PLUS: Biography (Biography courtesy the Artistís site, 2005).
Having a famous relative in the same line of work can be a burden. Expectations. Comparisons. Accusations of cashing in. All are possible, but in Sean Keane's case the 'Dolores' brother' codicil tends to be viewed as a simple explanation of where he got his singing talent.
In fact, the siblings got, if not their talent for singing then certainly their love for it from the same source, their aunts Rita and Sarah, whose house in Caherlistrane, County Galway, was a scene of pilgrimage for musicians and singers from all over.
Rita and Sarah were a fund of traditional songs, and Cathal McConnell of Boys of the Lough and his sometime partner in song Len Graham, of Skylark, were among those who would gather from far and near every weekend for a session.
"Dolores and I were very young at the time," says Sean, who won his first All-Ireland singing medal at the tender age of seven. "And with all this music around us, learning to sing was like learning to speak or ride a bicycle. I'd been singing for a long time before I knew it could be anything to do with show business."
While his sister's professional singing career followed a relatively direct path, using her spell with De Dannan as a launch pad to international acclaim as a solo artist, Sean has taken a more scenic route. He sang with the London/Irish/Scots group Shegui in the early 1980s, joined Dolores and accordion wizz Mairtin O'Connor in Reel Union, sang and played flute with the Shaskeen Ceili Band, and then "stumbled into" acting with the Druid Theatre Group, which led to work at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
He couldn't stay away from music for long, however, and since his solo singing career picked up the commitment required to rehearse and perform in a theatre production has meant putting acting on the back burner. His first solo album, All Heart, No Roses, won a debut album of the year award from Q magazine, no less, in 1993, and its successors, including Turn A Phrase and The Man That I Am, have all received similarly glowing praise.
Keane's repertoire is a blend of the traditional songs learned from Rita and Sarah and songs by his favourite contemporary writers, including Richard Thompson, Tommy Sands, Mick Hanly and Sting, all sung in that calm, carefully weighted manner of his. He doesn't write himself, although that's something he would like to redress one day. Instead, he encourages people to send him tapes of their songs, which break down into two categories.
"Either they're brilliant and I can't wait to sing them, because if a song grabs me then I want to, hopefully, grab the audience with it. Or they make me think I should write. But I've asked people how they go about it and they say, You've just got to sit down and do it. Which sounds simple until something comes along like Richard Thompson's From Galway to Graceland, which is an incredible angle to approach that idea of fan worship from, and then I get cold feet. So, for the moment I'm happy singing other peoples' songs. It's nice if I can get to them first but it doesn't matter if they've been sung before because if a song's good enough, it can stand all sorts of different versions."
Sean Keane (Biography courtesy the Artistís site, 2005).
SeŠn Keane has been labeled "the greatest Irish musical find of the `90`s" (London Independent), and "the fastest rising star of the Irish music scene"(Irish Times).
With three solo albums since 1994, he has firmly established himself as one of Ireland's most esteemed and talented singers. He has been voted "Performer of the Year " by the public for two years in succession, a testament to his popularity with his audiences. He has become renowned not only for his voice, which is unique, but also for his wit, humour and charm.
From Co. Galway, SeŠn's musical background is impeccable. He is a member of one of Ireland's most celebrated musical families, with a long tradition of music and singing on both sides.
Traditional songs sung in a traditional style marked his earliest performances, which began in childhood. Almost as a hobby, he spent his youth collecting All Ireland titles - a mammoth 13 in all - for singing such songs. His early career remained close to the traditional, as he sang with such groups as Shegui, Reel Union and Arcady, the latter of which also featured Sharon Shannon.
His solo albums have not been exclusive in genre though the style of singing they contain is unique to Sean Keane and always incorporate sean nos undertones. While primarily a folk singer, he successfully mixes country, blues and pop songs.
SeŠn's many past performances include such prestigious world festivals as the Cambridge Folk Festival, Galway Arts Festival, Tonder in Denmark, Lowell, U.S and many others. In Autumn 1999, he performed at a series of concerts in Dublin's NCH hosted by the `fifth Beatle`, Sir George Martin. Sean performed the Beatles classic `Blackbird` with Sir George's arrangement. Sir George was deeply impressed with Sean's rendition and afterwards generously offered him the musical arrangement of the song for his fourth album 'The Man That I Am.'
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