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The O'Kanes

During their relatively brief time together, Kieran Kane and Jamie O'Hara, otherwise known as the O'Kanes, produced three albums of absolutely superb country music. The self-titled, first, and arguably strongest effort contains everything that is best about the O'Kanes' sound. It is rich in country music's finest traditions, yet it is by no means a nostalgia album. It is sparse in instrumentation, yet richly textured. Most of all, the album contains direct, honest music whose emotional intensity stays with the listener long after the sound waves have stopped vibrating. The O'Kanes' vocals recall the best of country harmony. Some critics liken them to the Louvin Brothers. Others, because of the more driving sound of their backing, compare them to the Everlys. The instrumental sound ranges from bluegrass (prominent mandolin) to the tense drive of Sun rockabilly (their hit "O Darlin'" is evidence of this). The addition of an accordion adds both Tex-Mex and unmistakably bluesy feels to the proceedings. This is truly hybrid music.

Out of the core members of the O'Kanes, Kane was always the more musically inclined of the two. At the age of nine, he began playing drums in his older brother's rock & roll band. By the time he was in his teens, he was also playing bluegrass and folk, performing at festivals across the Northeast. Eventually, his reputation had grown large enough that he was opening for rock & roll groups like Country Joe & the Fish and the Steve Miller Band. When he was 21, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a session guitarist and a professional songwriter. Eight years later, he relocated to Nashville, where he also worked as a session musician and songwriter. Within two years, he had landed a contract with Elektra, and over the next three years, he had a string of minor hits for both Elektra and later Warner. For his part, O'Hara didn't begin playing guitar when he was 22 years old, following a knee injury that prevented him from pursuing a career as a professional football player. After writing several original songs, he began to play clubs across the Midwest, while working odd jobs. In 1975, he arrived in Nashville, landing a publishing contract with Tree Publishing. By the early '80s, artists had begun to cover his songs, with Ronnie McDowell taking "Wandering Eyes" and "Older Women" to the Top Ten in 1981.

Kane and O'Hara began collaborating in 1985, when the two songwriters worked on "Bluegrass Blues" for Tree. Southern Pacific and the Judds would both later record the song. Throughout 1985, the pair wrote songs and recorded demos together, deciding to become a performing duo in 1986. Columbia signed the duo, and their eponymous debut consisted entirely of their demo tapes. "Oh Darlin'," the first single from the record, became a hit, climbing into the Top Ten; the album also reached the country Top Ten as well. In 1987, the group had three Top Ten hits -- including the number one "Can't Stop My Heart From Loving You," "Daddies Need to Grow Up Too," and "Just Loving You" -- all taken from The O'Kanes. The following year, they released their second album, Tired of the Runnin', which produced an additional two Top Ten singles in "One True Love" and "Blue Love." However, the third single from the record, "Rocky Road," didn't even make the Top 40.

Following the recording of their third album, Kane and O'Hara parted ways in 1989; the third record, Imagine That, was released posthumously to little attention in 1990. Following the group's breakup, both members continued to work as professional songwriters. In 1993, Kane released his eponymous solo debut on Atlantic Records; O'Hara released his first solo album, Rise Above It, the following year on RCA. ~ Hank Davis
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Can't You Hear Me Callin' Bluegrass: 80 Years Of American Music

Disc 1

1. Soldier's Joy

2. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues

3. White House Blues

4. Bill Mason

5. Cannon Ball Blues

6. D Blues

7. Keep On The Sunny Side

9. I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes

10. Great Speckle Bird

11. Orange Blossom Special

12. Ida Red

13. Pretty Polly

14. Lonesome Old River Blues

15. Mule Skinner Blues

16. Wreck On The Highway

17. The Drunkard's Grave

18. Rocky Road Blues

19. Searching For A Soldier's Grave

20. Blue Moon Of Kentucky

21. Dust On The Bible

22. I Heard My Mother Weeping

23. Will You Be Loving Another Man?

24. Blue Grass Breakdown

25. It's Mighty Dark To Travel

26. Molly And Tenbrooks (The Race Horse Song)

Disc 2

1. Can't You Hear Me Callin'

2. Foggy Mountain Breakdown

3. Poor Ellen Smith

4. The Drunkard's Hell

5. The Lonesome River

7. The Fields Have Turned Brown

8. The White Dove

10. I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

11. I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home

12. Uncle Penn

14. When The Angels Rolled The Stone Away

15. Earl's Breakdown

16. Don't Get Above Your Raising

17. Are You Missing Me?

18. Why Did You Wander?

19. Flint Hill Special

20. I'll Go Stepping Too

21. Love And Wealth

22. 20 / 20 Vision

23. My Lord Keeps A Record

24. I Love The Hymns They Sang At Mother's Grave

25. Reunion In Heaven

Disc 3

3. Seven Year Blues

4. Get Down On Your Knees And Pray

5. Somebody Touched Me

6. Feudin' Banjos

8. Knoxville Girl

9. Once More

10. Twin Banjo Special

11. Gosh, I Miss You All The Time

12. You Don't Know My Mind

13. Rank Stranger

15. Foggy Mountain Top

18. She Left Me Standing On The Mountain

19. Sunny Side Of The Mountain

20. Just Joshing

24. Rosalee

25. No More Goodbyes

26. The Ballad Of Jed Clampett

28. Rocky Top

29. Mountain Dew

30. Dueling Banjos

Disc 4

2. Black Mountain Rag (Soldier's Joy) (Live)

3. Pretty Boy Floyd

4. Bristol Steam Convention Blues

5. Farther Along

7. Can't You Hear Me Callin'

8. Cora Is Gone

10. Uncle Pen

11. Till The End Of The World Rolls Round

12. A Vision Of Mother

14. If I Could Be There

15. So Long, So Wrong

17. The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn

18. Little Maggie

19. Carrie Brown

20. Tortured, Tangled Hearts

21. Walls Of Time

22. Is The Grass Any Bluer

23. Daniel Prayed

24. Twelve Gates To The City

25. Soldier's Joy

x

Track List: The Best Of Bluegrass: 80 Years Of American Music

1. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues

2. Cannon Ball Blues

3. Great Speckle Bird

5. Pretty Polly

6. Poor Ellen Smith

7. Can't You Hear Me Callin'

8. I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

9. Don't Get Above Your Raising

10. Twin Banjo Special

12. Pretty Boy Floyd

13. Mountain Dew

14. Uncle Pen

15. If I Could Be There

17. Daniel Prayed

18. Tortured, Tangled Hearts

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