The Blarney Man comes to town to share songs of Ireland as the second installment of the Brewery Art Center’s Celtic series.
Keith Shannon brings his one-man band from Truckee to the BAC on Saturday. The guitar player said the BAC’s Celtic Series is a favorite for him because of the intimacy of the venue. He compared it to playing in a pub, where people are rustling about, eating and drinking and having conversations.
“It’s pretty fun for a guy like me to go to a place where people are actually listening,” he said. “You don’t go into a pub and expect there to be silence.”
Shannon said the first time he played at the BAC he wasn’t expecting how quiet it’d be. He joked and said if people could make some noise with their glasses and drop their silverware, it’d make things easier, at the time.
“It’s a whole different scene,” he said.
As a one-man band, Shannon discovered he could sing ballads well. The songs of stories passed down through generations are a favorite of his, he said.
“It’s a lot of fun to be singing at the Brewery Arts Center because I get a chance to sing ballads,” he said. “When you’re singing by yourself, they are more soulful.”
Shannon plays mostly traditional Celtic music that has been passed down for many years mixed in with some more contemporary stuff. He considers the Irish to be some of the greatest songwriters from a lyrical standpoint.
Shannon’s roots stretch to Ireland through his grandparents, who immigrated to the United States and gave birth to Shannon’s father in Rochester, N.Y. He started playing Irish music in the late ’90s when a friend through the Truckee Alliance for Musical Arts asked him to play a weekly local gig at Malone’s Irish Pub. Although the twist was he didn’t know how to play Irish music at the time. His friend told him, “It’s OK, I know enough for the both of us.”
Shannon learned enough songs to play along in the beginning and added more to his catalog with experience. The band played there for 10 months, until the pub closed, and then another bar was right there to ask them to do a weekly gig on Thursdays. Then he played for a number of years with his son, Dan Shannon, and together they were known as Blarney Band.
“I added my son to the mix, and he liked it and took it to heart, and we’d been playing together ever since,” Shannon said.
Dan moved to Seattle about four years ago, but Shannon keeps his tradition alive as the Blarney Man. The two have played several times together and make it a tradition to play in Truckee on St. Patrick’s Day. They also played a couple of gigs in St. Louis together recently.
Shannon thanks the organizers of the Celtic Series, Joe and Kathy Bly, and said he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“I’m honored to play there,” he said. “There are a lot of choices out there and not many of them are invited to be a solo act.”