27 August 2016

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: alive as ever

Although the editor 'retired' from bluegrass blogging over three years ago, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is as alive as ever, keeps its calendar updated, publishes news received, and is adding new features: since the beginning of 2016 the right-hand column has been enhanced by a slice of the calendar, a list of known bands, links to readers' comments, visual images, and (most recently) 'New releases'. Send in news by e-mail.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page. Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background and purpose and how to use it.


Vic Jordan, 19 Oct. 1938-25 Aug. 2016

More sad news from Bluegrass Today: Vic Jordan died on Thursday in Nashville, TN. He was one of the most respected and experienced banjo-players of the 1960s and '70s, having played and recorded in the bands of Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Lester Flatt, Jim & Jesse, and Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, as well as assisting in many other recordings and leading his own band. He recorded two solo albums, Pickaway and Banjo Nashville. John Lawless on Bluegrass Today (where there are photos of Vic Jordan and a link to a YouTube video of the complete Pickaway album*) writes: 'Young banjo pickers could profit greatly from studying his music.'

Vic Jordan was quoted in the late 1960s as saying: 'I can't wait for tomorrow, because I know I'm going to be better than today.' Not a bad attitude.

*Banjo Nashville can also be heard on YouTube, here.

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Ranfurly House presents Wookalily (9 Sept.), Rackhouse Pilfer (12 Nov.)

On 21 May the BIB drew attention to the Square Box music venue at Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Thanks to Angela O'Connor of the Centre for this news and press release of two forthcoming shows by bands well known to BIB readers:

Wookalily, Friday 9 September, 8.00 p.m., tickets £8

Wookalily are quirky, in a good way. Folk-gothic troubadour tales, new-time mountain music, glorious melodic hooks, and a drum kit which guarantees purists cover their ears. Five women (Adele, Sharon, Lyndsay, Lou, and Clair): too girly to be a beat group, too funky to be a folk group, too good to miss.

Wookalily released their debut EP Black magic doll in 2011. Their song ‘Diamonds and gold’ gained them a showcase at the prestigious IBMA World of Bluegrass Festival in Nashville in 2012. They also recorded for Country Music Hall-Of-Famer Dixie Hall’s Pickin’ like a girl compilation in 2013 – the only non-American band to do so. Their own debut album All the waiting while was released in November 2014. Wookalily are a cult, but they’d like to be popular!

Rackhouse Pilfer, Saturday 12 November, 8.00 p.m., £12

Rackhouse Pilfer are a fiery and exciting six-piece Irish band who have been getting rave reviews with their roots blend of Irish-Americana after a storming 2014, which included being awarded 'Live Band of the Year 2014' by Hot Press and Jägermeister, recording in Nashville, their first headline tour of Ireland, playing for the Irish president, headlining Europe's two biggest bluegrass festivals, and loads of great Irish festival performances.
Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre (above) at Dungannon. Located in the former Belfast Bank and with stunning modern facilities, it is on the historic Hill of the O'Neills, with views over seven of the nine counties of Ulster.

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26 August 2016

Freakwater (USA) in Ireland, 14-16 Oct. 2016

Geraint and Deb Jones of the UK G Promo PR agency announce that 'Gothic Americana legends' Freakwater (above) are scheduled to play three shows in their first ever Irish tour this coming October, in support of Scheherazade, their widely acclaimed new album, out now on Bloodshot Records.

The band (also on Facebook and Twitter) have released eight albums in twenty-seven years. They begin on 20 Sept. a tour of over a month in Europe, taking them through more than a dozen countries and including their first shows in the UK for over ten years. The core of their sound comprises the vocal harmonies and songwriting of Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, and the bass playing of Dave Gay. The album also features electric guitars, pedal steel, mandola, fiddle, cello, and alto flute.

Their dates in Ireland, which come near the end of their European tour, are:

Fri. 14th: Phil Grimes Pub, 60 Johnstown, Waterford city
Sat. 15th: Cleere’s Bar and Theatre, 28 Parliament St., Kilkenny city
Sun. 16th: Whelan’s, 25 Wexford St., Dublin 2

For further information, interview, session or guest list requests, contact Geraint or Deb Jones at G Promo PR, 'phone +44 (0) 1584 873211; mobile: + 44 (0) 7855 724798; e-mail.

The BIB editor writes:

Freakwater have had good reviews (though none are quoted from bluegrass media), and their own PR, of course, does not sell them short. Perhaps the most telling single sentence in the press release describes their sound: 'At once bluegrass, blues, folk, and country, it is also none of them.' G Promo PR provide links to the official video of ‘What the people want’, the opening track on Scheherazade, and to ‘The asp and the albatross’ and ‘Number One with a bullet’ on SoundCloud. Listen and form your own conclusions.

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25 August 2016

Clawhammer chamber music

Thanks to our good friend Michael J. Miles of Chicago - the man who showed that Bach's music can be played perfectly on clawhammer banjo - for his latest e-newsletter.

Michael announced earlier this year the release of his first guitar CD, A-sides, featuring instrumental settings of hit songs from the middle fifty years of the 20th century - the thirteenth of his albums on CDBaby. The all-star ensemble includes Darol Anger, one of America's finest violinists/fiddle players. A video on the newsletter shows Michael's ensemble playing 'My favourite things', and Anger will also take part in the launch concert in Chicago on 16 October.

A month earlier (13-17 Sept.) Michael will be playing three concerts as 'composer in residence' at the Carolina Chamber Music Festival in New Bern, NC. More details here.

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23 August 2016

How important good setup can be

At Dr Průcha's banjo clinic (photo: Tim Hawkins)

The BIB editor writes:

The Gibson Mastertone I play was last given a setup at the North Wales Bluegrass Festival four years ago (above) by master luthier Jaroslaw Průcha (CZ), who meticulously retuned the head and added a new Průcha bridge. Not much more was possible in half an hour in a merchandise booth tent, but the results were strikingly positive.

Simon Humphries, co-founder of Bluegrass Camp Ireland, described in detail yesterday on the Camp Facebook the differences made to his banjo by a thorough overhaul and reset at the hands of Conor Daly, who has recently performed a similar job on Paddy Kiernan's Deering Golden Era. Simon thoroughly recommends having it done, and notes among those differences:

... it sounds great. All notes up and down the neck ring true. There's a richness, tightness, and volume that wasn't there. Playing at higher tempos, I can feel extra power in the instrument, it's more exciting.

It should be noted that Dr Daly's prescription included a new Scorpion bridge made by Silvio Ferretti of Red Wine, which can be bought direct from Silvio or from Kieran Moloney in Galway.

Simon has not given up the search for the ideal banjo; he describes some of the ups and downs of the search in another recent post.

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Dale Sledd

Bluegrass Today announces the sad news that Dale Sledd died on Sunday 21 August at the age of 78. He was guitarist and singer with the Osborne Brothers, Bobby and Sonny, in their peak period, from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s, and helped record many of their most famous numbers. In a 1984/5 interview with Tony Trischka, Sonny Osborne said:

Dale Sledd was a great guitar player to play the banjo with, because he understood banjo playing so well. He pushed it just enough. He kept you just on top of the beat [...]. All things considered, I believe Sledd was the best I ever played with.

John Lawless on Bluegrass Today writes: 'For many loyal fans, his voice helped create what they remember as the classic Osborne Brothers sound.' A photo and a video of the Osbornes playing 'Rocky Top' with Dale Sledd on guitar (1967) are on the Bluegrass Today feature, together with funeral details.

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22 August 2016

Hotspot to Harbour Roots Revival Festival, Greystones and Bray, 24-8 Aug. 2016: UPDATE

Thanks to Ailbhe of the Hot Spot Music Club at Greystones, Co. Wicklow, for news of the Hotspot to Harbour Roots Revival Festival, taking place this week from Wednesday 24 to Sunday 28 August. The venues are the Hot Spot in Greystones, and the Harbour Bar in Bray.

The Harbour Bar's section of the Festival features on Wednesday the BQ Trio (9.00-9.45 p.m.) and I Draw Slow (10.00-11.30 p.m.); on Thursday Dermot Byrne & Danny Tobin (7.30-9.00 p.m.) and Dr Bluegrass & the Illbilly 8 (9.30-11.30 p.m.); and on Friday Malojian (9.00-10.15 p.m.) and Amazing Apples (10.30 p.m.-12.30 a.m.).

The Saturday programme starts around teatime with N.C. Lawlor (4.30-6.00 p.m.), the Whileaways (6.30-8.00 p.m.), Gavin Glass & the Shakers (8.30-10.00 p.m.), and Old Hannah (10.30 p.m.-12.30 a.m.). Sunday also starts early with the Louisiana 6 (4.00-5.30 p.m.), an 'Acoustic Ramble' with Old Hannah and Friends (6.00-7.30 p.m.), Paddy Dennehy & the Red Herring (8.00-9.15 p.m.), and the Young Folk (9.45-11.00 p.m.).
The Hot Spot's section of the festival begins at 8.00 p.m. on Thursday with a 'Ukes and Yodels' evening of song and ukulele music. A free beginners' workshop will be followed by a performance of folk and country songs from the Hotspot Ukes and Harbour Bar Ukuleles.

The big event for BIB readers is the 'double header' concert at the Hot Spot Music Club on Friday, with the Niall Toner Band (left above) plus the former Fleadh Cowboys Frankie Lane & Paul Kelly (right above). Doors open at 8.45 p.m., and tickets are €13 if booked in advance, and €15 on the door. An audio file of the NTB performing 'Judge and jury' from their latest album can be heard on the Hot Spot website.

On Saturday there's a Rock 'n' Roll roots revival concert with Tomcat & the Zodiacs playing rhythm 'n blue, rockabilly, and country music from the 1950s. Doors open at 8.30 p.m.; tickets are €10 in advance and €12 on the door.

On Sunday, Conor O'Donnell & the Daily Howl play at 3.00 p.m., and there's a Roots Session at 4.30 to which musicians are welcome. E-mail hotspotmusiclubg@gmail.com to participate.

Full details of all the Greystones events are on the Hot Spot website, together with coming events at the Hot Spot from now till February 2017. E-mail hotspotmusiclubg@gmail.com or phone 087 2917519 for further information.

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Dunmore East festival schedule now online!

Thanks again to Karen Cheevers for these images of the programme brochure for the 22nd Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, beginning this coming Thursday and continuing for the whole weekend (25-8 August). The brochure can now be viewed online here and downloaded as a pdf document.

For anyone going to Dunmore East with the aim of seeing specific bands, this record of where and when will be essential reading, especially if you intend buying a band's latest CD from them at a show: for instance, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley's The country blues or Betse & Clarke's River still rise.

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20 August 2016

22nd Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, 25-28 Aug. 2016

Less than ONE week from now, the 22nd Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East will be in full swing, so thanks to Karen Cheevers for this release on the many delights on the programme:

If banjo pickin', foot-tappin' mandolin pluckin', barnstormin', step dancin', fiddle playin', double-bass clawin' sessions are for you, then the beautiful picturesque coastal village of Dunmore East, Co. Waterford is the only place to be!

Fans of bluegrass, honky-tonk, blues, country, rhythm ‘n’ roots can expect the cream of the musical crop as top-class acts line up for this year’s 22nd Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival.

Top international names include Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley (above). The Grammy nominees play at the Marquee at the Lighthouse Bistro on 27 and 28 August.

Also from the USA, traditional folk duo Betse and Clarke (left) who share a love of traditional mountain music and the love of creating new folk music. Real crowd pleasers, Betse and Clarke bring out the very best in old-time music alongside inventive new compositions.

The Foghorn Stringband (right) is comprised of four talented master musicians, Caleb Klauder, Reeb Willms, Nadine Landry, and Stephen Lind. With eight albums and thousands of live shows under their belts, the band will bring a lively, exciting string-band sound to the Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival.

The Foghorn Stringband bring together an eclectic cultural and musical mix, drawing influences from not only different parts of the American roots music spectrum, but also from their homeplaces… Washington, Quebec, and Minnesota.

Closer to home, Lands End, a young vibrant band of musicians, made their Dunmore East Bluegrass debut back in 2012 and are back again in 2016.

Cup O’ Joe is made up of two brothers, Benjamin, Reuben, who along with sister Tabitha, play an energetic style of bluegrass and gypsy jazz music.

This year’s festival lineup also includes a host of energetic bluegrass acts including Doctor Bluegrass,  the Mons Wheeler Band, One Horse Pony, Rackhouse Pilfer, Barefoot, and the New Breadwinners.

The 22nd Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival kicks off in the Spinnaker Bar on Thursday 25 August and heralds the start of three days of dozens of bands, playing almost fifty FREE gigs in the village's pubs, restaurants, and hotels.

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley is the only ticketed gig as the Grammy nominees play to the Marquee at the Lighthouse Bistro on 27 and 28 August. All of the other events are free to attend and will take place at the Strand Inn, the Three Sisters, the Spinnaker, Powers Bar, and Azzurro.

For more information about the 22nd Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival in Co. Waterford, visit www.discoverdunmore.com. Tickets for Ickes and Hensley (€20) are available on www.ticketmaster.ie.

Update 26 Aug.: The BIB has just learned that the Dublin Bluegrass Collective will be playing at the Dunmore East festival on Sunday (28 Aug.), with Evan Lyons of Co. Tipperary on banjo.

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19 August 2016

Barry & Holly Tashian & E-5 Band (USA): Irish tour, 20-30 Oct. 2016

The E-5 Band: (l-r) Emily Cantrell, Al Cantrell, Al Goll,
Holly Tashian, Barry Tashian

On St Patrick's day this year, Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland sent the good news that Barry and Holly Tashian and the E-5 Band (also known as 'the Eclectic Five'), comprising some of the most widely experienced artists in the fields of bluegrass and related music, will be on tour in Ireland from Thursday 20 Oct. to Sunday 30 Oct. For those who don't yet know them, we can't do better than reproduce Roger's press release:

Barry and Holly and the Eclectic Five offer what promises to be an evening of extraordinary music and merriment.

Barry and Holly Tashian (guitar, upright bass, and vocals) have toured worldwide and made numerous appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, 'A Prairie Home Companion', and many other international radio and television programs. Their songs have been recorded by Kenny Rogers, Solomon Burke, Daniel O’Donnell, Mick Flavin, and others. In 1966 Barry and his band The Remains opened for the Beatles’ last American tour. From 1980 to 1989 Barry toured and recorded with Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band. Since 1972 Barry and Holly have recorded seven award-winning albums for Rounder Records, Copper Creek, and Strictly Country.

Al and Emily Cantrell (guitar, fiddle, and vocals) have been featured on Mountain Stage, Riders Radio Theater, Folk Sampler, eTown, and River City Folk, as well as numerous other nationally syndicated radio programs. Their four critically acclaimed albums are on radio playlists worldwide and include the talents of Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien, and Riders in the Sky. Robert Redford hand-picked them to play old-time music on-screen in his hit movie A river runs through it. 'She sings like an angel, he plays like the devil.' (The Tennessean)

Al Goll (Dobro) is an adjunct professor of Dobro at Belmont Academy of Music, and a regular performer and contributor at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He has toured extensively throughout the US and Europe playing country, bluegrass, and Hawaiian music. He last performed at the Frist Center, Nashville, with Al Nobriga.

Roger also sends the schedule of dates so far confirmed - in addition to the two days shown as free, the evening of Fri. 21 Oct. is open at present.

Thurs. 20th: St John’s Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.; 068 22566
Fri. 21st: Recital, Cork City Library, 11.00 a.m.
Sat. 22nd: Private event, 12.00 noon
Sat. 22nd: Recital, St Michael’s church, Blackrock, Cork, 6.00 p.m.
Sat. 22nd: Rockies Club, Blackrock, Cork, 9.30 p.m.; 087 2944821
Sun. 23rd: Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, Bunratty, Co. Clare, 3.00 p.m.; 087 7921771
Mon. 24th: Visit to Lord Mayor, City Hall, Cork
Mon. 24th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m.; 087 7921771
Tues. 25th: Free
Wed. 26th: IMRO showcase in Dublin, 7.00-9.30 p.m.
Thurs. 27th: Drive back to Cork
Fri. 28th: Spells Bar, Ballaghadereen, Co. Roscommon
Sat. 29th: Balla Bluegrass Festival, Mannion's Bar, Main St., Balla, Co. Mayo
Sun. 30th: Free

For further information and bookings contact Roger Ryan, 087 2944821.

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17 August 2016

The inclusiveness of bluegrass

A previous night at Sin E: (l-r) Lily Sheehan, John Denby,
Luke Coffey, Aran Sheehan, Niall Hughes, T.J. Screene,
Patrick Simpson, Hugh Taggart

The BIB editor writes:

I had a very enjoyable and stimulating time at last night's bluegrass jam session in the weekly series at the Sin É Bar on Ormond Quay in central Dublin. The session, under the auspices of the Dublin Bluegrass Collective (DBC), is one of the most accessible in the country for visiting pickers and listeners, and has been running successfully for years now - Aran Sheehan, one of the founders, writes on Facebook:

WOW! Last night was a beautiful example of how bluegrass music is a multi-generational social phenomenon, without barriers in nationality, religion, politics, or anything I can think of! With Evan Lyons at only 16 years old, playing dazzling banjo; with the incredible Chamille from France on fiddle; my daughter of 22 years, lovely singing; then of course, to those of us of much more advanced years (we won't put ages here) but Aran, Lily's dad on mandolin, Antho (singer/guitarist), Patrick Simpson (co-founder of DBC) and of course banjo player extraordinaire Richard Hawkins at the more experienced end [very discreetly put, Aran - Ed.], with the bright talent of folks in their 20s like Luke Coffey (banjo), Niall Hughes (guitar), and John Denby (mandolin). I have not even mentioned everyone here; this is just a taste of what we are doing every week and to make the point of how inclusive bluegrass music is!

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14 August 2016

Update on Bruff Bluegrass Festival, 30 Sept.-2 Oct. 2016

A 2012 photo of Clancy's Bar

Ten days ago the BIB thanked Jack Clancy of Clancy's Bar, Main St., Bruff, Co. Limerick, for the news that a full weekend of bluegrass music in Bruff is in preparation for the three days 30 September-2 October this year. We omitted to say anything about contacting Jack for further information, which can be done by 'phone (061 382488) or e-mail.

Full details of this year's programme, including lineup, band schedules, and 'sideshows', will be announced as soon as possible.

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12 August 2016

Red Hat Acoustic Music club at Naas TONIGHT

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for the news that the Club's next meeting will be held tonight (Friday 12 August).

The Red Hat meets on the second Friday of every month at the Harbour Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. Music starts around 8.30 p.m.; a donation of €3.00 covers coffee/ tea and sandwiches at the interval.

Bluegrass in Whelan's Blues, Roots & Brass Festival

Thanks to Aran Sheehan (second from right above) for this news:

Catch the Dublin Bluegrass Collective tonight and tomorrow in Whelans, Dublin 2, from 7.00 to 9.00 p.m. as part of the Blues, Roots & Brass Festival, which is on all weekend, with free entry and loads of amazing people playing, like Niall Toner for some of you bluegrass fans and loads more too, you can see the link here to find out more.

You will find us having a picking session in the front bar on both nights. Really hot bluegrass musicians are welcome to join us for a pick.

Maybe see ya in a couple of hours folks - or tomorrow from 7.00 p.m....

Peace out,


BIB editor's note: It appears that the listing of the Kentucky band Bluegrass Collective as taking part in the Whelan's event (see the BIB of 22 July) was an error on the part of someone in PR: it is the Dublin Bluegrass Collective who will be playing there. The link to 'Niall Toner' on Whelan's website, however, is still to Niall Toner Jr's Facebook, though it seems clear that Niall Toner Sr will be playing.

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10 August 2016

New Bill Monroe museum for Kentucky

With the anniversaries of Bill Monroe's birth and death now only a few weeks away, there's a timely announcement of a new museum, devoted to the Father of Bluegrass Music, to be set up in Hartford, KY, a few miles west of his birthplace at Rosine. The project is under the auspices of the Ohio County Tourism Commission; the county already gets a steady stream of visitors to the fully restored Monroe family home on Pigeon Ridge near Rosine (pictures can be seen here).

The Bill Monroe Museum (artist's impression above) is still in the planning-and-fundraising stage. Financial and physical support can be made in a number of ways, including a 'buy-a-brick' scheme, whereby a donor can have an inscribed brick laid in the 'Blue Moon Walkway'. For more details, see the website and this feature on Bluegrass Today.

The International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM; see the BIB for 2 Aug. 2016) is in the adjoining Daviess County; Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Country Star Museum is up in Bean Blossom in central Indiana. There is an official Bill Monroe website, set up by his son James; more biographical and other details are recorded in the IBMM Hall of Fame entry.

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09 August 2016

Westport stars make their mark on the Continent

The Kentucky Cow Tippers (photo: Maria Alzamora)

The Kentucky Cow Tippers (GB), who made a big impression at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Co. Mayo two months ago and will be playing at the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival in Scotland six weeks from now, came second in the European Bluegrass Band Contest at the big La Roche Bluegrass Festival at the foot of the French Alps this past weekend - second only to the multi-award-winning G-Runs 'n' Roses (CZ). Thanks to the EBMA Facebook for the news.

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08 August 2016

The horns of a dilemma

Thanks to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, who draws attention to the fact that on this coming Sunday afternoon (14 August) the Down and Out Bluegrass Band are scheduled to play at Cockle Row Cottages, Groomsport, Co. Down, from 2.00 to 4.00 p.m.; while to the west in Armagh city, the Watery Hill Boys from Drogheda will be playing in the Shambles Yard between 1.00 and 5.30 p.m., as part of the 7 Hills Blues Fest. As Sharon says:

A case of wishing you could split yourself in two...

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Evan Lyons gets busy: update

Evan Lyons of Co. Tipperary attended the Sore Fingers Summer School in England earlier this year, as one recipient of the first two EBMA Youth Scholarships - the other being Tabitha Agnew of Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh. Both of them will be recounting their experiences at Sore Fingers in the EBMA magazine, Bluegrass Europe. Since then, Woodbine have had the pleasure of his sitting in on several occasions, and he and his sister Amy played a very well received set at last month's Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree.

In fact, Evan loses very few opportunities of playing; so we were pleased, but not entirely surprised, to hear from his father Michael that ten days ago in Dublin

... Evan played with Well Enough Alone at two gigs over the weekend and also played with the Dublin Bluegrass Collective on Saturday night at the Wiley Fox pub on the quays.

Michael also sends this brief video (above) of one of the Well Enough Alone gigs - it's as dark as an X-Files episode, but there's no mistake about Evan's contribution to the proceedings. The tune is 'Remington Ride'.
Also to be noted: Cup O' Joe will be playing on the Q Main Stage of the Stendhal Festival of Art, 'Ireland's best small festival', at Ballyvelin Rd, Limavady, BT49 0NG, this coming Friday (12 Aug.) between 6.30 and 7.15 p.m.

Update 26 Aug.: Evan will be playing with the Dublin Bluegrass Collective this coming Sunday (28 Aug.) at the 22nd Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, and will be playing with Woodbine the following weekend at the 25th Omagh Bluegrass Music Festival.

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07 August 2016

First Bluegrass Camp Ireland: looking backwards - and forwards

Participants in the first Bluegrass Camp Ireland
(photo: Sean McGrath)
The BIB editor reports:

At the start of this year, Simon Humphries and T.J. Screene began making plans for what was to become the First Bluegrass Camp Ireland. They had the dual aim of providing an Irish equivalent to the UK's Sore Fingers Summer Schools, and a prolonged and focused opportunity for more jamming than bluegrass festivals in Ireland generally afford.

Some might have shrunk from trying to put together such an ambitious event within six months. Nonetheless, thanks to their vision and hard work - and some good fortune - the Camp was held on the weekend 22-4 July 2016 in the impressive setting of Headfort School, Kells, Co. Meath. The good fortune was chiefly the availability of a touring US band, the Hamilton County Ramblers of Chattanooga, TN, as the core of the teaching faculty, assisted by some of the most talented young players on the Irish scene.

The result was, by all accounts, a resounding and unqualified success that guaranteed the Camp a regular place in the Irish bluegrass calendar. Participants have described it in such terms as 'a fantastic weekend', 'a life changer', and 'an absolute blast', praising the organisation and offering constructive suggestions for further development.

Thanks to Simon for the photos shown here; more can be seen on the Bluegrass Camp Ireland Facebook. Simon's own comprehensive, and very evocative, account of the Camp can also be read here. It ends with the very welcome words:

We've asked everyone to give us feedback so that next year it'll be even better. Date to be announced shortly. We can't wait. This will be an annual fixture.

Congratulations to everyone concerned!

Niall Hughes and Josh Hixson

Saturday evening concert: (l-r) Grainne Quinlan, Lily Sheehan,
Luke Coffey, Niall Hughes, T.J. Screene

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