Guitarist Robbie O'Connell has a permanent home these days--on a plane. He travels back and forth between Ireland and the United States, pursuing three or four different careers. Best known as the man who succeeded the legendary Tommy Makem in the Clancy Brothers (Makem happens to be his uncle), O'Connell will team with accordion and concertina virtuoso James Keane in concert this afternoon at American University's SIS building lounge; it's part of the "Old Music in a New Land" series.
The Clancys will skip Irish-crazy Washington this year, O'Connell says, "though we're starting another tour next month. But so many Irish acts come in March [around St. Patrick's Day]. And the Clancys don't really tour that much anymore." A fine songwriter and singer of unaccompanied ballads, O'Connell has been working quite a bit with Keane (whose older brother Sean is the noted fiddler with the Chieftains) and musician-musicologist Mick Moloney. "Basically we're wanting to build on three individual styles. James is very well known, a four-time All-Ireland champion, and formerly a member of Canada's best Irish band, Ryan's Fancy." They met in the studios of Green Linnet Records, working on separate solo albums.
Their material, according to O'Connell, is "within the Irish and British Isles folk idiom rather than American-sounding stuff. Mick likes things with political or sociological meaning, while I like to do old romantic things. And there's lots of jigs, reels and hornpipes," the sprightly dance tunes that remain at the heart of Irish music.
The presentation, billed as "an informal afternoon of music, song and chat," begins at 2:30 p.m.