The Key of Blue – album 8 is out!

‘m very happy to bring you yet another album. The Key of Blue is my eighth one and is released on 22 March 2024. You can listen to it here and you can buy it here or from Bandcamp, iTunes and other stores as detailed here.

I think it’s my best one yet but you’d expect me to say that, wouldn’t you? So instead of my opinion I’m offering you the expert appraisal of the legendary Jackie Hayden. He’s the man who gave U2 their first record deal, and he also wrote my first ever Hot Press album review. He’s been writing about my albums ever since and here’s what he has to say about The Key of Blue.

“This latest batch of songs off the Tommy Keyes’ production line connects Tommy’s roots in early fifties rock’n’roll through a succession of quality pop eras that embraces such individual talents as The Beatles, Carole King, Suzi Quatro, Elvis, Elton and, yes, our own dear Gilbert O’Sullivan. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine Gilbert looking benignly over Tommy’s shoulders as he crafted yet another fine album for our delectation.

Once again, Tommy has applied a magic coating to his output that makes it sound as vibrant as the latest 21st century pop sensation. Indeed, the totality of the work emphasizes how naturally he can craft wonderful songs and performances out of his love for the genre.  The album title and theme also serve as timely reminders that much of the best of pop music has its roots forever tangled up in the blues, and one suspects that many of Tommy’s musical cohorts are similarly steeped. That he can conjure up another 16 tracks that achieve such a high standard is proof of the depth of the man’s talent and his instinct for a meaningful song.

The recent death of Mary Weiss, lead vocalist of The Shangri-Las brought the key contribution of the “backing-groups” of the sixties back for re-evaluation. Tommy’s musical experience and his pop sensibilities make him fully aware of that contribution, and their influence seeps into many of the arrangements on this new album, including the nostalgic Don’t Let It Go.

The album opens with the joyous This Is The Song We Were Singing which almost cries out to be tackled by the afore-mentioned Gilbert who often seems to be forgotten when we come to roll-call Irish artists who took the international pop scene by storm. The track combines Keyes’ trademark pianistic skills and gritty vocals with a catchy melody as well as brilliant sax from Richie Buckley and those charming fifties-style doo-wop backing voices featuring the excellent Ellen O’Mahony and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash fame.   Don’t Tell Me (Cos I Already Know) could sit easily with the big voice of a Tom Jones. Keyes does it his way, as a gently-paced track with a production that leaves space for his emotional vocal performance to shine through.

Turning Red is driven by a solid rhythm section and Tommy’s incessant, smoldering blues piano that leads into Dick Farrelly’s scalding guitar solo. Now imagine adding Don Baker’s harmonica to the fray and you’d be advised to “stand well back”.  The Old Man In The Mirror is about a stark refusal to accept the effects of ageing, its wistful intro leading to a fine slice of chamber-pop that again brings Gilbert to mind.  Arrangement-wise, Tommy again proves he knows when less is more than enough.

The Sleepless Blues is drenched in that after-hours melancholy for which the right music is the only cure.  And this is exactly what you get. Tommy’s piano weaves around Farrelly’s guitar and Buckley’s sax and his own effortless vocal to help get you through to dawn. Appropriately, there’s also an after-hours bar-room nonchalance to the philosophical Better Times as its string arrangement by Rob Molumby blending effectively with the rest of the ensemble.

Tommy isn’t shy when it comes to using lyrics to reflect on the world as he sees it. Fairweather Friends has him in no mood to tolerate the people who let you down when you need them, and Corduroy makes a wry fashion statement with a tongue in at least one cheek and Gilbert again not far away while Thomas Walsh adds his trademark vocal heft to proceedings.

Another noteworthy contribution comes with his once-baby grandson Archie kicking off Sailing Away before tasty violins flesh out a heartfelt song of departure. What is it they say about the family that plays together? There’s also a detour into latin-tinged swing on the title track The Key of Blue which features a languid co-vocal from jazz singer Dara MacGabhann. But all good things do come to an end, and this generous 16-track album concludes with Somewhere Down The Road, an appealing ballad that showcases Tommy’s sturdy piano-playing and his expressive quality vocal.

In a very real sense, The Key of Blue serves as a veritable summary of quality pop over the last seventy years while at the same time adding more gems to that treasury. It looks like Tommy’s done it again.”