I apologize for yet another post about Maria Doyle Kennedy’s concert at the Irish Arts Center in NYC, but I want to remember every second of this magical evening for the rest of my life. I wrote this out mainly for myself, to not only preserve, but also to process through such an overwhelming experience, so it is incredibly long - you’ve been warned.

Righty-oh, after eating at Russian Samovar, Jackie and I stopped at a flower shop and bought some beautiful burgundy lilies on 51st and 9th, and headed two blocks down to the IAC hand in hand. As we approached the venue at around 6:40pm, we could see a figure in front of the door to the center. I assumed it was someone waiting for the box office to open, but seeing as I looked at every face while walking through the streets of NYC thinking it was her, my heart stopped beating for a second. Both Jackie and I fell silent as we approached the woman in jeans, brown boots, and a large jacket. As her body turned toward to door, her face turned toward us and she briefly smiled and walked inside. Jackie and I stopped and slowly turned to face each other. … Maria Doyle Kennedy had just smiled at us, and both of us were too shocked to respond in any way. Jackie started crying, I started shaking, and then crying. We calmed down slightly as an older couple got out of a taxi and approached us asking if the center was open. We replied that the door was unlocked, but we were waiting for friends. We ended up following them inside, pulled by the promise of warmth, and the possibility of catching another glimpse of MDK.

We were glancing around at the absolutely beautiful artwork of Feargal Doyle, Maria’s brother, when we heard her and Kieran warming up. I recorded a short video of it for Lamorna (who we all wish could have been there!), and shortly after, Jackie got a call from Ame and Krissy who were waiting outside. We told them about the above encountered and freaked out a little bit more before reentering the lobby. As we stood inside getting to know each other, I noticed MDK enter the lobby from the stage area, and I immediately fell silent. She was talking to someone else, but eyed the group of us. As she approached, I surprised myself by uttering “Hello!” (fulfilling her request on twitter).

She greeted us somewhat shyly, but with friendly intentions. I think she’s pretty unaware of her fandom, which was very endearing. I held out the flowers, and told her that we had gotten them for her. She looked a bit taken aback and thanked us for the sweet gesture. Then, she glanced up at me, and we made eye contact. Her eyes got a little wider, and she said “Wait, are you Shawna?!” I, of course, instantly panicked, began blushing, and somehow managed to mutter, “Yes.” She said that she was glad to meet me and warmly shook my hand. We all got quiet, and Jackie said, “Shawna’s so star struck she can’t say anything.” She replied, “Oh, I understand, I’m always much more talkative after a show, but right now I’m really nervous.” I mentioned that we heard her doing “Sparky Personality,” and it sounded amazing, and we said how excited we were for the show. She thanked us told us the the bar was opening in ten minutes, so we should get drinks, and to get good seats, and that shows at the center usually start right on time at 8pm (She looked over the the box office manager after she said this and asked, “Right?”). Before she went upstairs, she assured us that she would talk to us after the show. Cue more fangirling, and we were so obvious that a gentleman in a flannel shirt who was filming the gig came up to us and asked, “Are you guys the Maria Doyle Kennedy groupies?” Feck yes, we are.

As we continued to get to know each other, I noticed more people exiting the stage area and immediately recognized Kieran. I didn’t say anything as he walked by to go upstairs to the dressing rooms, but as he passed by Ame stopped what she was saying, “Wait… is that-” Yes. Yes, it is. A few minutes went by, and Kieran walked up behind me, and with his hand extended for a handshake, greeted me with, “Hello, you’re Shawna, right? Maria was just telling me you were here.” I remember shaking his hand, nodding, and being utterly unable to speak at the realization that MDK had told him I was there. We told him that we were really excited for the show, and he thought it was going to be a good one, and added, “Yeah, the tumblr you run is fantastic.” *instant blushing* “I remember looking through some pictures and I thinking, ‘How in the world did she get that picture - no one has that picture!’” I sheepishly replied, “Magic,” as both he and Krissy in unison said, “I/You don’t wanna know.” *blushing intensifies* (“You’re the colour of your hair,” as Krissy said.) Morto…

We decided to move closer to the door to the stage to make sure we could have first choice of seats. A slightly tipsy couple was standing next to us, and the wife was eyeing us when we wasn’t ordering a beer or singing along to the MDK songs that were playing from the bar. Eventually, her husband came up to us, and asked, “So what are you guys doing here?” clearly referencing the fact that we were the youngest in the room, but still obviously there to see Maria and Kieran perform. We told him that we were all introduced to MDK through her acting, but came to genuinely appreciate her music, and he explained that he and his wife were big fans of the Hothouse Flowers, and followed Kieran for awhile. They realized that he was married to MDK, and started following them together, even travelling to Dingle to see them.

Once the doors opened, we booked it to the front row of a very intimate space. “Yep, we’re front row-ing it,” I said as a plopped myself down in the seat approximately three feet in front of her microphone/bells. I had a quick moment of regret because I know that it can take you out of the moment to see someone you recognize in the front row, but I honestly couldn’t imagine sitting anywhere else. At one point Jackie leaned over to me and said, “Shawna, what if she spits on you?” “I will never wash myself again.” While we were waiting, I had another long conversation with the tipsy couple about the east coast, the olympics, Russia, and Pussy Riot.

At 8pm, MDK and Kieran walked on stage, and Maria was carrying the flowers we had given her earlier, and she set them down next to her set list. Their first song was ‘Sing from the Sea.’ As soon as she began singing, my eyes were filled with tears. *commence gushing* No, but really. Maria sounds beautiful in recordings even when played through my crappy computer speakers or headphones, but live - there are not words to adequately describe her voice. It is powerful, yet gentle; big, yet soft; expressive, yet caressing; husky, yet clear; and it is always Maria - in her voice is her essence. She once said in a video that she gets real life wrong a lot, but when she’s singing, she’s “there” and “she gets it somehow,” she’s “plugged into the world,” and that’s what her voice does to an audience. It forces them to be plugged into the present, to the space we’re all occupying together, while simultaneously transporting everyone to the atmosphere in which her songs exist. It is truly magical to hear her live.

I won’t go through the entire set list (though there is a picture below), but I do have to mention a few songs/moments:
- “I call the people who comes to my gigs my chickens. (…) I always have good intentions when travelling abroad to learn the language, but usually I only learn a lot of alcoholic beverages. (…) In Czech, you’re my little Kurátkos - it’s the sexiest way to say chickens.” Someone from the audience interjected, “We could be your pigeons!” “Yes, you could!”
- ‘Without You’ - I was shocked when I heard the first notes of this song, and Jackie squeezed my hand a little tighter. I put this song on a mix CD when she left after visiting for Halloween, and it officially became one of our songs, but because it’s from ‘Charm,’ I assumed it wasn’t going to be played. It was much more stripped down than the recorded version, and a bit more melancholic, which I’m always about.
- “Oh, wow, they’ve gotten me a bunch of bottles of water. I think they’re trying to hint at something.” There were four bottles around her microphone. “I always bring a glass of wine, but I usually never get to the water. *sloshed accent* Apparently, I have a reputation in New York.”
- Before ‘O Molly Dear’ she talked about the ‘Storms are on the Ocean’ album, and explained that the picture of the cover is of her grandmother (who she’s the spittin’ image of).
- ‘John the Revelator’ The first song of audience participation of the night. After a few verses, she stepped in front of her microphone (aka a foot in front of us)- her voice without a microphone - never going to be over it. “I always like coming closer because I think it scares you all into singing louder.”
- “Someone said that singing is better than really good chocolate or sex. My husband doesn’t agree…” *Kieran shrugs* “Well, I’m not shagging you all tonight, but if you’re still feeling down after the show, I may get you some chocolate.”
- ‘Going Home’ I also wasn’t expecting this gem from Kieran’s ‘Pagan Irish’ album. And here I will gush about the look of love. The glances that MDK and Kieran share while on stage are full of such love and admiration - it was emotionally overwhelming. You can really feel how much they love each other and how much they love making music together. It was an honour to witness.

- ‘O Mother’ Second song for audience participation. “So, I’m going to sing a line, and you’re just gonna fecking sing it back to me.”

- ‘The Most Beautiful People are Broken’ I love this song originally, but Maria added a new line to the end, “You are beautiful, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t go as far as you want to.” (Or something similar) So powerful.
- I can’t remember which song it was after (maybe ‘The Silence?’), but she said, “I’m not sure what that sound was that I made. The voice is a very emotional instrument. It was like a banshee scream.”
- Also, I know I am mainly waxing poetic about MDK, but oh my god - Kieran. He is such an amazing guitar player, and even sat down at the piano for ‘Stars Above,’ and he has these crazy pads of pedals to introduce things like Paul Brady on ‘Hola Luna,’ or the pipes on ‘Sing.’ I have no idea how he keeps them all straight.
- As they wrapped up the set, Maria began to thank various people for coming, namely her family members. She mentioned her brother’s gorgeous paintings, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but they’re for sale!” We even got a shout out, “And I wanted to thank my new twitter friends-” *gesture to us in the front row* “-Yeah, I curse a lot on twitter…”
- Of course, there was an encore. Maria came back alone at first for ‘Lucinda.’ “So, I am turning fifty this year, and someone pointed out that in this song, I said I’m going to get a tattoo when I’m fifty. So my brother has been asking and I said, ‘Ah, feck, well, I have to!’”
- ‘Suil’ Being at the Irish Arts Center and all, it made sense for her to sing a song in Irish (it explains how she thinks better than English). The lighting for this song was an eerie green and I felt like I was transported into a dark fairy tale. Maria looked like a mermaid.
- ‘Stars Above’ This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and live - absolutely mesmerizing. For the last section of the song, Maria played her bells, and I could not take my eyes off of her hands rising and falling, creating such a beautiful sound with each tap.
- ‘Babes’ was the best possible song to end with. “If Johnny Depp did his sashay. He was thinkin’ about an Irish lay, looking my way. Do you know what’d I’d say?” From the audience came a few, “‘Yes!’”s, and with her hands on her hips, Maria pulled a face, and stepped back from the microphone for a second.

Immediately after they left the stage, Krissy, the experienced fangirl that she is, hopped up on stage and took the set lists for us. We decided to wait until most people had cleared out, so as to not feel so rushed, so we went to the merchandise table, bought a bunch of CDs, and fangirled from afar (“Such profile. Wow.” “She has the most beautiful face to ever face.”). The people ahead of us in line (until a few people snuck in before us) were clearly Orphan Black fans (having called “Mrs. S” when she called us her chickens), and it was nice to see fandom showing her support! As we were standing around waiting, we noticed MDK’s 18-month old nephew. He was sitting on the bench a bit bewildered by the crowd of people. He crawled around and was tracing circle very carefully on the floor. He was such a cutie with his bright blue eyes and wispy blond hair.

Kieran came up to us. He called me out by saying, “I saw you in the front row mouthing the words to ‘Babes!’ You knew every word!” “It’s one of my favourites,” I replied. He asked us where we came up from and was very impressed by Ame and Jackie travelling up from Maryland. Krissy began to describe how beautiful the looks of love were that they shared on stage. “People tell us that the world round.” “I just hope someone will look at me the way you guys look at each other.” “I hope so too.” He started talking about their tour the west coast in May - Portland, Seattle… Krissy nudged me, and I said, “I think I may skip my finals to come see it.” “No, don’t do that!”

Krissy mentioned Lamorna and that she was really hoping for a gig in London because she missed the ones in 2012. He said that they’ll probably make it over next year with the new album (to be worked on later this year). He talked about the live album as well which is available on a USB drive at their gigs, but they plan to have a wider release soon. “I’m still fucking around with it.” I was going to ask more about the new album and if they planned on using Pledge again, but someone else started talking to Kieran, and now worried about how late it was getting, we seized the opportunity to go up to Maria.

She was standing by the bar facing away from us and talking to another woman. We waited for a few minutes, and when she turned her head to survey the room, we made eye contact and the expression on her face completely changed. She turned to the woman while she reached her arm out to me and said, “Excuse me, I have to talk to these lovely ladies.” And SHE PULLED ME INTO A FECKING HUG. Please pardon me for gushing, but I could hardly process any of this in the moment. I hope that I never forget the mental image of MDK’s face when we made eye contact with me. She just looked so genuinely appreciative of the support and happy to see that we stuck around to talk.

We asked her if she would mind signing our CDs. “Oh, of course, I wouldn’t mind!” She very sweetly asked how to spell our names. Jackie said, “I almost spelled my name wrong.”

As she was signing Ame’s Mutter album, I piped in, “Actually Ame and Jackie were a part of that birthday video we sent you.” “Oh, I remember that!” she replied smiling, and Ame added, “Yeah, that’s actually how Jackie and I realized that we lived so close.” Krissy brought of the looks of true love again, and Maria began to reply, “Well, we do fight a lot-” But she was cut off by her sister-in-law who was leaving with the baby. When she returned to us, Krissy asked if we could get pictures with her to which she happily agreed. Krissy added that we were wondering if it would be okay to get multiple variations, like groups and individuals, but MDK couldn’t hear her, “I’m sorry what was that, love?” Krissy repeated herself, and MDK with a posh accent said, “Yes, of course! Because you know that next time I’m here, I’m playing Madison Square Garden and there won’t be time for all this, so better get them in now.” She was game for every picture we took, happily putting her arm around each of us. After our group photo, Jackie looked concerned, “Wait, did we get a picture with just the two of us?” “No, you didn’t! C’mere!” and she pulled Jackie right up next to her.

It started to get really hot in the lobby so we went to get some fresh air, and MDK grabbed her coat from her brother and joined us. We were nervous about Jackie’s train, but Krissy said that she could stay with her if she missed it. As we walked out, Jackie casually said, “Well, I may miss my train, but this is worth it!” (Truth.) Maria was genuinely concerned, “No, don’t do that! I don’t want you to have to take a dangerous train!” We explained that Krissy had a car and Jackie was welcome to stay, and she seemed pacified.

Her brother came out to join us, and MDK introduced us, “Yeah, these are the girls from twitter, and Shawna runs an MDK fan page on tumblr. One day, Kieran was like, ‘Maybe we should check out tumblr?’ He checked it out and realized someone already had one and was like ‘This is actually pretty good. Yeah, I’m okay with it.’

I don’t remember when these things happened, but at one pointed Maria turned to me and asked, “And, Shawna, where are you staying?” I do not think I will ever be over the fact that she knew my name, and kept using it, and the fact that she was so concerned about our well-being. Also, she brought a glass out and Krissy asked, “Water or wine?” “Oh, it’s wine. It’s always nice to have wine after a gig, but it’s not good to drink too much before.”

Krissy mentioned that she is an intern for BBC and that everyone’s excited for season two of Orphan Black. Cue MDK being the most humble human being as she gushed on and on about Tatiana Maslany, without a word to herself. She told us a story about how Tatiana’s mother was watching the show and associates Tatiana most with Sarah because she’s a kind of punky girl in real life, so when Sarah wasn’t in a scene, she asked, “When is Tatiana coming back?” “Even her Mother! She’s so incredible and she’s your age!” “Way to make us feel bad,” Krissy joked.

As the conversation died down, I began to (rather in coherently) speak. “I do have a question for you: when we found out about this gig we hoped you would wear a certain dress. The one you’re wearing is a great choice to, but we really love the sequins dress. Wha- Where is it from?” “It’s vintage! Oh, isn’t it lovely! Most of my wardrobe is thrifted, but a lot of time things don’t fit me because a lot of older thing were just made for smaller people. But this dress fit perfectly, and it’s got delicate little sleeves. At a recent gig, I realized it has pockets!” We all corroborated the point that dresses with pockets are the greatest. “Yeah, I thought, ‘I finally know what to do with my hands.’” “But you have such beautiful hand movements when you sing,” I chimed in. “I have no idea what I’m doing on stage.”

As things were wrapping up, her brother said, “That tumblr thing is really cool. If you ever want to make one for me…” to which I replied, “I’ll get right on it!” We decided we were going to try to get Jackie to her 11:05pm train (we had approximately 15-20 minutes at this point), so she pulled each of us into a kiss on the cheek, thanked us for coming, and wished us safe travels.

I could barely walk. Even with the longest legs in the group, I kept trailing behind. I was desperately trying to comprehend what had just happened, and it took so much effort that my body ceased to function properly. Jackie, of course, missed her train, and would have missed her train even if we had booked it out as soon as the concert was over. Again, worth it. Krissy was kind enough to take me to my friend’s apartment, and then we parted.

The next morning, MDK replied to the picture of all of us that Krissy sent to her, and asked if we all made it home safely, adding that it was lovely to meet us. Not wanting to speak for anyone else, I replied just to her.

Again, the use of my name floored me. I know it’s right there on twitter, and I have tweeted her quite a few times, but it is little gestures, like remembering a name or smiling when we made eye-contact that truly made my evening. Maria is honestly one of the most caring, hilarious, genuine, and absolutely beautiful human beings inside and out that I have ever had the privilege to meet.

At the moment, I am still a confused ball of intense emotion and extreme shock. It was truly one of the most magical evenings of my life, and I feel so absolutely blessed to have shared it with three lovely ladies. I couldn’t have asked for better company. I really could go on and on (this is far longer than any paper I’ve ever written), but now that I have been able to relive fleeting moments in someway with each word that I have written, I realize that words cannot capture the experience I had, and while I’ve enjoyed trying to express it, I appreciate how special it is that the essence of what happened is something that can only live within the people who experienced it.

posted on 11.02.2014 at 00:02 with 25 notes

I would also like to thank you for producing such incredible music. It is difficult to play favourites with songs as they all offer a unique experiences, but "Stuck," true to its name, has stuck with me. Once the repetitive guitar melody begins, I always feel like I am stuck in the middle of the ocean with waves continuously ebbing and flowing around me. The addition of multiple voice tracks and another guitar, and later the drums and the cymbal gradually builds with the struggle to "get up" or swim to shore, but constantly being tossed back by the currents and "torn asunder." Yet despite the despondent quality of the sound, the lyrics inspire me to push against the waves, the despondency, the "back up," because getting up even to be "fucked around" again is better than "staying on the floor." My words cannot capture all the complexities of the song (I think music's ability to transcend words is one aspect that makes it so powerful), but I hope you don't mind me sharing my impression.

Best wishes for The Rivoli tonight, and I hope to catch you live somewhere in the US in May!

Thank you so much,

Axis Concert in Aid of Sonas and Aisling Project Ballymun Dublin Ireland Feb 15 2013

(The below from Laura's Heart)
Marie Doyle Kennedy and Kieran Kennedy, live at the Axis.

A hint of spring on a soft soulful day, I entered into the spirit and community of Ballymun. I ventured to the Axis Theatre and was transformed beyond recognition.

For one night only,
I was lifted and challenged to fly in freefall.
Open to the wonders of magic and alchemy that were
created by acoustic guitar. A very different experience like no other that I can compare it with. This reminded me of my first time listening to Gary Moore. As the musician's notes sang and soared through me and in me. The music spoke and sang in a provocative tone with a unique sound.

The goddess muse sang in perfect harmony like the waves on an ocean.
Wild and wonderful in total abandon.
Using her voice as an 'Artist' plays a Harp, as this was no ordinary voice.

Yes I rose, I fell and my heart and soul cried more, long after the night departed and the silence fell.

I am different now. My broken parts freed, the struggled truly acknowledged as only an artist can.
Thank you both for an amazing experience
I awakened from a dream, wondering was I ever truly alive.

The meteor has landed in Ireland....the unique artistic experience of the Maria Doyle Kennedy Concert at Axis Ballymun. Sean O'Dwyer

It's 7:10 in the morning after the night before when I was inspired by the euphoria created by watching a magic muse, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Kieran Kennedy perform live at the Axis Ballymun thanks to the kind invitation by kind friends whose taste I respect, Darragh Doyle and insightful Programme Manager at Axis, Niamh Ní Chonchubhair

Let me tell you.... The meteor has landed in Ireland....

"Draw Sean Draw" whispers The voice of The Muse.

The euphoria remains with me this morning...hours after the gig. Watching their performance is not just a something you will enjoy, revel and be completely engrossed and involved in. They made you want to sing and experience the pure joy of music with them.... literally. Thinking you were going to hear someone you thought you knew only created the perfect atmosphere for the surprise, these performers are not celebrities alone, they are artists of the highest order. The minimalist maximum sound of more than a full band is completely evoked by the magic of Kieran's guitar. So many different sounds come from such a small space between the plectrum and the strings that I never knew was possible. Kieran Kennedy is an orchestra. And now I am leading to it....

Be prepared to be mesmerised by the woven threads of echo, pitch and tone and the melody that the voice of Maria melds with. Harmony and evocation is what takes place. Maria casts a spell with her voice. During her rendition of "Sing" after which her latest album is named, the singer and the song become one. Would it be fair to compare Maria Doyle Kennedy's voice to anyone? Only if you can understand that she is unique and apart from anyone. And she is Irish. She makes me proud to be Irish and be an artist myself. She made me feel like drawing and draw I did. My pen moved in the stage-light to the rhythm of their pure crystal sound, perfect in the atmospheric auditorium of Axis Ballymun. I felt that my little portraits vibrated in unison with the casting of the spell that went on through the night as Maria moved her hands to her heart, clapped and swayed through the piece "Hola Luna" possessed by a moon goddess. But this is a goddess that knows, as her song says, "The Most Beautiful People are Broken". This is a husband and wife team at the height of their creative powers, whose heart beats as one with their audience. As contemporary performers unfettered by the trap of cliché or traditionalism they move beyond the oeuvre of the everyday. Sounds from the misty heights of " The mountaineers courtship" evoke the past but remake it as modern. These artists are completely tuned in to what is happening right now and I suspect well into the distant future as they present their astounding array of vibration and extensive back catalog to the anxiously needy and weary world.

Are you overworked, tired, angry, indignant at what the world has become? This is what you have been waiting for....

....this sound will soothe your soul, like the local Ballymun Sing project who have been working with the National Chamber choir and who walked on stage to perform with Maria and Kieran last night.... like them your life might well be transformed by the experience as they sang as any choir you would be delighted to hear in St Martin in the Fields!

They were allowed to thrive and made feel at home on stage by Maria's charm, humour and many talented gifts shown to its best effect in a community where anyone can see that people just really love her and where proceeds from the performance went to the worthy Sonas and Aisling Project in Ballymun

Be prepared. This delightful couple were happy to stay behind and sign albums but also chat in the most natural way with their adoring fans (among whom I now count myself and Laura ) who obviously feel very connected to them and their music and who answered them from the stage when invited to sing also as accompaniment to both the Ballymun Sing Choir as the vibrant audience became a partner in the performance themselves.

Could you possibly ask for anything more of an evening?

I was lucky enough to speak to The magician Kieran and The blue eyed charismatic and multi award winning vocalist Maria Doyle Kennedy... International, interstellar, bright, shining stars here in our midst. We are reminded of the true treasure we are lucky to have in Ireland. Intelligent, informed, knowledgable about the arts and Picasso as we discussed how real creativity emanates sometimes from reduction and simplicity broken down into its basic constituents like a cubist painting. With their feet on the ground but singing into space it is a great pleasure to say I have seen these performance artists create an event I will never forget.

I am only doing you a favour by letting you know about these masters in our midst. To my friends I say... Be fortunate enough to witness them for yourself. Go to their website now. Let the healing begin.

The above written by a fellow Irish artist completely impressed!
Sean O'Dwyer

Dearest Maria,

To begin with, let me just say - what an amazing voice you have! What a talent and the exuberant creativity and meaning. I shudder full of joy and comfortable when I listen and roars up and humming with the songs I have ever heard before, until yesterday. I myself write a lot working as a freelance journalist, writing my novels in the subjects of forbidden love and a poem now and then and can know how and feel with you the tryly amazing way of express by words and acting something that really can bring the feelings to come.

So. Hm, who is this man writing maybe you wonder then? My name is Backolars Johan Hermansson (Backolars is something we in Sweden call yardname, and is a name that have followed the family since the 1700:s and is very usual in my country) and I come from Sweden. I'm twenty-one (well, I have my birthday the tenth next month, but thinking that I might as well start now and oppose the anguish my friends suffered at that age of 21 for some reason, lol) and I am a loyal fan in terms of history of England through the ages - primarily in terms of the monarchy in the country. Something that's fascinated me since a very young age. For example I remember so well how my classmates read Harry Potter while I was reading a biography of Henry VIII, and so on. So really, the interest I've had a good long time.

Sure you understand that The Tudors is like gold to my ears and eyes when I'm telling you this. A series I just absolutely can say that I love - and I really cringe to see occasionally. Some scenes and sequences. And you do it so well, so fantastic in the role of Queen Catherine. You make her just like I imagine her - faithful, subdued but firm, determined and a real people's champion, always keeping the head up high whatever is going on around. And what a dream for you - it must have been to play her in the series and be a part of something so amazing. And of course. You are so worth it!

And with your role performance, I was also aware of your music. It was the other day and I was going to see if you have a website - and yes, you had! And that's not all. You sing the well, I saw. And it is something that stands out so beautiful fine and that feels absolutely roaring within me with a mixture of excitement and happiness.

I want with these lines wish you all the good things in life and simply overwhelm you with admiration and joy for what you do - and which I hope with all my heart that you continue for a very long time and continues being just like you are today.

With all my deepest and friendly greetings,

Backolars Johan Hermansson

Hi Kieran, hope you're both doing great. Watched Maria on 'The Meaning of Life' on Sunday night and she was radiant. I thought Gay Byrne was way out of his depth.
Was talking to a writer friend about it Frank Sinnott (brother of the legendary Declan) and he said Maria was "absolute poetry." We will have to catch up. xo Martin
Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2012 7:41 PM
Subject: Review of the Pepper Canister Church: Behind Closed Doors

Behind closed doors, they tell us, the awkward inner sanctum of a man and wife, as if it were taboo. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. They say. So we stay away. Ignorance is a powerful thing. Fear is even mightier.

And yet, last Thursday, in the Pepper Canister Church a whole congregation gathered, for a candle lit mass, that brought us all in, from behind closed doors, to see a man and his wife, on stage, by the altar, long after their wedding day.

And we sang, we all sang with them.
We sang for the broken ones, and we prayed they’ll do just fine in years to come, for aren’t they dressed in love all their lives. And with a certain raw Irish maturity, that hardens up like weathered oak to stuff like time and the ages, we wasted no time on failing in love and the slippery sap of a young branch.
No, straight into the oak.
The age of it. The durability.
The weathered steadfastness.
We were all about staying in love.
So certain.
So solid.
So sure.
We bid Adieu to Johnny Depp, politely.
I’ve got my baby.

We sang one out from our hearts to the Gallagher’s in Donegal, because we knew the power of praying people with humble hearts who love their children.

We went right behind the taboo, through the closed doors, and rattled out the ignorance of it, right up to the rocking rhythm of one couple – holding the floor – for ages – and we with them, all the way, solid, steadfast, quirky cool and kind.
Old love’s worth singing for. Lord hear us.

And we dealt with the Church, and the institution.
We had to. We were in the thick of it.
And we affirmed that one must be very clear with one’s intentions in a Church.
And clear we were - in every evocation – from the Great Mother to the Brahmin to the ancient airs of Ireland, that toned ever before the bells rang out, just like before.

Oh yes – we did a lot of work through time and space.
Until we were ready to chant in the Great Mother into the Mother Church.
Skin and Bone. Eyes and Ears. Hearts and Heads. Laughing Tears.

And as for the music – sure ‘twas mighty.
And as for the concert – well, there were three Mexican waves and a rustling of petticoats whose eaves’ haven’t been whished on an aisle like that for a long time, let alone hopping on the altar electric.

And as for Maria and Kieran – sure look – it’s like this - I’ve never known a finer testimony to a union between a man and his wife. ‘Twas elemental my dear Watson. Earth and Water, married in the air through music, with the fire of love ablaze in their hearts, for a long time now, much longer than either of them look.

And the pagan ley line, under the feet of the woman who evoked the Goddess, rippled on every level, past, present and future, with the protection of the beat of the feet of the man who served her melody, holding her in sound, minding her space, shifting cobwebs the pair of them, clutter and consciousness. And so it was, our evening mass in the Pepper Canister Church.

I’ll be sure to light a candle the next time I’m passing.

Merry Christmas x


Sent: Friday, August 31, 2012 1:11 AM
Subject: Sing...brilliant album!

Hi Maria and Kieran

How’s it going on the Ocean Bed?

I have listened to the new ‘Sing’ album a few times now. In ‘Promises’ Maria asks ‘How can I give you my best if I haven’t yet found it’ and misinterpreting the sentiment slightly from the lyric, you have given your best so far in album form…this is the best yet. You have found it Maria, and I am sure you both know that yourselves.

I do wonder how much longer you can remain our secret. You must break out to a wider audience some time and this might do it for you, although a mainstream appeal is probably still not inherent in the album.

There are four essential elements to any album; the songs themselves, the vocal, the arrangement and the actual playing of the instrumental accompaniment. A new Maria album uses those elements in a unique way. The songs you write are not formulaic in any way, but have a feeling of…I don’t know…quirkiness…they have unusual lyrical content that makes them stand out from the norm. Who else would construct a song around the words ‘keep your sparky personality at bay…so tired of putting out fires…put the matches away’?

As for the voice it is totally bewitching; at times powerful and emotional, at other tender and warm, always complemented with phrasing like no-one else. I love this trait (which I find in a totally different way in Ian Felice of the brilliant Felice Brothers; his phrasing is odd but brilliant) and it is in my opinion what helps to set Maria above other singers. Moreover, Maria, probably subconsciously, acts out each song giving it that extra something that other singers can’t manage as they don’t have her acting talent. This album uses that unique voice to the full.

The arrangements here seem to me more complex, perhaps more considered than before which added to the excitement of the whole piece giving added depth and interest. It's less 'rocky' than Mutter, maybe folky in approach, but that’s still not quite right the right description. Certainly acoustic. The acoustic guitar is there to underpin everything and as always is faultless. Kieran must be praised for this and for the excellent instrumentation. I haven’t seen any instrumentalist listing, but I imagine it’s Kieran who plays most things on the album, all of which is pretty darn impressive.

These elements have worked together to give your albums thus far an extraordinary, almost weird intimacy. One feels that you are singing and playing ‘for me’ and it is this in particular what I love about your albums. Few if any acts have managed to achieve that level of intimacy. It’s here again in ‘Sing’, but perhaps not so predominantly, and this might be due to the more complex arrangements and the guest appearances of John Prine, Damien Rice and Paul Brady. This is not a criticism, as I love the arrangements and the guests each bringing a fabulous amount of value-add…as each would, of course. It is just that this time it is more Maria and Kieran’s album than a ‘for me album’. Less intimacy. But I love it!!!

Each of the songs is noteworthy. The extra layers of guest vocals are all expertly used…I don’t usually like the guest appearance syndrome, but here it works to perfection.

I love the nice country feel and shuffle beat to ‘Am I Choosing Right’ and it’s good to hear harmonica included; a too neglected instrument in these hi-production days. I love the great double tracking. Maria tells us ‘I keep making stories for you’ and we say ‘yes please…keep doing so!’ She asks ‘Am I getting all the right words, am I choosing right’? Another resounding ‘Yes!’

This is a very good opener featuring the more complex arrangement and it sounds just right. And with ‘Maria bells’ in the backing!

I found ‘Sing’ redolent of the Skullcover album (which I loved…it was my most played album for a very long time). Its feel, its sound and the emotional vocal reminded me so much of some Skullcover moments. This is a lovely song and Maria lends the vocal to Damien Rice who really does the song justice…and juxtaposes the beauty of her vocal with a slightly huskier though weirdly similar vocal sound. Uilleann pipes add a brilliant spectral feel to proceedings, especially with Damien’s reverbed backing vocals at the end. Excellent. I particularly like the middle 8 harmonies. This song has continued to grow on me over a number of plays…and I loved it first time round.

Ah…’The Silence’. The strong banjo throughout gives the song bluegrass undertones. Excellent arrangements with harmonics and great build up as the song progresses with echo on the double tracking…love Maria’s husky top note on ‘I tell you, you have no choice’ Maria sings ‘I’ve found my voice’ and she’s right! And the Maria bells are to the fore again. This is brilliant!

I love the Latin feel to ‘Hola Luna’ There’s so much going on in this song, and so much to like. The arrangement is fabulous, the harmonies with Paul Brady are excellent and I love the chanting on the bridge between the verses. The chorus is very good and I loved the contrast where the backing drops off before returning with great gusto at the chorus with complex handclaps supplementing things. The little boy is a lucky boy, methinks! ‘Sweet little boy never know what hit him’. Great effects on the outro. Another excellent song. Great stuff so far!

Once again I find that ‘The most beautiful people are broken’ is very redolent of Skullcover and I love it. The brilliant acoustic guitar gives it a country feel. There is a lovely, lazy, laid back feel to the song and another perfect arrangement…and the sentiment in the words ‘If you going to wake up with sound of your own voice ringing in your ears you’d want to start making a sound you like to hear’ give real food for thought. I love this song.

In contrast, ‘Twelve White Horses’ is steadily piano driven while some beautiful harmonies reside in this song. I imagine they are with Kieran. Beautiful. An ethereal guitar offers perfect backing. Some nice and punchy handclaps return for the instrumental break replete with castanets offering evidence of the Kennedy’s relatively recent Spanish sojourn. This is an excellent song with a strong chorus. I love this one, too!

Perhaps influenced by Maria’s part in the Titanic TV production ‘Sing from the Sea’ is powerfully sung with contrasting tenderness as the song demands. Jesus, those lyrics! ‘Take me with you your ocean bride’ ‘if you were dead and I was alive would you sing to me still from the ocean’. Really powerful stuff. A great arrangement once again in which the handclap pattern returns and another climatic ending complete with double tracking and ‘hup-hups’! Fabulous stuff.

Probably ‘Yes We Will’ was the song that I was most looking forward to hearing due to John Prine’s much publicised presence. I think Maria and John are beautiful together and complement the stunning simplicity of the song. Once again I loved the hugely effective arrangement relying basically on acoustic guitar although other instruments come along around the middle 8 which is beautiful. And lyrically outstanding again: ’Will we take the next hill? Oh yes we will’. Brilliant.

I think that ‘Sparky Personality’ is a very sweet, slightly quirky and very effective song. I loved the timpani introduction and the work builds steadily with a dual tracking Maria. I like the simple construction of the song. And once again what brilliant unusual words. I have already mentioned ‘keep your sparky personality at bay…so tired of putting out fires…put the matches away’ and I particularly liked ‘flick the switch from naught to fever pitch’. Another goodie!

I find ‘Promises’ a slightly throwaway song, less adventurous in some ways and, dare I say, there seems to be less feeling invested in the delivery. I do like the way it starts with similar timpani intro as ‘Sparky’ and the bells back again! I do like the middle 8, too. However, this is, for some reason, my least favourite song on ‘Sing’ so for me it presents a slightly disappointing end to an otherwise excellent album.

But generally, I found that I was disappointed only when each song ended…I wanted it to go on for ever as each was so good…the showbiz maxim is, of course, ‘leave them wanting more’, so you have done a perfect job. Thanks for a brilliant album. I am enthralled by you both once again.

I’m now heading for two years in the musical limbo that is Dubai…help!

Love in music



Review: In the church of Kieran and Maria Doyle Kennedy

by Tom Mc Carthy on FEBRUARY 18, 2012 in ENTERTAINMENT, LIFE

Maria Doyle Kennedy (MDK) and Kieran Kennedy (KK) were clearly looking for an intimate venue to give upcoming album Sing a voice of its own, and they found this at the Spaniard in Kinsale. Illuminated by simple candles, and framed by gothic beams overhead and blood-red curtains at their side, we really were in the church of Maria and Kieran, and the congregation were perfectly happy to be converted…

An exhilarating rendition of ‘Storms Are On the Ocean’ early on told the audience they could expect something special, and the seductive set-list infused with a heady mix of both new and perennial material did not disappoint. The soulful nature of ‘Stuck’ and ‘Swoon’ (from 2007 album Mütter) were also received well, with the power of the elements, belonging, loss and letting-go buffeting themes that featured strongly, though much of the new material also reflected an unquenchable lust for life.

A small crowd of perhaps fifty sat mesmerised for the 2.5 hour set, belying the homegrown musical stalwarts before them. It seemed incredible that the punters in the adjacent bar were blissfully unaware of their loss, though they would likely have recognised MDK from a variety of film and TV roles, including The Commitments, The Tudors, and period drama Downton Abbey, as well as Neil Jordan’s upcoming vampire thriller Byzantium. Kieran Kennedy is also no stranger to fame, having been at the helm of a string of bands, including Black Velvet Band and Hothouse Flowers, as well as being a successful musician in his own right. This rich musical history, combined with six albums in their wake (released under self-launched label Mermaid Records), meant the duo had nothing to prove on the night. Perhaps that is why both were so at ease and at times mischievous on stage.

To my mind, this gig was payback for one I would dearly loved to have seen in 1996 – Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blues Alley. MDK’s voice is of the same calibre, but also incredibly unique and full of character. Even ignoring her phenomenal range, her stage presence was a performance in itself, a haunting trance of flamenco style writhing and rhythmical clapping, nourished by the backdrop of KK’s vocals, acoustic guitar and an impressive array of instruments and effects, all from a simple pedal.

The venue decor resembled the set of The Crucible, as MDK herself pointed out during a handful of breathers from an incredible 20+ song set. It was during these mini-breaks that the audience got a peek at their colourful personalities and natural chemistry. Mirthful renditions of ‘Babe’ (from 2001 album Charm) and ‘The Mountaineers Courtship’ (2011’s The Storms Are On The Ocean) had the crowd in stitches. Audience participation also featured strongly, a favourite ice-breaker of MDK’s:“Not to get too heavy, but people raising their voices together is a glorious sound.”

There was no air or graces, either during the gig or after when they mingled with the crowd, just two normal people happy to have a bit of banter. Nuggets of interactions with Paul Brady, John Prine, Tom York, Johnny Depp, and even a dedicated band of Twitter followers (several of who were present), were also divulged.

It was difficult to find anything to detract from this solid offering. A minor technical problem (booming speakers) was solved immediately, but the overall performance was flawless. If pushed, it would have been interesting at times to enjoy them as simply a pair of voices and an acoustic guitar, without any effects. Such is their musical prowess, this would likely have been as impressive.

As the congregation filtered out to wash the experience down with their chosen sacrament, I asked MDK if there was any particular inspiration behind Sing. She paused for a moment, and then answered simply: “Many, many things have influenced it, but mainly the act of singing itself.” KK added: “It’s about moving on too.”

Sing is due out sometime this year, promises MDK: “To be honest they always take me a little while. Writing songs can be the easiest thing in the world, until you record…” This performance reaffirms it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, a series of upcoming gigs will have to satisfy any urges. Besides, to have a crowd pleading for more, even after four encores, is pretty special. You need to see them live.

The Storms are on the Ocean

I returned from a stint in UK to find lying abombly on my doormat (actually on my settee [or is it sofa?] arm…my neighbour had been popping in for cat feeding and post harvesting purposes) to find ‘The Storms are on the Ocean’ patiently awaiting my return. My visit had taken in a session at HMV Forum in London to see the re-formed Jayhawks (I have put ‘re-formed’ rather than ‘reformed’ as the latter would suggest that they had been bad boys and had now turned over a new leaf). As you may know…or not, of course…one of their main writers Mark Olson, acoustic king, had left to form his many solo projects about 15 years ago just as the band had reached its zenith, leaving the band to soldier on for another 3-4 albums with Gary Louris, electric king, as the main man. However, more recently the two had reconciled their musical differences and recorded an album together before reforming (or re-forming!) the ‘best’ of the Jayhawks configurations and have been touring and recording again.

‘Yippee!!’ I said as I was pleased about this.

But I went to see them with some reservation…when I saw them in their classic days they were good…but only good. As we know when bands get back together they are often disappointing. But the Jayhawks were utterly brilliant. The sad thing is that most of the concert was (although a tad understandably) music from the classic albums of 15 years ago, but it was performed SO well…brilliant stuff. And the few newbies they did were in the same vogue as the old stuff, is that bodes well for the soon-to-be-released album…try to hear it…‘Mocking Bird Time’, I think it’s to be called. Well worth it, I’ll wager.

We left North London the next day...only to find out that the riots started in Tottenham that night close to where we were staying. What frigging eejits that crowd of…frigging eejits were. I can understand, up to a point, although obviously can’t condone, the looting and so on, but to set fire to shops in the knowledge that people were living above…Jesus! That is just beyond comprehension. Criminals against humanity in every way as bad as a certain pursued Libyan leader.

But this was to be an email to say ‘Thanks’ for another great album. So I’ll leave the UK behind and carry on with what I was going to bother you with…

‘Storms’ is another great offering, while being so different from its predecessors…but I guess that was the idea. One of the remarkable things about all of Maria’s albums is a remarkable…intimacy…that’s all I can call it…that no other artist I know can convey. It is something that once again pervades this album, and at once elevates it into a remarkable piece of work. How do you manage to get that intimacy into it? Remarkable. It’s got to be talent…both singing and production.

In places it is redolent of the soundtrack to ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ in its content and arrangement…and that’s OK by me…’Brother’ is in my mind the best soundtrack album ever (with the Commitments!) and so this is GREAT praise from me. I guess it’s the mixture of bluegrass and gospel inspired songs that does it. But leaving that particular album aside, ‘Storms’ works so well. The arrangements work expertly on both the gospel and bluegrassy stuff as well as the more country / folk songs. The intro to title track is brilliant, and almost everything on the CD is a winner. ‘The Mountaineer’s Courtship’ made me laugh (for the first few times)…great ending, and I loved the throw away ‘and a baby’ which is gas.

Yes altogether a brilliant album and I am so grateful that you put it out on CD so that we of the pre-download generation (or is it just me!!??!!) can enjoy its excellence. Talking of that, the CD case is brilliant, too…I love it.

That’s it…just thanks to you both for another musical gem. A great dénouement to a great musical interlude that started with the Jayhawks.

I hope to catch you in concert somewhere/when, until then

Thanks and Best wishes

john from Leitrim

Model Theatre Sligo Concert

I’m sorry for not having contacted you before, but I have been busy in preparation for albeit a little bit of work; but when it’s new work the preparation needed is more proportionately than otherwise. And my daughter came to stay with us for a week, so I was showing her the delights (!?) of Leitrim and its surrounds…including an overnight in Dublin where I was working in DCU for an afternoon…the result of some of that preparation, you see. So all in all a decent excuse I feel!

I see that Dublin got some of the floods that the rest of us have had for the last week or so (I exaggerate that…we have had a few flooded roads…however in Fermanagh around Derrygonelly and Boho…great name…the flooding was unbelievable…water as far as the eye could see…and beyond, no doubt. Horrible.


The best yet!!! I have seen you and Maria 3 times now and this was easily the best…not that the others weren’t good…they were…but each has been better than the performance before. I’m not sure why this was so good…just the selection of material, the brilliant performances and the intimacy that you produce is just quite scintillating. Not sure how you do it…that intimacy thing is quite extraordinary, and translates onto your CDs which is even more baffling.

Some thoughts / memories of a great concert:

The old Gibson may have seen better days, but can it ever have sounded so good? The effects were pretty darn good, too…not just the harmonics as the boy who kept calling things out said…not really a heckler…an enthusiast or something…but they certainly enhanced those songs brilliantly. Really captivating stuff.

The embarrassed delight that was all over Maria’s face when the audience applauded. I wondered how that delight could be so strong considering all that she / you both have done in the recent past…but it was special to see.

The depth and spread of songs from the forthcoming album and each of the past albums was perfect and gave a varied and yet familiar feeling to everything. The new material sounds great, too. It is always a worrying period for us, the public, between albums that your favourite performers produce. Will it match the last? Will it be a disappointment? Has the song writing deteriorated? Is the production too much? That sort of doubt that nags away at times during the day when they have no right to nag at you. And I guess that if the rest of the album matches those new songs we heard, most of those doubts are already eliminated…role on the New Year! But the way the old material was woven in was great. I liked the interlude where the ‘Storms’ material found its way in…and I laughed at the Mountaineers Courtship again whereas I had stopped laughing at it on CD…strange how live performances do that ‘…and a baby…’…excellent! And the final version of ‘Stars’ as you finished was stunning. Altogether a brilliant set…thanks a million for such great entertainment.

The performing of John the Revelator was a brilliant surprise!! As you may know there are a number of versions of this (the verses vary quite considerably) and the version I know and have is by Son House the old blues singer…so old he is dead, in fact!! I have always loved this song and have incorporated it into one of my songs ‘Solemn as Barclay’…so I was surprised and delighted to hear it…and to join in with it…albeit quietly…I didn’t want to spoil proceedings!!! Incidentally, Maria said that she had thought the words were ‘Who’s that riding John the Revelator…’ which was really amusing…less amusing but in the same vein was my belief that Son House was singing that he ‘wrote a book on the seven seas’ which I didn’t understand for years. It wasn’t until I read the book of Revelations that I realised it was a book on the seven seals. Did you ever read Revelations? Weird or what!? I enjoyed it though! So thanks for John the Revelator…lots of great memories associated with it.

Maria’s shoes…not quite the extravagant footwear of previous sightings (they were mentioned at the first gig I saw you both in and so have looked ever since…I don’t have a predilection for women’s shoes, you understand) but they were of pretty unusual and inspired design nonetheless. Is she one of those women with a million shoes, I wonder? Why do women need so many? I have 2…Oh, and a pair of boots for when it snows this winter…I don’t want to break my ankle like last year in my work shoes with no tread on the soles! Work shoes, runners and boots…that’s me.

In the interval between Glen Cal and yourselves one of the albums by the brilliant Felice Brothers was played…I couldn’t believe it. Kieran, Maria and the Felice Brothers in one evening; what a double whammy for me. The Felice Brothers are probably my current favourite band alongside long-time favourites the Jayhawks that I mentioned last time. They are a country rock band I suppose you’d call them but with such an anarchic approach to their music that it takes them above the other bands of their ilk. However, for me, their last album suffered a tad of the Will it match the last? Will it be a disappointment? Has the song writing deteriorated? Is the production too much? issues mentioned earlier. However they are at the Dublin Academy mid-December and I hope my ticket is winging its way to me soon. Try and see them. Where was I…? Yes the interval was an especially entertaining one for me, too!

I mentioned when I spoke to you briefly after the gig that you look more like Roy Harper every time I see you…I now take this back…quite coincidently I saw him on Jools Holland’s programme soon after Sligo, and he has changed SO much since I last saw him…almost bald now, but then he is 75, which is hard to believe. Roy was mainstay of the 60s singer / songwriter crew in London where I saw him many times. His best album is probably ‘An Old Cricketer Never Leaves the Crease’ (or something similar) and his most well-known song 'I Hate the White Man’ a monolithic but great song about all the evils that the white man has perpetrated on the world and especially on the worlds of many indigenous populations (can’t think of a better description) such as First Nation Americans and so forth…great stuff. But you do look like he did in his prime.

Hey! I must stop…you are too busy with the new album and stuff to read this rubbish!! But I just wanted to say thanks to you both for such a great evening…again. I was enraptured by your performances. I am at a loss to explain to myself why you are not bigger than you are (I mean in public esteem, not your size…although…) and spread the word as much as I can to all and sundry and maybe a few more. So thanks, you two…you are gems

Take good care you both and here’s to the next time…love in music

john Still from Leitrim

PS Try to catch the Felice Brothers…I’m sure you will be delighted!