Kyle Alden, “Down in the West Vol. 2” • Californian multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Alden has had quite the wide-ranging musical career, one that covers pop and rock as well as folk, but his Irish cred is not in doubt: He has played with the likes of Tommy Peoples, Paddy Keenan, Liz Carroll, and Athena Tergis and hosted regular sessions in San Francisco and environs. Alden has also explored the Irish-American musical relationship in quite inventive and thoughtful ways, notably his 2011 release “Songs from Yeats’ Bee-Loud Glade,” in which he set 13 W.B. Yeats poems to his distinctively Americana melodies – by conspicuously avoiding attempts at “Irishness,” Alden’s adaptations made the emotional and spiritual qualities of Yeats’ poems seem all the more universal.

“Down in the West Vol. 2” (along with its first volume) has a similar feel – soft mandolin riffs and acoustic guitar strokes under Alden’s laidback, mid-range vocals, with the occasional bass, electric guitar and backing vocals. Most of the songs and tunes are Alden’s (one exception is the W.H. Auden poem “As I Walked Out”) and there’s a bucolic character to them, evoking small-town crossroads, quiet pastures, and lonely prairies: “White-wash boards cupped from the sun/two-by-six walls all out of plumb/sagging rafters and a swayback bench/like a mare left out to pasture” (“Better Than New”); “Faded red striped awning/the old town five-and-dime/flaps feebly in the yawning/relentless winds of time” (“These Days”).

Those excerpts may sound like Cormac McCarthy set to music, but Alden also drops in traditional music references: some overt, like his renditions of “Sail Away Ladies” and the condemned-man confessional “Sam Hall,” and two sets of tunes (most penned by him) that feature Fergus’s lively fiddle; and some more subtle, like the melody on “Fall Day Gone” and the “Buffalo Gals”-like structure of “Child to Me,” or the reflective “George’s Street” (written by his longtime collaborator Vince Keehan), which has echoes of a Sean O’Casey reminiscence, Tergis’s fiddle like some comforting nostalgic embrace.

Whatever the source or the inspiration for his material, Alden conveys the stubborn persistence of place and person amidst inevitable decline, quite like the much-romanticized West itself. [kylealden.com]

Saturday October 28, 2017
O’Neill’s Irish Festival presents a Fall Music Series::
An Evening of Poetry and Music with
Noctambule and Kyle Alden
(with Suzuki Cady)

Sam’s Anchor Cafe
27 Main Street, Tiburon, CA

Doors 7:00pm; Music 7:30pm – admission $35.00
Tickets and Information: http://oneillirishmusicfestival.org/:

The sister arts of poetry and music have been melded and married in many ways over time. Examples range from the Art Song within the classical music tradition to Turn Turn Turn, a section of the book of Ecclesiastes, set to music by Pete Seeger in the 1950s, and made popular by The Byrds.

Noctambule (Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor) and Kyle Alden continue in this broad time-honored tradition, bringing their own unique musical sensibilities to the endeavor. Their skill at casting poems into beautiful songs, along with their thoughtful and moving vocal and instrumental delivery, offer the listener the opportunity to hear both familiar and unfamiliar poems in potentially new ways.

All three are nationally known touring musicians, based right here in Marin County. And you may recognize all three as performers in Tiburon’s own Chief Francis O’Neill Irish Music Festival. Kyle will be joined by special guest Suzuki Cady on fiddle and vocals.

This will be a special evening for lovers of poetry, for lovers of music, and for adventurous spirits of all sorts.

HOUSE CONCERT_2-11-17_

House Concert, Fairfax, CA, Kyle Alden and Susan Spurlock (photo by George Osner)

KA_BACKROOM_3-4-17_ROBIN MACKEY_01

The Back Room, Berkeley, CA. left to right–Suzuki Cady, Markie Sanders, Susan Spurlock, Kyle Alden and Robert Powell. (photo by Robin Mackey)

KA_BACKROOM_3-4-17_MEGAN_IMG_1438The Back Room, Berkeley, CA. left to right–Suzuki Cady, Susan Spurlock and Kyle Alden. (photo by Megan McLaughlin)

 

 

Today we bring you an exclusive first listen to a track off an album by California songwriter Kyle Alden. Images of the American West are spread throughout his compelling new folk and Americana album, Down in the West Volume 2.

“Rivers running on, old growth redwoods, falling-down barns, horse stables… But there are really two Wests in this album: the Pacific coast of America and the West of Ireland, the sources of many of Alden’s musical inspirations. Here he blends the two worlds effortlessly, pulling additional ideas from that other source of Irish-influenced Americana: Appalachia. These three cultural touchstones all share the same rugged, pioneer landscape, reflected clearly in Alden’s music. Here, rough-and-tumble County Kerry Irish polkas, original and traditional, rub shoulders with newly composed cowboy songs that speak of the loss of the American West. Throughout, Alden’s wry sense of humor and rich folk baritone carry the songs into interesting new territory, pushing the tradition away from a sense of somber history and into a place that speaks to our modern world with old words.”

Kyle says: “I’ve been playing and performing Irish music on guitar, fiddle and mandolin for over twenty years, and during that time have tinkered with writing instrumental tunes in that style. The instrumental compositions are a welcome diversion from the “hard work” of writing songs.

Growing up in California, and being exposed to American folk styles from my early teens – including folk, bluegrass, old-time and gospel – those flavors naturally show up in the Irish tunes I’ve written. (Deep background: Under the name of Kyle Thayer, I released an all-instrumental album in 1993 called Rainshadow, made up of half trad tunes and half original tunes composed on and for the octave mandolin.) “The Four Twenty Reels”are a suite of three tunes – “The Lily Field”, a proper Irish tune I learned from fiddler Athena Tergis; followed by two original compositions – “Sneakers in the Dryer” and “The Four Twenty.”

In making Down in the West Volume 2, Kyle Alden brought great musical friends together in the San Francisco Bay Area. American Irish fiddler Athena Tergis (Riverdance, Green Fields of America) joins in on the tunes, along with San Francisco acoustic music vets like folk singer Rory McNamara, pianist David Smadbeck, pedal steel player Robert Powell (Peter Gabriel, John Lee Hooker), bassists Scott Thunes (Frank Zappa, The Waterboys, The Mother Hips), and Paul Eastburn (Spark & Whisper). These players join Alden’s own instrumental and vocal work on the album, which features him playing mandolin, tenor banjo, guitar, and bass. The songs on the album are drawn from a wide variety of sources. Alden’s original songs, like the twang-heavy folk song “Better Than New,” the Irish dancehall delight “The Nancy Song,” or the evocative ballad “Fall Day Gone,” combine with songs from traditional sources, like the Appalachian and Irish classics “Sail Away Ladies” and “Sam Hall,” or rarer sources, like the beautiful song “George’s Street” from San Francisco Irish songwriter Vince Keehan. In a nod to Alden’s 2011 album, Songs from Yeats’ Bee-Loud Glade, which featured the poetry of W.B. Yeats’ set to song, here Alden resets a poem from British poet W.H. Auden in a rolling folk-rock setting.

Down in the West Volume 2 is a snapshot of the wide-roaming mind of Kyle Alden, both as a songwriter and as a tunesmith/instrumental musician. The album effortlessly blends American and Irish traditions in a setting so natural that the listener would be hard-pressed to find where one tradition ends and the other begins.

To find out more and to purchase the album visit www.kylealden.com

Singer-songwriter’s beautifully poetic ‘Down in the West Volume 2’

With “Down in the West Volume 2,” San Anselmo singer-songwriter Kyle Alden adds to his growing reputation as Marin’s musical poet laureate.

A blend of mostly original and traditional songs and tunes, this sequel to 2013’s “Down in the West Volume 1” is another ear-pleasing crop of beautifully poetic, occasionally funny, intelligent and thoughtful Americana with an Irish lilt.

Alden, who has accompanied many top Irish musicians in concert as a guitarist, broke new musical ground in 2011 with his third CD, “Songs from Yeats’ Bee-Loud Glade,” a collection of 13 original folk songs inspired by the poems of W.B. Yeats. That album made several “Best of” lists, including Press Play’s that year.

In the same spirit, he opens “Down in the West Volume 2” with “As I Walked Out,” a poem by W.H. Auden that he set to music, playing acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin and percussion. Paul Eastburn of Spark & Whisper accompanies on upright bass. On this song and the 10 others, Alden sings lyrics worth listening to in his relaxed, resonant baritone.

He wrote the words and music for “The Nancy Song/Love Me Tonight,” a laugh-out-loud track about a lonesome guy pleading with a woman to let him sleep with her while he thinks of Nancy, his true love who left him. In exchange, he won’t mind if she makes love to him while she pretends he’s “Edward or John, Fergus or Sean.”

Alden finds his own poetic voice on “Better Than New,” a gorgeous story-song about building a house on an old horse ranch “with 100-year-old wood that’s better than new.” It’s the kind of song that you can imagine coming from Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt. It’s that good.

In addition to bassist Eastburn, Alden made good use of the talents of guest musicians Athena Tergis on fiddle (Green Fields of America); bassist Scott Thunes (Frank Zappa/Mother Hips) and Fairfax producer/guitarist Robert Powell on pedal steel.

This is the rare album that’s satisfying both musically and intellectually, a record for grown-ups to be played and enjoyed time and again.

Down in the West Volume 2 is hot off the presses, and we’ll be celebrating with a series of special shows in the SF Bay Area:postcard_4x6_front

Thursday February 9, 2017, CD Release Show, Spark Arts, San Francisco, CA. With special guest Susan Spurlock

Saturday February 11, 2017, CD Release Show, House Concert, Fairfax, CA. With special guest Susan Spurlock. Traditional Irish session to follow.

Saturday March 4, 2017, CD Release Show, The Back Room, Berkeley, CA. With special guests Susan Spurlock, Robert Powell and friends

 

Kyle Alden and Noctambule (Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor) shared the stage at Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA Sunday August 21, 2016. A good time was had by all, as the theme of the event was musical settings of poems by W.B. Yeats, Service, Plath, Hughes, Roethke, and others. (Thanks to Danese Cooper and George Osner for the photos).

KA_BOOK PASSAGE_8-21-16_OSNERPIC_KA-NOCTAMBULE_BOOK PASSAGE_8-21-16_COOPERPIC_KA-NOCTAMBULE_BOOK PASSAGE_8-21-16_POSTER_

Excited to report that Down in the West Volume Two, a collection of American and British folk songs, several original songs, plus an original reel set and polka set, is being mixed now, and should be ready to launch in September 2016. Featured musicians include Athena Tergis, fiddle; Paul Eastburn, bass; Scott Thunes, bass; John Allen, clarinet; Rory McNamara, backing vocal; David Smadbeck, piano. Stay tuned for further news regarding on-line releases and CD release shows.

A great honor to be asked to support the legendary Irish singer/songwriter Paul Brady in two Northern California shows in 2015–Saturday November 7 at the City Winery, Napa, and Sunday November 8 at the Freight and Salvage, Berkeley. The Berkeley show was particularly memorable–a packed, appreciative house, electric atmosphere and visiting dignitaries David Crosby and Bonnie Raitt gracing the backstage scene. Paul gave an inspired and energetic performance, and it was a great pleasure to share the stage with that level of talent.

FREIGHT_11-8-15_IMG_0234_smaller