‘Fret King’ and singer Damien O’Kane was born in 1978 and hails from Coleraine in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland where he began touring the world with his very own family band who, coincidentally, were known as ‘The Von Trapps of Coleraine’. He moved to England in 2001 to study at Newcastle University and graduated in 2005. He’s been performing ever since and has never looked back!
O’Kane is earning a growing reputation for being a creative and exciting musician, singer and composer. Primarily a banjo player, and an “outstanding” one at that according to The Sunday Express, he’s recently been winning accolades as a singer, focusing on songs from his native Northern Ireland and further afield.
“He’s a formidable player and outstanding interpreter of songs…”
Damien is probably best known for his work with Shona Kipling (the duo were nominated at the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards) and Flook and has travelled worldwide with both of these acts. He has been a full-time member of Kate Rusby’s band now for three years playing guitar, tenor and electric guitars, banjo and vocals. O’Kane has a sincere and exceptional ability to accompany the subtlest of songs then lift his banjo and rip into a blistering set of tunes.
Damien released his debut solo album Summer Hill in 2010 on the Pure Records label, produced by Joe Rusby and himself. This release was hailed by much of the press and public including The Sun, The Sunday Express, BBC Music, Songlines and more. Irish Music Magazine stated that Summer Hill was“…the best and most surprising vocal CD of 2010″ and BBC Music said “…what hits you immediately is the richness of O’Kane’s voice. It is both strong and sweet, rough and romantic, giving directness and immediacy to the old stories he has collected.”
O’Kane was joined on the record by acclaimed musicians and singers Michael McGoldrick, Kate Rusby, John-Joe Kelly,
Ian Carr and many more. Summer Hill has received a vast amount of airplay including on Mike Harding’s BBC Radio 2 show who described it as “an absolute cracker.” Some of the tracks were also very recently used on a soundtrack for a program on BBC 2 Television N.Ireland. 2011 saw the release of Damien’s instrumental record The Mystery Inchwith superb Sheffield guitarist David Kosky. This release gained the lads an award at The Spiral Earth Awards for ‘Best Instrumental Album 2012”. Songlines magazine said “It’s incredibly assured, intimate playing, full of invention, fun and friendship and studded with moments of real beauty…” ✭✭✭✭✩ Both records firmly putting Damien’s name on the map.
“O’Kane has certainly set the bar high…”
As well as touring full-time with Kate Rusby, Damien tours with his own band of merry men including some of the finest musicians on the scene such as Ed Boyd, John-Joe Kelly, Duncan Lyall, Gerard Thompson, Aaron Jones and others on occasions.
Firmly rooted in his Irish roots, Damien’s music is exciting, emotive, hypnotic and expressive of his life story so far where his talents have taken him all round the globe from Canada to Chester, from Spain to Coleraine! His music will be around for a very long time. Don’t miss live.
“A gorgeous record”
✭✭✭✭✩ – The Sunday Express