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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First Listen: Keith Harkin's Debut Album

First, I have to say I am hugely grateful that Keith's new album is now on spotify. As I have grumbled before, my sad little DVD player, which is also the only CD-playing device I own, no longer has functioning speakers. My computer has no optical drive, so the combination meant that if I was to listen to a CD it would have to be with headphones for speakers. Having this long-awaited album on spotify means I can listen to it while actually moving around my apartment, not tethered by a headphone cord to anything. I know it may cut into sales a bit that it is available on this service, but hopefully its accessibility will attract a lot more fans. And, for whatever it's worth, I can add now his songs to my weekly playlists without fudging the rules. I don't know how many people actually listen to songs I recommend on this blog, having no way to track any of the after-effects of my posts, but so far Keith's album is as amazing as I imagined it would be and no doubt he'll feature in quite a few weekly lists this year.

I am actually blogging while listening to Keith's album for the first time, and am all of 3 songs into it so far. Yes, I love "Daisy Fields". This is just a song I really liked as a song from the first time I heard it on youtube, as a song. I am impressed so far with the covers I've heard, too. I had not really been able to imagine "The End of the Innocence" as a Keith song, because I loved that song when it originally came out years ago with the really cool MTV video. I've been singing along to that song for literally decades, so trying to stuff it into what I knew of Keith's musical range was tough. But, of course, having only seen Keith as a Celtic Thunder guy, with a few random youtube videos taken out of context, I had no idea of his true range, clearly. None of the covers on this album so far are carbon copies of what the original or earlier renditions sounded like- they are all very decidedly Keith Harkin's music. And, all the songs I've heard so far are radio-worthy.

I won't subject whatever actual readers I have to every thought I have while hearing this whole album- I suppose if Keith reads this he might actually appreciate hearing what I think in more detail, but most everyone else might be a bit less enthusiastic about such a post. Long story short, I could easily fall madly in love with the Keith Harkin his album reveals, if only he was not too young for me and a celebrity I'll probably never get to really know. A huge influence keeping me going towards making music writing/promotions more of a career has been that I might then have a career through which I could meet cool people like the Celtic Thunder guys, not as a fan, but as a person on more equal footing. This is even more true listening to this album. I don't know yet how it'll happen, but somehow or another I hope to be meeting Keith as a music industry person, maybe for an interview or even just one of those friendly networking contacts the music world seems to be held together by.
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In answer to Keith's often asked question, now that I've restarted the album for its second hearing, my favorite songs on this new album- "Daisy Fields", of course, and probably "Here Comes the Sun", which I actually don't like so much in its original form cause it gets too repetitive. Keith's version stays interesting all the way through, and is perfect for his voice. I do wish this album featured Keith's complicated guitar intros a bit more, and it seems like "Nothing But You & I" is set at too fast a tempo, but these are minor things. It's a gorgeous collection of new music, from a sexy and very nice blond Irish man, and I hope he brings his solo tour through Fort Collins next year, or at least Denver, so I can see him do these and whatever other tunes he wants to sing here.

"What Happened to Ryan Kelly in June" (updated 11/18/12)

A bit of an aside, for the many folks who wind up here looking for information on Ryan, here's a briefer summary- Yes, he's still alive and currently on tour in the US with Celtic Thunder. Yes, he did have a near fatal accident in June. No, I do not know what he did to himself to wind up in such a condition, beyond that he said recently in an interview for a magazine article that he fell at home and fractured his skull. In a blog post a while back, Ryan told us what his medical condition was, one of those details I am glad I did not know in early June. Basically he had a closed head injury with some internal bleeding in his head, and was in an induced coma for a few weeks while his head healed. He seems committed to being a Celtic Thunder singer for the new show the group have been working on for next year (recorded and should be coming out early next year, according to what Ryan said at the Denver show), so barring any more soap-operatic dramas or near fatal accidents he's back to stay awhile. Yes, there are still some posts on here from the summer, my "tumblr candles" archived posts and an intro post, which are what they say they are.

I have never met Ryan or anyone close to him, and unless I am really lucky in Denver this year I may not meet Ryan ever, or at least for a long time yet. (update: So, yeah, I guess I was really lucky after all, because I did meet him after the Denver show. I still have no special 'insider info' though. I was just another starstruck fan waiting in line to meet a man I've blogged about for all these months.) When I wrote my tumblr candles I was just a fan who cares a lot about Ryan and the other guys and who was watching the social media closely, and I got more involved in the tumblr community through my posts over this brief but stressful crisis. It seems that every day that Celtic Thunder performs, a few new folks wind up here looking for more information about what happened to Ryan, and I guess I'm starting to be ok with having so much traffic on just those old candle posts. I am still not a trusted source on Ryan, and please, if anyone who is catches something I have said that is incorrect, please do let me know. I get almost 200 hits/month just on that first week of my tumblr posts, still, and it makes me just a bit nervous. More people see those posts every week now than ever saw them when they were on tumblr, which is just about opposite my intention when I archived them here. Still, if I managed not to say anything awful or incorrect in all those posts, they do seem fairly well appreciated, and if they occasionally bring in more eyeballs for my other posts, they might make my weekly songlists and concert reviews a little bit more effective at spreading the word about other great music. That is my hope anyway. (That and I'm a bit too vain and had too much fun finding some of those candle pictures to just delete the lot.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Excitement in Celtic-Thunderland: Album, Kickstarter and Tour

I almost missed Keith Harkin's live chat today- I spent way too much time reading through old papers from the files of the fledgling non-profit I am working with, and got back to the computer for just the last 5-6 minutes. Once home from work, though, I put the recording of this chat on and watched it all the way through. Keith's debut album comes out tonight, at midnight, EST. I won't get mine till sometime tomorrow, since I pre-ordered mine via amazon, but it'll be here for sure tomorrow.

I would be wise, I'm sure, to wait before declaring my favorite song off the album, at least till I've heard them all, but for the fact that the song I requested a while back when he was asking for requests/ suggestions is going to be on this CD. I'll have "Daisy Fields" in my head from now till that album arrives here tomorrow, and will still probably have it stuck in my head for days after I've heard the nice professional quality recording of that song off the new album. It's been one of my favorite Keith Harkin songs on youtube for years, so there's a good chance it's still my favorite (along with his cover of "Where Do You Go To My Lovely"). The other songs are sure to be amazing, but if getting to hear your request at a live show is cool, getting to have your request on the album is even better. (Sure, he probably did not pick it because I asked for it, but since it hardly matters anyway, I'll go on enjoying my happy delusion a while longer.)

The other event going on it Celtic-Thunderland is the Kickstarter Paul Byrom started. Had I known he did not know of Kickstarter I'd have bugged him about it months ago, but in any case, he has one now, to raise $50,000 in the next 40 days to put a PBS show together. It's just the first afternoon of the first day of his project now, and he's starting out well. Actually, at the $10,000 level he has as his gift a private concert, for 'you' and up to 39 guests, and if any of his fan clubs can get together 40 people willing to go in on it, $250 is less than a lot of people pay for tickets and meet & greets, and those 40 people would get to meet Paul, in a rather cosy setting where they could actually talk with him.
And, they'd get to see him do an hour-long show with just that tiny audience of their fellow fans. 5 of those mini-concerts and he'd be set. His campaign has smaller donation increments too, and every bit counts. Hopefully his campaign works, because this guy is good enough and has enough loyal supporters that he ought to be doing very well in the music world right now. If he can launch himself on PBS properly, where he already knows the culture and the system fairly well, he can get his singing career properly on track and make us a new album to enjoy. And if he gets on track with his singing, he might make it out to my part of the country for a show or two.

And, of course, Celtic Thunder is in the US now. They had the rest of the day off today after crossing into the country at the ungodly hour of 4:30am, if Keith's account is correct. I remember seeing tweets from them in the middle of the night when they had to bundle out of the bus at the border checkpoint one night last tour- nothing like that this year, but an amusing tale of them singing for their fries at McDonalds for breakfast (thanks to Neil). I still wish I had the money to be a Celtic Thunder groupie and travel along somehow with the tour, cause it would be great fun just tagging along with my camera and learning how to set up stage equipment from cute crew members. I loved how Ryan and Neil put up enough photos and videos from their Acoustic By Candlelight tour this spring that it was like we were going along with them on their adventures. So far the big tour is not quite so thoroughly documented, but Ryan is back to posting running pictures, and all the guys put up something pretty regularly on twitter/facebook.

I've got my tickets displayed where I can gaze at them on my dresser, and they'll have gathered about 2 months of dust before the guys get to my area, but the countdown is underway, at least. Two months from now I'll have a camera full of pictures from my adventures in Denver, a city I haven't actually been to in a couple years. Even without shots of the show itself, which I am not sure I'd be allowed to take even if I was not going to be in the balcony (too far away for my camera to take recognizable pictures of anyone anyway), I can find plenty to photograph as illustrations for that day's events.

I've pretty much decided I am too much of a coward to pester anyone for autographs, and I can't afford to buy extra tickets/passes to their sound checks, so this year's concert will probably not be an opportunity for me to meet my beloved Irish men, but at least I'll get to finally see my first live Celtic Thunder show. Maybe in another year or two I'll be enough of a music industry professional that I'll get to meet them where I might actually get to talk with them. You just never know. With any luck I might even get to meet Keith sometime, either when he's touring solo, or if he reunites with Celtic Thunder later for a future tour. He sounds less certain now as to where he might end up down the road, so you just never know. I love chatting with musicians, I've discovered, but I hate feeling like an idiot, and with all the stress of being at a proper concert where I can't hide behind my pink camera, meeting any of the Celtic Thunder guys could be rather painfully embarrassing. Whatever happens that day, till then I'll be soaking in Keith's new album and continuing to explore all the great emerging and local talent that is still at a scale where I can meet the musicians casually near the stage and just chat over beers and sodas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Waiting for Keith Harkin's New CD

Thankfully, Keith and his team of promoters, marketers and general supporters have not left us fans completely without new Keith Harkin tunes during the weeks between Mr. Harkin's CD release in Canada and its release in the US. Considering that the US and Canada are neighbors, it seems an odd idea to not just release his album on the same day in both locations, but I am guessing maybe the earlier date in Canada is to take advantage of the Celtic Thunder tour already under way in Canada. In the meantime, Keith has posted a complicated facebook graphic thingy with the video for his first single from his album, "Don't Forget About Me".


Also included on the complicated graphics thingy is a neat photo album where fans' photos that are submitted via twitter and instagram appear. As Keith's popularity grows and he starts amassing a fan-base separate from Celtic Thunder, it will be increasingly difficult for his original fans to feel appreciated without some sort of recognition on his part of those fans who were with him before his solo CD came out. Things like this photo collection, and using facebook to let existing fans see his video first are great steps towards keeping Keith's existing fans happy as he starts on his way towards being more famous and less accessible.

There are always trade-offs in everything, and while I am sure Keith will enjoy his well-deserved attention and popularity as one of David Foster's stars, it was nice having him as the sort of artist who only has a few thousand fans, period- few enough to be more personally involved with his more active fans. Whatever happens down the road, whether he becomes a singing sensation bigger than Josh Groban ever was, or whether Keith's album fades into obscurity and he resumes his life as just one of the Celtic Thunder singers, he'll always have at least a core group of loyal fans from his Celtic Thunder years.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Celtic Thunder Fall Tour 2012 (!!!!)

The Celtic Thunder Fall Tour kicked off last night in St. Johns, NL, Canada. I am trying not to think about it too much, because it is still several months before Celtic Thunder rolls into Colorado, but there will of course be at least a tiny part of my mind tagging along with them from now until the end of the year.



I'm very excited that this year I'll actually be in the audience for a night, my first time seeing Celtic Thunder live. I have to keep reminding myself that there will be a lot of people at the show, and that since most of them paid a lot more money than I did so they could sit a lot closer to the stage, I am hardly likely to actually meet any of the singers, let alone Ryan Kelly or Neil Byrne. They'll be very busy, after all, and I am quite cowardly in crowd settings. With my luck, that'll just mean I'll run into one of them when I least expect it so that I'll have the pleasure of turning beet-red and forgetting how to speak while my friend takes a great blackmail photo of me being completely and totally embarrassed. :) Still, the concert will be amazing, I'm sure, and if I had more money and maybe my own transportation, I'd love to be a groupie for a season and go to all their shows.

I'm still looking forward to seeing Paul Byrom in concert sometime, too, though he is not exactly touring yet this fall. He has several shows coming up in the next few months, though, and hopefully his schedule will pick up a few more shows this year to make it a proper tour after all. He's probably a bit distracted right now, since he is also in the process of planning his wedding, something which can be a full-time job in itself. So, he's not pouring all his energy into scaring up venues right now, but with all the Celtic Thunder fans gearing up for the Celtic Thunder shows, I'm sure they'd love to get to see Paul too. I'm sure I'll love Colm- he seems as amazing as the rest of the group has always been- but I still can't think "Celtic Thunder" without also thinking about Paul (and Damian, for that matter).

I have no idea how much it costs to play at the Fort Collins Lincoln Center, or how much Paul would need to make to break even on a show, but I can still imagine him singing to a sold-out crowd in that space and would love to see that actually happen. Even as just 'some random fan', I'm sure even Paul himself has at least noticed my not quite subtle, pretty constant plugs for his coming here. So, maybe sometime before I graduate and leave Fort Collins I can put together all the right elements to get him here. Crazier things do happen. At the very least, I plan to find a color printer and some sticker paper, so I can print me some stickers of his flyers. ["What are we going to do tonight, Brain?" "Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world. (and fill it with all my favorite music by all my favorite musicians, of course)"