” An inventive set that could well become a crossover commercial success.” ★★★★ The Guardian
Irish musician and singer Damien O’Kane is a musician of many talents. He’s a singer. A superb one, too, with a relaxed, assured vocal style that exudes a natural warmth and empathy with the colourful characters who occupy his songs. He’s also a brilliant, award winning banjo player. And a fine guitarist. And an ingenious arranger. Not to mention an accomplished tunemaker, researcher, bandleader and accompanist of rich imagination and fearless vision.
Steeped in music, Damien grew up in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. Touring the world with his very own family band, he developed a deep respect and understanding of the folk tradition but also forged a healthy appetite to explore its broadest borders and test its boundaries.
Having already been nominated twice in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, in 2016 his ‘groundbreaking’ album AREAS OF HIGH TRAFFIC was nominated for the prestigious ‘Album of the Year’. Radical and revelatory, this was his first solo record in five years, sending traditional Irish songs reeling into a contemporary soundscape.
‘A bold and inventive set that could well become a crossover commercial success.’ – 4* The Guardian
The songs Damien chooses are mainly rooted in his homeland and several have long been part of the fabric of Irish music, recorded numerous times down the years – but never like this. Steeped in tradition he may be, but he also has a thoroughly modern take on folk song and, in league with his outstanding co-conspirators (Steven Iveson on electric guitar, Anthony Davis on keyboards, Steven Byrnes on guitars and Josh Clark on drums and percussion), he brings a treasure trove of fresh ideas and radically original arrangements to the table.
Now the master musician, songwriter and vocalist is back to continue that unorthodox musical adventure on his third solo record – and this time the Yorkshire-based Ulsterman is out for revenge!
Avenging and Bright, released December 8, 2017, picks up the progressive cudgel once more with heartfelt songs from his Irish homeland mixed in with some English and original songs too – one written by wife Kate Rusby.
Another rapier-sharp release it once again ambushes the tradition and tempts it into undiscovered realms, whilst always staying true to the songs’ roots. The scene is set by the album’s Game of Thrones style cover with a kingly Mr. O’Kane ready for battle!
Bold and unflinching in its course, the 11-track album takes its title from what is deemed to be one of the three tragic stories of the Irish which Damien found in the 19th century book The Songs of Ireland. He has penned the tune to complement the words of Irish poet Thomas Moore.
Slickly produced by O’Kane, he plays electric and acoustic tenor guitar and his outstanding trademark tenor banjo. Within the realms of Avenging & Bright, there are lush, innovative other-worldly soundscapes wrapped carefully around traditional Irish songs like Bright Flowers, Poor Stranger and opening number Boston City. Soaring electric guitars, luxurious programmed percussion and O’Kane’s rich and distinctive Northern Irish brogue prove a captivating, spectacular mix.
Released on the Pure Records label on December 8, Avenging & Bright gets right under the skin of traditional Irish and English folk seducing it into the realms of rock, pop, jazz and world music – never predictable, always an exciting and uplifting voyage of discovery delivered by one of the most fearless and clever conjurors of modern folk music.
“Another gem of an album from Damien who has found a way of effortlessly harnessing state-of-the-art recordings and technology with a deep understanding of his traditional roots’ Sublime.’ – Mark Radcliffe BBC Radio 2/6 Music
‘Great musicianship and a lovely way with the songs. Seriously well produced. Should be one of the top ten albums of 2017’ – Mike Harding
Damien continues to tour extensively with wife, Kate Rusby and her band playing his array of stringy things! He has produced Rusby’s last three acclaimed records and was described by BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley as a ‘sonic architect’ following his bold influence on Kate’s music and his own.
Summer 2018 will see the release of a duo banjo project with Ron Block (Alison Krauss Band) .Having been friends for many years and fans of each other’s plucking and picking skills they will be releasing their first Instrumental record together with special guests including Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Barry Bales on bass and Sierra Hull on mandolin.
A true talent at glossing the old with the new, O’Kane’s distinctive music looks set to be around for a very long time.