Biography (Courtesy of Rambling House Archive, 2003).
PLUS: Biography (Courtesy of the Artist�s site, 2005).
SINGING was encouraged in the Casey family home in Ballyduff Lower in Co Waterford. Both Karen's grandmothers sang. While at school she was involved in the GAA Scor na n�g competitions and then in Sl�gadh.
In 1987, after a year in Waterford Regional College, she went to University College, Dublin, to study music. Unhappy with the teaching methods, she concentrated on her other two subjects, Italian and classics. She also studied piano and voice at the Irish School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music.
Towards the end of her UCD period Karan sang in the jazz band Bourbon Street, was the resident singer in George's Bistro for two years, and also performed with the group Dorothy, singing her own original songs.
"I learned mostly from Ella Fitzgerald records and I was doing some scat singing along with the occasional traditional song or two," she said in a 1997 interview. "Later I sang in a jazz band, also with a folk-ballad group and then another jazz band. I love jazz, the spirit of it, and still use what I learned from it in my approach to Irish traditional songs".
In 1993 she travelled to the USA on a Morrison Visa. She has been in the USA before on a summer student visa and visited New York and Boston. She went into a jazz course and frequented the lively Manhattan session scene.
She started singing with a traditional group based around New York, Atlantic Bridge, featuring Mayo-born fiddler Fiona Doherty and native New Yorker Patricia Conway Furlong on accordion and Brendan Dolan.
Seamus Egan persuaded her to join the new group he was forming with Winnie Horan, John Williams and John Doyle. And so in 1994. Solas and Karan Casey arrived on the big stage and the festival circuit. Their debut album received wide coverage in Ireland as well as America.
She sang with Solas for over four years and they released two further albums, while she released a solo album Songlines in 1997
She left Solas in 1999 for a solo career and in December 1999 gave birth to daughter Muireann. She tours with musicians Niall Vallely (ex-Nomos) and Robbie Overson, formerly of Sculion. She released her second solo album The Winds Begin to Sing in 2001, a collection of mostly traditional songs with two new songs by Cork's Liam de Paor and John Spillane.
She sings in an easy, flowing voice, favouring understatement. Frank Harte and �ine U� Cheallaigh figure strongly among her main influences, both vocally and in her choice of material. These, along with the local neighbouring singers in Co Waterford, Seamus Brady and the Foran family, were all instrumental in her development. Politically and socially aware and, increasingly rare in Irish music, she is not afraid to air her views on the North, for example.
Courtesy of the Artist�s site, 2005
On �Chasing the Sun�:
Waterford-born singer Karan Casey released her new album,
"Chasing the Sun" in April (2005).
Largely recorded at her home in Co. Cork, "Chasing the Sun" uncovers Karan's fine talent for songwriting and her sensitive approach to age-old themes such as love and oppression.
Although self-written songs make up about half the album, alongside a trio of great songs by Barry Kerr (a young musician from Co. Armagh) and one by Robbie O'Connell, Karan hasn1t abandoned her first love of traditional singing.
Her unique interpretations make you listen with new ears to the older
songs. She can make you believe in any story she tells you: "Like the greatest torch singers, such as Billie Holiday, she makes us believe she is
sharing confidences, singing just to us." (Boston Globe)
Karan is joined on the album by her long standing band - Niall Vallely
(with whom she co-produced the album), Robbie Overson, Paul Meehan and EwenVernal: "People have been asking me for the last few years for an album that reflects the gigs, so here it is. This has just the lads and myself on it with no frills other than a few harmonies and a bit of percussion." She
also went back to her old friend John Anthony, the engineer who worked on her first solo album "Songlines" and the first three Solas albums:
"John came over and set up the gear in the house, so we were able to work in a much more relaxed setting, I don't think I have ever enjoyed making an album as much as this one, and you can hear it in my singing."
"Chasing the Sun" is sure to build on the success of Karan's previous
albums, which have garnered numerous awards as well as widespread
critical acclaim. It represents a new level of maturity for Karan and is
presented with an immediacy and vibrancy that will delight her fans as well as attracting a whole new audience.
"The most soulful singer to emerge in Irish traditional music in the
past decade" (The Herald, Glasgow)
"Casey's voice is among the loveliest in folk music, and she is a
wonderful interpreter of both contemporary and traditional material." (Boston Globe)
On �Distant Shore�:
Karan Casey is one of the most instantly recognizable, alluring and original voices in all of world music. Her recording, Distant Shore, is a collection of potent and beautiful Irish and contemporary ballads. The subtle and sensitive instrumentation and arrangements on all of the CD's
tracks illuminate Casey's voice and illustrate just what she can do with her magical instrument. The former longtime lead vocalist with the Irish supergroup Solas exhibits the grace, pacing and richness of an old soul. The Wall Street Journal says Karan Casey is �one of the true glories in Irish music today�, while The Associated Press says Casey has �...a voice so beautiful, it's almost impossible to avoid falling under her spell.� Distant Shore is a follow up to Casey's The Winds Begin to Sing (Shanachie Records) which won Irish Music Magazine�s� Best Folk Album� award in 2001.
Distant Shore showcases Karan�s superb talent for interpreting Traditional Irish material and her ability to bring her considerable traditional song training to bear on contemporary material by songwriters such as English rocker Billy Bragg, American bluegrass/traditional artists Tim O�Brien and Darrell Scott and Irish singer/songwriter John Spillane and poet Louis de Paor. The blending of songs from the traditional Irish canon and recent tunes suits Karan�s musical background as well as her desire to test herself with newer songs. �Recording Distant Shore made me stretch out in terms of the singing and trying to improvise a bit, and I even wrote a song myself�, Karan says.
In addition to challenging repertoire on Distant Shore, Karan also took delight in surrounding herself with a diverse cast of musicians. As well as her regular band of Niall Valley and Robbie Overson and producer Donald Shaw (of Capercaillie fame), Karan is joined by the likes of Michael McGoldrick, Dirk Powell, Ewen Vernal, James Grant, Dezi Donnelly, Paul Meehan and Cillian Vallely along with three guest singers � Tim O�Brien, Karen Matheson and John Spillane. She explains, �There are a lot of guests on the album. It�s one of the best aspects of the record, especially the guest singers." Karan has nothing but praise for the vocal contributions of singer, multi-instrumentalist and famed bluegrass star Tim O�Brien (with whom Casey has toured), Karen Matheson (celebrated singer with the Scottish outfit Capercaillie) and John Spillane (Irish singer/songwriter formerly of the band Nomos). Karan Casey is particularly fond of Matheson's take on �Lord MacDonald's�. �I had to go with Karen Matheson's singing of it. And my God I didn�t appreciate how difficult it would be. I think I got there in the end though!� shares Casey, laughing.
Noted American roots musician Dirk Powell also appears on Distant Shore. Known for his work with the Cajun group Balfa Toujours, as well as his solo albums and projects with Tim O�Brien, Powell plays banjo on Distant Shore. �He�s quite possibly one of the most generous musicians I�ve ever met,� Karan says. �And I love the way he answers the voice in �Curra Road� particularly just after the break. It�s one of my favorite moments in the album.�
Karan also notes that two of the songs - �Distant Shore� and �Bata is B�thar� - are about immigration. �The tunes are about people coming to a new land and having to deal with that,� she says. �This is something I feel very strongly about. There are a lot of problems here in Ireland. We�re not really treating our immigrants very well, so these songs are a good way to talk to people about that subject. I�m trying to get at the human aspect of immigration.�
With Distant Shore Karan continues to chart a course between traditional Irish vocal music and modern influences. A vocalist with a genuine gift for solo singing, Karan has learned to sing with other musicians. Still, she understands the solo singer�s unique niche and is cautious about the
trade-offs that come with singing to accompaniment. �Traditional Irish music is a challenge,� she allows. �I grew up singing on my own. I learned a lot of songs on my own and did solo singing competitions. And a lot of the tradition is about solo singing and drawing people into you and into the song. It�s quite a challenge, therefore, to add anything to that, because on many levels, you lose something when you add something else. It�s a huge challenge to know where to draw the line, particularly for the singers. It�s still difficult to put an accompaniment to traditional songs without taking too much from the story and the drama of the song.�
Karan began to learn about the drama of songs while a youngster in Ballyduff Lower, County Waterford. She was taught classical technique by Lupeta Sheehan and traditional songs by the Foran family, who encouraged her to enter local music competitions. As she grew older she discovered jazz and spent many hours listening to Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. She went on to sing pop, Jazz and Irish standards in pub bands. In 1994, Seamus Egan and Winifred
Horan heard Karan sing with Atlantic Bridge in New York City and soon thereafter asked her to join the band they were forming - Solas. Solas quickly became one of the most celebrated Irish bands in the U.S., and Karan�s four years with the group were pivotal.
Karan Casey has been the recipient of numerous awards. In 2001, the soft spoken and mesmerizing singer won the �Best Folk Album� from Irish Music Magazine and was nominated for a Grammy in Denmark in the category of "Best International Folk Album." Casey was also nominated for her song "Who Put the Blood" from The Winds Begin to Sing by the BBC Radio/Folk Roots Awards in the "Best Traditional Track" category. 2002 also found Casey touring with major bluegrass artist Tim O'Brien and flautist Mike McGoldrick. Look for Karan Casey in a city near you in 2003, touring in support of Distant Shore.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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