As a part of the Irish folk group Solas, Karan Casey has defined herself as one of Ireland's best, joining the distinguished ranks of fellow female singer/songwriters such as Clannad's Maire Brennan, Sharon Shannon, and Karen Matheson of Capercaillie. The Wall Street Journal's music writer Earle Hitchner praises her singing, harking that Casey's voice "is one of the true glories of Irish music today."
Karan Casey grew up singing with her family while growing up in the southeastern side of Waterford in the Irish village of Ballyduff Lower. As a child, she sang in the church choir, but turned to the piano as a young adult. While studying voice and piano at the University College Dublin and later at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in the late '80s, Casey was singing Ella Fitzgerald standards in a jazz duo at a local pub in Dublin. She also started her own Irish group called Dorothy. She credits jazz music for allowing her to wholly approach and understand her tact to singing traditional Irish folklore. Dublin, however, was not the place for her to continue her exploration.
In 1993, Karan Casey emigrated to New York to find herself studying music once again as a jazz music major at Brooklyn's Long Island Univesity. Around this time, she rediscovered her fondness for Irish traditional music and made the rounds singing in locals bars in Manhattan. Such passion led Casey to briefly play with the New York-based band Atlantic Bridge, but by the end of 1994, Casey joined Seamus Egan, John Doyle, John Williams, and Winifred Horan to form Solas. The band quickly received critical acclaim, recording three albums with Shanachie, which coincided winning the NAIRD awards with each release. Solas also found themselves touring American, Europe, and Japan, playing alongside greats such as Bela Fleck, the Chieftains, Iris DeMent, and Donal Lunny.
All in the midst of this, Karan Casey still found time to record a solo album called Songlines, which was released in 1997. Winds Begin to Sing followed in early 2001. Casey eventually decided to go solo full time in order to better control her touring schedule, which in turn would allow her to spend more time with her young family. After playing shows in North America and Europe (and appearing as a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion), Casey briefly returned to Solas for the group's 2006 release Reunion. Her fifth solo album, Ships in the Forest, was released in 2008. ~ MacKenzie Wilson