Review: Liz Carroll & Jimmy Keane: Dublin TradFest January 2019

Tradfest: Liz Carroll & Jimmy Keane 

Irish Music Magazine 

Live Review by Mark Lysaght 

City Hall, Dublin, January 25, 2019 

Dublin’s TradFest has evolved over the years to become a major 

event in the city’s calendar, and one of the highlights this year 

was the visit of Chicago-based duo Liz Carroll and Jimmy 

Keane for a once-off performance at the City Hall. The pair have known 

each other for many years, and played together at countless gatherings 

and concerts as they developed parallel careers. Liz released a new CD 

in February called Half Day Road with Jake Charron and also has a 

band called Trian with Billy Comiskey and Daithí Sproule; over the 

years she has played with just about everyone! Jimmy has a long- 

standing partnership with singer/accompanist Pat Broaders as well as 

playing with Larry Nugent and Pauline Conneely in recent times. He 

also performs regularly with Dennis Cahill, Paddy Homan and Dave 



Chatting with Liz and Jimmy before the gig, it was obvious how 

pleased they were to be performing at TradFest; it was a short visit, as 

they were on a plane home to Chicago the day after the gig, but they 

were availing of the opportunity to catch up with as many of their Irish 

musical friends as possible. The stage at City Hall is suitably decorated with the 

Tricolour on the left side, with the US Stars & Stripes on the right. 

As the venue began to fill up, it was remarkable how many fellow-musicians 

had come out to see them, and an air or expectancy build. 

Liz and Jimmy arrived on stage to a tumultuous welcome, and 

launched into a long set of tunes starting with a slow piece called 

Hanley’s House of Happiness, composed by Liz, and gradually 

developing momentum through three jigs, finishing with Rush’s Jig. The 

musicianship is stellar and Jimmy, playing a massive piano accordion, 

provided subtle bass accompaniment throughout to add a beautiful 

narrative to each piece. The crowd went wild, and this set the scene for 

the rest of the evening. 


The pair onstage were wonderfully relaxed, and each piece was 

explained in detail, as many of the selections were self-composed. Liz 

delivered a wonderful solo of her tunes The Bird and The Greek Petunia

before it was Jimmy’s turn to shine – he took an extremely well-known 

tune, The Boys Of Blue Hill and created an entirely new interpretation 

he called Bluehill, before finishing with two reels (Allie’s and Bailey’s

dedicated to his family dogs! 


We were witnessing two wonderful musicians playing at the top of 

their game, and another duet starting with The Queen of the Fairies 

(a sort of sister-tune to The King of the Fairies) showed the wonderful 

instinctive sense of dynamics built into their performance. Both players 

are expert tune-writers, several Liz Carroll tunes have entered the 

popular session repertoire over the years, and Jimmy Keane composes 

pieces of the highest quality. 


As the night progressed, we got a real insight into the realities of 

growing up in Chicago from both musicians, born to Irish parents and 

becoming immersed in a local traditional scene as youngsters, 

developing their craft and learning to absorb and express various 

influences in their early careers. To this day Chicago is a cornerstone of 

the US traditional music scene, which has also nurtured a number of ex- 

pats, notably Martin Hayes. 


Jimmy was once described as “the saviour of the piano accordion”by 

the late Mícheál Ó’Súilleabháin, and watching him play you can see 

why, his effortless light touch allowing him to traverse the keyboard and 

embellish the tunes expertly, in a way that seems to elude so many 

players of the instrument, as well as tasteful use of the bass side to 

provide accompaniment which is harmonically dynamic. 


And what can you say about Liz Carroll? Technically superb, her deep immersion 

in her art, ability to interpret the nuances of each tune so naturally, with 

an endearingly impish sense of humour which completely won over a 

most discerning audience at City Hall. Towards the end of the night, she 

took a solo of three of her own tunes, The Chandelier, Anne Lacey’s and 

Johnny D’s, which literally brought the house down. 


On to the final selection, which included the Ten Acre Waltz by Liz 

and a brace of Jimmy Keane reels (Bedpan and Charleston) to end on 

a triumphant note. The set had extended way beyond the allotted time 

but the crowd still bayed for more. So Liz and Jimmy returned to play 

a lively encore, finishing appropriately enough with The Chicago Reel. 

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