The Kane Sisters
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The Kane Sisters

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The best kept secret in music


“Under the Diamond” is named after the mountain that overhangs the Kane Sisters native area of Letterfrack in East Galway, The follow up to their debut album “The Well Tempered Bow” finds Liz and Yvonne Kane digging through the plentiful fields of East Galway music. Paddy Fay is a constant source of influence and no fewer than six of his original tunes named enigmatically enough “Fahey’s” appear on this disc. The Kane’s natural telepathy allows for some stirring duet playing and when coupled with Mick Coneeley’s unobtrusive bouzouki accompaniment as on “Mike Cooney’s Fancy” the result is immediately dynamic and ear catching, while John Blake and James Blennehassett add subtle guitar and double bass to the proceedings. Much of the appeal of Paddy Fahey’s compositions lie in their subtle use of minor chords and the manner in which these get under the skin of the tune itself and some fine examples exist here. Liz’s buoyant solo “Farewell to Miltown” displays her considerable technique, while Yvonne’s “Red Tom of the Hills” also shows a fine individual talent. The music is relaxed and natural sounding, effortlessly vibrant and outstandingly good, everything we would expect from the Kane Sisters.
- Irish Music Magazine, November 2004, Ita Kelly

Liz and Yvonne Kane's debut recording "The Well Tempered Bow" was so good in every way it was hard to imagine what the two fiddle playing sisters from Letterfrack, Connemara, would come up with as a follow-up. Well, the old adage "if it ain't broke" is most fitting here. Although they did invite a couple more musicians to participate as accompanists, in all other aspects their new CD is pretty much identical to the first, down to the great mix of esoteric tunes generously sprinkled with more spine-tingling Paddy Fahey compositions. But who's complaining, not me. I loved the first album, and I love this one... almost as much. Liz and Yvonne seem to have a knack for selecting the most gorgeous Irish tunes ever composed--the jig "The Lakes of Killarney" is on my list, and so is Liz's own tune "Betsy's Delight"--or having their unique way with old favorites. Listen for instance to their rendition of Reavy's extravagant tune "The Wild Swans at Coole." Another nice surprise is to hear them play Martin Mulvihill's two reels, "The High Road to Glin" and "The Low Road to Glin." The sisters' duet on the slow air "Sean O'Duibhir a Ghleanna," a challenge to record by their own admission, shows a breathtaking balance of precision and expression. An interesting departure from the first album's model is that each sister here takes a solo, Liz doing a fabulous job on the reels "Farewell to Miltown" and "The Wheels of the World," while Yvonne tackles one of Reavy's lesser known reels and yet another Fahey gem. So why, might you ask, am I not giving this new CD the same top rating I gave the first? Well, I worry that Liz and Yvonne might not be able to handle two 5-star ratings in a row. They might get all self-important and not talk to me anymore...

- Celtic Grooves November 2004, Philippe Varlet

Ita Kelly in conversation with Liz and Yvonne Kane on the release of their new album

Tunes are like diamonds, sparkling when the light is shone on them, precious when they are new or obscure, and challenging when their many facets have to be negotiated, navigated and eventually tamed. Like precious stones, tunes become very much part of the individual personality of the player, who becomes the possessor or the master of them. Two masters of this great art in traditional music are the Kane sisters, Liz and Yvonne.

It has been a short two years since their stunning and highly original debut album ‘The Well Tempered Bow’, and the fiddling sister are back with their new album ‘Under the Diamond’. There are plenty of gems in this volume whether in the landscape it depicts or the myriad rare stones it holds. The album was launched at Galway’s Róisín Dubh on August 31st last, where guitarist John Blake and Mick Conneely on bouzouki (who both play as guests on the album) joined the sisters in concert. Since then they have played at various venues throughout the country including the Ennis traditional festival and Féile Frank McGann.

The album is aptly titled since the sisters were born and reared in the shadows of the famous Diamond Mountain in Letterfrack in Connemara. “If you go anywhere around our village the Diamond is looking down at you,” says Liz. “We’ve climbed it so many times and had so many good music sessions in its shadow.” The sisters, who are musically joined at the hips, have once again produced an album of original and rarely recorded material. Most of the tunes are newly composed or from the pens of great names like Paddy O’Brien of Nenagh in Co. Tipperary, Ed Reavy on of the most prolific composers of the 20th century, and Martin Mulvihill, the renowned teacher from Glin in Co. Limerick who taught many young musicians in New York (including Eileen Ivers).

Many of the tunes are ones that have been recorded before but are not heard or played much these days. “I think it’s important that the listener hears tunes that are out there but are not heard very often,” says Liz about choosing the material for the album. “These tunes would have been played by different people but they are not in the mainstream.”

Like their first album, ‘The Well Tempered Bow’, ‘Under the Diamond’ retains a strong flavour of East Galway. This time out Paddy Carty the flute player from Loughrea was the source for several of the tunes, as were the compositions of Paddy Fahey. “We’ve always listened to a lot of East Galway musicians and we’ve picked up a lot of tapes along the way from people from East Galway and other musicians; tapes of Paddy Carty, Conor Tully, Aggie Whyte, all those great players” says Liz, “We’ve been very lucky and we always feel honoured when people say our music is east Galway in style because we’re from West Galway. Some also say there’s a hint of Sligo in our music and that would come from our teacher Mary Finn who comes from Balymore in Co. Sligo and we have listened to a lot of Sligo fiddle players.”

Letterfrack in Connemara where the Kane sisters grew up wasn’t a particularly musical place but they did have a strong family background in Irish music. Their maternal grandfather was one of their strongest influences. Jimmy Mullen from the Sky Road in Clifden was a fiddle player, a Michael Coleman’s and a friend of many of those East Galway musicians the sister now emulate so well in their playing and recordings. On their father’s side, their grandmother Annie Kane played accordion. The sisters began playing tin whistle in national school and progressed to the fiddle and lessons with Mary Finn. Leo Hallissey had started the Bog and Sea weeks in Letterfrack, which have made a huge literary, cultural and musical impact on the landscape of Letterfrack, and introduced the girls to a whole array of musicians and artists. “We did all the usual things” says Yvonne, “summer schools, Scoil Éigses, Tubbercurry; we were always playing together and learning tunes together.”

When Yvonne was only 16 they headed off to the United States for a summer of music making. “It more or less too off from there” says Yvonne. “We went to Boston for 8 weeks and we started organizing some concerts for ourselves with a friend of ours, Catherine Corrigan, we had a great time.”

When Liz had completed her B.Mus. and H.Dip. in Cork, she returned Galway and linked up with Yvonne again and before long they were part of Sharon Shannon’s band. “The first gig was at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, it will always be memorable” says Liz. “but the second gig was in Spain to an audience of over 30,000, that was really exciting at the time.” “We spent three years with Sharon” says Yvonne “and we had great fun, they were a brilliant bunch to tour with.”

Liz and Yvonne are often confused with the singing Keane sisters from Caherlistrane and that comparison inspired them to record a slow air in unison on the fiddle - Irish Music Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005, by Ita Kelly


The Well Tempered Bow - 2002
Diamond Moutain Sessions - 2004

Liz and Yvonne have appeared on a number of recordings:

Live from the Katharine Cornell Theater – Traditional Irish Music - with Paddy Keenan, Tommy Peoples, teada, Liz Doherty, Niall & Cillian Vallely, Donal Clancy & more (2002) (Liz and Yvonne)

Memories from the Holla - Peter and Angelina Carberry (2001) (Liz)

The Pound Road - Dessie O'Halloran (2001) (Liz and Yvonne)

The Diamond Mountain Sessions - Sharon Shannon (2000) Recorded in the Monastery Hostel in Letterfrack, Galway along with Donal Lunny, Carlos Nunez, Steve Earle, John Prine, Mary Staunton, Jackson Browne, The Hothouse Flowers and Dessie O'Halloran (Liz and Yvonne)

The Fiddler Fair - compilation from Fiddle festival Mc Carthy's pub Baltimore, Cork (2000) (Liz and Yvonne)

Behind the Mist - compilation of musicians who have been part of the Bog and Sea Week festivals in Letterfrack over the last fifteen years. (2000) (Liz and Yvonne)

Idir Dhá Solas - Maighread and Tríona ní Dhomnaill (2000) (Liz and Yvonne)

Transcendental Blues - Steve Earle (2000) (Liz and Yvonne)

The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone - Cherish the Ladies (2000) (Yvonne)

Providence - Providence (1999) (Liz)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Together Liz and Yvonne Kane create a highly exciting and vibrant sound twin-fiddle sound. The sisters come from Letterfrack, a village in Connemara along the West coast of Ireland. Their grandfather, fiddle player Jimmy Mullen, was a leading figure on the traditional music scene in Connemara for over 50 years and it was his enthusiasm that encouraged the sisters to learn to play the fiddle.

Music quickly became an integral part of their everyday lives and summer holidays were spent honing their considerable skills. Liz was interested in competition, unlike Yvonne who disliked the tense atmosphere. In 1992, Liz won the Fiddler of Dooney in County Sligo and went on to win the prestigious All-Ireland senior fiddle and duet title, as well as the Fiddler of Oriel in 1995 and 1996.

Liz and Yvonne consider their style to be heavily influenced by South Sligo fiddle playing, the music of East Galway and in particular the fiddle playing and compositions of Paddy Fahey. The recordings of Michael Coleman, Hughie Gillespie, Andy McGann and Kathleen Collins have also made an impact on their music.

For three years, the sisters toured the world as members of Sharon Shannon’s Woodchoppers band, expanding their musical experience and expertise. Since their time with the Woodchoppers, they have toured extensively on their own, delighting audiences and winning fans in the US, Canada and Europe with their engaging sound. Liz and Yvonne also teach music and are much in demand for lessons and workshops.

They released their first album, “The Well Tempered Bow,” in May 2002 to great critical acclaim. Their second album, “Under the Diamond,” was launched in August 2004.