KATHLEEN KEANE
Where the Wind Meets the Water
Ten tracks – Self Published
www.kathleenkeane.com

Achievement is a word synonymous with the name Kathleen Keane and she has certainly achieved with her latest release Where the Wind Meets the Water. A hybrid of original composition interwoven with classic favourites, the multi–instrumentalist reveals her vocal talent alongside her obvious competence on fiddle, flute and whistle. Already highly regarded within the traditional musical scene from her associations with bands such as The Drovers, Gaelic Storm and Tantrum, Keane provides a series of tuneful twist and turns on the instrumental tracks especially in her fiery whistle rendition of The Laurel Bush set that flies through phrase after phrase and powers into a High Reel finish. The pace is toned down in the next track as again utilising the lingering echo of the whistle she delivers a poignant self-composed air named after Montana that displays a clever use of timing and nuance. Throughout the album she is accompanied by the likes of Dennis Cahill and William Coulter, amongst others, who enhance without deflecting from the main instrumental.
There’s a really soft breathy quality to Keane’s voice and she uses this to her advantage with her song choices. Galway is endearingly vocalised with a vulnerability that adapts to the lyrics perfectly and the soothing sound of When Irish Eyes are Smiling carries a freshness to a song that is almost a hundred years old, however, it’s the title track Where the Wind Meets the Water that captures the essence of the album for me. Written by Keane and Al Day, it embraces the tradition yet stays current and suits her sweet tone perfectly. A touching finale is displayed on the final track. It’s a handheld cassette recording of her Grandfather playing tunes on his accordion in his Kitchen in Maam, Co Galway around twenty years ago.
What a great way to acknowledge the generational musical tradition and with the quality exhibited on Where the Wind Meets the Water, Kathleen Keane has achieved yet again.

Chicago native musician celebrates her Irish heritage

“In terms of my career, I’ve always made my living being the side person in someone else’s band or project,” said Kathleen Keane, of Norridge. “Only recently have I had the courage to be on center stage and front myself. The response has been great, every show is selling out. It’s going well.”

Keane, 39, has had a successful and exciting career in Irish music, and is widely acknowledged as a superb multi-instrumentalist (tin whistle, flute, fiddle, button accordion), dancer, singer, and composer, as well as being a true Irish beauty.

She has also seen success as an actress and is emerging as a vocalist of renown. She was a member of the acclaimed Celtic rock band, The Drovers, and toured for three years with Celtic band, Gaelic Storm. While with Gaelic Storm, Keane made multiple TV appearances on episodes of “Providence” and also “The Roseanne Barr Show.”

Movie music

Keane appears in the movies, “The Road to Perdition” and “Backdraft,” performing on tin whistle, and her whistle and fiddle music was included on the soundtrack to “Cinderella Man.” With her new trad-influenced band, Tantrum, Keane performs occasionally with other busy and successful artists — Jimmy Moore, Dennis Cahill, Jackie Moran, Declan Fahy, and Patrick Quinn.

But Keane’s desire to be a solo artist goes back to 1999, when she released her first solo album. She had just joined Gaelic Storm and was about to tour, so had no time to even do a CD release party.

With her recent self-produced and critically acclaimed solo album, “Where the Wind Meets the Water,” Keane has been able to actively promote and perform in support of her recording. She not only had a proper CD release event — a packed house at Mayne Stage in Chicago — but will perform a second such event at Mayne Stage in September.

Keane’s stand-out title track, co-written with Al Day, is delivered with her fine vocals, like a fresh Celtic breeze sailing over melody and soulful instrumentation. Other tracks include delightful renditions of traditional and original material with song, reels, airs, jigs and hornpipes.

A surprising and exceptional piece on the new album is Keane’s full-versed rendition of the Irish classic, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Old favorite

“A lot of people are surprised that it’s on the album,” said Keane. “But I was singing in a show and a director asked that we sing it, and half of the musicians turned up their nose at it; but I think the lyric, the music, and the sentiment are great, and the verses are unusually beautiful. When Bing Crosby recorded it, he only did the chorus, and this is the version that is mostly performed, with the verses dropped. This song will (soon be) 100 years old, and there’s something to it, a reason why it has lasted so long.”

Keane is a Chicago native who grew up with music and performance.

“I think for me, like a lot of first generation Irish Americans living in Chicago, we start dancing and it leads to music lessons,” she said. “I was only 5 years old when I started taking Irish dancing lessons, and an older dancer, Mary Mayer, taught me tin whistle and flute. Then, when I was 10 years old, I wanted to study with Liz Carroll. I knew her from the Irish music scene, because myself, my sister, and some other childhood friends, including John Williams, were all member of this Irish cultural organization (CCE), so we grew up in this community. But Liz didn’t teach tin whistle or flute, she taught fiddle and accordion. So I decided to take fiddle, not necessarily because I was interested in the instrument, but because I wanted to study with her.”

Later, when Keane’s mother suggested she learn the button accordion, Carroll said she would only teach one instrument at a time.

Said Keane, laughing: “Learning the button accordion was my way out of fiddle lessons!”

But more learning was clearly a good idea for an Irish musician.

“I had the advantage of starting so young and growing up in a music community where it’s common to learn more than one instrument,” she said. “I did go to college, got my bachelor’s, but knew I would do music for a living from the time I was 18. I knew that there was more work if you were a multi-instrumentalist, that the more things you could do, the more work you would get. I can cover many roles.”

Stuart Rosenberg of Evanston’s S.P.A.C.E, who is a Skokie resident, recorded and mixed “Where the Wind Meets the Water,” and he thinks highly of Keane’s musicianship.

“Working in the studio with her on this recording was a thoroughly enjoyable challenge,” he said. “Her original instrumental compositions blend the earthy musk of dance music with an elegant sense of balance and arrangement. Her original songs are rich with vivid poetic imagery, sung in a voice that carries love and longing with real tenderness and beauty.”

For more information about Keane, visit www.kathleenkeane.com.

Where the Wind Meets the Water 

2011. Kathleen Keane. 10 Tracks, 39 minutes.

A multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and composer, Kathleen Keane has her roots in music and her music in the roots of Irish traditional fiddle, flute, whistle and accordion. The vocals are unique, compelling and a pure bonus. Her new CD, Where the Wind Meets the Water is one of my favorite recent releases, surprising, soulful and moving Kathleen from a multi-talented instrumentalist to a complete entertainer.
First, a little background…
Kathleen is a champion Irish stepdancer, choreographer and instructor. She began her dancing career at the age of five with the Dennis Dennehy School of Irish Dancing, where Michael Flatley also studied.  Kathleen quickly accumulated hundreds of medals and trophies over the years, reaching the open championship level by the age of nine, and winning the title of Midwest Regional Champion at her first regional Oireachtus.  
Kathleen transferred to the Flatley School of Irish Dancing, where she was privately tutored by Michael Flatley and continued her success at the competitive level, qualifying to compete at the World Championships in Ireland seven times in seven attempts. 
At the age of fifteen, Kathleen officially retired from the competitive stage; however, the demand for her skills as both a teacher and performer quickly brought her back to the dance stage.  She began private tutoring and also taught Irish Dance at the prestigious Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Kathleen obtained her TCRG, the Irish Dancing Certification, awarded by An Comisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, Dublin, Ireland, landing a rare perfect score in the music portion of the exam.
A Congressional Scholar, Kathleen also graduated from Dominican University as the Distinguished Senior in the Bachelor of Arts Honors Degree Program in International Business, earning a Minor Degree in Music Performance.  
Giving back in thanks to those who helped her develop her prodigious skill has been not just a desire, but a trademark. Kathleen opened The Keane Academy of Irish Music when she was only sixteen years old. She garnered numerous American and International awards, having achieved top three status in the world championships on both the tin whistle and the flute.  
Music has always been her first calling. Kathleen was a child prodigy on the whistle and quickly met that excellence on other instruments too. These include (so far), what she is most known for, the fiddle, plus vocals, wooden flute and accordion. Each flows as seamlessly, and seemingly effortlessly as the grace and beauty of her fiddle. I have loved her fiddle style and mastery for a long time. Now that I have seen and heard her take the center stage in vocals, the entertainer has moved from a component of a great band, to a leading lady.
There are five original tracks of the ten on Where the Wind Meets the Water. The title track leads off, with a soft sway, accelerating into Fr. Gready’s Trip to Bockagh on flute, then a few reels keep you dancing. Kathleen’s version of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling is a nice change of pace, then she zips right back into the flute and three reels that I really enjoy. I could listen to that flute all day and Kathleen’s original, The Montana Air just floats in the expressive play. Loved it. 
Vocals return in Galway, running into The Honeybee on flute. Two original trad tunes and the original Day by Day, which will slip into your brain and linger, lead into the finale, “Johnny O” on the Box – which includes a recording Kathleen made of her Grandad in his kitchen in Luggary, Maam, Co. Galway, on a hand held recorder, twenty years ago. Generations!
Guests on Where the Wind Meets the Water include the aforementioned Johnny O’ on Accordion; Dennis Cahill on Guitar; James Conway on Harmonica and Jaw Harp; William Coulter on Guitar; Al Day on Guitar; James Moore on Bass, Bouzouki and Guitar and Jackie Moran on Bodhran.

"...Another recording I have been anxiously awaiting is Kathleen Keane’s Where the Wind Meets the Water and I finally got it! What a joy! Anyone who has had the pleasure to sit and listen to Kathleen perform knows what an accomplished musician she is. Her CD captures all the intensity of her performance and all the feeling that she has for her music. She is the music and the music is her. Okay, words are failing me here a bit. There are musicians to whom the music isn’t just something they play, but instead the music is a part of them. It’s what they are, not just what they do. Kathleen Keane’s one of those. Her fiddle, tinwhistle and vocals are simply outstanding. Added to this, she is surrounded by some of the finest trad musicians in the industry, Dennis Cahill, guitar, James Conway, harmonica, William Coulter, guitar, Jimmy Moore, bass, bouzouki and guitar and Jackie Moran, the king of the bodhran. The tunes are a mix of traditional and original, that’s right, she also writes lovely music! She also takes one of the iconic cheesy songs, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and, with her original arrangement, turns it into a lovely ballad. I love it! The CD finishes with a recording of her Granddad playing his accordion, sweet, lovely, fun… Kathleen. She is what she is and that’s one of the best."

"My only familiarity with Kathleen Keane prior to receiving a review copy of her self-titled CD was as the amazingly talented and beautiful fiddler with Gaelic Storm, where she burst from the stage (and the band's third CD, Tree) with electrified energy. So I was surprised when I first played this CD and the first track featured her, not on fiddler, but on pennywhistle.

Time to read the promotional materials, Tom. Turns out the Chicago-born Kathleen is something of a renaissance woman of Irish music. Initially a gifted and award-winning whistler (dubbed a "child prodigy" by Martin Hayes), she took up the fiddle "just to keep her edge" -- and became a phenomenon with that instrument, too. She's a singer and songwriter, a composer and, if that's not enough, she studied Irish stepdancing under Michael Flatley of Riverdance/Lord of the Dance fame. Before Gaelic Storm, she played with the Drovers and Wilding, and she has written for several movie scores.

Whew!

Back to the CD, which is a revelation for anyone who came expecting this to be a spotlight on her fiddling skills. It keeps you guessing, as she juggles whistle, fiddle, low whistle and vocal tracks; kudos to her for not trading simply on what she's best known for, which is obviously what some people would have wanted from her. She no doubt could have filled a lively fiddle album with ease, but this CD gives a sampling of her much broader range of talent.

The album begins with a lively reel set featuring Kathleen on whistle backed by piano. There are slow fiddle tunes, as well as one that creeps up on you like an unexpected session discovered down the street. "Patiently Waiting," an original composition, has an infectious, loping pace to it. She also slows the fast reel "Sally Gardens" down to a snail's pace, playing both fiddle and low whistle, swapping instruments during an intricate, finger-picked solo by guitarist George Pace.

The first song is the traditional "A Bunch of Thyme," which uses a garden metaphor for keeping one's virginity intact."Fairy Queen" is Keane's own composition, a mystical and atmospheric song that is a little unsettling as an old man is granted the chance to relive his last day. The third and final song is the old Scottish saw, "Wild Mountain Thyme."

No question, I underestimated Kathleen Keane when she sent it to me. I expected amazing fiddling and got so much more. Now the only question is what she will tackle -- and master -- next. I'll be watching."

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