Although the McKrells are not creating new music or performing anymore, they are still one of our all-time favorite bands. They successfully combined two different genres of music—American Bluegrass and Irish Celtic—and created a whole new sound. We heard them for the first time at an Irish festival here in town. That was all we needed to hear to decide they were incredible. We became fans for life.
A short and sweet background on the band:TheMcKrells formed in Saratoga, New York in the mid-1990s. Kevin McKrell’s band, Donnybrook Fair, was winding down. He added ChrisLesketo the group. The personnel change helped their sound evolve. Chris was an award-winning banjo player.Prior to hooking up with Kevin, he had been playing withguitarist Craig Vance in a bluegrass band called Summit.When their guitarist left the band, naturally Kevin and Chris looked to Craig to fill the slot. And with that, the band we know as The McKrells were born. Together they played an entirely new type of music—Celtic Bluegrass.They started by playing in local bars and were immensely popular. Then came sold out shows at small theaters around the country, festivals, and toured Ireland. Their songs raced up the charts, winning over both bluegrass and Celtic music fans. They were able to play at some famous venues in the United States: Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Their songs have been covered by various other artists, including bands like The Kingston Trio and Hair of the Dog.Other bands have followed in their musical footsteps but none as successfully as the original!
The McKrells, sadly, broke up in 2006. It was a breakup in the usual way. The band members all wanted to move in different directions and it was easier to go separate ways. The breakup was fairly ugly, according to interviews we have read with Kevin. Most band members quickly moved on to other projects. For example, Kevin McKrell has become a portrait painter and still performs, often with his daughter Katie. He also gives tours of Ireland. Other band members have found their way in and out of other groups as well.
The McKrellshave performed very small ‘reunion’ shows in the New York Capital region a couple times. Most recently was February of 2017 at the Saratoga Racetrack. So if you haven’t seen them or you want to again, don’t lose hope. The lineup will vary—sometimes musicians have other obligations or simply would rather not play together—butyou’ll hardly even notice. We try to keep our ears open to hear of shows, and if we hear of anything with enough notice, we will try to get it on the blog.
In the meantime, much of their music is available for download at places like Amazon or iTunes. There are also plenty of videos available on YouTube.