Alt-folk duo The Breath is singer/flautist Ríoghnach Connolly and Manchester-based guitarist Stuart McCallum.
The pair will make their Kilkenny debut and perform their only Irish date at the Keep Her Lit festival on Saturday 19 August in the stunning St. Mary’s Church in Inistioge.
Connolly and McCallum met on the city’s gig circuit in the late noughties. An unlikely pairing though it was, he an acclaimed guitar whiz, ex-long-time member of The Cinematic Orchestra and a softly spoken Manchester urbanite, she a folk singer with a larger-than-life personality and a powerful voice to match. Their connection was immediate; they formed The Breath in 2016, a singer-songwriter duo to present their contemporary take on alt-folk.
For them, it’s all about the song. Connolly is a storyteller and their exquisitely crafted, honest, personal, heartfelt songs are as likely to touch on childhood summers and first love as cultural dislocation, post-colonial injustices and grief. But it’s Ríoghnach’s impassioned delivery and extraordinary stop-you-in-your-tracks voice, coupled with Stuart’s understated brilliance that is so engaging.
The Breath have released three albums on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. Their breakthrough album, Carry Your Kin (2016) delved deeply into the spaces between rock, ambient and Irish folk, where layered vocals, mesmerising guitar riffs and expansive folk arrangements created a big sound. Let the Cards Fall followed in 2018, and, like the first, was recorded with a full band granting a multi-textured kaleidoscope of sound with a cinematic sensibility. References to Celtic history and cultural loss are woven into a bewitching collection of songs that span beguiling ballads and punch-the-air anthems. In support of the release, Stuart and Ríoghnach performed a series of shows – just the two of them. Stripped bare, they found a new depth and beauty in their songs allowing their extraordinary connection to shine through. The duo returned to the studio in 2019 to record Only Stories (Let the Cards Fall Revisited) reimagining previous work (alongside two new songs) taking it back to its acoustic roots. This new direction would see Ríoghnach Connolly receive an RTÉ Folk Award nomination for Best Folk Singer and win Folk Singer Of The Year at the 2019 BBC R2 Folk Awards for which the duo were also nominated as Best Duo/Group.
The Breath will be joined by Kilkenny-based folk trio Sola at Keep Her Lit on Saturday, July 19th. Limited tickets are on sale now from keepherlitfestival.ie. Check out the festival website for full programme details and lineup.