The beautiful mountain Knocknarea in Ireland’s County Sligo is said to be the final resting place of the ancient Irish warrior-queen Maeve. The ‘Alt’ is a storied glen on the side of Knocknarea, and it was in the shadow of this glen that the three master Irish traditional musicians in The Alt – John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, and Eamon O’Leary – first gathered to rehearse.
The Alt are fully aware of traditional Irish musical history, and chose to record their debut album in the quiet isolation of a small cabin in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains, where Irish immigrants first settled into new homes in Appalachia. These master musicians touch at something deeper in Irish music, something swift and beautiful and magical that has always run beneath these songs.
Each player in The Alt is a leading light of today’s folk scene and though this could be easily called a supergroup, at its heart The Alt is really a celebration of friendship and song.
Guitarist and singer John Doyle, whose family hails from around Knocknarea, was born and raised in Dublin, lives in Asheville, NC, and is one of the pre-eminent guitarists and vocalists of his generation. His ground-breaking work with Irish band Solas and with Karen Casey has influenced many other artists and his style of guitar accompaniment is iconic in Irish music.
He met flutist and singer Nuala Kennedy at Celtic Colors and while touring in Europe and the two hit it off while exploring songs and tunes in common. Nuala is herself a singer and songwriter well-known internationally for her beautiful vocals and her unusual arrangements of traditional songs.
Looking to add a third voice to the band, John suggested his long-time friend and fellow Dubliner Eamon O’Leary, who also plays guitar and bouzouki. O’Leary is one of the most in-demand Irish vocalists and guitarists in the US today, thanks to his subtle and beautiful work with Jefferson Hamer in The Murphy Beds.
Gathered in the mountains of North Carolina, The Alt recorded their debut album in just three days, a testament to the ease each member feels with their native music. The singular sound of The Alt is greater than the sum of its parts; at once delicate, deliberate and at its core always in deference to the music.