Dolores Keane: Biography
26 September 1953, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway, Eire. Growing up on the west coast of Ireland, Keane was brought up from the age of four by her two aunts, the respected sean-nós singers Rita and Sarah Keane. Following several appearances on Irish radio, Keane joined the formative line-up of the traditional folk group De Dannan, appearing on their 1975 debut and joining them on tour. She was also the featured vocalist on the Chieftains’ 1976 album Bonaparte’s Retreat.
Keane moved to England in the late 70s with her husband, the English instrumentalist John Faulkner. Her first solo album, 1978’s There Was A Maid, received a gold disc. The follow-up, Brokenhearted I’ll Wander, was a sparkling collaboration with Faulkner. 1980’s Farewell To Eirinn, which included backing from Faulkner and Eamonn Curran, featured songs describing the story of the Irish emigration to America from 1845-55, when nearly two million people (or 25 per cent of the population), left Ireland. After another collaboration with Faulkner, 1983’s Sail Og Rua, and a brief spell with Planxty, Keane recorded an album with her three brothers and three sisters as the Keane Family. In the mid-80s she returned to De Dannan to sing on two new studio albums.
Keane resumed her solo career in 1988 with an excellent self-titled colelction for the Ringsend label. The follow-up, 1990’s Lion In A Cage, featured songs by contemporary songwriters Chris Rea, Paul Brady and Kieran Halpin. Faulkner’s title track explored the plight of Nelson Mandela, who was still a political prisoner in South Africa at the time. Despite his subsequent release, ‘Lion In A Cage’ remains a powerful protest song. Keane participated in the television seriesBringing It All Back Home, in 1991, performing with Mary Black and Emmylou Harris. She also appeared on the following year’s A Woman’s Heart, a bestselling compilation celebrating Irish female singers (a second volume was released two years later). In June 1993, Keane set out on an extensive UK tour, backed by a band comprising Faulkner, Ted Ponsonby (guitar/dobro), Daragh Connelly (keyboards), Liam Bradley (drums/vocals), and Eddie Lee (bass). Her next studio album, Solid Ground (1994), featured her brother, flautist Seán Keane.
In August 1995, Keane received the Fiddler’s Green Hall Of Fame award for her ‘significant contribution to the cause of Irish music and culture.’ During the same year she released a fine duet album with Norwegian singer Rita Eriksen, an indication of the singer’s desire to broaden her musical and lyrical horizons. This new approach was also evident on 1998’s Night Owl, which drew heavily on material by contemporary songwriters and featured a track inspired by Brazilian street urchins (‘José’). Keane also branched out into acting during the 90s, appearing on the stage in productions of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage and J.M. Synge’s Playboy Of The Western World.