-searching. So she spent more time at home and on the piano, working with her husband Niall Vallely who produced the CD and also created the lush orchestral arrangements that bathe the new work so wonderfully.
Even her press release that accompanied the new CD took a personal tact as the new project “opened a door for me — a magic door. I felt released and sort of sprang into action. I didn’t feel under so much pressure to produce sometime whole by 12 o’clock lunchtime.
“I am impatient but writing and reading poetry helps you to learn to wait, be kind to all those voices in your head, to make more coffee — tea is better — and to wait, be kind to yourself, to wait” she wrote in that strong new confident voice that grew from her pain and loss.
The result is a stunning and gorgeous recording that seems to capture the essence of Casey as a singer who has moved gracefully and freely through the ages and genres of music that have influenced her since she first started singing.
From her early fascination with rhythm and blues singers and jazzy arrangements, to the intense mentoring period with Frank Harte who taught her that songs matter because the words tell the history of the people who inhabit our worlds, to the more contemporary times where there are so many great singer songwriters who have touched her soul and inspired her to sing — all that experience has been fruitful in bringing Casey to a place where she is comfortable with her own voice and what she has to say for herself.
Long-time fans of Casey’s singing with Solas, her solo career and work with John Doyle and even those who were fortunate enough to catch her Masters in Collaboration Performance with Aoife O’Donovan at the Irish Arts Center in New York last spring will be sweetly surprised by the new album.
Casey has always been cognizant of tempering musical arrangements so they wouldn’t overcome her voice and the lyrics of her songs, and thankfully musicians have usually been approached it the same way.
But Casey and Vallely, who has been working more and more on musical arrangements and integrating a larger sound to enhance tunes and songs, assembled an amazing array of artists to embellish this CD.
Sean Og Graham, Trevor Hutchinson, Danny Byrt, Kenneth Edge, Kate Ellis, Ken Rice, Eoghan Regan, Caoimhin Vallely (Niall’s brother) and Niall himself all contributed mightily to the accompaniment and allowed Karan to soar to new heights. A special treat is heartfelt duet with Mick Flannery and additional vocals by two younger singers in Abigail Washburn and Aoife O’Donovan also added to overall impact.
Casey begins her tour to support the CD this week, appearing at the University of Hartford on Friday night February 28. On Saturday, March 1 at 8 p.m. she will appear at the Algonquin Arts Theatre on the Jersey Shore in Manasquan (algonquinarts.org or 732-528-9211.
On Monday, March 3 she is at Club Passim in Cambridge and on Wednesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. she will be at Subculture in Greenwich Village (45 Bleecker Street). For more tour dates visit www.karancasey.com where you can also order the CD or download it at Itunes.com. Accompanying her on the USA tour are Grant Gordy and Corey Di Mario. Casey’s tour finishes up before St. Patrick’s Day with a guest appearance on the March 15 show of Prairie Home Companion out in St. Paul, Minnesota.