Alan Kelly was born in Co. Roscommon in 1972, he grew up in a house steeped in traditional Irish music and dance. His grandfather was a fiddler; his grandmother, a melodeon player; his father, Frank Kelly, a piano accordionist from Fourmilehouse in southern Roscommon who won the All-Ireland senior title in 1964; and his mother, Mary (née Ryan) Kelly, an adept pianist and saxophonist. From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Frank and Mary Kelly were members of the Killina Céilí Band, a gifted ensemble also featuring fiddler Paddy Ryan, a first cousin of Mary and a music instructor to both Alan and brother John, one of Ireland’s leading flautists and whistle players.
Although surrounded by flute players, Alan chose to follow in his fathers’ footsteps and learn the piano accordion. Very soon, Alan had forged his own inimitable style influenced mainly by his father Frank and local musicians such as Paddy Ryan, John Carlos, Patsy Hanly and Frank Jordan.
In his early music years, Alan went on to win All-Ireland titles on piano accordion and piano, and also with brother John in duets and neighbour and life long friend John Wynne in trio’s.
Determined to become a full time musician Alan moved to Galway in 1993 where he quickly became part of the thriving traditional music scene, forging an excellent reputation for himself.
In 1994 he landed a part in the Druid Theatre’s award winning production of Vincent Woods’ ‘At the black pigs Dyke’ and spent the next 12 months performing in Dublin, Galway, Glasgow, Toronto and Sydney. He also toured with Druid’s and Vincent Woods production of ‘The Yellow Bittern’ in 1995.
Back in Galway, Alan decided to concentrate on his debut solo album and in 1997 he released ‘Out of the Blue’ (BBM 001) on his own label Blackbox Music. Co-produced by Alan and Steve Cooney and featuring a host of Ireland’s top musicians, the album received estatic reviews from the critics, earned him a ‘Best Newcomer’ award from Irish Music Magazine and launched Alan on his solo career.
Extensive touring ensued, especially in the U.S. and Canada where ‘Out of the Blue’ was released on the Kells label. His live performances have become something of a special event with the Irish Times stating "his was a brilliantly talented, effortless and exuberant performance."
However, it wasn’t long before theatre beckoned again and towards the end of 1997, Alan was invited by New York’s awarding winning avant-garde theatre company Mabou Mines to join their production of Peter and Wendy in Los Angeles and has since performed with them in New Haven (’98) San Francisco (’99) Dublin Theatre Festival in 1999 and New York 2002.
Also, in 1997, he was invited to become a member of the house band for Sibin, a weekly music programme for TG4, performing with artists such as Matt Molloy, Sean Keane, Cathy Ryan, Kieran Goss, Mick Hanley, Sean Tyrell, Arty McGlynn and Nollaig Casey.
During January 1999 Alan toured with Music Network’s "Best of Irish" nation-wide tour alongside Michael McGoldrick, Karen Casey and Cathal Hayden playing to full houses all over the country. In the same year he also featured on Michael McGoldrick's groundbreaking album ‘Fused’ and continues to tour regularly with this band appearing at festivals such as Lorient ’99, Celtic Connections ’00 and Cambridge ’01 as well as many others.
In 2000, Alan released his second solo album ‘Mosaic’ (TARA CD 4010) with a concert at the Galway Arts Festival featuring an 8 piece band with a line-up which included guitarist, Arty McGlynn, saxophonist, Richie Buckley, trumpeter, Danial Healy and Sean Smyth on fiddle.
Produced by Arty McGlynn, ‘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.
Also in 2000 he worked with the award winning Lyric Theatre in Belfast for their production of Brian Friel’s "Wonderful Tennessee.
Alan's other recording credits include appearances on Niamh Parsons's Loosely Connected in 1992, Michael McGoldrick's Morning Rory in 1996 and Fused in 2000, and Seán Keane's Seánsongs in 2002. He guested with Lunasa on their Irish tour promoting their album ‘Otherworld’ and also collaborated with Alison Brown, the Grammy award winning banjo player on her Irish tour in 2001. During July 2002 Alan toured with Ireland’s legendary De Danann in Canada performing at festivals such as the Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg Folk Festivals.
Alan’s most recent recording project has seen him return to his Roscommon roots for a duet album with his brother John. The album titled ‘Fourmilehouse’ (BBM 2003) is traditional music served straight up, with no need for studio sweeteners or sleight of hand.
Earle Hitchner, from The Wall Street Journal and Irish Echo stated: "The dozen tracks of Fourmilehouse are both a summation and a summit for the two brothers--a summation of where they've been individually, a summit of how well they now play collectively. Jigs, reels, hornpipes, and a slow air seem to flow effortlessly and naturally, achieving that rare level of instant, intuitive communication between players. What a stunning duet album these talented brothers have given us."
Today Alan is credited with single handedly reviving the piano accordion in traditional music.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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