‘And I got some gold inside me too’ sings Seán Keane truthfully and appropriately on the single and title track of his new album. It’s a line from ‘You Got Gold’, a song penned by John Prine, a regular visitor and part time inhabitant of Co. Galway and one of those great artists we have the privilege of being exposed to in a relaxed way here in the west of
Dubbed ‘the voice of
The album cover features a portrait painted by the artist Vincent Crotty who originally comes from Kanturk in Co. Cork and who now lives in
Seán started his solo career in 1994 – a short eleven years ago, and in that time he has produced seven solo albums and a ‘best of’ collection, ‘Portrait’. His album before last, ‘Seánsongs’, was a double album which served his two main spheres of musical interest – one CD featured traditional songs and tunes (a real treat since we hadn’t any recorded tunes from Seán since his Shaskeen days), and the other was of the more contemporary and experimental Seán-style songs. “I packed in a lot into that album” Seán comments. Talking to him now at the turn of the New Year, you get the feeling that every album should be a Seánsongs and I ask him does he have loads of material? “Oh God no!” he says, “It is constantly a problem.” Like most singers, Seán receives tapes from writers who hope he will cover their songs. “It doesn’t come that easy” he says. “You have material so that’s great, but you still have to go back searching. Sometimes there can be a bit of a stand off between myself and the song. an ‘Am I going to go to you or are you going to come to me?’ type of thing. You might have to drop a song for a while, and the next time you start to sing it, you think ‘Why didn’t I do it before now?’ It goes into the melting pot in the head and then it comes out later. I often start to think of songs and music when I’m doing something else.”
One of the most powerful songs on the album came back to Seán when the controversy arose recently about the Rosport Five – the men from the small village in the
‘Ah! but justice is a fickle thing,
One law for the common man another for the king….
…it’s all justified when you’re on the winning side’
“I have that song for about eight years” says Seán. “One of the reasons I recorded it was the Mayo lads who went to jail. It reminded me of the song again. It’s that kind of song about struggle, so I thought it would be one to do. It’s very relevant in regards to those lads.
Like many artists, Seán feels the emotion of a song and it’s very important that it be just right in every way. “I’d drop a song for one word” he says, “or an ugly line, unless I could change it. I find it hard to explain, but when you get the words of a song written down, it has a different perspective entirely.” Is interpreting a song a craft in itself? “It is” he agrees, “but if the song is saying the way you feel or you’re thinking then it’s not so difficult. Then you have the melody and everything else to contend with after that.”
Of the songs, Mary Greene’s ‘Even Heaven has to Cry’ stands out on the album. It is a powerfully slow and emotional song, beautifully balanced. “Mary and Noel (Shine) sent me a cassette full of songs” says Seán, “and they’re all great songs, they are both writing really well”
Of the song ‘Troublesome Waters’ Seán says, “It’s a kind of gospel song, it’s written in that kind of vein, but I’ve just given it my own treatment as opposed to going head to head on gospel with it.”
Several friends join in the music and accompaniment on ‘You Got Gold’ and some of these are people who join the band during Seán’s tours depending on the needs of the venue or the particular performance. Drummer Liam Bradley and bass player Damien Evans are regular guests; Rod McVey has added keyboards and Paul Moore, bass. Guitarist Arty McGlynn, another regular is also here. Arty produced Seán's early albums and has played on all of them. Rick Epping’s harmonica beautifully colours several of the tracks and Máirtín O'Connor's accordion flitters and arpeggios through another few. Taking centre stage on ‘You Got Gold’ and adding glorious gentle harmonies are Seán’s regular band John McLoughlin who plays guitar and Seán Regan who plays fiddle and mandola. “They have been with me for over two years now” says Seán, “we have a nice sound going together.”
From a performance point of view, Seán has focussed on Europe in the last few years and he intends making bigger inroads in
“I love going to