Monday, September 26, 2005

Paddy Kilrain : All my pants are held up by the integrity of the thread I use

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Paddy Kilrain walks onstage wearing a pair of green checker-board pants, a sky-blue bandanna and brown shoes.
A hand emerges out from one of the sleeve of her white blouse with burgundy-colored leaves and swipes across her bony frame.

''Is that in tune?'' Kilrain asks, plucking a few strings on her guitar.
The full house who have assembled at Caffe Lena lets her know that everything is in order.

Strapping a capo across her fretboard, she bursts into song - and already, a few bars in, she's already won the crowd over: ''Hi, I'm Paddy, and I'm from Schenectady, New York!''

Kilrain cut her stage teeth at the Electric City's Cafe Dolce, hosting a monthly open mic series that granted public exposure, as well as inspiring a confidence in her songwriting abilities.
Capturing her songs on tape, Kilrain issued ''Between Ego and Fear'' in 1995. It was followed
by the ''Sweet Talkin' Jive'' CD two years later. ''Anointed to the Hilt,'' was issued in 2000.

''I finally got a good guitar about two years ago,'' she said, relaxing in her Albany apartment. ''After struggling with the instrument for such a long time, I didn't realize it was just a matter
of getting a decent guitar, so when I got this guitar, I started playing it and it was like
'Oh! Oh!'...that's the way it's supposed to sound.''

Ask what type of guitar is the object of her affection and she launches into a stream of consciousness that is pure Paddyism: ''It's a Martin guitar, ah Martin, oh Martin, I love my Martin, because I love the name - I once had a dear, dear friend named Martin, it was long ago and far away...''

Onstage, she flows in and out of verse with a spontaneous demeanor bordering on recklessness. The songs start, stop, re-start and often veer off wildly on a tangent when a new thought
strikes her mind's eye.

When she's forgotten the words - which happens from time to time - she'll maintain a rhythmic continuity, strumming her guitar, and eyeballing the ceiling in search of the elusive verse.

''It's too bad I can't remember the words,'' she informs the audience. ''There was some good stuff in there you guys are missing!''

The obligatory folk sing-along is encouraged, although the piece she's chosen is so absurdly complicated that she has to break it down into small, palatable fragments. ''Your part starts
with the line about 'candles,' that'll bring you into the part about 'wind,' like candles flicker because of the wind, see?''
And everyone does see, because Kilrain takes you so deep inside of her head, not only are
you chanting along as part of the grand human chorus, but you've somehow become part of the entire creative process as well.

In her poetic moments, her guitar dangles while she jams one hand into the back pocket of her green slacks, while the other is upturned and extended, as if giving flight to her prose:
''I've stripped my walls of all my cards and concert tickets/nothing left but dried flowers, broken strings/and messages that seem so cryptic...''

Kilrain was born in Binghamton. The Kilrains relocated to Schenectady in the early 80s when Paddy (then known as Patty) was a child.
''When I was a little kid, every weekend me and my sister would be up at dawn playing or fighting,'' she laughs, ''doing things that kids do on Saturday mornings. When my Dad would wake up, he'd come in and put on the Clancy Brothers and we'd all listen.

''I got to thinking that when I did grow up, I wanted to be just like that - off-the-cuff, fun, political,'' she says. ''Of all the things I've listened to - to this day that's the music that's totally in my heart.''

Kilrain's regional base of fan support has expanded to include performances throughout the Northeast, as well as in the southern states of North Carolina and Georgia. Touring can be a lonely experience, yet there is a positive trade-off.

''All over, if people are listening to what I'm playing, there's a certain beauty in the words
that they can hopefully hear and relate to and find comfort in,'' Kilrain says.

Her songs vary with all the rhythmic intensity her hands can muster, zooming up and down the fretboard's neck. They start on a solid foundation, then break open mid-verse, cracking like a million lime-colored coils that ignite the darkness with neon rays falling out and shooting everywhere at once.

''People come up to me and say, 'you're so upbeat and full of energy,' but really,'' she says,
''I think that I just have an anxiety disorder.''

Her voice scales a tightwire, running counter to the music's pulse, blasting through aggressively, or tuneful and so gentle you can hear the breaths in between the beats, alternating with a spontaneous onstage banter that fills the audience with adoration.

Like a wandering sage, she encourages a world of endless possibilities.

''Instead of trying to live in this tiny dot wondering: 'Is there enough to go around for me?''
Kilrain offers, “We should realize that when people do things from a loving perspective,
there is an infinite well of inspiration.''

by Thomas Dimopoulos
originally published in The Saratogian, Feb. 2002

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