As one of the founding members of the Dead Reckoning record label Kieran Kane has a legitimate claim to the title of "Godfather of Americana.” He has a special ability to combine old-timey, blues, country, acoustic, and a smidgen of rock n' roll into a musical package that is the very essence of modern Americana.
Kane's career began in 1982 when he signed on as a songwriter for Tree Publishing and released his first LP on Elektra Records. In 1986 Kane formed the O'Kanes with fellow songwriter Jamie O'Hara. After the O'Kanes disbanded in 1990, Kane spent several years writing before he signed with Atlantic Records in 1993, released one solo album, and was dropped by the label. This set the stage for starting Dead Reckoning Records along with other artists equally disenchanted by big label BS. So far Kane has released four solo albums on Dead Reckoning. In 2004 Kane joined Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplan for a trio that's released three albums on Compass records. Somewhere Beyond the Roses marks Kane's first solo release on Compass.
Kane's principal instrument is a banjo. But he's not a fingerpicking style player. Instead he uses a frailing method that predates the modern Scruggs style. Doc Boggs was another practitioner of frailing. Kane's songs have a lot in common with Boggs tunes. Both share a strongly gothic modal/blues mood. Imagine country blues with a darker, more threatening, aura. Even when Kane abandons the banjo he retains a noir frame of mind. On "More To It Than This” guitarist Richard Bennett employs a Pop Staples style of reverb-laden electric wash for an ominous effect.
The instrumentation on Somewhere Beyond the Roses doesn't seem like it would work. The principal collaborator on most of the cuts is vocalist and baritone sax player DennaVaragona. Baritone Sax? But instead of sounding like a badly out-of-tune pair of street musicians, this combo produces wonderfully dense musical textures. Many of the sax parts are more like organ or synthesizer lines – long drones rather than bebop flurries.
On Somewhere Beyond the Roses Kieran Kane adds eleven more original songs to his deep catalog of uniquely raw and rustic music. If Jimmy Reed and Jimmy Rodgers were born 60 years later and merged into one guy they'd probably sound a lot like Kieran Kane.