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

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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).

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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.

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This house concert is the last of four shows Kyle and James have played in California this month. Super excited to be performing in the Kush Pocket Theater, a wonderful, intimate black box theater in Fairfax, CA. London-born James, now living in Nashville, is a talented 28-year old yarn-spinner and experimental blender of bluegrass & soul.  Going to be a rousing evening of song, story and acoustic guitar wizardry, all in the lovely confines of an intimate upstairs listening room/theater. SOLD OUT.

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An Evening of Songs From Ireland and California,
With Kyle Alden, Vincey Keehan and Friends

Saturday May 16, 8:00pm, Studio 55, 1455 East Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, CA Tickets $13 in advance, $15 at the door. Email ken@studio55marin.com, or call (415) 453-3161 for more information and to reserve tickets. Website: www.studio55marin.com

Folk musicians Kyle Alden and Vincey Keehan have played together for years in San Francisco-based Irish trad band The Gas Men. Each of these talented multi-instrumentalists is also an accomplished songwriter and singer. Join them for an evening of new and old folk and original songs highlighting the threads that run between Ireland and California, Kyle’s home state and Vincey’s adopted state. Sure to be a few lively instrumental tunes as well. Featured guests will include Susan Spurlock (vocals, mandolin) and Paul Eastburn (upright bass).