Each player in The Alt is a leading light of today’s folk scene and though this could be easily called a supergroup, at its heart The Alt is really a celebration of friendship and song.
The ALT – John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, Eamon O’Leary
The beautiful mountain Knocknarea in Ireland’s County Sligo is said to be the final resting place of the ancient Irish warrior-queen Maeve.
The ‘Alt’ is a storied glen on the side of Knocknarea, and it was in the shadow of this glen in the little village of Coolaney that the three master Irish traditional musicians in The Alt—John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, and Eamon O’Leary—first gathered to rehearse.
The old ballads, winding tunes, and freshly discovered songs that each artist brought to the table reflect the pure love of the song that has made Irish music so beautiful and compelling over thousands of years.
It’s this same love of the song that the Irish brought to America, nestling into their new homes in Appalachia and forming the bedrock that would bring us American country, bluegrass, and old-time music. The Alt are fully aware of this history, and in fact chose to record their debut album in the quiet isolation of a small cabin in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains. Alone with just the scurrying sounds of little mice accompanying them, each of these master musicians was able to use their partnership to touch at something deeper in the music, something swift and beautiful and magical that has always run beneath these songs.
In recent years, Grammy-nominated John Doyle has gained major prominence in the Celtic and Folk worlds in duos with Chicago fiddler Liz Carroll (their recording, “Double Play” received a 2010 Grammy nomination for “Best Traditional World Music Record”); as Karan Casey and John Doyle; with the Teetotallers and now also with The Alt. 2008-2010 saw John on the road with the legendary Joan Baez as her music director and guitarist.
With the release of John’s 2011 solo recoding, “Shadow and Light” (Compass Records), his significant talents as songwriter and singer are finally coming to the fore. Impossibly in demand in the studio and on the road, immensely talented and blessed with an acute ear, a wicked sense of rhythm and seemingly endless bag of chops in his playing, composing, performing and producing, John has firmly established himself as one of the most versatile, creative and prolific voices in folk and traditional Irish music.
“Doyle on guitar has risen to a level occupied by him alone. No one in Irish traditional music is a better guitarist than him right now.” —Earle Hitchener, The Wall Street Journal
Traditional singer, flute player, tunesmith and songwriter Nuala Kennedy grew up playing music in Dundalk, Ireland and later moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. The combination of the best of two cultures, Scotland and Ireland, is what has made Nuala the artist she is today. In 2011 Nuala completed a Masters Degree in Composition and Performance and the result was an even deeper understanding of, and commitment to traditional music, which is evident in the powerful performances she gives, wherever she is on tour.
Nuala released her third solo record ‘Noble Stranger’ (Compass Records) in 2012 to critical acclaim. The Nuala Kennedy Band were nominees in the 2013 BBC Alba Scottish Traditional Folk Awards.
“She is not only an exceptional interpreter of the tradition; her own music glistens with freshness.”
—The Irish Times
Originally from Dublin, Eamon has lived in New York City for the last twenty years.
He has toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, performing and recording with many of Irish music’s great players. In 2004, he and Patrick Ourceau released a live recording, Live at Mona’s, documenting their many years hosting a session on New York’s Lower East Side.
In 2012 he and Jefferson Hamer released an album of traditional songs, The Murphy Beds, described by the Huffington Post as “ten beautiful, crystalline songs.”
Eamon’s songwriting can be heard on the 2013 album Old Clump.