baby Ali



Educator      ∙Performer     ∙Designer  





The NexTradition
The Johnson Girls
New York Packet
Ida Red

Alison Kelley grew up singing traditional music as a chantey brat at South Street Seaport.  She was also inspired by sitting at the feet of Pete Seeger as he performed for children on the Upper West Side. Bitten by the music bug, she joined her elementary, junior high and high school choruses and hasn’t stopped singing since.

During college, Alison performed and toured with the CCNY Gospel Choir and the CCNY Vocal Ensemble. She also performed and conducted a series of workshops called “Organizing with Songs” with The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

After graduating, she continued singing gospel with Inner City Voices, a group formed of former CCNY Gospel Choir members. In 1990, Alison and her sister Hilary officially joined forces as the Cruel Sisters, a duo specializing in bloody ballads, eclectic and obscure songs. After joining the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA), Alison, Hilary and a group of friends formed Out of Bedlam, to perform medieval-renaissance music at fairs and events.

Currently, when not sailing on the Mystic Whaler or haunting Mystic Seaport, Alison performs with The Johnson Girls (sea chantey and maritime music women’s quartet), Ida Red (a triad of sultry songbirds), The New York Packet (South Street Seaport’s official maritime music group), and The NexTradition (a dynamic a capella duo).  On rare occasions, Alison performs as a solo artist or with her mentor Craig Edwards.

Alison’s repertoire is quite diverse and includes sea chanties and maritime music, worksongs, gospel, blues, ladino, troubadour and medieval music, ballads, English, Irish and Scottish songs, rock, American roots music and what ever else inspires her.  She occasionally accompanies herself with “The Banshee”, her claw hammer banjo.

Alison is committed to keeping traditional music alive and leads an open sing in Brooklyn, N.Y. on the 1st Wednesday of the month at The Ethical Cultural Society on Prospect Park West.   She also attends the monthly Chantey Sing at South Street Seaport.



Alison can be heard on The NexTradition (2000), The Johnson Girls (2000), The Johnson Girls: On The Rocks (2004),  The Johnson Girls: Fire Down Below (2008). 

She can also be heard as a guest artist on The Good Coffee House recording ”Traditions, New Spirits & Holy Ground", Water Sign: Water Sign (1999), Erica Smith: Erica Smith (2001), and multiple Mystic Sea Music Festival recordings. 


Past International Performances:

 Festival of Ports, Lisbon, Portugal

International Shanty Festival, Workum, The Netherlands

Lunenberg Folk Harbor Festival, NS, Canada

Kings Theatre, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Trailside Inn, Mount Stuart, Prince Edward Island

The Mersey, Liverpool, Nova Scotia

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia

La Fête des Chants de Marins, Quebec, Canada

Bodmin Folk Club, Cornwall, UK, multiple years

Wadebridge Folk Festival (aka the Cornwall Festival), UK

Warwick Folk Festival, Warwick, UK, multiple years

Sidmouth International Festival, Devon, UK, multiple years

Llantrisant Folk Club, Pontyclun, South Wales, UK 

Broadstairs Folk Week, UK

Festival du Chant de Marin Paimpol, France (solo special guest)


Past U.S. Performances :

Folk Festivals:

Lincoln Center Roots Festival

Philadelphia Folk Festival

New England Folk Festival (NEFFA – several years) MA

Champlain Valley Folk Festival

Working Waterfront Festival, New Bedford, MA

New Haven Folk Festival, CT

Turtle Hill Folk Festival, Rochester, NY

Eistedfodd Traditional Music Festival, NY

GottaGetGone Festival, Ballston Spa, NY

North American Music and Dance Festival (NOMAD – several years) CT

Tall Ships Celebration, Bay City, Michigan

The Great Hudson River Revival Festival (AKA The Clearwater Festival) in Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Sea Music Festival, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, CA

Mystic Seaport Museum’s Sea Music Festival, CT, (multiple appearances)

Chicago Maritime Festival, IL

Music of the Sea Festival at the Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport, TX

Sound Waters Festival (4 years) CT

Little Red Lighthouse Festival, NY

City Island Maritime Festival, NY

Ships to Save the Waters Festival, NY

Songs of Sail 2000 in Kennebunk, Maine

OPSail 2000, CT

Windjammer Festival 2001 & 2006, Camden, ME


Folk Clubs, Coffeehouses, Museums. Libraries & more:

South Street Seaport Museum NYC, multiple appearances

Rowayton Library Series, Rowayton, CT

Folklore Society of Greater Washington, DC

American Yacht Club Children’s Hospital Dinner

Music Mountain, CT (multiple appearances)

Essex Book Signing, Tall Ship Peking, NY

Folk Song Society of Greater Boston, MA

Old Songs Concert Series, Voorheesville, NY

Caffé Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY (multiple appearances)

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, CA

Friends of Fiddler’s Green, Hyde Park, NY

Roaring Brook Nature Center, CT

Good Coffeehouse, NY, NY

22 Below, NY

People’s Voice Café, NY (4 years)

The Seamen’s Church Institute, NY

Folk Music Society of NY

Peter Valley Crafts Fair, NJ

Ellis Island Charity Dinner

Golden Link Concert Series, Rochester, NY

uNi Coffeehouse in Springfield, MA (multiple appearances)

Hoboken Historical Society, NJ

Richmond Town Restoration Tavern Concerts, Staten Island, NY (yearly in February/March – 7 years)

The Barracks, Trenton, NJ (multiple appearances)

Faulkner’s Light Benefit Concert, CT

The Branford Folk Club, CT (multiple appearances)

Minstrel Coffeehouse NJ, (multiple appearances)

Mystic Seaport Member’s Day Concert, Mystic, CT

Mystic Seaport Museum’s Spring Concert Series, CT

Norwalk Aquarium, CT (multiple appearances)

Long Island Traditional Music Association, NY

Dahesh Museum, NY, NY

South Salem Library, NY

Folklore Society of Greater Washington, DC

Brooklyn Museum Target’s First Saturday Concert Series, NY

RiverSing on the Blackstone, Pawtucket, RI

Hudson River Maritime Museum, Yonkers, NY

Columbia University’s International House

Gorilla Repertory Theatre’s Talking Jazz


Calendar of Gigs & Events