Alison Perkins and Nicolas Brown are one of the brightest Irish music duos in the United States.
They have been playing music on the uilleann pipes, flute and fiddle together for fifteen years. Since the release of their album All Covered With Moss, they have been bringing their close musical partnership to the stage. Together and as individual artists, they have performed and taught at festivals, concerts, and tionóil across North America. The two musicians research forgotten settings of obscure tunes and introduce them to audiences in a musical style that is bold, spirited, unique, and undeniably rooted in the tradition. Over the years, they have continued to hone their signature sound and perform for Irish traditional music fans across the country, from
San Francisco to Boston.
All Covered With Moss was released in October 2016, to much critical acclaim. The album has been praised as “one of the best fiddle and uilleann pipes albums of the past ten years.” (Irish Music Magazine), "a duo that listens to each other, responding in the moment with structure and spontaneity; blissfully at one in their loose and elastic athleticism" (Songlines Magazine UK), as well as "a grand duo and a lovely racket." (The Irish Echo)
The two met at the 2007 Goderich Celtic festival, where Alison was performing with the Irish singer Seán Keane. Not long after they met they began dating, and five years later they got married at a musical barn wedding in Alison’s hometown. Instead of a first dance, they had a first tune, “Johnny Cope”, which is included on their album.
Alison and Nicolas have both taught and performed at respected venues, schools and festivals across North America, including the Ark, the St. Louis Tionól, New York University's Glucksman Ireland House, the Michigan Irish Music Festival, the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, and the West Coast Tionól.
”An excellent piper who incorporates smart, subtle touches in his ornamentation and regulator work to yield a smooth, gentlemanly style.”
— The Irish Echo
Nicolas Brown was born in Illinois and raised in Ontario, and first started playing Irish music when he was in his late teens. A friend lent him a practice set of uilleann pipes, with which he proceeded to torture his extremely patient and understanding parents. Norman Stiff (a student of Dublin born Chris Langan) started teaching him and gave him two CDs: one of Willie Clancy and one of Seamus Ennis. Nicolas proceeded to listen to these two albums on repeat for the next year. Eventually, he got his own set of pipes, a flute, and some more recordings, and set out on his journey down the Irish music rabbit hole.
In the years since he first picked up a tin whistle at the Fergus Highland Games, Nicolas has not only become a proficient musician and sought-after music teacher; he has also developed a vast knowledge of the history of Irish music, old musicians, tune origins, Irish music in America, and much more. For an example of his Irish music research, see this article on the origins of the tune Johnny Cope.
Nicolas has performed, taught, and given workshops at venues, festivals, and tionóil throughout Canada and the United States. In 2020, during the isolation of the pandemic, he released his solo album Good Enough Music For Them Who Love It. The album consists of music from the late 1700s, played on an antique set of Irish or Union pipes made at the same time. Besides this antique set he plays a Joe Kennedy flat pitch “B” set of union pipes, a hybrid concert pitch “D” set of uilleann pipes, and John Gallagher flutes in F, D, and B, the latter of which is the first modern eight-keyed B flute, as far as he’s aware.
"A brilliant fiddler who sometimes flashes an aggressive drive”.
— The Irish Echo
Alison Perkins grew up in a household filled with music in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of professional musicians, she attended her first concerts before she took her first steps. Her parents regularly brought her to gigs, sessions and music parties, and she often fell asleep inside of her dad's guitar case, lulled to slumber by live music. It wasn't long before her father Jim was showing her how to play simple tunes on the tin whistle. When she got older and expressed an interest in the fiddle, she took lessons from Mick Gavin, whose lovely Clare style can be heard echoed in Alison's playing. She also studied with Marty Somberg, another local legend.
When she was a teenager, she became deeply interested in the older generation of Irish musicians, counting luminaries such as Tommy Potts, Julia Clifford, Denis Murphy, Bobby Casey and Paddy Cronin as influences. During that time, she also became involved with the local Comhaltas branch. She regularly competed at the annual Midwest Fleadh Cheoil, and won the gold medal in the fiddle competition for six consecutive years before "retiring" at the age of eighteen.
In more recent years, Alison has been performing and teaching full time. In 2007, she was invited to go on tour with internationally renowned Irish singer Seán Keane. She has traveled extensively across North America with her Irish folk family band, Finvarra’s Wren. In 2015, she and Irish piper Colleen Shanks co-founded the beloved local Irish music concert series, The Strayaway Child. She is highly sought after as a music teacher, and has taught fiddle at the St. Louis Tionol, the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, the Riley School of Irish Music, and many more.