Deb Cavanaugh
Gig Seeker Pro

Deb Cavanaugh

Petersburg, NY 12138, USA | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF | AFM

Petersburg, NY 12138, USA | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Americana Singer/Songwriter




"Folk duo Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh blend genre’s past with its present"

Partners in life and music doing their part to keep traditions alive


Reach Gazette reporter Philip Schwartz at 395-3111 or

Deb Cavanaugh and Dick Kavanaugh get passionate when the subject of traditional music arises. And in a conversation with the folk duo — billed as Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh — that subject will inevitably come up.
Over coffee and tea at a cafe near their Albany home, the couple, both life and musical partners, get into the importance of folk music, the need to keep traditions alive and how it’s all tied to our understanding of American culture and history.
“It’s important for us to know and remember our culture,” Cavanaugh says, “and it’s getting lost and increasingly becoming a corporate culture.”
Managing to avoid a self-righteous tone, both Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh talk about their mission (though they don’t expressly use that word) to help pass along the traditions of folk through their workshops and performances. And by singing old songs alongside their originals, they seem to relish being part of a kind of folksong dialogue that stretches back through history, but still touches the present.

When they first started playing as a duo, however, there wasn’t any sort of overarching commitment to traditions or preservation, Cavanaugh said. “It’s become more of a focus over the years,” she noted. “I started with just saying ‘I’d like to do some traditional stuff.’ Then as time went on, it became more deliberate.”
Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh have been life partners for 14 years, their coupling somewhat fortuitous considering the similar last names. Cavanaugh, a full-time musician who teaches and gives workshops, has been playing all her life.
“I grew up in a family where there was always singing,” the Stamford, Conn., native said. “We were always playing music. We would often, after dinner, clear the table, sit and sing. . . . I was singing harmonies when I was 3. The first time I got a paying gig, I was 15.”
By contrast, Kavanaugh, an electrician by trade, grew up in Delmar with a purist’s love of folk and acoustic blues, but didn’t start playing until his mid-30s. Similarly, his partner, though she spent her younger days concentrating on the piano and vocals, waited until age 40 to take up the stringed instruments that are so much a part of the Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh sound: mandolin, dulcimer, guitar. The stringed instruments he plays are guitar, mandolin, fiddle and banjo. Live performances can include any combination of those, in addition to Cavanaugh’s limber jack or Kavanaugh’s penny whistle.

The traditional songs they play, meanwhile, center on the old-time Irish and Southern U.S. traditions. Anti-war and labor songs such as “Green Fields of France,” “Mrs. McGrath,” “Masters of War,” “Granite Mills” and “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” are all part of the repertoire. But underneath it all is a slight, if mild, tension between Cavanaugh’s want to infuse new influences and Kavanaugh’s more purist nature. This can be a strength, however, Cavanaugh said. “That’s what makes us interesting,” she said. “Dick has that traditional focus and I want to be wild and do whatever.”
Playing traditional music, however, can be somewhat of an occupational hazard in a culture obsessed with youth and the taste of now. Even among an evolving roots-music community where younger generations of artists are bending what folk means, Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh still have the earnest, sweet sound that’s typical of their baby boomer generation and the time that generation ushered in the first folk boom. Nevertheless, Kavanaugh maintains that this music is just as relevant today, and will continue to be for the next generation.
“There’s a string of commonality to folk music where it touches everyone,” he said. “I feel like most of these traditional songs are timeless. Sing a song like ‘Green Fields of France’ and that was written about World War I. It still moves people. Not much has changed, you know. We’re still fighting wars.”
- Schnectady Daily Gazette

"Sweet release - Local musicians celebrate new CDs"

Local musicians celebrate new CDs
By GREG HAYMES, Staff writer

First published in print: Thursday, November 27, 2008

The long-running folk duo of Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh head up to the legendary Caffe Lena coffeehouse in Saratoga Springs on Saturday night to celebrate the release of their new disc, "Returning." Not only are Deb Cavanaugh and Dick Kavanaugh are both multitalented instrumentalists, but they both sing and contribute some heartfelt original songs to the album, which was recorded and mixed at MoonDog East in Poestenkill and the Red Sun Soundroom in Niskayuna.

After kicking off with the rousing "Barn Dance" — sure to set toes to tapping — the album features a version of the traditional "Deep Elem Blues" (which has been recorded by such diverse artists as Johnny Cash and the Grateful Dead) and 10 more original tunes in the folk and country tradition. The best of the bunch are a pair of Kavanaugh-penned instrumentals, the Celtic flavored "Young Timothy" and the uptempo banjo number "Gypsy Dog Dance."

Joining the duo at Lena's will be Dave Danks (on bass, guitar and mandolin), fiddler Ed Lowman and poet Alifair Skebe, all of whom also contributed their musical talents to the recording of "Returning."
- Times Union


Full-length CD - "Returning" being played on WRPI, Troy, NY; WCUW, Worcester, MA; WBCR, Great Barrington, MA; WDIY, Allentown, PA.

Full-length double CD set - "Highway in Your Eyes (musical memoirs)" being played on WRPI, Troy, NY; WEXT, Schenectady, NY.  This contains one disk of music and one disk of memoirs, one for each song.



Artist/educator, singer/songwriter Deb Cavanaugh has been performing in the Capital District of New York State since 1982. This began with a psychedelic jam band, General Eclectic, a collaboration with her husband at the time, Paul Cavanaugh. In the restless, youthful spirit of the times, this band played electric blues, folk flavored Americana and a dizzying array of rock & roll. After 20 years in this world, Deb moved on into traditional folk music with appearances at
festivals such as the Clearwater Pumpkin Sail, Bluestone Festival in Kingston, NY, Rhythm on the Ridge in Mariaville, NY and performances at venues such as Caffe Lena, Old Songs and The Eighth Step Coffeehouse where she hosted the Open Mic for years. Nowadays, playing a variety of acoustic instruments (guitar, mandolin, mountain dulcimer and banjo), her show includes elements of pop, folk, jazz and blues. As a young adult,she traveled back and forth across the country hitchhiking, driving a VW bus, playing music on street corners and cafes. Deb’s stories and original songs embody these experiences and speak to the struggles and joys of parenthood, politics andvdaily life. A crowd favorite, “Driving Me Crazy,” deals with the common annoyance of having a slow driver in front of you. Having been the recipient of a "Meet the Composers" grant, she developed a songwriting workshop for young people and has taught and continues to teach that workshop in various summer camps,
libraries and schools. She has developed and offers other musical programs as well including "Exploring American Folk," "Where in the World Are We," "Call of the Wild: Music of the Klondike Gold Rush," "Exploring New York: A Musical Journey" and many more. Deb is also a registered
Music Together teacher and owns and runs Heldeberg Music Together in Delmar and Troy, NY, teaching music to young people age birth through 4 years with their parent or other caregiver, a Rhythm Kids class for ages 4 and 5 and a guitar class for adults participating in Music Together. As a teen, Deb was involved with a choir directed by Duke Ellington, performing his original sacred music, and much later sang back-up with Melanie in Albany and Saratoga Springs,
NY.  She was also part of the re-creation of a women’s orchestra originally from Birkenau concentration camp playing classical mandolin in shows with that group in the Woodstock area in 2007 and finally at St. John the Divine in New York City, in Berlin, Germany and Ravensbrück camp in the spring of 2009. This show was repeated in April 2015 in the Woodstock area.

Band Members