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There’s a good reason why Kathleen O’Keefe’s first album, Hide Away, doesn’t really sound much like a “debut.” Let’s call it “seasoning.”

Maybe if she had tried making it 20 years ago, around the same age that many of her peers on the Texas music scene were all releasing their debuts, the resulting songs would have felt a little more innocent and a lot less careworn, frayed around the edges, and just well, lived in. But despite having played guitar since high school and even writing a fair amount of songs in college and throughout her younger adulthood, the Dallas-born-and-raised O’Keefe opted early on to initially chart a different course through her beloved Texas music industry.

Although she sang backup vocals for friends both onstage and on record, and even played a fair amount of club and festival gigs of her own, she spent the better part of two decades working behind the scenes, most notably as a production and event coordinator for Dickson Productions (helping to organize MusicFest, the annual massive gathering of the Texas/Red Dirt tribes in Steamboat Springs, Colorado), and later as the Director of Programs for the Center of Texas Music History. Along the way, she also dabbled a bit in journalism, served time in the service industry trenches, and most importantly learned a whole lotta lessons about love, life, and resilience — from marriage and divorce to roughing it (by choice!) for months in an off-the-grid cabin outside of Roanoke, Virginia.

And that’s the Kathleen O’Keefe who at long last embraces her true calling with Hide Away. Recorded with a handful of Texas music scene friends at the Woodshed Studios in San Marcos (right across the street from the historic songwriter’s haven Cheatham Street Warehouse), the album finds her distilling more than half-a-lifetime’s worth of real-world experiences into 10 songs that could only be written and convincingly sung by a fully formed artist and full-grown woman: not wide-eyed and naive but hardened and tempered, with a heart shot full of holes but stronger, wiser, and braver by the scar.

– Richard Skanse

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