Songwriter and Michigan Emmy recipient Kitty Donohoe is not an Irish or Celtic singer, but she clearly draws from that part of her heritage, as well as her American roots, as an artist. A writer of tunes as well as songs, her originals are rich with her natural sense as a storyteller, her love for language and her ear for a melody. Her music is luminous, earthy and compelling, and all of her songwriter CDs integrate the textures and feel of accordions, whistles, pipes and bodhran alongside the more standard guitar, bass or piano. Some of her originals sound like they were written 100 years ago and others are clearly contemporary, but one thing is certain: with or without a band behind her, Kitty’s striking voice carries it all, delivering each song with power and emotion.
Each of Kitty’s CDs has garnered rave reviews for everything from her three-octave voice (“rich, flexible, soaring, haunting” says Victory Music Review), to her instrumental prowess on guitar, cittern and piano (“gifted multi-instrumentalist”, Champlain Valley News) to the songs themselves (“intelligent, literate songwriting”, Tweeddale Press, Ltd.)
Her 9/11 song “There Are No Words” was used in a Pentagon film about the September 11th experience. On hearing the song, Kitty and her band were invited to perform it at the unveiling of the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial on September 11, 2008.
Kitty is a comfortable solo performer, and also often brings along multi-instrumentalist David Mosher (fiddle, mandolin and guitar) as a sideman. There‘s a distinct synergy between the two of them when they take the stage, but the focus is always the songs themselves, which can be about anything from a joyous dance in the fall, to an instrumental called “Jiggle the Handle” to a bluesy treatise on global warming.
Kitty grew up outside of Detroit in a large, Irish American family of avid readers. With eight children, Kitty’s mother never had much time for her own music (she was studying classical voice and piano when she married) so she would play the piano after her brood was in bed. Kitty says “I think I was maybe about 10 when I realized that not all kids fell asleep with the sounds of Chopin and Mozart in their heads.” Kitty began “making up” songs at an early age, and by high school she was playing guitar and writing and performing her own material at open mic nights and small coffee houses.
At nineteen, Kitty left home for Nova Scotia and discovered traditional Maritime music. The intricate turns and phrasings of the style felt natural to her, and upon returning to Michigan, she moved to the Corktown (Irish settlement) area of Detroit, just one block from the Gaelic League, which featured touring Irish bands 7 nights a week, and she absorbed every second of it.
From there, Kitty began supporting herself primarily by performing at small folk clubs and bars, gradually integrating her own material into her set lists, and releasing her first album, “Farmer in Florida”, (Roheen Records) in 1986. In the early 90’s (after the release of “As Sparks Fly Upward”) she stepped back a bit to spend more time raising her family and to take a breather. Always keeping a hand in the performing end of things, she began touring and concentrating on concert work in the mid-90’s, and since her move to Ann Arbor in 2001 Kitty has released two CDs and is currently doing the research for an Irish American project.