The Alan Kelly Gang:
The Alan Kelly Gang sit firmly at the cutting edge of the Traditional and World music scene. Fronted by Ireland’s piano accordion maestro, described by New York’s Irish Voice as “in league with the best piano accordionists in the world”, and with three critically acclaimed masters of their craft in tow, the gang have been taking global audiences by storm impressing both music lover and critic alike. Hailed by international critics for their consummate musicianship and powerful, emotive performance, they deliver a unique and diverse perspective to the Celtic repertoire, amalgamating a musical dialogue that spans the Celtic countries, but with Ireland always sternly at the helm.
“The arrangements are world class, as are the musicians, and Ireland is always somewhere in the mix”
Irish Music Magazine
With powerful instrumentals and beautifully arranged songs, skillfully executed and soulfully delivered, their live performances are a living, breathing thing. Mixing strong dynamics, driving rhythms and buoyant harmonies, they unite old with new and breathe new life into what has been handed down from generations before. As Alan and his Gang visit festival stages across the globe, critics praise them for their power, energy and ability to make audiences fall in love, leaving the listener with an ache and yearning that comes from hearing great music and witnessing exquisite musicians at work. In short, their music will draw even the most fainthearted listener into the passion they put into the music they play, infecting the listener with a sense of musical delight – magical, joyous and uplifting!
Ireland is just the starting point as they propel their audiences through the repertoire of the Celts, taking influence from regions including Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Galicia and old-time America and seamlessly combine these with original compositions that stem from a deep traditional sensitivity.
In September 2011, the gang released their first official band album entitled Small Towns and Famous Nights to critical acclaim. It was named as one of Folk Worlds ‘top ten trad albums of 2011’. Though on the road as a touring band for many years and with many critically acclaimed solo and ensemble recording projects behind them, this album marked the first time the four took to the studio together to produce and record a collaborative work. Guest musicians include: internationally acclaimed and mesmerizing, Scottish songstress, Eddi Reader, (of Fairground Attraction fame), Trashcan Sinatra’s guitarist and songwriter, John Douglas, Boo Hewerdine (The Bible), Kevin McGuire (Eddi Reader Band) and percussionist and long time friend and collaborator, Jim Higgins (Altan/The Stunning). The Gang will return to the studio in late 2013 and expect to release their second album early 2014. Click Here to read reviews about Small Towns and Famous Nights
Some Gang History:
Alan Kelly, the main driving force behind the Gang, has been a busy performer on the scene for 20 odd years working with many different projects and musicians, some of his own motivation and some as musical collaborations with other top musician friends. Over his career so far he has amounted a vast wealth of experience that has helped lead him to his present day status as one of Ireland’s most accomplished musicians. Over the years, Alan has often been drawn to the combination of accordion, fiddle, flute and guitar and has continually pushed the boundaries of the solely tradition world, with projects like his Mosaic big band. Among many, one of his earliest notable duet collaborations was with fiddle legend, Cathal Hayden. From 2003-06 he toured a four piece line-up with Arty McGlynn on guitar promoting the traditional album he released with brother and flute player John Kelly.
In 2007 Alan explored a new 4 piece line-up that he called The Alan Kelly Quartet, which included Tola Custy (fiddle) and Steph Geremia (flute). After returning home from their first Australian tour in 2009, the guys teamed up with ex-Lunasa guitarist Donogh Hennessy. During the first few years, the AKQ was solely an instrumental outfit until 2010, when they discovered the stunning vocal abilities of band member Steph Geremia. Since then, they have been developing their song repertoire to be of an equal offering at live performances. It was also around this time that they first collaborated with critically acclaimed Scottish vocalist, Eddi Reader, a project that though originally started as a once off collaboration for the Galway Arts Festival in July 2010, but since developed a life of its own and resulted in a global headlining festival and theatre act. More info on the Alan Kelly Gang with Eddi Reader
In March 2011, they welcomed guitarist Tony Byrne to the mix and while on tour in Australia, they were asked to perform at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra as apart of ‘The History of the Irish in Australia’ Exhibition. It was a great honor for them to represent Ireland at this extensive exhibition especially at a time when hundreds of young Irish people were once again leaving Irish shores bound for Australia. After seeing the full four Kelly Gang members’ armor brought together for the first time in history (since they were in use), the quartet members were inspired, and so was born the Alan Kelly Gang.
The most recent addition to the gang line up was in 2012 when they welcomed Scottish fiddle maestro, Alasdair White to the mix.
With many years behind them developing and refining their sound, the Alan Kelly Gang have developed a distinctive, pulsey sound that weaves in and out of the traditional, contemporary and world music genres…. sometimes it is best left said by the critics:
“Alan Kelly is fast becoming a national treasure. The piano accordion maestro has assembled a group – or gang – around him, who can complement his own amazing skills… See these guys as soon as you get the chance.” Irish Music Magazine
“Their mastery of their respective instruments was sublime… a true collective of musicians… you’ll absolutely fall in love” Timber and Steel (Australia)
“These guys are working, playing, interacting and creating something special in the process… their music is a living breathing thing, like I have not heard in some time, with great vitality, mood changes, tempo changes and external influences that seep into the arrangements…. exquisite playing by all concerned” TradConnect“a drive and energy that will keep the chill out of the coldest winter night” FolkRadio UK
Top Worldwide Festival Appearances Include:
WOMADelaide (Australia), Edmonton Folk Festival (Canada), National Folk Festival (Australia), Winnipeg Folk Festival (Canada), Port Fairy Folk Festival (Australia), Celtic Connections (Scotland), Blue Mountains Music Festival (Australia), Celtic Colours (Canada), Festival de Cornouaille (France), Festival des Traversées (France), Guinness Irish Festival (Switzerland), Festival of World Cultures (Ireland), Galway Arts Festival (Ireland), Ballyshannon Folk Festival (Ireland) and Cork Folk Festival (Ireland).
Plus, a particular highlight was an invitation from legendary Irish rock band, Horslips to open for them including a performance at Dublin’s O2.
The Alan Kelly Gang team up with Scotland’s internationally acclaimed and mesmerizing songstress, Eddi Reader, of Fairground Attraction fame and Trashcan Sinatra’s guitarist and songwriter, John Douglas. The result is sheer musical synergy in its most natural form. Once a collaboration, now a band, their performances have been praised for leaving audiences spellbound; Scotland’s The Living Tradition magazine has described it as ‘an astonishing concert’.
Eddi Reader has effortlessly developed into one of popular music’s most thrilling and affecting performers, with an MBE, a number 1 single and 7 acclaimed solo albums behind her, what sets Eddi apart is the depth and quality of the emotional performance; her ability not only to move the listener, but to connect her experience to that of her audience. Her rare blend of meltingly true vocals and towering romanticism combine with an astute and pragmatic nature to make her a unique and powerful figure in contemporary British music. From the traditional to the contemporary, Eddi extinguishes the preordained boundaries of genre, bringing joyous life to all forms of song.
Since 2005 Alan has toured the world as part of the Eddi Reader Band and recorded on her last four albums. His friendship with Eddi resulted in a beautiful collaboration on a song penned by John Douglas. The collaborative work ‘I Hung My Harp Upon The Willows’ appears on Alan’s 2009 album, After The Morning, which was named as one of the ‘top ten musical highs of 2009’ by the Irish Times who described it as a ‘humdinger of a collection’. In 2010 Alan, Eddi and the gang joined forces for three major Irish arts festivals, each a resounding success driving the collaboration to new heights. In 2011 the Alan Kelly Gang again teamed up with Eddi and John for the evocative, ‘Connemara‘, released on the Alan Kelly Gang’s album, Small Towns and Famous Nights. The song was playlisted on Ireland’s national radio station, RTE Radio 1 and followed by a sell out nationwide tour of Ireland. The project has since evolved into a global headlining act.
About the AKG Band Members:
Described by New York’s Irish Voice as “in league with the best piano accordionists in the world”, Alan Kelly is regarded as one of Ireland’s most accomplished musicians in any genre. He is a piano accordionist, composer and arranger, utterly at home in his own skin. Though Alan hails from the rich traditional musical landscape of Roscommon, in the west of Ireland, variety in repertoire is one of his hallmarks. To date, he has released three critically acclaimed solo albums: Out of The Blue (1997), Mosaic (2000) and After the Morning (2009) which was named as one of the ‘top ten musical highs of 2009’ by the Irish Times who gave it a coveted 5 star review and described it as a ‘humdinger of a collection’. He has also released a critically acclaimed duet album with his brother John, Fourmilehouse (2003) and his most recent Alan Kelly Gang album, Small Towns and Famous Nights (2011).
Alan is truly one of the busiest performers on the traditional and folk music scene, touring and recording with artists such as: Eddi Reader, Matt Molloy, Sean Keane, Cathy Ryan, Arty McGlynn & Nollaig Casey, Michael McGoldrick, Karen Casey, Cathal Hayden, De Dannan, Lúnasa, Alison Brown and has contributed to a number of theatre productions from Boston to Edinburgh to Sydney working with prestigious award winning theatre companies such as Galway’s Druid Theatre Co., The Lyric in Belfast and Mabou Mines in New York.
His critically acclaimed 1997 debut album Out of the Blue exploded onto the traditional scene with such impact that he is generally credited with ‘making the piano accordion hip again’. During this time he also recorded and toured with Mancunian, Michael McGoldrick on his groundbreaking albums Morning Rory 1996 and Fused 1999. Also in 1999 Alan toured with music Network’s ‘Best of Irish’ nationwide tour performing alongside such heavyweights as Cathal Hayden, Karen Casey and Michael McGoldrick.
July 2000 saw the release of Kelly’s second solo album Mosaic. Produced by Arty McGlynn, Mosaic’s South American rhythms and cinematic jazz feel brought Alan’s music to a whole new audience. It showed not just what a good writer he is, but the breadth of his musical imagination. Mosaic was voted one of the ‘top ten trad albums’ by both the Irish Times and Hot Press Magazine. Irish Music Magazine also nominated Mosaic for ‘Best Crossover album’ of the year alongside Solas, Afro-Celts, and Sharon Shannon. Alan Kelly and the Mosaic Band quickly established itself as one of the hottest live acts on the Irish scene with its exciting blend of traditional, salsa and jazz rhythms, and propelled Alan onto the World Music stage.
In 2003, Alan returned to his Roscommon roots and released the beautifully forthright and traditional Fourmilehouse, with his brother John, which received critical acclaim both at home and abroad and continued to pave the way for festival and concert appearances all over the world. For the last number of years he has been touring as a regular member of the Eddi Reader band and promoting his own group, the Alan Kelly Gang.
A genuine musician, Alan’s playful, experimental approach to music has been described as magical, joyous and uplifting… always performed with flair and taste. Alan doesn’t just play the accordion, he celebrates it in a way that draws you into the passion he puts into the music he plays.
Bringing a sweet, soulful yet energetic air to her music, Steph is a vibrant and versatile musician who officially debuted on the scene in 2009 with the release of her critically acclaimed album, The Open Road. Described by Irish Music Magazine as “one of the most promising young flute players around” and “an unexpected treasure”, The Open Road was also named as one of Folk Worlds ‘top ten trad albums of 2009’. Taking inspiration from the Irish greats, such as Matt Molloy, she has also delved deep into other world music traditions giving her music a fresh perspective with depth and maturity.
Though being a long-time Irish resident, Steph hails originally from New York where she first began playing traditional music. It was there she studied World Music, working with legends such as experimental jazz hero, Anthony Braxton. She later traveled to India to study the Bonsuri under PT Ginde, disciple of the legendary Panal al Gosh and then moved to County Sligo. Taken under the wing of several of the noted players from that area, she spent many years surrounded by great traditional stalwarts, such as Peter Horan, with whom she played with regularly for many years. She has collaborated with prestigious theatre companies from Edinburgh to Galway to the US including Galway’s An Taibhearc and the New York based, award winning & avant-garde, Mabou Mines, in their production of Peter and Wendy, on the original score composed by the late Scottish fiddle player, Johnny Cunningham. Steph has performed at top festivals worldwide as a member of the Alan Kelly Gang and has performed and toured with icons such as The Chieftains, Eddi Reader and Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh.
Alasdair White hails from the Isle of Lewis, one of the Gaelic speaking Outer Hebrides (Scotland) where music and culture remain strong daily forces. He is well known as the Battlefield Band’s virtuoso fiddle player and has been an award-winning fiddler since he emerged at the age of thirteen, when praised by The Scotsman as a “13 year-old maestro of the Highland fiddle playing surging strathspeys and reels with maturity and expertise beyond his tender years”. He joined the Battlefield Band at the age of 18, as complete a musician and composer as any had heard. Since then, he has toured the world several times over and worked on many fine albums including a highly acclaimed debut solo CD, confirming his reputation and firmly establishing himself as a unique talent & virtuoso fiddle player. In these past few years, his musicianship and writing have had a great influence on the Battlefield Band’s repertoire and continuing success, and playing with them has given him the wider audience that his music deserves.
Hailing from Dublin, Tony is a highly sought after guitarist who has performed and toured with artists including Danu, Sharon Shannon, Michael McGoldrick, Gerry O’Connor, the David Munnelly Band, Matt Molloy, Paul Brady, Julie Fowlis and Peter Browne. He has also performed with artists of different genres such as the legendary guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel and banjo virtuoso, Bela Fleck. Television credits include The Late Late Show, Geantraí, Later with Jools Holland and BBC Alba. Tony has also delved into the theatrical world when cast as a member of the award winning Irish play, “Trad” which has toured worldwide from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland) to the Perth International Festival (Australia).
Tony contributes great vitality and energy and is a fantastic addition to the gang. His solid, rhythmic playing meshes with subtle, mischievous rhythmical interplay, offering up rich dynamic possibilities. He has been involved in music from a young age. Starting out playing in rock bands as a drummer at age 11, he began performing around Dublin city centre venues at age 12. Following family holidays in West Kerry, he developed an interest in Irish traditional music and has been involved in the performance, recording and teaching of it since. He is a music teacher in Ballyfermot Senior College, a position held for the past five years and has also taught guitar in the USA and throughout Europe at various festivals and workshops.