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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Music to Soothe The Soul

An interesting and entertaining question came up this week in conversation- do music bloggers get to a point where they turn off all music when they are not 'working'? Certainly I find that the more seriously I take 'being a music blogger', the more I devote time to listening to new music, rather than just listening to what I want. I hear hundreds of new songs a week, and only the great ones make it onto my playlists. The music is almost always on when I am awake and at home, and if I am alone at the office it is on there as well. I do mix in old favorites with the new stuff, in part so that the great songs stand out- I want the songs that hold their own against my established favorites, after all.

Most of my friends may listen to a few hours of music per week, so the friend I was chatting with naturally assumed that when I am taking a break from my 'work' as a blogger, I would turn the music off entirely, as a rule. Actually, though, when I get to where all the new music sounds the same and it's all annoying, I start making special playlists of absolute favorite songs, and for the rest of the day, those are the songs I listen to, till I feel better and can handle new music again. So, today's 10 songs for Tuesday playlist is the top ten songs I throw onto these therapy playlists. These are some of the tunes and the voices that keep me going and remind me of why I want to work in music at all.

1. "Mr. Blue Sky", Neil Byrne, from the Pale Blue Jak album, Faces.
2. "Tears of Hercules", from Keith Harkin's self-titled debut album.
3. "Let Me Fall", off of Josh Groban's self-titled debut album.
4. "Not a Dry Eye in the House", Meat Loaf, off of Welcome to the Neighborhood (though I love Rhydian Roberts' cover of this one too)
5. "Me and Charlie Talking", Miranda Lambert, off the album Kerosene
6. "Don't Stop Me Now", Queen, off the album Jazz
7. "Thunderbird", Quiet Riot, off their album Metal Health
8. "Rainbow Connection", Kermit the Frog (not sure what album this one can be found on, actually)
9. "Just a Song at Twilight", Celtic Thunder (Paul Byrom and Damian McGinty)
10. "Amazing Grace", Celtic Thunder (specifically with Ryan Kelly and Keith Harkin singing the first few bars) This one's the song I put on if I only have time for one.

Listening to a playlist like this one is magic, and by the time the last notes fade away, all is once again right with the world, at least for a while. There's lots more great music to discover, but for tonight, these are the songs I'm immersing myself in. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recap of the Past 2 Years, for the 2nd Anniversary of Ryan Kelly's album "In Time"

Since our beloved Mr. Kelly is through with having major life threatening crises and nightmarish adventures, hopefully he will have the opportunity in the coming year to begin serious work towards a follow-up album. In Time is a great pop-rock album, with lots of original songs and a wide variety of subjects and themes, but it is decidedly angst-ridden. Placed side by side with Neil Byrne's Sensitive Souls EP and his Pale Blue Jak album, Faces, Ryan's songs seem especially gloomy. I really love Ryan's "The Village That They Call the Moy", though I usually just refer to it in conversation as "that Moy song", but even this lovely gem is sad, talking to a guy who is from Moy and loves his hometown, but who had to leave Moy to find work. I would love a new Ryan Kelly album, whether it has any happy songs or not, but considering how several of Ryan's gloomy songs turned autobiographical after the fact, maybe if he writes a few new songs that are happy and hopeful, his life will fulfill those songs instead.

A lot has happened over the past 2 years. Even without knowing much about Ryan Kelly prior to his joining Celtic Thunder, I think it's safe to say that these past 2 years have been a pretty crazy roller coaster ride for him. 2 years ago today(roughly, since Amazon lists the release date for In Time as the 11th), Ryan released his first solo album, In Time, a project he was rightfully proud to share with the world. Since that day, Ryan has completed several more tours with Celtic Thunder, including one in Australia, and he has teamed up with fellow Celtic Thunder singer Neil Byrne for an acoustic set, which they have brought to parts of the US this past spring on their first Acoustic By Candlelight tour. Ryan also won 2011 award for “Top Solo Performer in Concert” from the Irish Music Association, and he was presented the award at one of the Acoustic by Candlelight shows.

In addition to all this traveling and singing, Ryan actually left Celtic Thunder last year, missing the summer rehearsals the rest of Celtic Thunder had prior to their 2011-2012 tour season. Most of the details of what happened last year have vanished off of the internet entirely, but from what was said earlier last year, it would appear Ryan had met a woman with whom he wished to share his life, and of course being constantly on tour is hardly a pleasant way to start off any serious romance. By the end of the summer 'something' happened, something very unpleasant and that ultimately resulted in Ryan being back in Celtic Thunder. He's once again single now and seems pretty ok with staying single for awhile (sad, but I never had a chance with him anyway, I'm sure). I know only bits and pieces, but enough to know it was a very rough year, and one I don't blame him for not talking about. There are lots of details that once were floating around on the Internet about what happened, but of course in a confusing mixture of truth, half-truth and unsubstantiated rumor. But, for those newer fans who occasionally run across comments relating to fans supporting and believing in Ryan last year, yes Ryan put his fans through a lot last year, and I know some of the ones who weren't all that loyal and dedicated moved on last winter. By the time Ryan nearly died this summer, he had a lot of well-tempered fans to watch his back.

This year started out well, with the Celtic Thunder Australia tour, Celtic Thunder promotions tour (PBS and QVC appearances), and the first Acoustic By Candlelight tour. By the time the guys returned to Ireland it seemed that Ryan was fully recovered, better than ever, in fact. But, only days after Ryan and Neil returned home from their Acoustic By Candlelight tour, Ryan was in an accident which left him in a coma for several weeks(What a Difference a Day Makes). Was he changing a lightbulb? Did he trip and fall down a flight of stairs?
Whatever he did, he is all better, once again, and on tour now(What Happened To Ryan Kelly in June). And, if the saying is true, that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, Ryan's in great shape now and ought to have smooth sailing for the rest of his life. As another fan put it, Ryan scared the crap out of a lot of people, but so long as he doesn't do it again, I suppose he's forgiven. Whatever the next year brings, In Time is an excellent album that will continue to impress new fans for years to come, and Ryan has thousands of fans who will continue to have his back should any new adventures come his way.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In Lieu of a (Timely) Songlist

Sadly there is no way to add extra hours to the tail ends of days, so since I spent most of the evening at a concert and a graduate student social event, I'll have to finish the new songlist post a day late. (oh no! Whatever shall the world do without a new ravenmount playlist?) There are 280 songs now, total, listed in my weekly playlists, so unless you want to listen to the whole list straight through, that huge collection of songs ought to keep just about anyone occupied happily for a while. Here's a nifty link that will take you to all the posts on the ravenmount blog tagged as 'Weekly 20 Songs List'. I'll be singing at a choir dress rehearsal tomorrow morning, so if it takes me longer to get the songlist up than it takes you to browse the old lists, check out a few of the great whole albums on the list below, all of course available on spotify:

Katie Glassman- Snapshot
Keith Harkin- Keith Harkin
Catch Bees- Newman's Open Choir
The Real Tuesday Weld- I, Lucifer
Barry Kerr- The Three Sisters
Bodega- Bodega
Danielle Ate the Sandwich- Like a King
Guillaume Cantillon- Des Ballons Rouges
Jerry Douglas- Traveler
Shel- Shel

All of these albums are excellent, well worth listening to in their entirety.

Happy Listening! (Check back in ~24hrs for the new list of 20 great songs!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Music Video from Keith Harkin- "Nothing But You & I"

I actually found out about this new video from a fellow Thunderhead via facebook this morning, and after poking around all of Keith's social media sites, it would appear that he has yet to announce the existence of this new video. Nonetheless, there is a new, and very pretty music video on youtube now for another of Keith's original love songs, "Nothing But You & I". (I was the 48th person to 'like' this video, so it must have just been posted shortly before I saw it. How many likes can it get before Keith gets around to telling us it exists?)

Check it out, 'like' it, and make sure while you're at it that you have clicked the button above the video to subscribe to Keith's youtube channel. It's a lovely video for one of the prettiest songs on his album, and has lots of very nice shots of Keith it it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gearing up for Ryan Kelly's "In Time" Anniversary

Ryan Kelly, one of my favorite musicians currently living, will be celebrating his album's anniversary on October 22nd. Ryan's excellent first solo album, In Time, happens to include "The Village That They Call the Moy", which I really like, along with lots of other great original songs. One of my other absolute favorite living musicians, Neil Byrne, had his release date anniversary for his Pale Blue Jak project album, Faces, on Sunday October 14th, but we are still waiting for his blog post.
Celtic Thunder did perform at the Pentagon today, so I suppose Neil is forgiven for not getting his post finished right away, but I hope to have more to report from his end sometime soon. This blog has been deficient wrt Neil Byrne news and photos for far too long. Ryan, meanwhile, is having a photo contest, for which the prizes are an actual phone call from him, for the grand prize winner, and a tweet for ten additional lucky winners. (Prizes seem pretty easy to come up with, for sexy Irish singers anyway.) I would love to actually talk with Ryan sometime, but I doubt that his prize phone call is meant to be much more than a brief chat. Still, it's more than enough of a prize for a photo contest.

Ryan will also be doing another live chat via stickam, on the 22nd, and I hope by then I can figure out why my computer hates stickam so I can actually log in. I was present and watching for Paul Byrom's latest stickam chat and for Damian McGinty's, but so far I have had lousy luck logging in successfully. Still, this video chat idea has been pretty great for making these guys more accessible to their many scattered fans. I hope Neil might find time to do a live video chat too sometime soon, but obviously doing one yesterday didn't happen.

One thing that is certainly cutting into Ryan and Neil's time a bit is that they are starting to put together their next leg of their Acoustic by Candlelight tour. They have dates posted for Washington, Oregon, California and Texas so far, so I am hoping maybe Colorado will be in there somewhere, if they don't try out their set list in a show here while Celtic Thunder is here in November. A smaller show like theirs would not just be great music and a chance to actually meet both these lovely men, but it would be small enough that my camera could actually get some decent pictures no matter where I'm sitting. I do seem to enjoy being at shows more if I can take pictures, anyway, and taking some good pictures of these two men would be a highlight of my year for sure.
I'm not holding my breath- Neil and Ryan have a lot of people demanding things of them, and I can't offer much- but in any case exciting things are in the works from both of these guys. I am still hoping for a tour album soon so I can put their version of the Hothouse Flowers song "Don't Go" on my songlists. While we are waiting for more updates from these guys, take advantage of this time to check out SHEL, Mama Lenny and the Remedy, Europe, Katie Glassman, and all the other great music acts on this blog, and as always, let me know by tweet or whatever if you have suggestions of music I ought to try listening to.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Neil Byrne: Master of Suspense

Today marks the one year anniversary of the release of Pale Blue Jak, "Faces", an album created by Neil Byrne as a side project from his Celtic Thunder singing career. For the past few months Neil has been posting bizarre cartoon critters, with no additional information, on his Pale Blue Jak facebook site. Leading into this weekend Neil posted all of these cartoon critter drawings together in one post on his official website, with no new information, beyond his cryptic "all will be revealed soon". Today he posted that he was hard at work on a new blog post for us, but we are still in suspense, and Celtic Thunder is singing for the Pentagon tomorrow, so I'd imagine we may have to be patient a bit longer unless he's posting something as type this. As fanbase management goes, I'm rather impressed so far with Neil and his postbox videos, regular facebook posts and blog updates, and his seeming accessibility to his fans. If he builds up all this curiosity and fails to cash in on it, of course it may backfire rather badly, but if he really has news worthy of the audience his cartoon posts have been hooking, he has greater momentum for whatever he's about to reveal. In the meantime just imagine his adorable mischievous grin every time I see these critter pictures.

Happy Release Date Anniversary, Pale Blue Jak!

Congrats to Keith Harkin and Paul Byrom

As many of their fans are aware, even without the benefit of my blog, Paul Byrom has been doing a kickstarter campaign to raise money for his upcoming PBS recording. Keith Harkin released his debut solo album with Verve Records last month. And, while Paul's posted figures don't yet reflect his kickstarter success, both of these excellent musicians have had a very successful month. Paul's kickstarter now sits at roughly $41,000, which is of course still $9,000 short of his target, but there are finally some groups finalizing private concert monies, and once just one of these actually posts their donation onto the ickstarter site Paul will have met his minimum goal. As of now, St. Louis is the only city reporting that they have their 40 people/ $10,000 to donate to the project. (The promo gift for donors who contribute $10,000 is a private Paul Byrom concert for up to 40 people, which has generally translated to groups of 40 people each putting in a few hundred dollars to reach that $10,000.)

Of course, the more money Paul gets donated, the better his show can be when he records his PBS special sometime around March. And, since $250 is a decent price for a ticket + meet&greet, especially for a show with only 39 other people, I'm sure there are many other Paul Byrom fans recognizing the great opportunity they could enjoy in joining one of the remaining city groups to fund more of these private concerts. I'd imagine, since the next two cities likely to reach 40 people are Chicago and Vancouver, it might be best if Paul gets a bit more than his $50,000 donated so that his travel expenses for these promo shows don't start eating into his PBS funds. Sadly, Fort Collins is nowhere near any of the cities that have groups setting up private shows, and I am still sans income anyway, so no private show for me. But for folks in Chicago, Connecticut, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Virginia, NY area, Vancouver, or Philadelphia, there are still seats available for these private shows. Check out Paul's kickstarter page and click on the 'updates' tab to get more information about private show groups in these areas.

Keith Harkin has a tour coming up after the Celtic Thunder Australian tour, so he's dealing with slightly different challenges this year, but he too has reason to celebrate this week. Keith's solo album is not just topping the world music chart on amazon, but is the top rated pop album on amazon now. I have no idea whether this means he's rolling in money now or just barely paying off all his debts from making his album- certainly he'll also have expenses on tour that his revenues from album sales and touring will have to offset, so he may not be coasting just yet. But, for this weekend Keith's hanging out at the top, in ratings if not in sales, and hopefully he'll stay there a long while. And, while the staggered release date that launched his album may have drained some of its sales momentum, there's still ample time to get Keith Harkin's self-titled debut album to the number one spot on amazon and elsewhere for pop or for music sales in general.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Darrell Coyle: Singer-Songwriter from the Far Side of the Pond

Oran O’Carroll and ‘Glee’ star Damian McGinty founded the company Audio Booth this year, and signed Darrell Coyle as their first artist, under their new label Walled City Records. Darrell Coyle is a fairly new singer-songwriter from the British Isles, in other words very far from Fort Collins, and no, he's not coming to Fort Collins any time soon to perform. And, there are singer-songwriter types in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado, so why bring in someone from 'outside' anyway? Darrell's career is linked now to Damian McGinty's, which is really why I even know Darrell exists, of course. I love the idea that Damien and his friend Oran started up their own company, of course, and wish them the best, but if they picked a crappy first artist for their label I'd not be writing much more than a brief 'good luck'. But, besides luck, Damian and Oran have pretty decent taste. Darrell's music reminds me of some of the better contemporary singer-songwriters I've heard recently, only Darrell sings with a cuter accent.

Darrell's new album, My My My, is all of 4 songs long, so just a teaser really, enough music to build a bit of a following and to get folks addicted in time for a full length album sometime down the road. This new album's tracks are all pretty cool- I just wish there were more of them, because 4 songs isn't a very long playlist. Initially I had added My My My into the same spotify playlist with Neil Byrne's Sensitive Souls and his Pale Blue Jak album, Faces. I also have Keith Harkin's new album, and Ryan Kelly's In Time, Barry Kerr's The Three Sisters, and Paul Byrom's This Is the Moment on the same playlist. The drawback to this is that all of the other albums on this list are among my favorite albums already, and the men who created them are among my favorite musicians. Darrell's music is easily good enough to compete with these other albums, but it was just impossible to not get distracted.

So, as of tonight, I have Darrell on a new playlist, along with some Brooks Williams, Patrick Dethlefs, Paolo Nutini, and other great singers who go great together on one playlist. "My My My" has a nice bluesy feel in the vocals, but with an overall sound that could fit in well with a variety of different contemporary music charts and local radio playlists. "Everybody Breaks" could fit nicely with the songs on Patrick Dethlefs' albums, and all 4 tracks have a professional polish that let them blend seamlessly into playlists with such artists as Eddi Reader, Paul Simon and Brandi Carlile.

If Internet makes their overhead more manageable, contemporary musicians like Darrell can play small venues at affordable ticket prices, doing only as much touring as they can comfortably manage, while selling merchandise and music online to pay the rest of the bills. Yes, this is a very simplistic model of the future of the music industry, and once you add in enough layers of producers, managers, marketers, promoters, etc., the future music world becomes a bit more like what we have already. Still, it may be quite possible to work successfully outside the dominant giant music companies that monopolize the global music industry, and if so, companies like Audio Booth may be one of the keys to making music outside the "Big 3" music companies. The fans Damian McGinty brings with him to support his label's artists are modern fans, who grew up downloading music and sharing it via youtube and tumblr and services like spotify. This large fan-base makes promoting Darrell a bit easier, because Damian's fans can just adopt Darrell as an extension of Damian, but this also means Audio Booth and Walled City Records have to start out marketing music to the modern fans they already have.

Where facebook, reverbnation, youtube and twitter are afterthoughts for many artists from earlier eras, Damian and Oran and their artists will have to keep social media at the forefront of their public relations planning. The fans Darrell has inherited from Damian are not in England or Ireland, or even in Europe- Damian's fans are all over the US, Australia and the world in general, and if Darrell wants to adopt these fans, no doubt we'll be seeing plenty of him via the live chats, facebook postings, random tweets and youtube videos that keep those thousands of fans engaged. As my friends and regular readers will recognize, I'm sure, there's a lot that would be of interest to me regarding Audio Booth and Walled City Records, and I look forward to watching how things unfold for Damian and Oran and their artists. I've already been enjoying watching how Damian and the rest of the Celtic Thunder folks use social media, and already Damian and Oran are both very clearly dedicated to staying in touch with fans using Internet media.

It's a welcome bonus, though, that their first artist is someone whose music I enjoy, so that I can be a bit more of an actual fan, not just an interested outside observer. The more I meet musicians in the course of my photography and blogging, the harder it is for me to be just a 'fan' of anyone- at this rate, I'm not sure even meeting Ryan Kelly could make me react like a normal 'fan'. But I'm sure Darrell will have plenty of fans, without adding me to that number. Hopefully he'll be content with having me as a sympathetic and supportive music blogger from far away. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll even have the chance sometime to see one of Darrell's live shows with my pink camera in hand, so I can add a few dozen photos of Darrell Coyle to my growing photo collection. :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Introducing Keith Harkin's Fantastic New Album

- Jamie Barringer October 5, 2012
Keith Harkin emerged this September as the first new artist under multi-Grammy® award-winning David Foster’s revitalized Verve Music Group. Keith’s self-titled debut album was released world-wide on September 18, 2012, and immediately landed itself at the #1 spot on the Amazon world music charts. Amazon even ran out of CDs briefly just after the release date as the orders on their site for this album outpaced their supply of them.

“Keith Harkin has a rare combination of talents- he’s a great singer, a unique songwriter and gifted live performer. He defines the very qualities true artists are born with,” said David Foster, adding, “We’re proud to have Keith as a key member of the growing Verve family.”

Keith Harkin is a collection of 12 great songs that illustrates Keith’s skills as both an interpreter and a writer of great music. The album’s first single is Keith’s bittersweet original song “Don’t Forget About Me.” The professionally recorded music video for this single shows Keith in his natural element, on-board his boat with one of his many beautiful guitars. The rest of the tracks on this album are a mix of great covers of classic songs and several other great Keith Harkin originals.

“I love all music, and a lot of my influences are on this record,” says Harkin. “Neil Young, pop, dance, country- I love Glen Campbell. I see it like an old-school Elton John record, where he would play rock next to country next to folk. It’s quite a broad horizon."

Keith’s covers on this album include a duet with two-time Grammy® Award winner Colbie Caillat on Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” a powerful version of Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence,” which is infused with a decidedly Irish influence in its instrumental sections, and a cover of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which is more in the straightforward guitar-rich musical style his existing fans have come to expect of him.

Among the Keith Harkin originals on this album is “Daisy Fields,” a more polished recording of a song Keith wrote a while ago that has already been a fan-favorite in its less polished form since before Keith signed with Verve. Keith also composed several new songs for this CD, including “Rosa,” a sweet somewhat melancholy love song written for Keith’s god-daughter.

Keith Harkin and Paul Byrom- beloved/emerging artists from Celtic-Thunderland

Keith Harkin took a big risk in creating and releasing his album on such a grand scale, and no doubt this was an expensive project. His music is amazing, and he is a sexy blond Irish man with charisma and a great personality. Surely it should be easy for such a person to make it big in music. Frankly, so long as he keeps wearing his pants tight and making flirtatious comments on social media, he's going to be a hit with teenage girls. He has a great music video on youtube now, for one of the songs off of his new album, "Don't Forget About Me", and even graces the world with some lovely shots of himself sans shirt in this video.

But, Keith is not going for the flash of fame that boy bands and today's top 40 pop stars receive. In order for his music career to last, he needs to be taken seriously as a mainstream musician by more than just today's teenagers and his very loyal but numerically limited Celtic Thunder fans. Launching his album during the current Celtic Thunder tour means he can't devote all his time to his album promotion efforts, of course. And since he is playing Celtic Thunder shows for the rest of the year, he is spending much of his available time and energy 'preaching to the choir', showing off his amazingness to all of us existing fans, instead of focusing entirely on building a new fanbase out of folks who have not yet heard of him.

If Keith was working with anyone but David Foster to launch his new album and solo career, I'd have been very worried for him, considering all the challenges facing any emerging artist. As it is, having followed Josh Groban's career for years, I get the sense that Mr. Foster is a great asset for Keith, and someone who will do everything he can to ensure that Keith is successful. So, I am only a little worried, or maybe just 'concerned' about Keith as he continues to promote himself whenever and wherever he can. To some extent we Celtic Thunder fans just have to trust that Mr. Foster will take good care of our beloved Irish singer, and trust that between his skill and judgement and Keith's abilities and general amazingness, all will work out for the best. At least Keith has someone like Mr. Foster and the folks at Verve to support him, while Paul Byrom is a bit more reliant on his flock of loyal fans to promote him and his efforts.

For Paul Byrom's current project his fans have been banding together to fill the seats that will make special kickstarter concerts happen, providing money for Paul to create an amazing video recorded show that he can take to PBS. Fans in cities throughout the US and Canada are organizing shows to fit the specifications of Paul's $10,000 pledge parameters. Sadly I still know no one in Fort Collins who is enough of a fan to pay $250 for a ticket to see him, and I can't honestly afford it myself either, so at least as of today there's not much chance Paul will be singing in Fort Collins by way of his kickstarter project. Still, I am glad so many people in so many places have been busy setting up these grand-scale pledges for him.
Paul has been helping get the word out about these special concert arrangements, too, making an event on facebook, "Private Concert with Paul Byrom...", and also providing information through his blog, to help these groups find enough participants. Fans in the vicinity of Saint Louis, Chicago, Connecticut, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Virginia, or New York, or in Vancouver, B.C. Canada can find contact information to opt into one of these concerts. And, of course, while I may not have money to spare right now, if there are folks in Colorado who want to set one of these concerts up, I can certainly help coordinate such an effort.

The initial rush has died down, both for Keith Harkin's new album and for Paul Byrom's kickstarter, and now the real work sets in. Despite having fans across several continents, the total number of Celtic Thunder fans is not overwhelming compared to the fanbases of people like Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber or Josh Groban, so while it may seem from inside the online fan communities as if Keith Harkin and Paul Byrom have already made it big, these guys have a bit more work to do to get into the mainstream music charts. Since their existing fanbases are also spread thin across the whole planet, it is a good thing that Thunderheads are so active online and so willing to put in real effort to promote their beloved Irish lads. These guys are most certainly worth it, but being a loyal fan of Keith Harkin, Paul Byrom, or any of the Celtic Thunder musicians can be a lot more work than being a similarly loyal Justin Bieber fan.

Looking just at the numbers on social media, the Celtic Thunder singers, past and present, with the exception of Damian, have about as many 'likes' as many of the local bands and artists I have met. The venues Celtic Thunder books are not stadiums, and all of our beloved Celtic Thunder musicians can still walk around town on their days off, anywhere, without being constantly wary of fans recognizing them. In a lot of ways, actually, Celtic Thunder is a music act on par with many of the local bands that are taken for granted in most cities, only Celtic Thunder, as a major production from overseas with an elaborate stage and moderately large cast requires a bigger operating budget. Looking at it this way, Celtic Thunder is even more impressive than just a top selling world music act. This is a band which, like ballet companies, Irish dance troupes and ethnic folk singers, peddles its music on public television during pledge drives. Somehow Celtic Thunder manages to appeal to enough people to sustain major tours every year and record album sales for more than an album a year ever since they began in 2008. It's worked well so far, thankfully, but PBS pledge specials are not the ideal image one wants as an emerging mainstream artist, which is what Keith is becoming. And, for Paul Byrom to 'make it big', he also needs to emerge as a world-class singer whose career is not wholly dependent on US public television support.

If I had the magic solution to make Keith and Paul instantly that successful as solo artists, I would not be worried about money any longer myself. I think both of these men have what it takes to be lasting, successful, influential musicians in the US and the world, but it will be interesting to see what it takes to get them the attention they deserve. Somehow I suspect the Thunderheads will remain an important part of Keith's and Paul's successes for many years to come.