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Dolores Keane

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  • Born: Caherlistrane, County Galway, Ire
  • Years Active: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

A member of one of Ireland's most respected singing families, Dolores Keane is the possessor of some of the sweetest tones in Celtic music. The first vocalist for Irish band De Danann, Keane has sung with the Chieftains and Planxty, as well as with her husband, John Faulkner, and on her own.

Keane's musical career began at a very early age. By the time she was five, she was already singing with her aunts, Sarah and Rita Keane, well-known singers of old Irish ballads. Invited by Johnny Moynihan to join a new band he was forming, De Danann; the experience represented the first time that Keane had sung with musical accompaniment. Keane remained with the group for four years and was featured on their self-titled debut album.

Keane emigrated to England in the late '70s, and married guitar, bouzouki, and mandolin player John Faulkner. In addition to singing together, Keane and Faulkner worked on several documentary videos for the BBC, including one project that entailed conducting research on Canada's Prince Edward Island. Keane's debut solo album, There Was a Maid, released in 1978, featured musical accompaniment by Reel Union, a tradition-based band that featured the late bodhran player of the Chieftains, Peador Mercier, and East Galway fiddler Martin Byrnes. Her second album, Brokenhearted I'll Wander, released in 1979, was a collaborative effort with Faulkner and again featured instrumental backing by Reel Union. Keane briefly joined the Irish trad rock band Planxty in 1983. She returned to De Dannan in the mid-'80s, recording with two different lineups of the group, including the 1987 band that also featured Irish vocalist Mary Black. In 1989, Keane was featured vocalist on the Chieftains' album Bonaparte's Retreat.

Keane and Faulkner collaborated on two additional albums: Farewell to Eireann in 1980 and Sail Og Rua in 1983. Keane's subsequent solo albums include Lion in a Cage (1989), Dolores Keane (1991), and Solid Ground (1993), which featured instrumental accompaniment by De Danann's Martin O' Connor and Jackie Daly on accordion, her brother Sean Keane on flute, and Emmylou Harris on harmony and backing vocals. A greatest-hits collection, The Best of Dolores Keane, was released in 1997; Night Owl followed three years later.

Although she's yet to write an original tune, Keane has displayed impeccable taste in her choice of material. In addition to covering songs by Irish songwriters including Dougie MacLean, Shaun Davey, Paul Brady, and Van Morrison, she has interpreted the songs of North American songwriters (David Mallett, Chris Rea, Kate & Anna McGarrigle) and British songsmiths (Richard & Linda Thompson, Steve Winwood).

On the 1998 tribute album to Pete Seeger, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Keane collaborated with Tommy Sands and Vedran Smailovic for a unique rendition of Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."


Dolores Keane (born 26 September 1953) is an Irish folk singer and occasional actress. She was a founding member of the successful group De Dannan, and has since embarked on a very successful solo career, establishing herself as one of the most loved interpreters of Irish song.


Keane was born in a small village called Sylane (near Tuam) in rural County Galway in the west of Ireland. She was raised by her aunts Rita and Sarah Keane since the age of four, who are also well-known sean-nós singers. Keane started her singing at a very young age, due to the influence of her musical aunts. She made her first recording for Radio Éireann in 1958, at the age of five. This early start inevitably meant that Keane would have a career in music. Her brother, Seán, also went on to enjoy a successful music career.

^ "Dolores Keane". Electricscotland.allcelticmusic.com. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 

Musical career[edit]

De Dannan[edit]
Main article: De Dannan

In 1975, she co-founded the traditional Irish band De Dannan, and they released their debut album Dé Danann in that same year. The group gained international recognition and enjoyed major success in the late 1970s in the US. Keane went touring with the band and their single "The Rambling Irishman" was a big hit in Ireland. In early 1976, after a short two-year spell, Keane left De Dannan and was replaced by Andy Irvine, who recorded live with the band on 30 April 1976, during the 3rd Irish Folk Festival in Germany. Soon thereafter, she married multi-instrumentalist John Faulkner, with whom she would subsequently record three albums of folk music (see next section).

Solo career[edit]

Kean lived and worked in London for several years with Faulkner, before they moved to Ireland in the early 1980s. They worked on a series of film scores and programmes for the BBC and formed two successful bands, The Reel Union and Kinvara. During this period Keane recorded her first solo album, There Was a Maid in 1978. This was followed by two other releases, Broken Hearted I'll Wander (1979) and Farewell to Eirinn (1980), which gave credit to Faulkner. In the mid-1980s she rejoined De Dannan and recorded the albums Anthem and Ballroom with them.

Keane turned her attention, once again, to her solo career in 1988. It saw the release of the eponymous Dolores Keane album. Her follow-up album A Lion in a Cage, which hit the shelves in 1989, featured a song written by Faulkner called Lion in a Cage protesting the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. It served as Keane's second Irish number one and she performed the hit at the celebration of his release. This exposure expanded Keane's reputation and popularity worldwide. A new facet was added to Dolores' career when she played the female lead in the Dublin production of Brendan Behan's The Hostage, a new translation by Niall Tóibín and Michael Scott, the opening night of which was attended by Mary Robinson, the President of Ireland at the time.

In 1992, Keane was among the many female Irish singers to lend their music to the record-smashing anthology A Woman's Heart. The album, which also featured Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Frances Black, Sharon Shannon and Maura O'Connell, went on to become the biggest-selling album in Irish history. A Woman's Heart Vol.2 was released in late 1994 and emulated its predecessor in album charts the world over. Also in 1994, a solo album, entitled Solid Ground, was released on the Shanachie label (available on Dara Records) and received critical acclaim in Europe and America.

In August 1995, Keane was awarded the prestigious Fiddler's Green Hall of Fame award in Rostrevor, County Down, for her "significant contribution to the cause of Irish music and culture". In that same year, she took to the stage in the Dublin production of JM Synge's Playboy of the Western World. Dolores contributed to the RTÉ/BBC television production "Bringing It All Back Home", a series of programmes illustrating the movement of Irish music to America. Dolores was shown performing both in Nashville, Tennessee with musicians such as Emmylou Harris and Richard Thompson and at home in Galway with her aunts Rita and Sarah.

In August 1997, Keane went to number one again in the Irish album charts with a compilation album with her most loved songs. And another studio album was released by Keane in 1998, called Night Owl. It saw Keane returning to her traditional Irish roots and it did well in Europe and America. Despite a healthy solo career, Keane went on tour with De Dannan again in the late 1990s, where she played to packed audiences in venues such as Birmingham, Alabama and New York City.

Keane has not released a solo album since 1998 as of 2008, stating that she wanted to take a hard-earned break after twenty-five years of relentless touring.

^ Sleeve notes from the album The 3rd Irish Folk Festival in Concert, InterCord INT 181.008, 1976.^ "Delores Keane". Fatea-records.co.uk. 26 September 1953. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 

Musical legacy[edit]

Keane is known the world-over for her deep, yet melodic voice. Her recordings of songs such as Dougie McLean's "Caledonia", Frank A. Fahey's "Galway Bay", Paul Brady's "The Island" and "Never Be the Sun" are regarded as amongst the greatest interpretations of these songs. American singer Nanci Griffith said of Keane: "Dolores Keane, the queen of the soul of Ireland, has a sacred voice.".

^ "Dolores Keane – Irish music". Dara Records. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 

Personal life[edit]

Keane married musician John Faulkner, with whom she had worked on many occasions, in 1977. After a very difficult pregnancy, Keane gave birth to their first child, Joseph. He was born with Laurence-Moon-Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, which causes obesity and failing vision, though he has been spared mental retardation. Dolores and John's marriage ended in 1988. Her current consort is Barry "Bazza" Farmer, with whom she had her second child, Tara, born in 1994. Keane put an end to recording and touring in the late 1990s, due to depression and alcoholism. She has received extensive treatment for these conditions. As of 2007, Keane lives outside Galway with her two children and her husband Barry

. As of June 2014, Keane was given the all clear after suffering from cancer.

^ "Only a woman's heart can know". Independent.ie. 2 September 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2013. ^ http://www.tuamherald.ie/news/roundup/articles/2014/04/23/4029741-dolores-conquers-cancer/
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