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Vincey takes ‘Great Highway’ home to Gort for debut album

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A BEAGH native is getting set to return from the West coast of America to launch his debut album at a homecoming gig in Gort next month. 

Vincey Keehan has been living in the US for more than four decades and his debut album, Great Highway, includes 14 tracks evoking memories of Ireland, as well as cherished family and friends. 

Now an adopted San Franciscan living in the Sunset District with his wife, Missy, Vincey is a multi-instrumentalist and a veteran of the city’s thriving music scene. After a rapturous reception for the album in the US, Vincey is set for a homecoming in November and an Irish launch for Great Highway. 

The new album features Vincey’s family and friends in music and includes ‘The Lovely Woodlands of Clare’. The piece is a moving tribute to his sister Mary whose daughter, Eimear, a talented musician, passed away in a tragic accident in France when she was just 21.

Vincey was recently profiled for the local Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon newspapers. He impressed journalist Alyson Wong with his devotion to music, while working full time. Alyson’s perceptive interview with Vincey dug deep into the origins of his album.

Vincey told her about his musical education, growing up immersed in the traditional music of South Galway and North Clare. “His parents, Michael and Margaret Keehan were very fond of set dancing, a form of Irish folk dancing,” Alyson wrote.

“His five siblings played the tin whistle, fiddle and concertina.” Alyson also recounted how, when he arrived in the States, Vincey saw an ad for a $400 Martin guitar for sale in his neighbourhood laundromat. He convinced a roommate to loan him the money and promptly decided he was going to be a musician. Forty years later, that same guitar features on Great Highway.

The interview also recalled the spark that got Vincey writing his own material. It detailed how an encounter with acclaimed Mayo musician John Hoban asked Vincey why he didn’t write his own stuff.

 

“The thought never occurred to him,” Alyson wrote, “but Keehan was spurred to write his first song the very next day and has been writing ever since. At the advice of Hoban, he wrote about stuff he knew about, that he heard about, or that someone told him about, and that he could relate to.” It wasnt until the Covid-19 pandemic that Keehan finally sat down and decided it was time to record the songs he had been writing over the years.”

Reviewing the 14 tracks on the album, produced by Kyle Alden, Alyson wrote that: ‘The Classic’ opens the album with a signature jig rhythm characteristic of the Irish bodhrán drum and captures what it must have been like to be swept up in the country music of The Classic Ballroom, a dance hall which Keehan often frequented on Sunday nights as a kid.

“He moves on to recount searching times with verses about solace and the healing beauty of nature in ‘The Lovely Woodlands of Clare’ which is a tribute to his sister Mary Noonan who lost her only daughter, Eimear Noonan, to a tragic accident at the age of 21.

“The album never veers to the melancholic however and continues to spin other yarns such as that of the life of Connemara boxer, Sean Mannion, in the albums longest track, ‘Rosmuc Hero,’ which includes a unique combination of velvety saxophone riffs. ‘Slow Train’ sways with the tempo of a cowboy on horseback as a nod to the weekly ritual gathering that he and neighbourhood kids would make around the villages only TV to watch the American western, ‘The Virginian’.”

The eclectic music scene around San Francisco includes a strong strain of Irish music and Vincey can often be found playing with The Gas Men. The band has had an eclectic line-up and toured extensively, gaining radio and television attention.

Alongside that, Vincey continues to run a business making custom-built wooden doors and windows. He told Alyson that he was never worried about breaking into the big time, but wanted to play music, be a reasonably good musician, and do something that had some meaning to me and to my family and the people that I played music with”. 

Great Highway will be launched at Vincey’s eagerly-anticipated homecoming gig at The Lady Gregory Hotel in Gort on November 2. 

About Fiona McGarry

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