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His passionate and compelling voice is what they notice first. As a solo artist, Ken O’Malley easily commands the room; with his band he also rocks the house. Quickly drawing the audience in, it is no wonder that the Irish News describes him “without question, as the single most enduring, influential and proficient of all Irish musicians in Southern California” and the University of St. Thomas at Houston acknowledges him to be “widely regarded as the finest Irish folk singer/songwriter in the United States today.”
Arriving in Los Angeles from Ireland over 30 years ago, Ken O’Malley was immediately offered a spot at Molly Malone’s, the legendary Irish venue in the city’s Fairfax district, and he hasn’t stopped playing since. Through the years, O’Malley has performed solo and as part of The Mulligans, Blended Spirits and, currently, The Twilight Lords. He’s shared bills with such artists as Mary Black, The Chieftains, The Saw Doctors, Michael Flatley, and Pierce Brosnan and continues to be an ever-popular and near legendary constant on Southern California’s Celtic music circuit. In addition to his musical performances, he can also be found on stage and screen in productions ranging from Ray Bradbury’s “Falling Upward” to the Paramount Pictures feature “Patriot Games”.
Indeed, Ken O’Malley was born to perform. In Dublin at the age of 15, he opened for legendary balladeer Paddy Reilly at the equally legendary Old Sheiling Pub. By the time he turned 18, he was gathering professional credits, among them a stint with Trudy’s People, a group he formed that played Gaelic shows on RTÉ, Ireland’s national radio and television network. His fluency in the Gaelic language was earned from his education by the Christian Brothers and his summers in the West of Ireland.
A true ambassador of Irish culture, he infuses every performance with the rich history of his native land and audiences quickly become engaged with his compelling stories. One show producer put it this way: “He holds nothing back. Whether singing a passionate ballad, playing a solo on the mandolin, or explaining the gloriously sad history of Erin his homeland, Ken O’Malley is all-in, wide open to the world, and as true as an arrow’s flight.” Another simply stated that “Ken O’Malley connected with our audience in a way none of our other artists have.”
His first CD, “The White Seahorse,” stands as a masterful homage to traditional Irish music enhanced with solid rhythms, acoustic and electric instruments matched by the powerful vocal energy that is the hallmark of a Ken O’Malley performance. The follow up release, “Women of Ireland,” continues to showcase O’Malley’s irresistible blend of Celtic traditional, American roots rock and eclectic world beat, this time before an enthusiastic live audience at the Celtic Arts Center in Hollywood.
O’Malley’s most recent release, is appropriately titled ÓMáille, his name in Gaelic, and demonstrates O’Malley’s considerable strength as a solo artist. These traditional arrangements, though spartan, brilliantly bring the music of his heritage to life. Dave Soyars of the Irish Herald writes: “His powerful and emotive voice shines through on everything he does, but here he’s the instrumental star as well, with precise but driven acoustic rhythm guitar and solid rhythm and tunes-playing on mandolin.”
“If I’ve made people happy with my performances,” says O’Malley, “that’s success to me.”