SKF NOTE: I always enjoy speaking with Barry Keane. Barry and I first met in 1980 or 1981 when I interviewed him for the August-September 1981 Modern Drummer. We spoke about Barry’s experience as a studio drummer, with Anne Murray and others. And we spoke about Barry’s work as percussion orchestrator with Gordon Lightfoot — which I first witnessed in concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in New York.
Two days ago, April 12, I was glad to say yes to Barry’s invitation to An Evening with Gordon Lightfoot at Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, Maine. Mr. Lightfoot is one of the major singer-songwriters — certainly of my generation, and likely for all time. And the band I heard two days ago, except for guitarist Carter Lancaster, are the same musicians I heard in 1980-81.
Barry is playing the same drumset he had in ’80-’81. We have a long-running joke that the drumheads are the same too. But the point is: Barry’s drums sound great. And he, along with Gordon and the rest of the band, create one sound that can only happen, I suppose, when the same musicians have been together between 40-50 years.
Sitting in the audience I am listening to each song as one sound made up of many parts. I can also shift my attention to the sound of keyboard player Mike Heffernan, or Rick Haynes’s solid bass, or to Barry Keane’s brushes, triangles, woodblocks, or the wake-up tom-tom fills of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The audience is there to hear Gordon Lightfoot and his songs. And the bandmembers are excellent at creating musical parts for themselves that also perfectly fit Lightfoot’s songs.
My friend, Jason Carey, is with me two nights ago. He is surprised Barry leaves so much space in his drumming. After the show, Jason asks Barry if he’s ever tempted to play more. Before Jason finishes is question, Barry is shaking his head saying, “No. No. Because that wouldn’t be right for the songs.”
Here, then, is my 1981 interview with Barry. He is now touring parts of the States with Gordon Lightfoot. If you have a chance to go — go! You will hear great songs, great musicianship, and get a crash course in how a band sounds as a world-class team.
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