Susan McKeown, an Irish folksinger firmly rooted in the New York City scene, is every bit as good as you might hope when considering those two fully cohesive musical locales. McKeown will perform at the Rosendale Café on Saturday, December 1, fresh off the release of her latest album, Belong.
McKeown cut her teeth as a teenager performing on the streets of Dublin. She came to New York thanks to a bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland with a scholarship to the American Musical & Dramatic Academy, during which time she became a regular performer in the East Village club Sin-é, a legendary venue that featured early performances from Ben Folds, Jeff Buckley and David Gray. McKeown’s official debut album, Bones, followed a pair of cassette-only releases, in 1995, and firmly established her as an important new voice.
Over the years, McKeown has expanded her sound, working in collaborations with a variety of artists and continuing to pursue her own musical avenues. Belong is something of a combination of that spirit, including duets with Declan O’Rourke (on the New York City-set “On Bridge to Williamsburg”) and James Maddock (on “Everything We Had Was Good,” an up-tempo number with enough heartbreak between the lines to feel like an actual love song). The Big Apple makes another appearance in “Lullaby of Manhattan,” and “City of the Roses” and “Our Texas” expand the map a bit further west.
McKeown’s voice is at the center of her music; it’s why she turned away from acting 20 years ago to focus on her music, and it was the right move to make. And there are few venues more perfectly suited to showcase that voice than the Rosendale Café.