Ahakista, County Cork
Kenny Dread's new album We Will Be Lovers represents a romantic reckoning: Kenny Dread looking back at a decade of sailing the high seas of polyamory, heartbreak, and hedonistic travel. A middle aged bon vivant (with a spiritual streak) parsing the complexities of friend/lover affairs and life as an expat beach bum. In this, his third album, Kenny Dread also journeys away from the Americana of his previous release Malastrana and into the stylistic territory of his formative years: echoes of reggae, African guitars, rap cadences, Brazilian lounge, Sanskrit chanting, and pulsing electronica all flavor the song-memoirs. Recorded primarily in the creative hub of West Cork Ireland, We Will Be Lovers was crafted in a stone house overlooking a small fishing port. Guest artists such as the Anglo-Irish chanteuse Anna Murray and intuitive cellist Lea Miklódy would record in the old parlor, laughing over the headphones, and gather for wine and dinner after the session. Further studio work was done in Chicago with the wünderkind trumpeter Michael Werner of red hot jazz-rap-rock group Manwolves.
Kenny Dread studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Stucky at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music before stagediving into the 1980’s Washington D.C. punk-rock scene. He recorded go-go anthem D.C. Groove with Static Disruptors in 1982 and toured the East Coast with go-go punks Outrage until 1987. The Static D’s and Outrage brought the funk to new-wave clubs like CBGB and Danceteria and had the skinheads skanking at hardcore hall shows.
Kenny Dread got his stage name touring and recording with the legendary Rastafari punk shaman and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee H.R., lead singer of Bad Brains. During the 80’s Kenny also promoted concerts and afterhours parties, produced records for D.C. punk groups, performed with nyabinghi reggae godfather Ras Michael, and recorded with English punk goddess Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex. The early 90’s found Kenny in the South of France performing with American expatriate rock band The Immigrants, and collaborating with members of that group to create his first solo foray, the dreamy folk-rock Walkin’ Down Your Street. A slow motion move to the West of Ireland inspired a more acoustic mode: The rootsy singer-songwriter album Powderhorn was released in 1997 with contributions from Asian-American guitar wizard Levi Chen and Windham Hill harpist Lisa Lynne, as well as a licensed adaption of poetry by Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient. Kirtan yoga chanting became a major focus from the turn of the century: Kenny Dread co-founded and produced Chicago chant ensemble Devi 2000, and performed with kirtan dignitaries Dave Stringer and Bhagavan Das.
Chicago’s indie-rock and Americana scene inspired 2008’s Malastrana which featured guest performances by members of Wilco, Swell Season, and Califone. Years of sessions and gigging in the creative rural hub of West Cork led to full Irish citizenship in 2012, around the time Kenny guested as lead guitarist with Irish roots rockers The Calvinists. Kenny Dread dusted off Red With Wine an outtake from Malastrana for a rushed release in response to the war on music that was the Paris Bataclan tragedy. He is currently producing the debut album of West Cork singer-songwriter Miranda McCarthy.