Tune Tale with Jimmy Keane

Accordion player Jimmy Keane talks missing socks and enduring tunes
Episode Trailer

Are all traditional tunes created equally? And if they aren’t, what happens to the, um, lesser tunes? Do they end up like lost dryer socks? Chicago-based accordion player Jimmy Keane reflects on the room of bad tunes, and shares one of his loveliest compositions in this month’s off season installment. 


Thank you to everybody for listening. And a special thank you to this month’s underwriters: John Ploch, Finn Agenbroad, David Vaughan, Brian Benscoter, Joe Garrett, Gerry Corr

Episode 38 – Tune Tale with Jimmy Keane: Accordion player Jimmy Keane talks missing socks and enduring tunes
This Irish Music Stories episode aired Feb 11, 2020

Speakers, in order of appearance
>> Shannon Heaton: flute player, singer, composer, teacher, and host of Irish Music Stories 

>> Jimmy Keane: Chicago-based accordion player born in London of Irish-speaking parents from Connemara and Kerry

>> Nigel Heaton: young announcer for Irish Music Stories

* * * * * * *

>>Shannon: I’m Shannon Heaton and welcome to another Irish Music Stories Tune Tale, a short, off-season meditation on traditional music, and the bigger stories behind it…

[ Music: “Redican’s/The Merry Old Woman/The Chapel Bell,” from Bohola

Artist: Bohola ]

… like how all tunes are NOT created equal.

>>Jimmy: I mean, bad tunes don’t last, right? 

>>Shannon: That’s Chicago-based accordion player Jimmy Keane.

>>Jimmy: Because, you know, if no one plays them, they just take care of themselves. 

>>Shannon: Right. They evaporate. Or they go to the room of bad tunes.

>>Jimmy: Oh, I should clean out that room someday. Oh… there was… I was wondering where that was!

>>Shannon: Yeah, you don’t want to get rid of it, in case you’ll need it someday.

>>Jimmy: Or it could be like the missing sock from the dryer. Oh, there it is!

>>Shannon: I like the idea of the room of bad tunes, but there is a more sincere story here too.

Since Irish music is spread by musicians playing their favorite tunes, and teaching their friends, truly BAD compositions don’t stand much of a chance in the folk process. 

Good tunes last. Good ideas last. 

And banal… or bad… or toxic ones don’t.

Or if they do, their champions usually repent… eventually. Right?

The arc of Irish music is long, but it bends toward the just, the noble, the lyrical.

One of the most lyrical tunes that I know of yours, Horse Keane’s hornpipe. It has a very beautiful swing, a lift to it. But it also has just such tunefulness, such lyrical expression.

>>Jimmy: Well, thank you . Well, actually, I wrote that as a tune. It just so happened that it was a hornpipe thing. And of course then Horse Keane’s hornpipe. You know Horse Keane’s slip jig didn’t sound as good!

>>Shannon: Yeah, and when you write tunes, do you think of rhythms in advance? Or?

[Music: “Accordion drones,” from IMS studio

Artist: Shannon Heaton)

>>Jimmy: No, I think it’s just the melody. I mean, you know, a tune will come into your head. Or a combination of notes. And then when you pick up the instrument… it doesn’t necessarily trans… get its way down to the fingers. Even though I’m thinking of this combination of notes, oh, that ain’t going to work on this. Right?

>>Shannon: It’s true. When I play tunes on the flute that were written by button accordion players, or piano accordion players, like Jimmy, versus ones written by fiddle players; well they can feel different. Like the accordion ones can feel more chordal and expansive. The fiddling ones can be more intricate and compact.

Jimmy wrote Horse Keane’s hornpipe for his dad. He wrote it on the box, which probably affects the way it ended up. The feel of it, the exact melody. It is particularly nice on the accordion and on my son, Nigel’s melodica.

Here’s Nigel now to thank this month’s sponsors.

>>Nigel: Thank you to John Ploch, Finn Agenbroad, David Vaughan, Brian Benscoter, Joe Garrett, and Gerry Corr.

>>Shannon: Thank you. I’m working away at Season Four, which will launch in May. And I really couldn’t be traveling to do interviews, and covering the online hosting and podcasting expenses if it weren’t for your support.

If you love what I’m doing, please head to IrishMusicStories dot org. There’s a donate button. Or sign up for the email list. Or share the link with a pal. Because I think more people should hear Horse Keane’s HP, played here by Jimmy Keane and guitar player Dennis Cahill.

[ Music: “Horse Keane’s hornpipe,” from Live

Artist/Composer: Jimmy Keane ]

Thanks for listening. Hope you’ll tune in next month for another Irish Music Stories Tune Tale. And in the meantime, don’t waste your energy on the losers. Look to the light, look to the lyrical.

[ Music: “Peacock’s Feather,” from the Johnny Doherty’s March/Moving-On song set, Bohola

Artist: Bohola ]

>>Jimmy: You know, if it’s a sucky tune, there’s not much… you’re not going to be able to do anything with it. Right? You’re going to be fighting that tune, because that tune shouldn’t go this way, but somehow else it’s going that way. So, I gotta learn it this way; I’m not going to learn that tune. Forget that tune. There’s a million more tunes that I can play…

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Cast of Characters

Episode guests in order of appearance

Jimmy Keane


Chicago-based accordion player born in London of Irish-speaking parents from Connemara and Kerry

The Heaton List