In Irish music there are legends and legends and then there's Paddy Keenan. Keenan was born in Ireland to a travelling family steeped in traditional music. Both his father and grandfather were uilleann pipers. Keenan took up the pipes at the age of ten, played his first major concert at 14, and later performed with the rest of his family in a their group The Pavees.
At 17, having fallen in love with the blues, Keenan left Ireland for England and Europe where he could play blues and rock-n-roll. A few years later he returned home. He formed the band Seachtar with singer and keyboardist Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, singer and guitarist Micheal O Dhomhnaill, fiddler Paddy Glackin, flutist Matt Mollov, accordion player Tony MacMahon, and guitarist Donal Lunny.
Later, after some band member changes, fiddler Kevin Burke joined Ni Dhomhnaill, O Dhomhnaill, Mollov, Lunny and Keenan. They decided the band needed a new name. O' Dhomhnaill came across a photograph taken in the 1890s of a group of tattered musicians. "The Bothy Band," it was titled, in reference to migrant Irish laborers who lived in stone huts called "bothies." O' Dhomhnaill suggested the band take that name, the others agreed, and thus was born one of the most influential bands of the 1970s, The Bothy Band.
The Bothy Band forever changed the face of Irish traditional music, merging a driving rhythm section with traditional Irish tunes in ways that had never been heard before. Those fortunate enough to have seen the band live have never forgotten the impression they made one reviewer likened the experience to "being in a jet when it suddenly whipped into full throttle along the runway." Keenan was one of the band's founding members, and his virtuosity on the pipes combined with the ferocity of his playing made him, in the opinion of many, its driving force. Bothy band-mate Donal Lunny once described Keenan as "the Jimi Hendrix of the pipes." More recently, due to his genius for improvisation and counter-melody, he has been compared to jazz great John Coltrane.
Keenan's style has continued to mature in the intervening years since the break-up of The Bothy Band as he has pursued a solo career. He performs at festivals and events throughout the US, Canada and Ireland. Twice he's performed at the Washington Irish Folk Festival at Wolf Trap, including a concert performance there in 1995 with accordion player James Keane and guitarist John Doyle, which was videotaped and has since been broadcast worldwide.
Keenan's flowing, open-fingered style of playing can be traced directly from the style of such great travelling pipers as Johnny Doran. Both Keenan's father and grandfather played in the same style. Although often compared to Doran, Keenan was 19 or 20 when he first heard a tape of Doran's playing, so his own style is a direct result of his father's tutelage. Generally acknowledged as the most accomplished uilleann piper performing today, Paddy is certainly one of the most brilliant musicians of his generation, and can rightfully claim his place alongside such piper legends as John Cash and Johnny Doran.
Keenan will be joined by guitarist, John Walsh. In 1992, Walsh brought his family from Ireland to the United States. Now they reside in New York, where he writes, performs and records. Walsh grew up in Kilkenny, Ireland, where first learned to play the tin whistle his first instrument. After learning tunes on the whistle, his mother's guitar seemed a logical progression. To his luck, a local musician was kind enough to "show him around the fretboard," and soon Walsh was part of the thriving music scene in Kilkenny.
Walsh is also an Audio Engineer and owns and operates St. Canicea's Backyard, a recording studio specializing in Irish traditional music. He has worked with many different artists including Pat Kilbride, Keith O'Neill, Mike Rafferty, Frankie Gavin, David Power, Seanchaí, Paddy Keenan and others. His style of guitar picking is based on Irish jigs and reels. And, when he and Keenan perform together, they create something that doesn't "come to town" every day.
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