“Pure pop/folk fun with Celtic trad roots from the heart of New York City...”
Shores of America, the last Celtic Cross CD was named the Number 1 Irish Voice Record of the Year for 2008. Mike Farragher of the Irish Voice writes that Celtic Cross is “quintessential Irish Americana” and that their new release Shores of America is “the soundtrack of your life set against a diverse musical back drop that includes alternative country, modern rock, traditional melodies, and playful funk.” Those who have been around Celtic music in the Northeast and in the NYC area are no strangers to this band.
A brand new CD is underway and due in early 2013.
Celtic Cross is a spirited seven-piece band featuring lead vocalist Kathleen Fee, a talented singer-songwriter. An animated accordion, fiddle, banjo/mandolin trio and a rock-solid bass-drums-guitar rhythm section makes for a dynamic and entertaining stage show. A family affair, Kathleen’s brothers Kenny and John are bandmates and founders of the group.
Growing up with Irish immigrant parents, the band was immersed in Irish music, dance, and tradition, yet heavily influenced by rock & roll on the radio; the result is thoughtful pop & Americana with a lively Irish flare.
Celtic Cross is an entertaining musical experience not to be missed. Bringing together international award winning ceili playing, great vocals, fantastic originals and a rocking rhythm section are Celtic Cross hallmarks. Whether you hear them in a music club, a party, or a festival… get ready for fun, energy and passion.
Heard frequently on Fordham University’s WFUV are Celtic Cross hits “Shores of America”, “All Around My Hat” and “Don’t Fear Me Now”. In addition to their original set, the band loves to cover R&B, rock and country with their own special style, often interweaving them with traditional Irish tunes.
The latest Celtic Cross CD Shores of America (released in 2008) explores the band’s family and musical roots growing up Irish-American or “narrowbacks” in New York City. The songwriting ranges from the intense “Flight of the Earls in reverse” story in the title track Shores of America, to the intensely personal Going Home, and dreamy passion of First Kiss. The musical energy and skill is especially well captured in the instrumentals Recovery and 22.
Harkening back to the days that many a “narrowback” kid may remember growing up in Irish households around New York, the band is reaching back with their fans to their roots for this work.
The band is made up of all New York area players with a great variety of experience, but with a common NYC-Irish background: Kathleen Fee is the band’s lead singer-songwriter, front-woman, and driving force. An accomplished Irish Traditional singer, Kathleen’s voice ranges from silky ballads to the driving rock and pop dance songs that are the band’s hallmarks. You may even catch her “give a step” during a performance, showing of her champion Irish step-dancing. With writing credit for Shores of America, Who I Am, Those Were The Days, Going Home on the band’s new CD, Kathleen has established herself as one of New York’s up and coming songwriters.
Kenneth Vesey is a All Ireland Champion and eight time North American Champion fiddle player. His eclectic style was developed in part by his instructors, Martin Mulvihill, Mary Mahon and Eileen Ivers. While a virtuoso Irish player, Kenny’s style fits right in with the country, R&B and rocking styles of the band.
John Vesey, button accordionist and brother to Kenneth and Kathleen, is a three time North American Champion. John blends impeccable Celtic chops with a Cajun and downright honky-tonk style. His innovative approach to traditional Irish music is evident in his unparalleled physical style overflowing with energy. You might even catch him playing the box over his head Jimi Hendrix-style.
Frankie McCormick on banjo and mandolin, from Tyrone, Ireland, came to the USA 1986. He has 2 All-Ireland solo championship titles on banjo and mandolin as well as the coveted All-Ireland Scor Award. Frankie brings a fresh northern punch to the phrasing of the tunes and his quick wit keeps the audience howling. When Kenny, John and Frankie play together, it is pure magic… so much so that they placed third in the 2005 Senior Trio Championship in Ireland this summer.
Walter Ensor is a native of the well-known Irish stronghold, Rockaway Beach, New York. With charming vocals and versatile guitar-playing, Walter is at the heart of the Celtic Cross sound. Walter hails from a family of musicians who have influenced his unique style and knowledge of music. Walter is also an accomplished solo performer around town.
Pat Dineen, another NYC native, is the band’s bassist/keyboardist. Also providing vocals and songwriting, Pat plays a major role in the band’s signature punchy rhythmic style. Pat has appeared with several popular NYC area bands including Tippling Way and Peter Street.
Drummer Ryan Cavan comes from Buffalo with a deep jazz resume which took him all over the world. Most recently, Ryan played with the McCabes in the celtic scene. Ryan currently makes NYC his home. His contributions to the new Celtic Cross writing underway will be easy to see.
Celtic Cross has had the great fortune to play at these notable venues over the last few years: The Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York PNC Bank Arts Center, The IZOD Center in Rutherford, NJ, New Jersey Waterloo Village, New Jersey Sherman Theatre, PA Northern Lights, Albany, NY Kenny's Castaways, New York The Harp, Boston, MA Fairfield University, CT St. Peters College, New Jersey Iona College, New York Manhattan College, New York WFUV at Fordham University, New York The Museum for Television & Radio, New York Fox & Friends, The Fox News Network, and Joe's Pub, NYC, NY.
Kathleen Fee - Lead Vocal
Kenny Vesey - Fiddle.
Walter Ensor - Guitar, Vocal.
Ryan Cavan - Drums
John Vesey - Accordion
Frankie McCormick - Banjo, mandolin
Patrick Dineen - Vocals, Bass, keyboards
Always Believe - Holiday Single (November 2008)
Shores of America (2007)
Last Call (1999)
Part The First (1993)
Songs that lay bare Irish America's soul - by Larry Kirwan
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Songs that lay bare Irish America’s soul By Larry Kirwan, Irish Echo, April 23 2008 Any band tha...Songs that lay bare Irish America’s soul
By Larry Kirwan, Irish Echo, April 23 2008
Any band that’s been together for 18 years has something going for it. Celtic Cross has that certain something in spades – including one hell of a good new CD “Shores of America.”
All right, so we’re long time friends and their singer, Kathleen Fee, is one of my tribe – she’s got red hair and a streak of independence. But my interest in “Shores of America” stems from Kathleen’s declaration that, “We really wanted to create something that spoke about our experiences and what it is like to be an Irish American.”
Have they succeeded? Surely, and on many levels, although I fell that their best work is yet to come.
There is an air of defiance that permeates this bittersweet narrowback saga. It’s an essential element, given the subject matter, for W. B. Yeats stated that “poetry should be as cold and passionate as the dawn” and too many emigrant songs smother in melancholia, only coming alive after four or five pints.
You can be as sober as Mitt Romney listening to “Shores of America” and still catch the sparks shooting off Kathleen’s fiery manifesto, “Who I Am.” “Their traditions passed down, pans of boxty and buying rounds, sing a rebel song and cheer the tune, dance a step across the room, we enjoy our pints and chat, we’re known as Paddy’s and Mac’s, ah but I don’t give a damn, guess that’s just who I am.”
The song comes from experience. When she was eight, Kathleen and her bandmate brothers, John and Ken, “went home” to Dromod, County Leitrim with their parents Sean and Kathy Vesey and attended Annaduff Primary School.
They had a difficult time with the local kids who jeered them as “Narrowback Yankees,” until John took it upon himself to beat the bejaysus out of three of his tormentors. Young Vesey is still known in certain Leitrim establishments as the “Incredible Hulk.”
I often think that more can be seen from a bandstand than a pulpit or a newsroom. At pubs and dancehalls people are lit up, more at ease with themselves and less difficult to read. Hence, the drama of the title track where Celtic Cross seamlessly tackles the pain of 9/11, reverse emigration to Celtic Tiger Ireland, and –in the following verse – the tragedy of the conflict in Iraq: “A war to fight that’s what they say, sent Bridie’s boys away, one by one she kissed goodbye, off to the desert now, they would fly, they’re leavin’, the Shores of America.”
Let’s not forget the stirring music that supports such steadfast lyrics. Boasting more Irish champions than a Kilkenny hurling team, Ken and John Vesey on fiddle and button accordion lock horns with Tyrone’s master of the banjo and mandolin, Frankie McCormick; while Rockaway Walter Ensor’s guitar shimmers around a rock solid rhythm section of Queens natives, Pat Dineen on bass and Dave Barckow on drums.
Dineen is no slouch with the lyric when capturing the changing face of the “Irish Alps” in his homage to East Durham’s Erin’s Melody where Celtic Cross played for seven straight summers. “The jukebox at Erin’s is silent, neon’s gone from the road, the bandstand empty and quiet, once teaming with music and brogues.”
Erin’s may stand deserted on Route 145 – but the band charges on. They’ve branched out from their usual haunts, headlining at the Public Theatre’s prestigious Joe’s Pub this past Saint Patrick’s Day.
The trick is, of course, to make the total transition from playing old favorites to their own originals. That takes dogged perseverance and a willingness to soak up criticism and spit it right back. A tough call but to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “If they ain’t bitchin’ at you, you ain’t doin’ nothin’ new.”
Still, one step at a time; eventually, people will attend Celtic Cross gigs to catch a glimpse of themselves in the band’s songs and vision. Kathleen’s only regret is that they didn’t take the original road sooner.
It’s a tough highway, girl. There’ll be no shortage of naysayers and begrudgers calling out from every ditch. But to hell with them! You’ll always have that ineffable thrill of doing exactly what you want while grooving to the music of your own heart.
No one can ever take that away from you and I look forward to hearing the band’s next CD when Celtic Cross really goes for it and gives us an even more insightful view of the Irish-American soul.
Last Call, the new Celtic Cross CD
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Just when you think you're hitting your stride, along comes someone to knock you down. Here I though...Just when you think you're hitting your stride, along comes someone to knock you down. Here I thought I was doing a great service to the Irish community by being a watchdog for our readers. There's a lot of things that are supposed to pass for music out there these days, and I take the job of guiding you to the best of the best very, seriously. So I guess my chest was sufficiently puffed up with a measure of Irish pride when I sat down with a music industry type last week that I hadn’t seen for ages. Over my ilk as a band of pathetic cultural vultures with no musical talent of our own that feed on the carrion of REAL artists. That’s one thing that I hate about the Irish: they never tell you exactly how they feel about things. I left the bar dejected and deflated my life’s mission and purpose of existence shaken to its very core. After running to the comfort of a chocolate chip cookie the size of a manhole cover and a tall skinny decaf latte, I slumped into my chair at the Irish Voice offices. As if on cue, the mailman arrived with a bag full of free CDs. Things were looking up! - At the top of the pile was the new CD from Celtic Cross, Last Call. I am living proof that despite your frame of mind prior to diving into this collection of tunes, it is impossible to be in a bad mood after the last song plays. Even the troubled prose of “Don’t Fear Me Know” turns cheerful when sung in the buoyant honeysuckle style of Kathleen Fee. She has a warm yet spirited vocal delivery that lends itself well to the feisty arrangements. Her brothers John Vesey (button accordion) and Ken Vesey (violin) join Walter Ensor (guitar) Pat Dineen (Bass) and Kevin O’Neill (drums) round out Celtic Cross. They display their tough chops in the instrumentals such as "Mission" and "Ménage." This is a perfect pop rock outfit with a pulsing Irish heart that performs with exhilarating roots rock energy. The accordion and fiddling and organic party feel harkens back to 80s greats The Hooters. "Just a Dream" and the Richard Thompson-penned, "Wall of Death" has the perfect pitch harmonies of the Coors without all the cancer-causing saccharine.
Review of Shores of America - January 24 2008
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The awkward feeling you get when you interact with your Irish cousins on their home turf. Sipping si...The awkward feeling you get when you interact with your Irish cousins on their home turf. Sipping sickeningly sweet Shirley Temples at the bar in East Durham while your parents did ceili dancing. Taking the events of 9/11 especially hard when you count the Irish dead in the rubble. Sound familiar? If you’re like me, these are the experiences you draw on when reflecting on what it means to be Irish American in this neck of the woods; these themes that make the amazing Celtic Cross CD, Shores of America, such a personal journey for the listener.
This is the soundtrack of your life, set against a diverse musical back drop that includes alternative country, modern rock, traditional melodies, and playful funk.
“Our parents come from Ireland/worked the buses and the bar rooms/Paddies called us narrowbacks every summer when we headed back,” Kathleen Fee sings before recalling times listening to WFUV, teasing her hair before going to the bars, and stumbling home in time for morning Mass. It’s quintessential Irish Americana; if your local pub doesn’t have this song on the jukebox, drink your pint elsewhere!
“That song is for all our friends and supporters who have come out to see us in clubs and festivals all around the US,” Fee says. “Our parents called us Irish American kids ‘narrowbacks’ because we goofed off and didn’t work as hard as they did. They were probably right. Singing about those days really reaches people. It takes you back to days of growing up and misbehaving in college. It’s like Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ for narrowbacks. It was inspired by a photo collage that one of my friends gave me to commemorate the crazy nights we had over the years.”
Shores of America opens with title track, a collection of musical vignettes wrapped within 4:32 of blissful alt country riffs. The characters in this song are trying to make it in America before deciding to move back to the motherland. Based on the draconian immigration polices being inflicted on the Irish these days, the song should ring true for many undocumented families trying to make a go of it here.
“When we embarked on this CD we really tried to create something different,” says Kathleen Fee during an exclusive chat with the Irish Voice “We wrote about who we all are, the Irish influence, our Irish parents, and playing Irish music. But we were all born in America and we grew up listening to a lot of different pop and rock elements as well. I suppose that made us all little melting pots. We wanted to create something that spoke to all those musical genres. “
Kathleen Fee (lead vocals, background vocals), Ken Vesey (fiddle), John Vesey (button accordion), Walter Ensor (lead & background vocals, many instruments), Patrick Dineen (vocals, bass, piano), Frankie McCormick (banjo, mandolin), Dave Barckow (drums, percussion) make up Celtic Cross. They have bounced around the bars, boats, and festivals of the tristate area for at least a decade. Their cruises around Manhattan are not only stuff of legend among their fans, they also represent some of the best times this reporter have ever had on the job. Their sets are peppered with traditional songs, furious reels, and covers from artists as diverse as the Grateful Dead (“Bertha”) and Mary Chapin-Carpenter (“Passionate Kisses”). Celtic Cross is so much more than a covers band or a traditional Irish outfit, as the excellent songs of Shores of America prove.
“I love the songs I grew up with,” says Fee. “ But we really wanted to challenge ourselves to push some limits and create something that you don’t hear. It could have been easier to do something more familiar. Presenting something new is more difficult and riskier, but we were all up to the challenge.”
I know this sounds like a textbook music critic’s cliché, but this album literally has something for everyone. If you can’t find something that moves you on this disc, you probably don’t like music. “22” is a trad ditty that has a prowling funky bass lurking underneath. “Chapel Bells” is a charming love song that is built on a riff that Dave Matthews would give his eye teeth to write. “Who I Am” is a back porch country sing song about being proud of your Irish heritage. I defy your eyes not to moisten after listening to the song.
“The songwriting process in general allows you to be exposed,” Fee says when asked to explain some of the personal reflections in “Who I Am.” “You put yourself out there and even though you may not be writing in the first person all the time, you are still revealing yourself. So, its almost like writing a diary and then having someone critique it. Fortunately, people who heard the album are emailing us positively, They are telling us that the songs are reminding them of good things, places and times. That is exactly the reaction we were hoping for.”
Kathleen has two brothers in the band, John and Kenny (her maiden name is Vesey). But she says that there is no sibling rivalry in the creative process. “My brothers are my best friends and everyone who knows us will tell you that,” she says. “We have been through so much together. I don’t treat them like brothers and they don’t treat me like a sister; I still get stuck carrying out gear!. We all really value one another’s opinion.”
Fee reports that the band took a year to write the songs and another year to record and produce the CD, with the band breaking off into smaller groups for writing sessions. “One of us would come up with a concept or idea, and then two or three of us would get together to flesh it out, usually in a studio in Astoria. Then we would get the whole group together to see how it could work for the act.” When asked if all the song ideas made it to the CD, Fee laughed. “Let’s just say that there were a few that really weren’t ready … we had a lot of laughs. We were our own worst critics. I think the process really worked.”
I’ll drink to that! This is the kind of CD that comes around once in a blue moon, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can pick up Shores of America at the band’s website, CDbaby.com and select retailers. The band will be hosting a series of album launch parties, the first one being on Thursday, January 24 at The Underscore (1733 First Avenue@89th Street). For more information on the band, log onto CelticCross.com.
By Mike Farragher
Celtic Cross at Joe's Pub
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Local family act Celtic Cross puts an NYC-urban spin on its Celtic sources, creating a funky blend t...Local family act Celtic Cross puts an NYC-urban spin on its Celtic sources, creating a funky blend that'll appeal to more than just roots mavens. See them at Joe's Pub on March 17 at 7:30 PM.
Reelbeat (a lively instrumental introduction set... always gets the hands clapping)
Whisper (Kathleen's rocking vocal original)
22 (a celtic-funk instrumental with a haunting vocal from Kathleen)
First Kiss (Kath on vocals, a Queens NY love song)
Listen To The Music (a lively cover of the Dubie Brothers hit, laced with a hard hitting traditional reel).
Irish Girl (a brand new Celtic Cross song, sung by Kath is a Celtic answer to Martina McBride's "This One's For the Girls")
Don't Fear Me Now (In Tua Nua cover... Kath's vocal rocks this tune)
Recovery Set (a thoughtful melodic instrumental breaks the set down... then builds it up again)
Jukebox at Erin's (bassist Pat on vocals for a lively pop song)
Can't Get What You Want/Preacher Man/E minor Planxty (two classic covers with a gripping edgy traditional instrumental close)
Who I Am (Kathleen's soulful ballad.. often played acoustic)
Chapel Bells (Walter's soaring love song ends with a lively traditional instrumental)
Shores of America (Kathleen sings the latest CD title track rock anthem).
Squeezebox (The Who classic with Dave on vocals... Irish style)
Sweet Jane (Pat on vocals for the Lou Reed classic... with a ripping accordion, fiddle, banjo melody line)
Those Were The Days (Kath's vocals for the band's lively "life story" growing up... a crowd favorite).