Music : KCT concert
If you were fortunate enough to hear Karan Casey last November, when she performed on the Island with the group Buille, you can skip this article altogether. Just turn the page, because you've undoubtedly already bought your ticket for this Saturday's concert and cancelled all other plans. Otherwise it may be time to start frisking behind sofa cushions for loose change, because this may be the most happiness 20 bucks will buy you for the rest of the winter.
Where to begin? Irish singer Karan Casey has a keen, pitch-perfect voice that burns against a song the way a bow burns on a string. It seems effortless, but she never takes it for granted. To watch Ms. Casey sing is to witness an act of concentration that could come only from someone who understands that there is no yearning without reaching. By her own admission, she's especially fond of songs that are "miserable" - but then again she does misery so beautifully. Seriously, you could listen all night.
She is also no newcomer. In Ms. Casey's 20-year career, she has been a founding member of the Irish group Solas, has sung with Tim O'Brien, Karen Matheson (Capercaille), the Michael McGoldrick Band and Lunasa, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center and on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion." She has sold more than half a million albums and won awards from the BBC, Irish Music Magazine and the Danish Grammies. Her latest collaboration is a brand-new recording with guitarist and singer John Doyle, with whom she will share the stage at the Katharine Cornell Theatre this Saturday.
Over the years, in addition to his well-known work with Solas, John Doyle has played with the likes of Joan Baez, Eileen Ivers, Tim O'Brien, Linda Thompson, Seamus Eagan, Alison Brown, and Kate Rusby. Double Play, his duo album with fiddler Liz Carroll, has been nominated for a 2010 Grammy, and is just one of more than 40 albums on which he has collaborated or played solo. With all this, it comes as no surprise that Doyle has earned a prominent place on Shanachie's compilation, Masters of the Irish Guitar.
Versatile, sensitive, and intensely focused, Mr. Doyle brings more music to the stage with just six acoustic guitar strings than you'll hear from most fully equipped bands. He builds an entire new vocabulary from clean, spare sound of steel strings picked or strummed. From his acute sense of rhythm and his talent for playing more by playing less, one becomes more convinced than ever that for a guitarist, the most important appendages are not the fingers but the ears.
It is this economy of performance that grips one when listening to Karan Casey and John Doyle, either alone or together. Even the softest notes (perhaps especially the softest) are fully felt and fully dealt. This is not music meant to win the war of the decibels. Amazon.com sells the MP3 download of their new album, Exiles Return. This is a handy thing in this day and age, if you're still unsure about investing in a ticket and would like a sneak preview. But in the end, real-life CDs are always for sale at KCT Concerts, giving you a high-quality recording, a full-color memento of your experience, and a chance to support hard-working musicians directly.
KCT Concerts (www.kctconcerts.com) is a nonprofit organization consisting of a handful of local aficionados of acoustic music who have brought consistently world class performers, mostly Celtic, to the Island for more than six years now. Funding from the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council keeps tickets affordable, and an army of faithful volunteers keeps Mary Wolverton and Gregg Harcourt from going prematurely grey.
Think of Saturday's concert as an early Valentine's Day date. If courtship has given way to drab domesticity, you're both still in luck: children are admitted free at the door.
Karan Casey and John Doyle, 7:30 pm, Saturday, Feb. 13. Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Dan Waters is a part-time member of The Times production staff.