Kevin Keady is a familiar face on the Chappaquiddick ferry, traveling back and forth between his home on Chappy to play gigs all over the Island. He and his band the Cattle Drivers play most every Saturday morning at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market.
Mr. Keady is a contemporary folksinger. He writes from the heart and in a changing world, that is a nice place to begin. Mr. Keady has a new CD out called The Best of Kevin Keady, but that title doesn’t tell the whole story. The CD is really a collection of favorite tunes he’s written, plus a new one, a tune he was commissioned to write. The song is called One Way Home. It is about riding the Chappaquiddick ferry.
If you’ve never heard a Kevin Keady tune, you are in for a pleasant surprise. There is room for foot-tapping and an opportunity to listen to words that have meaning. He is a songwriter with a message. He is a songwriter with a story to tell. He is a musician with tunes that usually have a catchy chorus, words thoughtfully gathered together to have a repeatable ring. Mr. Keady surrounds himself with one of the most talented Island core of musicians. This is a CD for anyone interested in going where Mr. Keady lives.
Mr. Keady calls his home at Pimpneymouse Farm on Chappaquiddick by a name not often heard these days. He calls it “camp.” Twice a year he brings his friends and neighbors together for a late afternoon cookout. People sit around a campfire and listen to music and stories.
There is not a better metaphor to describe Mr. Keady’s tunes. One can’t help but feel there is a campfire burning somewhere in every one of his songs. Even when he performs at a local establishment, like The Wharf, there is a level of fellowship between the singer and his audience. To phrase it another way, when Mr. Keady pulls out his Taylor guitar and starts strumming, one gets the smell and flavor of the open fire. A lot of people know his words and sing along.
Mr. Keady, 49, came to the Vineyard 22 years ago from a Bohemian lifestyle in Northhampton. He has recorded a number of CDs here, including Hay Day in 1995, Catch and Release in 1997 and The Off-season.
With deliberate bravery, two years ago he recorded a CD of a reading of The Raven, an Edgar Allen Poe poem. It was a significant contribution to the Island musical community, but an even bigger gift to the those who love poetry. Mr. Keady’s baritone voice suited the 19th century poet and writer.
This is understandable as Mr. Keady celebrates the poetry of song in all of his performances. Years ago, he brought together a group of Island musicians to perform Leonard Cohen tunes.
Last year Peter Wells, who owns the Chappaquiddick ferry, approached Mr. Keady about writing a song.
“I was driving off the Chappy Ferry when Peter waved me into the Memorial Wharf parking lot,” Mr. Keady said. “I thought he was going to tell me of a ticket price increase.”
Mr. Keady said he learned about the publishing of a new book about the Chappy ferry and that there was going to be a movie, too. Mr. Wells commissioned the artist to come up with a song.
“I wrote the song One Way Home and sang it over the phone for John Wilson [who was making the film],” Mr. Keady said. One positive response led to another. Last winter he went to Jim Parr’s recording studio in Oak Bluffs and with the help of Mike Benjamin, a long-time musical friend and producer of Mr. Keady’s works, recorded the song.
Tomorrow, June 30, Mr. Keady performs One Way Home at the Chappaquiddick Community Center during a reception for The Chappy Ferry Book, Back and Forth Between Two Worlds — 527 Feet Apart, written by Tom Dunlop. The book includes photographs by Alison Shaw and illustrations by Dana Gaines. Also on hand will be the book’s publisher, Jan Pogue, of Vineyard Stories, and Mr. Wilson. The event is from 5 to 7 p.m.
On Sunday, July 1, Mr. Keady performs the song again for a celebration of the book’s publication at the Old Sculpin Gallery, next to the Chappaquiddick Ferry slip. The event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
And on Monday, July 16, he will host a CD release party from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.
“My passion is songs,” Mr. Keady said. “I love them as a mechanism for sparking the imagination, provoking thought, inciting change. Songs can rally crowds or sing someone to sleep.”
Mr. Keady spends much of his day working at the farm.
“I live a song every day, play every day and end the day in song,” Mr. Keady said. “I spend most of the day in a 20-year-old John Deere tractor. It gives me the time to think all day about songs.”
These songs can be heard regularly at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market.
“I like arriving there early with the farmers,” Mr. Keady said. He uses the extra early morning time to confer with other farmers and prepare for the morning concert, which usually starts at 10 a.m. He will be there tomorrow with his band, The Cattle Drivers: Don Groover on guitar, Matt Rosenthal on drums, Nate Davis on mandolin or banjo and Becky Tinus on fiddle.
“I love the demographic of the market goers,” Mr. Keady said. “The West Tisbury Farmers’ Market is the ideal place to showcase a band like The Cattle Drivers. We get a lot of gigs from it and people give us free vegetables and bread.”