28 January 2022

Following up news from 22 Jan.

The 64th weekly newsletter issued by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (BU) includes a podcast interview with John Lawless of Bluegrass Today, who talks about his previous concern, Acutab Publications; about Bluegrass Today and how it began; and the weekly columns Sonny Osborne contributed to it for nearly two and a half years up to his death. This week's Spotify playlist is taken from albums from which breaks were transcribed for Acutab. Dan Miller gives further instruction on basic dobro backup playing, and a 1974 article from BU archives by Douglas B. Green is on Bobby Thompson (1937-2005), a pioneer of progressive melodic banjo-playing. The special series of articles on Bill Emerson takes an intermission this week, to allow interviews with Bill's most recent band, Sweet Dixie, to be completed.

Following up another post from last week, thanks to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings for sending the link to this two-minute video (below) showing the Po' Ramblin' Boys enjoying a photoshoot as part of the publicity for Never slow down, their eleven-track album for Smithsonian Folkways, due for release a month from now. The first single from the album, 'Blues are close at hand', forms the soundtrack.


© Richard Hawkins

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27 January 2022

Doc Watson, and other past visitors

The BIB reported on 5 Nov. last year about the release that month of the Craft Recordings release of Doc Watson - LIfe's work: a retrospective, a 4-CD box set priced at $74.99 with 101 tracks (including collaborations with many other major musicians) and an 88-page booklet.

Now Professor Ted Olson of East Tennessee State University (ETSU), who co-produced the recordings and wrote the liner notes, has selected for the Bluegrass Situation online magazine ten songs from the collection to demonstrate Doc's 'traditional plus' approach to music. Audio recordings of the ten songs are provided. Find out which songs were chosen, and why, here.
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Thanks to Morris Public Relations in Nashville, TN, for the news that Darin and Brooke Aldridge have released a single and video celebrating the Grand Ole Opry. The single, 'Grand Ole Circle', comes from their album This life we're livin'; the video can be seen on YouTube. Admirers of the great figures of country music and bluegrass history should find it a moving experience. More details are on the Morris PR press release.
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Molly Tuttle has released a new single on Nonesuch Records - the title track from the forthcoming album Crooked tree (due for release on 1 Apr.) with her bluegrass band Golden Highway, plus a dozen other distinguished musicians. More information is in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today; the video can be seen there, on Molly's Facebook, and on YouTube. The central idea - that a crooked tree escapes being cut down by loggers - resembles the story of the great tree that 'is useless; this is why it has lived so long', told by the Daoist sage Zhuang Zhou (Chuang Tzu) in ancient China.
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Also from Nonesuch Records, the Punch Brothers' sixth and latest album Hell on Church Street is reviewed on the Bluegrass Situation by Emma John (see the BIB for 4 Jan. 2021). The review includes five YouTube videos of tracks from the album, including the Brothers' unique version of 'Gold rush', composed by the late Byron Berline.

© Richard Hawkins

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Kilkenny Roots Festival, 29 Apr.-2 May 2022

Smithwick's Kilkenny Roots Festival ('by now a national institution and an international buzz-phrase among the Americana / Roots movement', as stated at the head of its Facebook) will be held on the long weekend Fri. 29 Apr.-Mon. 2 May. Tickets can now be bought for many of the concerts: see the Festival's latest e-newsletter.

Most of the Americana acts announced so far could be loosely labelled as honky-tonk, country rock, or singer/ songwriter. The artist most directly involved with American traditional rural music is the 'new old-time' guitarist and singer Jake Xerxes Fussell of Durham, NC, born in GA, whose father introduced him to documenting traditional culture; he has since worked with distinguished folklorists, field collectors, and musicians. The most comprehensive biographical account of him is on the Festival website, where there is also a video of his song 'Jump for joy' and audio of 'Raggy Levy'. He is scheduled to play in Ryan's Bar; on Sat. 30 Apr. at 7.00 p.m., and on Sun. 1 May at 2.00 p.m. His tour schedule also lists the following dates in Ireland (part of a European tour):

Tues. 3rd May: Bello Bar, Portobello Harbour, Dublin 8, 7.00 p.m.
Wed. 4th: Cathedral Quarter, 109-113 Royal Ave., Belfast, 7.00 p.m.

© Richard Hawkins

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26 January 2022

Ryan Cavanaugh on Deering Live, Thurs. 27 Jan. 2022

Ryan Cavanaugh is the latest banjo-player to be featured on Deering Live, where he will appear at 11.00 p.m. (Irish time) on Thursday 27 January to be interviewed by Deering's David Bandrowski and to talk about and demonstrate chord playing in genres outside bluegrass - starting with New Orleans jazz and moving through swing, bebop, modal jazz, fusion, funk, and rock. The interview can be watched on Deering Live or on YouTube.

Have a look also at the Deering Banjo Company blog, which includes an eight-tune playlist and a YouTube video with examples of Ryan Cavanaugh's music. He will be playing a Deering Tenbrooks Legacy 5-string; the catalogue page for this banjo includes a further video of his playing, with Mike Witcher on dobro.

© Richard Hawkins

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Celtic Connections 2022: latest news

The organisers of Celtic Connections, 'the UK's premier celebration of Celtic music', announce that this year's event in Glasgow, Scotland, is continuing to 6 February, with over sixty vibrant live shows on offer.

Acts in the 'Americana' section of the programme have suffered from the continuing pandemic, and cancellations include the Lonesome Ace Stringband, Aoife O'Donovan, and Rachel Baiman with Cahalen Morrison. However, the Transatlantic Sessions on 4 and 6 Feb., Heidi Talbot & Dirk Powell with Kim Carnie on 5 Feb., and The Dead South on 21 Mar. are all still shown as going ahead.

© Richard Hawkins

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US mandolinist to visit Donegal, July 2022

Thanks to John A. Eisenhauer (right), who sends this news from the Pacific North-West of the USA:

I am a mando player from Bainbridge Island, WA (near Seattle) in the USA. I’ll be in Donegal for 2 weeks in July and am looking for a mando to play and folks to play with.

I am happy to play bluegrass or trad from either continent, and can also hold my own on guitar or tenor. Hoping for a warm invitation or an introduction!

John can be contacted by e-mail.

© Richard Hawkins

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25 January 2022

Arklow Roots Music: Zoom concert, Sat. 5 Feb. 2022

Thanks to Brendan O'Regan of Arklow Roots Music, who sends this news:

Hi all, glad to announce next Zoom gig after a long break! It’s on Sat. 5 Feb., 8.00 p.m. and performers are:

Michelle Lewis (USA) Michelle has performed on tour in Arklow before at Harbour Bar before it was the Asgard Theatre!
Findlay Napier (Scotland)
Rachel Grace – upcoming singer from Wexford, recently on tour with Mike Hanrahan and Eleanor Shanley

Brendan writes that plenty of material on the artists is on their websites, YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp etc. The concert is on a donation basis, as before. Places are limited. You need to register in advance for this concert; after registering, you will receive a confirmation e-mail containing information about joining the meeting. The image at the head of this post is from the Facebook event page.

© Richard Hawkins

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Sonny Osborne and Alan Munde for American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame

This will not be news to many, as Bluegrass Today reported it nearly two weeks ago, after the American Banjo Museum announced that the 2022 inductions into its Hall of Fame will include Sonny Osborne (left above) and Alan Munde (right above). Alan Munde and New Orleans jazz tenor-banjo player Don Vappie, who will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, were both recipients of the 2021 Steve Martin Banjo Prize (see the BIB for 6 Oct. 2021). The inductions will be offically conferred in the Museum's Hall of Fame Celebration during this year's Banjo Fest (22-4 Sept.).

© Richard Hawkins

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24 January 2022

La Roche 2022 (3-7 Aug.) - lineup and complete schedule announced

Thanks to the European Bluegrass Music Association Facebook for the news that the lineup and full programme schedule for this year's La Roche Bluegrass Festival, on the edge of the French Alps, can now be seen online. At the top of the bill are Missy Raines & Allegheny (see the BIB of 21 Jan.), among half-a-dozen US acts and some of the cream of bluegrass bands from all parts of Europe.

La Roche (as its website proudly claims) is the largest festival in Europe dedicated exclusively to bluegrass music and all concerts are completely free of admission charges.

© Richard Hawkins

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23 January 2022

Crossover Festival (GB): lineup video and other news

The organisers of the Crossover Festival of bluegrass, old-time, and Americana music (and dance) in England (see the BIB for 17 Jan.) send their second newsletter for 2022, which includes an eight-minute video (also on YouTube) with clips of performances by all the artists on the bill.

David Benedict (USA) of the Foreign Landers will be giving mandolin workshops, with instructors of similar calibre on other instruments. The Crossover Festival is scheduled for 29 Apr.-2 May; tickets are now on sale at the Festival website, which also has an FAQ page.

© Richard Hawkins

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22 January 2022

Further news of past visitors - and some not-yet visitors

Kristy Cox (right), award-winning Australian country and bluegrass singer, toured Ireland in May 2019, thanks to the mygrassisblue.com team. She is now based in Nashville, TN, and records for Billy Blue Records, who have just released a second single from her forthcoming album Shades of blue, which is due for release on 4 Feb. The single is 'Appalachian blue'; John Lawless on Bluegrass Today describes it as 'a bluesy bluegrass number full of heartbreak and pain – a typical bluegrass song!' The official video can be seen on Bluegrass Today and YouTube.
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The powerful band Sideline from North Carolina, who toured Ireland in July 2019 (again, thanks to mygrassisblue.com), will be topping the bill at a bluegrass concert presented by Song of the Mountains at the Lincoln Theatre, Marion, VA, on Saturday 5 Feb. Also on the programme will be the duo of Tammy Rogers & Thomm Jutz and the alt-bluegrass band Monroeville. The show will be filmed for public television.
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Age of apathy, the third and latest solo album by Aoife O'Donovan, is reviewed on No Depression by Maeri Ferguson. The review includes the official video of 'Phoenix' (also on YouTube} and the official audio of the title track (also on YouTube, with lyrics helpfully shown on screen).
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It was nearly five years ago that we first began to hope for an Irish tour by the Po' Ramblin' Boys from east Tennessee, strongly recommended by our good friend the not-easily-satisfied Jan Michielsen of Four Wheel Drive. One thing after another prevented a tour from happening. In the meantime the band has gone from strength to strength, having won the IBMA New Artist of the Year award in 2018; been nominated for a Grammy award in 2019 and IBMA's Entertainer of the Year award in 2020; and added Laura Orshaw on fiddle and vocals.

Thanks, then, to Sophie Sachar of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings for the news that Never slow down, the new eleven-track album by the Po' Ramblin' Boys, is due for release by Smithsonian Folkways on 25 Mar. 2022 and can now be pre-ordered. The first single from the album, 'Blues are close at hand', was featured on Bluegrass Today last Wednesday (19 Jan.) and premiered on the American Songwriter website, where the Boys' mandolinist C.J. Lewandowski is interviewed by Katherine Yeske Taylor.
© Richard Hawkins

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Bill Emerson after the US Navy, and more, from BU

The 63rd weekly newsletter issued by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (BU) includes (among other good things) a podcast interview with Daryl Mosley about his time with the Osborne Brothers, his songwriting, and his solo album; a video lesson by Dan Miller on basic dobro backup playing, plus an article from BU archives on Speedy Krise, one of the earliest dobro players in bluegrass; and the tenth article in the special series on Bill Emerson, dealing with the period from his retirement from the US Navy in 1993 to his forming his band Sweet Dixie in 2006. His friendship with Tony Rice, his collaboration with Wayne Taylor (who brought his own band Appaloosa to Ireland in the autumn of 2019), and his relations with Geoff Stelling's banjo company, receive special attention.

The newsletter also includes a Spotify playlist of twenty-seven of the over fifty original banjo tunes that Emerson composed. Readers should note that the YouTube playlist 'Bill Emerson collected albums', with fifty tunes from four of his albums, does not include all his own compositions.

© Richard Hawkins

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21 January 2022

Detached notes - and an Irish link

John Lawless reports on Bluegrass Today* (BT) on an exciting new enterprise with an unexpected Irish link: the Bluegrass Trading Co. (also on Facebook), based in Friendsville, TN. Colyn Brown, the founder, aims to produce 'the world's first bluegrass-related, high-quality, trading cards. These aren't standard photo cards, they will be works of art, each portrait hand-painted by our featured artists.' The first series, representing forty leading bluegrass banjo players, is due for release in April 2022 and can be pre-ordered. Subsequent series are planned for players of the other bluegrass instruments. Much more detail is on the website and BT.

The Irish link is that while three of the featured artists in the first series are from Knoxville, TN, one from Portland, OR, and one from Dallas, TX, the sixth is Georgina Flood from Dublin, who (as can be seen from the small print on the photo image above) painted the portrait of Earl that appears on the reverse of the card. Congratulations to Georgina Flood on her part in this project.

PS: Though one reader of Bluegrass Today seems to have been unable to find it, this first series does include a card for Sonny Osborne, whose portrait was painted by Georgina.
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Thanks to the Newsline agency of Nashville, TN, for the news that - as some subscribers may already have seen - Dale Ann Bradley is on the cover of the February 2022 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, together with an article on her by Bill Conger.
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Missy Raines, nine times winner of IBMA's Bass Player of the Year award, formed last year a touring bluegrass band, Allegheny, which is now 80% composed of veterans of tours in Ireland. Missy herself has toured several times, notably in a duo with guitar wizard Jim Hurst, and her band now includes Ellie Hakanson (fiddle) and Tristan Scroggins (mandolin) - both of whom were here as members of Jeff Scroggins & Colorado - and Frank Evans (banjo), a member of Canada's Slocan Ramblers. The only Alleghenian without (as far as we know) experience of touring in Ireland is Ben Garnett (guitar). The livestream concert that the band played last night (20 Jan.), with Ned Luberecki on banjo, can still be watched by Facebook members on the Nashville Tunestream Facebook.
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The Bluegrass Situation (BGS) announces a new addition to its podcast network: 'Carolina Calling', a series on the immeasurable contribution of North Carolina to American music, featuring interviews with NC artists. The first episode will be aired on 31 January. Artists featured will include Pokey LaFarge (see the BIB for 19 Jan.) and Woody Platt of the Steep Canyon Rangers.
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The Mountain Home Music Company announce that the Gina Furtado Project has released a new single, 'It won't be me', written and sung by Gina herself, and blending her liking for Latin- and manouche-flavoured sounds with a declaration of refusal to accept abuse.
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The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, KY, announces its programme of coming events, which includes many names familiar to fans in Ireland - among them Galway's We Banjo 3, kings of 'Celtgrass', who will be in concert on 18 Mar. and taking part in the ROMP Festival in late June. Tonight (21 Jan.) the Museum launches its 'My bluegrass story' series on RFD-TV; see this YouTube trailer.

© Richard Hawkins

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Fred Geiger, 4 Sept. 1940-12 Jan. 2022

The BIB learns with great regret of the death of Frederick Casper 'Fred' Geiger, jr, on Wednesday 12 Jan. in a fire at his home near Wolfsville, MD, in which his cat also died. Fred Geiger was one of the sixty-eight prominent players surveyed by Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick for their authoritative 1988 publication Masters of the 5-string banjo. His contribution to the 'Mottoes and advice' section of the book was the single line: 'The banjo, not the fiddle, is the instrument of the devil.'

Regardless of the spiritual danger, he was a perennial contributor to Banjo News Letter with his long-running 'Chorducopia' column, as well as product reviews. For a musician of his abilities, he was gravely under-recorded: his sole album (see cover image above), issued under his name as Ridge Runner RRR 0014 (1978), can be heard on YouTube. John Lawless's obituary on Bluegrass Today gives further details and two more videos from the handful on YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

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Colton Crawford interviewed on the Deering blog

The Deering Banjo Company blog features an interview with Colton Crawford, banjo player for The Dead South, a Canadian folk-rock/ alt-bluegrass band who are making a considerable name for themselves. The brief video is supplemented by a ten-track playlist of songs selected from their four albums and other recordings.

The Deering blog also features a nineteen-track playlist of Deering's favourite banjo recordings of 2021.

© Richard Hawkins

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20 January 2022

Ralph Emery, 1933-2022

Another great figure of the past has gone: Ralph Emery, once voted country music radio's 'greatest personality of the century', died last Saturday (15 Jan.), just under two months short of his eighty-ninth birthday. Born in west central Tennessee, he began radio work while still in his teens, having (as he said) worked hard to 'rid my speech of its horrid regionalism', went full-time in 1953, and was an announcer on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1960s. The obituary by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today lists milestones of his career at the summit of country music broadcasting, and includes nine videos of bluegrass stars whom he warmly welcomed on to his TV show (in one from the 1980s, Jerry Douglas mentions that he and Béla Fleck had recently returned from Ireland). The Washington Post obituary can be read here.

© Richard Hawkins

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John Rice Irwin, 1930-2022

The BIB learns with regret of the death last Sunday (16 Jan.) of John Rice irwin, who founded the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN, to commemorate the lifestyles of the people of the region. An obituary by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today includes a bibliography of his writings; the picture of him on the right is from the cover of his book The unlikely story of the Museum of Appalachia and how it came to be (2012). A compilation of forty photographs of him through the years can be seen on Facebook. His funeral takes place today (20 Jan.), and a celebration of his life will be held at the Museum in April.

The Museum of Appalachia presented from 1980 to 2017 the Tennessee Fall Homecoming, a festival of the music, crafts, and culture of Appalachia at which many bluegrass, old-time, and other musicians performed every year.

© Richard Hawkins

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19 January 2022

Pokey LaFarge (USA) in Ireland, 23-26 Mar. 2022

Thanks to Enda O'Connor of the Cabin Sessions musical community for drawing attention to three shows in Ireland two months from now by US singer/ songwriter Pokey LaFarge (Andrew Heissler). In mid March he is scheduled to play four dates in Britain, followed by the following dates in Ireland:

Wed. 23rd Mar.: Empire Music Hall, Belfast, 7.30 p.m.
Thurs. 24th: Whelans, Wexford St., Dublin, 8.30 p.m.
Sat. 26th: Rosin Dubh, Galway city, 8.00 p.m.

Tickets are now available for these shows. Pokey La Farge (see the BIB for 3 July 2014) has played several times in Ireland with his band the South City Three. Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers are among the influences on his music, which has been described as 'a mix of Americana, early jazz, ragtime for string instruments, country blues, Western swing, Vaudeville, and Appalachian folk'. Some of his recent recordings have featured more elaborate instrumentation.

© Richard Hawkins

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18 January 2022

Tom Neal

The BIB learns with regret of the death last Tuesday (11 Jan.) of Thomas W. 'Tom' Neal (73), a highly respected banjo-player of the important Washington D.C.-Baltimore region. His complete musicality and command of the banjo were all the more impressive because, though fully qualified to stand on an equal footing with professionals, he had decided against music as a career; his working life was spent as a heavy-equipment operator.

Richard Thompson's obituary on Bluegrass Today includes the warm endorsement Tom Neal received from Mike Munford; two YouTube videos, one from a stage show and one track from his 2013 solo album Banjoland (Patuxent CD-245); and a discography. He played banjo on the influential 1975 Pickin' around the cookstove album (Rounder 0040), a 'fusion' project of old-time tunes played by bluegrass musicians. The image above comes from the January 2014 issue of Banjo News Letter, where he was interviewed by Tom Adams.

© Richard Hawkins

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17 January 2022

More good stuff from BU

The 62nd weekly newsletter issued by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (BU) includes a podcast interview with master fiddler Blaine Sprouse of West Virginia, together with a reissue from the archives of a 1988 BU article about him by Wayne W. Daniel. His professional career included playing fiddle for Jimmy Martin, Butch Robins's The Bluegrass Band, the Osborne Brothers, and Peter Rowan.

The ninth article in the special series by Dan Miller on Bill Emerson covers the music he performed and recorded while in the US Navy (1973-93), but with bands and artists who were outside the military, as well as making his own solo recordings. His work in this period adds up to an impressive catalogue in itself. In 1984 he was inducted into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame.

© Richard Hawkins

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Crossover Festival in England, 29 Apr.-2 May 2022

A further encouraging sign of a return to live music events in these islands: the organisers of the Crossover Festival of bluegrass, old-time, and Americana music (and dance) in England announce: 'We're back at Clonter Opera Theatre (Congleton, Cheshire) again over the [bank holiday] weekend of 29 April-2 May and have all the artists booked and eager to play.' They also send the Festival flyer (see image, right) showing a lineup that includes the Foreign Landers and several names already well known to audiences here from tours or festival appearances.

This information and image comes from the organisers' no. 1 newsletter for 2022, You can subscribe to receive the newsletter here. Thanks again to T.J. Screene, first-call bassist of the Dublin bluegrass scene, for putting the BIB in touch with Crossover.

© Richard Hawkins

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More US news with an Irish link (update)

Russ Carson (above), whose paternal grandparents were from Co. Cavan and Co. Antrim (see the BIB for 21 Aug. 2020) is featured in the first of a new series launched by Bluegrass Today under the title 'My favorite J.D. Crowe lick'. In a 3:38 video on Bluegrass Today and YouTube, Russ demonstates the lick he chose, as well as his personal feeling for the music of J.D.
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Punch Brothers have released a video of the song 'Pride of Man', one of the tracks of their new album Hell on Church Street. The powerful result can be seen on Bluegrass Today, YouTube, and here. The song was written and first performed by Hamilton Camp (1934-2005), who is described as 'a British actor and folksinger'; though born in London, he was sent to the USA as a small child and his careers in music and acting seem to have been entirely there.
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Two previous Omagh festival headliners, Dale Ann Bradley (current IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year) and Danny Paisley (current Male Vocalist of the Year) released last Friday on Pinecastle Records a duet single, the classic 'One by one' first recorded in 1954 by Kitty Wells and Red Foley. The track will appear on Dale Ann's forthcoming Pinecastle album. More details are on the Pinecastle press release.
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Kenny and Amanda Smith, also previous stars at Omagh, have released their new single 'Everything to me' on Farmboy Records, now available on iTunes and Amazon music (see their Facebook). More details are on their press release.

Update 26 Jan.: 'Everything to me' - a powerful song - can now be heard on Bluegrass Today and YouTube.
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Kentucky's Local Honeys, who made a big impact at the 2019 Westport festival and other gigs in Ireland, and Bill & the Belles, featured at that year's Omagh festival (as well as being house band of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum's 'Farm & Fun Time' show) will be part of a ticketed live-stream concert on Thurs. 10 Feb. headed by the Legendary Ingramettes. The show will stream live on Radio Bristol's Facebook and YouTube, and tickets can be bought here.
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Ken Perlman announces that the next two in his series of online 'Clawhamme Clinics' will be 'The real Round Peak' on Mon. 31 Jan. and 'Harmonized scales: using 3rds & 6ths to spice up your clawhammer arrangements' on Mon. 28 Feb.

© Richard Hawkins

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13 January 2022

Ken Perlman on Deering Live tonight (13 Jan. 2022)

As reported on the BIB two days ago, Ken Perlman will tonight (13 Jan.) be featured on Deering Live, which introduces him as follows:

As well as touring throughout most of the English-speaking world, Ken is a recording artist, a banjo camp director, and author of multiple widely used banjo instructional books. His latest recording is called Frails & frolics, while his latest instruction book is named Appalachian fiddle tunes for clawhammer banjo (Mel Bay Publications).

The interview-plus-musical-illustrations will begin at 10.00 p.m. Irish time, and can be watched on Deering Live or YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

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More news of past visitors

Rodney Dillard and his band The Dillards will be performing live at the Bluegrass Music Hall Of Fame and Museum in Owensboro, KY, this coming Saturday (15 Jan.). The show starts at 7.00 p.m. local time, and tickets are $25. Rodney is the only surviving member of the original Dillards, who were inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2009. They played in Dublin - we think in Whelan's, during the 1970s or '80s. Does any BIB reader remember the show?

Update 15 Jan.: Thanks to Anto Griffin for his memory of the show, given in his comment on this post.
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Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers will be hosting the Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival at the Roberts Convention Center in Wilmington, OH, on 24-26 March, with a stellar lineup of traditional bluegrass and Americana. The festival name perpetuates the powerful combination of the book Industrial strength bluegrass: southwestern Ohio's musical legacy (edited by Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison, published by the University of Illinois Press) and the album under the same title (issued by Smithsonian Folkways), both of which appeared last year. The album won the Album of the Year award at the 2021 IBMA World Of Bluegrass.
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The Fretboard Journal announces that the good things in its 49th issue include a feature on the John Reischman tune 'Salt spring', which has become a classic. On the magazine's website, its Podcast 352 is an hour-long tribute to the late J.D. Crowe by his 'friend, student, and collaborator', Bill Evans (on right in photo below).
© Richard Hawkins

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12 January 2022

Danny Burns: 'Mercenary song' video with Steve Earle

Thanks to Kyle Watson of the Bonfire Music Group for the news that Danny Burns (who was touring and performing in Ireland shortly before the first lockdown took effect) has just had a new single/ video released, featuring Grammy-winning legend Steve Earle. The single, 'Mercenary song', is from Danny’s latest EP, Hurricane. Kyle adds:

The video was shot and directed by Jim Wright, who has done music videos for tons of top country artists like Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Jon Pardi, etc. They filmed it at the Dead Rabbit in NYC, which was awarded 'World’s Best Bar' in 2016. The track features Mike Guerra on accordion (of the Mavericks), Colin Farrell (of Lunasa), Byron House on bass, and Steve playing bouzouki.

The ensemble sound can be considered (with acknowledgements to We Banjo 3) as belonging to the 'Celtgrass' genre:


Danny Burns is also on Facebook. More details of him are on the Bonfire Music Group website, which also has a playlist of the tracks on Hurricane.

© Richard Hawkins

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11 January 2022

US news - mainly about past visitors (update)

The Steep Canyon Rangers, who were the very last US bluegrass band to visit these shores before the disruption of transatlantic tours, announce that their Winter Camp will be held on 22-24 Feb. 2022 at the Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, NC (the town where Béla Fleck's Blue Ridge Banjo Camp will be held six months later; see the BIB for 6 Jan.) for three nights of limited-capacity, intimate outdoor shows. Tickets can be bought here. More details are on the band's latest e-newsletter and a press release from Mountain Song Productions.

Update 12 Jan.: Following a rapid take-up of tickets, the Steeps have added Monday 21 Feb. to their Camp; see this e-newsletter.
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Lindsay Lou and her band the Flatbellys from Michigan toured in Northern Ireland with great success in 2015 and 2016. The band no longer exists, but their former mandolinist, singer, and songwriter Joshua Rilko, now based in Nashville, has just released a double EP, combining Lost soul, with five bluegrass songs, and Rock and roll, with six. The lively 'Homeward bound', the last track on Lost soul, can be heard on Bluegrass Today and on YouTube.
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Ken Perlman, godfather of 'melodic clawhammer banjo', announces that he will be the featured artist interviewed this week on Deering Live. As with all such interviews, this is the opportunity of the internet audience to send in questions for Ken about clawhammer banjo technique, the banjo scene, running banjo camps, touring with fiddling great Alan Jabbour, collecting tunes and oral histories from traditional fiddlers on Prince Edward Island, life on the road, or anything else.
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For the discriminating user of flatpicks, Nik Monnin's Apollo Picks are made in many different shapes and sizes and in three different materials: the organic-based casein and two plastics, polyetherimide (PEI) and polyetherether ketone (PEEK), all with their own characteristics. Reviews (including videos) and FAQs are on the Apollo website, where Monnin writes about his PEI picks: 'if you have been feeling guilty about using tortoiseshell, then here is a guilt-free alternative.' See also John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today for endorsements by bluegrass masters.

© Richard Hawkins

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10 January 2022

Mandolin Cafe endorses the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival

Following on from the BIB post of 17 December - thanks to Uri Kohen, head of the organising team of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Co. Mayo, for this news:

Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival are honoured and delighted to announce yet another endorsement from a major organisation.

Mandolin Cafe, one of the world’s leading websites for everything mandolin-related, has recognised the festival’s contribution to preserve and promote the unique sound and musical variety of the instrument.

In 2022, the festival will host a mandolin workshop where bands from different parts of the world will showcase both their own styles and sounds of the mandolin.

Mandolin Cafe’s recognition of our work is a huge stamp of approval and one that we will cherish; we look forward to continuing this partnership into the future.

© Richard Hawkins

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08 January 2022

Some more good things from BU

The 61st weekly newsletter issued by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (BU) includes a podcast interview with master fiddler Glen Duncan, talking about his musical career and friendship with the Osborne Brothers and time spent with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. Glen Duncan is also the subject of a 1993 article by Mike Drudge from the BU archives.

The special series of articles on Bill Emerson resumes with Dan Miller's account of Emerson's decision at the age of 35 to join the US Navy, where he became director of the USN bluegrass-and-country band Country Current. The image above shows the cover of the January 2022 issue of BU.

© Richard Hawkins

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07 January 2022

Walton's of Dublin celebrate centenary

Thanks to Fiona Walton for the news that Waltons music stores (familiar to innumerable pickers in Ireland) are this year celebrating one hundred years as an independent Irish family-run business.

The firm was founded by Martin Walton, a veteran of the 1916 rising and war of independence, who is seen (extreme right, with beard) in the above photo of the camp orchestra in Ballykinlar internment camp. As well as selling instruments, music books, recordings, strings, sound gear, and other accessories, together with building and repairing instruments, Waltons have presented music teaching courses and radio programmes (with the slogan 'If you feel like singing... do sing an Irish song'), and issued records on their own Glenside label that included the 1961 release 'Come down the mountain Katie Daly', written and recorded by 'Eamon O'Shea' (Herman Weight), which was covered the following year by the Bluegrass Playboys from Kentucky and became a bluegrass standard (see the BIB for 28 Aug. 2019).

Waltons' former central Dublin shops in North Frederick Street and Great George's Street are now occupied by other businesses, but all their activities continue at Waltons Blanchardstown (photo below) in the Blanchardstown Centre, Dublin 15. The centenary year will be celebrated by events to be announced on the Waltons website and social media.
© Richard Hawkins

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Sore Fingers and live music in Britain

Back in June 2021 the BIB published the hopeful news that the UK's Sore Fingers Summer School (Europe's premier bluegrass and old-time music instruction institution, from which many pickers from Ireland have benefited) would hold its main week-long event in October. As BIB readers who took an active interest will be aware, the organisers, John and Moira Wirtz, decided in view of the developing COVID situation to reschedule the event to the week before Easter this year - Mon. 11 Apr.-Fri. 15 Apr. 2022.

Full details of courses, with advice for prospective attenders and (as usual) a distinguished list of instructors from the US and UK, can be seen here. A positive assessment of the prospects for live music events in Britain in 2022, based on experience in 2021, appeared on the SFSS website just before Christmas. John and Moira add this message to all who have supported and benefited from the SFSS:

Thanks to all of you, Sore Fingers Week is firmly implanted in the Annual Calendar of Acoustic Music Camps. This is an achievement we can all be proud of. At the outset the original aim was to offer a music camp worthy of its name on this side of the Atlantic to facilitate the bluegrass and old time followings in Britain and Europe. We had little idea that we could eventually run an event good enough to rival some of the best camps held in North America.

© Richard Hawkins

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06 January 2022

Béla Fleck's Blue Ridge Banjo Camp, 17-21 Aug. 2022

Applications opened last Saturday (1 Jan. 2022) for this year's Blue Ridge Banjo Camp, presented by Béla Fleck, which will be held on 17-21 August in Brevard, NC. More details are on Bluegrass Today and on the Camp's website and Facebook.

The bluegrass scene in this island was represented at a previous Camp by James Henry from Northern Ireland (see the BIB for 25 Sept. 2019). Earlier the same year, James and Tabitha Agnew (as she then was) were the only two banjo players at the Acoustic Music Seminar in Savannah, GA (see the BIB for 8 Apr. 2019).

© Richard Hawkins

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05 January 2022

'Steps from the heart' this coming weekend

April Verch (CAN) sends a reminder of the special new step-dance project she has prepared with UK dancer Simon Harmer: their 'Steps from the heart' presentation, performance, and workshop, which is the culmination of a year of collaboration, celebrating two of their greatest influences, the Ottawa Valley’s Donnie Gilchrist and Alex Woodcock of England. April writes:

We have researched their lives, careers, and steps and compiled that information to share. We've also developed a set of new steps inspired by them and choreographed a new routine together (all via the world wide web!)

The presentation and performance premiere, lasting from 75 to 90 minutes, will be on Saturday 8 Jan. 2022; the workshop (60-75 minutes) will be on Sunday 9 Jan. Both events will be live on Zoom, starting at 11.00 a.m. EST/4.00 p.m. UK time. Tickets are on a 'name your price' basis. As well as dancers who wish to take part in the workshop, anyone who wants to enjoy watching is also welcome. Much more information, together with online booking, is here.

© Richard Hawkins

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Steve Kaufman: 2022 online lessons and Acoustic Kamps programme (update)

Steve Kaufman (photo below) announces that the seventh year of his online group lessons on Zoom begins next week (10 Jan.), with a choice of eight different classes a week. You can register for them here.

Also available is the complete brochure for Steve's 26th Acoustic Kamps: Old-Time and Traditional Week (12-18 June) and Bluegrass Week (19-25 June) in Maryville, TN.

Update 8 Jan.: For scholarships that may be available to Kaufman Kamps, see Bluegrass Today.
© Richard Hawkins

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04 January 2022

We Banjo 3 launch spring 2022 'Awakening Tour'

Galway's We Banjo 3, originators of 'Celtgrass', announce in their latest e-newsletter that their 2022 Spring 'Awakening Tour', a run of over twenty shows in the USA, will begin on 15 Jan. in Frederick, MD; continue through the Northeast, California, and Arizona; and return to the East Coast and Midwest, concluding in Cincinnati, OH on 2 March. This year will be the band’s tenth year together, and the 'Awakening Tour' marks this epoch with special tours and performances, new music releases, and more. They announce:

We hope you'll join us on one of these dates to reflect on what’s been, celebrate what’s ahead, and honour life’s always evolving and ever-renewing rhythms.

Tickets can be bought here. We Banjo 3 are also partnering with IrishCentral.com in its Irish Heritage Tree project, aimed principally at the Irish diaspora.

© Richard Hawkins

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Red Smiley, 1924-1972

The BIB editor apologises:

The BIB did not spend the holiday period in preparing for the New Year, so we have already missed an opportunity of commemorating one of the great figures of the first quarter-century of bluegrass music: Arthur Lee 'Red' Smiley, the fiftieth anniversary of whose death fell on last Sunday (2 Jan.). He and his musical partner, the multi-instrumentalist, singer, and banjo legend Don Reno, were inducted together into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor (as it was then known) in 1992, the second year of inductions. BIB readers who are not already familiar with Red's career are referred to Fred Bartenstein's biographical essay on the Hall's website.

Readers should also see Sunday's post commemorating Red on the mygrassisblue.com Facebook, a great source for the births, deaths, and other milestones in the lives and careers of the stars of bluegrass and country music.

© Richard Hawkins

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03 January 2022

Suwanee Banjo Camp (10-13 Mar. 2022) goes online

Ken Perlman, godfather of 'melodic clawhammer banjo', sends the important news that the next Suwanee Banjo Camp (10-13 Mar.)

has just moved online for 2022 due to Covid concerns. We will offer three levels of instruction in both old-time and bluegrass banjo, and full programs in fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. Faculty-led jams and a faculty concert are also part of the deal.

Full details of the Camp, together with facilities for registering, are on its website. Registration for places in the Midwest Banjo Camp (2-5 June 2022) should be open soon. Ken also sends a reminder that the next two Zoom lessons in his present season of banjo 'clinics' are on 'Melodic fingering shapes in double-C and G modal tunings' (Mon. 10 Jan.) and 'The real Round Peak: Learn tune versions by Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed & others' (Mon. 31 Jan.).

© Richard Hawkins

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Foreign Landers at Earl Scruggs Center, 2 Apr. 2022

The Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, announces its programme of events in 2022, including the monthly Center Stage Concert series. For the 2 April concert in the series, the scheduled artists are the Foreign Landers duo (below): David Benedict, formerly of Mile Twelve, and Tabitha Agnew Benedict of Cup O' Joe and Midnight Skyracer. Tickets for this and other concerts in the series, up as far as August, are on sale now.
© Richard Hawkins

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01 January 2022

A good start to the year

For a good start to the New Year that involves links with the past of the bluegrass scene in the USA, of the bluegrass scene in this island, and yesterday's post on the BIB - 'JD Crowe and the New South, through the years' is an hour-and-a-half video compiling stage performances by successive lineups of the band from 1993, 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2011/2012.

Thanks to John Nyhan, J.D. Crowe & the New South delivered two historic concerts at the Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork on 2-3 August 1999. The exact lineup of the band as it stood on that visit is not shown on any single show on the video, but all the musicians who came to Kilworth appear in one setting or another. All the clips show a splendid and influential band on the top of its powerful form. The video was posted five days ago on Tim Bellamy's YouTube channel, which is well worth visiting.

© Richard Hawkins

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31 December 2021

Bluegrass Unlimited on Emerson, Osborne, and Crowe

The 60th weekly newsletter issued by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (BU) includes a podcast interview with Bill Evans, talking about his recording and instructional projects and about the late Sonny Osborne and Bill Emerson. (BU podcasts are now listed in Apple iTunes and on Spotify.) This week's playlist is a compilation of recordings by J.D. Crowe & the New South, and the newsletter also includes from BU archives a 1974 article by Mary Jane Bolle on the innovative directions the band was taking at that time, with amplification and drums.

The special series of articles on Bill Emerson will resume soon; meanwhile, this link leads to all the articles BU has already published about him.

© Richard Hawkins

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'I'll be lovin' you' from Greg Blake

Turnberry Records announces that Greg Blake's next single, 'I'll be lovin' you', a love song with a positive message, has been released on all streaming outlets, following the success of his first Turnberry single, the title track of his album People, places, and songs. Joining Greg on the recording are Jesse Brock (mandolin, vocals), Jacob Metz (banjo, vocals), Aynsley Porchak (fiddle), and the great Mark Schatz (bass). More details are on the Turnberry press release. The official video of the song, with complete lyrics, can be watched on Bluegrass Today or YouTube.

Greg has already made (thanks to John Nyhan) several tours in Ireland, whether as lead guitarist and singer with Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, as a solo artist, or leading his own band. The continuing COVID emergency has deprived us of seeing and hearing him in a new capacity: guitar player with the Special Consensus, who had planned to tour these islands early in 2022.

© Richard Hawkins

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Barry Waldrep and friends celebrate Tony Rice

David Morris gave a strong endorsement a week ago (Christmas Eve) on Bluegrass Today to Barry Waldrep and friends celebrate Tony Rice, a 21-track album released on that day to commemorate the legendary Tony Rice, who died on Christmas Day 2020.

Barry Waldrep and a score of other artists present their versions of songs that Tony Rice recorded. The treatments given are not all bluegrass (like a lot of the songs themselves; Rice had wide tastes in music), but Morris sums up: 'In fact, along with the emergence of Billy Strings, this project represents one of the biggest shots in the arm for bluegrass in recent memory.'

© Richard Hawkins

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30 December 2021

'The Earth is getting ready' from the McKernans

The BIB editor writes:

Many thanks to our friends in Australia, the McKernan family, whose 'browngrass' music has often been featured on the BIB in the past. Nine days ago Joe and Nancy McKernan sent us this link to the Christmas Spectacular of the Bruderhof religious community to which they belong - a ninety-minute concert of music from many countries celebrating Christmas. Nancy's own composition 'The Earth is getting ready' is the first song, performed by the whole family in the midst of Australian countryside.

Joe and Nancy write that the song is 'not exactly bluegrass', but it's not hard to imagine it being sung by an old-time band, or a bluegrass band that leans towards the old-time. Apologies for not sharing this before Christmas, but it is no less topical for the BIB's delay.

© Richard Hawkins

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