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The Alt

Irish New York, North Carolina, and Ireland
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Photo Credit: photo courtesy of artist
photo courtesy of artist

Three masters of Irish music celebrate the songs and spirit at the core of the tradition. John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, and Eamon O’Leary—virtuoso musicians and fine singers with huge repertoires who could travel in any number of musical directions—have together returned to the trusted and timeless. The group takes its name from the Alt, a storied glen in County Sligo, said to be the final resting place of the ancient Irish warrior-queen Maeve, and the place where the three first met to rehearse.

Dublin-born, and now North Carolina-based, John Doyle has long been acknowledged as one of the most influential Irish guitarists of his generation. With a signature left-hand picking style, Doyle is a versatile guitarist who has invented a whole new way of playing the rhythm for Irish dance tunes. John also expertly plays with remarkable sensitivity and delicacy behind airs and songs. He was a founding member of the popular Irish American ensemble Solás, and has performed and recorded with musicians from Eileen Ivers to Mary Chapin Carpenter. John is a devoted collector of Irish ballads, and a celebrated songwriter, producer, and arranger.

Singer Nuala Kennedy, also an accomplished instrumentalist, is known for her beautiful vocals, as well as her fine flute and whistle playing. Her artistry bridges and combines the musical cultures of Scotland and Ireland. Growing up in Dundalk, Ireland, an area with historical links to Scotland, Nuala was a member of a local cèilidh band. Later, while studying first in Edinburgh and subsequently in Inverness in the Highlands, Nuala developed an extensive repertoire of Scottish tunes and songs to add to the Irish material she had already mastered. A founding member of the trio Fine Friday, she has released four solo albums.

Eamon O’Leary left his native Dublin for New York City 20 years ago. An accomplished singer and player of the guitar and bouzouki, Eamon has toured and recorded with some of Irish music’s greats. He is a central figure in New York’s large Irish music community, where for many years he co-hosted one of the City’s most popular Irish music sessions at Mona’s on the Lower East Side. His recordings include Live at Mona’s and Old Clump, a solo album.

The Alt released their eponymous album in 2014. The ballads, tunes, and rediscovered songs each artist brings to the collaboration reflect their love of the traditional songs that have been a touchstone of Irish identity for generations.

Joining the Alt on fiddle is Liz Knowles. Her passion and specialty is Irish fiddling, a talent nurtured by her grandmother and her bagpipe-playing mother. Liz has brought her distinctive sound, which combines the fire and finesse of Irish fiddle music with the tonal richness of the classical violin, to concert stages and festivals across the world.

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