Jimmy Keane - accordion, foot board, spoken word, vocals
Pat Broaders - bouzar, dordan, spoken word, vocals
Sean Cleland - fiddle, spoken word
Irish music’s accordion virtuoso Jimmy Keane along with the remarkable bouzar player and vocalist Pat Broaders, and fiddler extraordinaire Sean Cleland comprise bohola, Irish music’s newest “supergroup” as penned by The Irish Herald. bohola play a driving, muscular, and yet very emotive style of Irish music with deep roots in the ‘pure drop’ tradition, which has been forged with the raw and gritty urbanized musical vernacular of the Irish-American experience.
bohola’s debut album on Shanachie Records is championed by the Irish Voice as “one of the most impressive debut recordings ever by an Irish traditional music group.” The Courier News added, “Though most of the tunes bohola plays are well over 150 years old, the music comes across more vibrant than the moribund sounds of much of today's alternative rock. Their sound comes from the Irish version of jam sessions, but bohola puts the noodling of many current jam bands (Dave Matthews, among others) to shame.”
The Irish Echo captured the essence of bohola when it reviewed their self-titled release on Shanachie Records. “The sum here is greater than the parts, and egos are subordinate to both execution and effect. With essentially just box, fiddle, bouzouki, and voice, bohola have crafted an album of intricate, nearly invisible latticework, relying not on gimmickry but on imagination and vision. What a welcome concept: muse-imbuing music.”
Born in London of Irish-speaking parents, Jimmy Keane’s accomplishments are far reaching. The son of a sean nos (old style) singer, he is All Ireland accordion champion for five consecutive years. He is a composer and arranger of Irish music and has produced and recorded numerous albums. Many regard Keane as the premier exponent of Irish music on the piano accordion. Noted University of Limerick Professor, composer, and musician Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin praised Keane as the “savior of the piano accordion.” Emusic described him as “one of the true giants of Irish traditional music of the past fifty years.”
Keane has performed and recorded with some of the best musicians in Irish music over the years including Liz Carroll, Michael Flatley, Mick Moloney, Eileen Ivers, and Seamus Egan. However, it was not until he started playing with Pat Broaders and Sean Cleland that the style of Irish music that Keane plays “really started to jell and this big huge raw and powerful sound came out of nowhere,” reflected Keane. “We were like a three-handed glove – instinctively darting in and out of the music as if we were “as-one” playing the same big instrument.”
Pat Broader arrived in Chicago from Ireland in the 1990’s. “Pat is a real veteran of the Irish music scene both here and abroad, playing, recording, and performing with many artists and bands over the years,” said Keane. “Pat has this acute sense of music and rhythm that enables him to “lock in” his bouzar (bass bouzouki & guitar hybrid) playing to whatever I might do musically and rhythmically. The synergy that results spurs on bohola and draws in the audience. And his singing is brilliant – if I could sing, I’d love to sing like Pat.”
Sean Cleland began playing Irish music in Chicago during the 1970’s. Over the years, he has won numerous Midwest and North American Fleadh Cheoil (Irish music competitions) titles on the fiddle. In the 1980’s, he ventured out from playing straight traditional music and founded the alternative Irish/Celtic rock group The Drovers. While with The Drovers, he recorded three critically acclaimed albums and toured extensively. He also appeared in two major motion pictures: Backdraft (1991) and Blink (1994). “What is really magical about Sean’s melodic style of fiddle playing,” said Keane, “is his stealth way of blending in with my accordion playing. It is truly amazing – at times, it is like listening to a mirror image. He is the ultimate duet partner!”
bohola’s key to their sound is the interplay between the musicians and the approach they take to their music. “It is really the music that counts,” states Keane. “We really listen to and respond to each other when we play – bending, twisting, and caressing the music as it flows along.” Keane considers bohola fortunate to be able to perform and carry forward the traditional Irish music art form while placing their special touch to the music. “We are here to serve this great music and bring out what we feel is the best nature in the tunes and songs we play.”
The Chicago Tribune wrote, “bohola plays 300-year-old jigs and reels as if they were trying to tear the house down. Keane's rippling accordion and Sean Cleland's darting fiddle play rapid, swirling melodies, while Pat Broaders accents the rhythm with his staccato bouzouki strumming. Broaders also takes the spotlight to sing plaintive ballads.”
“We try to always play from the heart,” said Keane, “and bring to the audience the core and the spirit of what the music we play and sing is about.”
In concert, bohola perform music selections that weave in and out between tunes and songs that can continue for twenty minutes or so, ever evolving and flowing. They play tunes that range from hundred-year-old harp pieces, reels, jigs, slides, polkas and barndances to newly composed pieces in the traditional idiom. And the songs run the gamut from the ancient melodies of Ireland, to songs brought to North America by immigrants, to newly composed songs from here and abroad. All played with a freshness and subtlety of approach that is unique in Irish music today.
Note: Kat Eggleston joined the band on vocals on Bohola 4.
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