O’Keith & McFiddle


Folk Songs You Never Sang in Grade School by Keith Reins and Tara McGovern featuring Jon Cooper began as a Faculty Endowed Chair Award at Kirkwood Community College, where Keith Reins is Professor Emeritus of English.  For the endowment, Keith researched many traditional songs and wrote a series of ten essays about the songs, their history, and the art of balladry. 

The essays were housed at an interactive web site along with the lyrics, audio tracks and other information about the project but are not currently available online.

The original project evolved into a performance and a CD and we are honored that one track from the CD, “The Twa Sisters,” was selected by radio station KUNI as one of the 10 best folk recordings of 2017.

Thematically, the songs in this collection are connected by their frank, dramatic content.  These are folk songs you never sang in grade school.  As a collector, interpreter and performer of folk songs, Keith has always been drawn to “edgy” traditional songs—songs of warning; songs of danger; historical songs of murder and war; songs of disaster; songs of betrayal, regret, and grief; of the ghosts who haunt people and the people who haunt ghosts.

So far, Keith and Tara have brought their music to The Carl Sandburg Birthplace Songbag Concert Series, Galesburg, IL; Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA; Kirkwood Community College, Iowa City, IA; The Ward Irish Music Archives, Milwaukee, WI; Uptown Bill’s, Iowa City, IA; The St. Louis Tionol (an Irish music festival), St. Louis, MO; The Ca d’Zan House Concert Series, Cambridge, IL; Market Music, Iowa City, IA; The Ritual Café, Des Moines, IA; Ballantyne Auditorium (a faculty recital), Cedar Rapids, IA; The Java House, Iowa City (an Iowa Public Radio live performance); The Community College Humanities Association Midwest Conference, Iowa City, IA; and The Anchor Coffee House Concert Series, Des Moines, IA.