Carson City Brewery Arts Center to host Celtic duo Men of Worth Friday
The folk duo Men of Worth, who positions itself firmly at the extreme, traditional end of the Celtic music spectrum, is performing at 7 p.m. Friday in the MHJ Black Box Theater at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St.
Men of Worth’s tunes are closely connected to its heritage; Scotsman Donnie Macdonald, one half of the duo, sings some songs in his native Gaelic; while Irishman James Keigher includes time-polished pieces saved from the oral traditions of his native County Mayo.
“Our music has its history in the crofting life of my Hebridean homeland and James’ Western Ireland. It was a part of the fabric of everyday life and it came to America with the immigrants a century ago,” explained Macdonald. “Now we’re playing it again to audiences for whom it could only be a generational memory.”
Although the pair’s focus is on traditional Celtic music, its formative musical influences were American.
“For us, the irony is we were brought up in Scotland and Ireland, and as boys we listened most eagerly to the music of America, and not especially to the music of own areas,” said Keigher. “On our radios we heard Hank Williams Sr. and Jim Reeves. We wanted to see the Arkansas River, not Loch Lomond, and Reeves’ hometown of Carthage, in east Texas, had more romance for me than did the Isle of Lewis. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash influenced me greatly,” admitted Keigher, who as a teen was already performing his own songs in the Irish pubs where he learned to use his wit and humor. “But now I have returned to my own musical bloodlines, too.”
Macdonald and Keigher perform concerts across the United States, and they also take guided tours to their own musical roots, leading folk fans to the western isles of Scotland and to Ireland’s heartland.
The pair couldn’t escape the emotion and tradition of their homeland song heritage.
“We could not grow away from those sounds,” said Macdonald, “so we have preserved them as accurately and authentically as we can in our performances.”
Sometimes their music comes from prosaic sources — Keigher wrote one song after overhearing two old ladies gossiping about him in a village market — and sometimes from traditional music passed down the generations. Several of Macdonald’s songs come from his mother’s own poetry and from Hebridean crofters’ airs. The musicians, who met in California in 1988, each play a handful of instruments, among them mandolin, guitar, concertina and bodhran, a handheld drum. They are both married to Americans and live on the west coast. Keigher lives in Ashland, Ore., and Macdonald lives near Sacramento, Calif.
Tickets cost $18 for BAC members; $20 for students and seniors; and $25 for general admission. They are available at Breweryarts.org or in the BAC’s Artisan Store, 449 W. King St.
For more information, call the Brewery Arts Center office at 775-883-1976.