28 June 2017

A work in progress

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) keeps its calendar updated, publishes news received, and adds new features whenever they come to mind. Send in news or queries by e-mail, please; we can't send a direct reply to a comment on a post.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page (now updated). Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background, purpose, and uses.


27 June 2017

2nd Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree, 7-8 July 2017

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for this news and his reflections on the scene:

2nd Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree is just over a week away, 7th & 8th July in Athy GAA Centre. We have an all-Irish lineup this year, as we felt there is a need to get back to supporting the home-grown acts in order to promote bluegrass in Ireland.

I have noticed over the past few years new bands coming on the scene and fading away again after a short while. Maybe if more venues would give these bands a chance, the music would grow in the country. We have Evan & Amy Lyons (Tipperary), Colonel Bullshot Rides Again (Mayo), the Watery Hill Boys (Louth), Clem O'Brien (Laois), and host band Woodbine (Kildare) over the two nights. Full details on www.wbine.com/jamboree.html and www.facebook.com/woodbinebluegrassjamboree.

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Dave Evans

The BIB learns with deep regret from John Lawless on Bluegrass Today of the death of Dave Evans at the age of 65. One of the most intense, powerful, and soulful singers in traditional bluegrass, he was in that sense the hardest of hard-core - with, at the same time, an original and distinctive personal style both as singer and as instrumentalist.

Dave Evans was one of the few singers in bluegrass who could bring screams of enthusiasm from an audience, and had a banjo style that owed little (if anything) to 'progressive' playing but was always inventive and stimulating. Fortunately for us there is a good deal of his work still available on CD and on YouTube, where (for instance) there are several good clips of him singing the classic 'Ninety-nine years is almost for life', but this solo performance is a fine example of his banjo work; and 'Mansions for me' shows his equally personal touch on guitar.

Further bio details are here, and a magnificent article by Lee Johnson is here. More can be expected to appear on Bluegrass Today.


Westport 2017 - videos and photos!

Uri Kohen, head of the Folk and Bluegrass Festival organising team at Westport, Co. Mayo, sends good news for anyone wanting to refresh their memories of the Festival or get a taste of gigs they didn't manage to catch:

Ger Kenny of Pervege Free Films has been filming every gig, concert, and session at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival since the first one in 2007. Over the years, many of his videos made their way to the festival's YouTube channel.

The channel is being updated regularly, and at the moment there are some classic moments from this year's festival as well as many videos from previous ones. Please visit the channel and feel free to share the clips you like on social media. Enjoy!

There are also plenty of photos (and enthusiastic comments by people who were there) on the Festival's Facebook, including the one below showing Westport's own Rocky Top String Band.

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26 June 2017

Rackhouse Pilfer at Glastonbury 2017

The BIB warmly congratulates Sligo's Rackhouse Pilfer on their appearance at this year's Glastonbury Festival (on the weekend just past). Photos and more details can be found on their Facebook.

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FOAOTMAD old-time fiddle and banjo workshops in England, 24-6 Nov. 2017

The FOAOTMAD news blog announces that application forms will be available early this week for its next old-time fiddle and banjo workshop weekend, which will be on 24-6 Nov. 2017 in the pastoral setting of the Wye Valley Youth Hostel at Goodrich, near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England.

The teachers will be Jane Rothfield (USA) and Gabrielle Macrae (USA). Anyone who has seen and heard the Horsenecks on their recent tour in Ireland knows Gabrielle's powerhouse fiddling and apparently inexhaustible repertoire, and she is also known for her clawhammer banjo work.

The bad news is that only FOAOTMAD members can attend, but we assume that anyone keen enough to go will already be in FOAOTMAD. Full details on the poster image, which is also on the FOAOTMAD blog.

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Outlaw Country Show in Strabane, 8 July 2017

Bluegrass people have often felt like outlaws when it comes to getting airplay on country music radio, so thanks to Barry Johnston for news of the Outlaw Country Show, featuring the songs of Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Willy Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, and John Prine.

It has attracted sell-out crowds for Culture Ireland Night in the Duke of York, Belfast; the Out to Lunch Festival in the Black Box, Belfast; the Hotspot, Greystones, Co. Wicklow; and Bangor Chamber of Commerce. The next show will be in the Alley Theatre, Strabane, on Saturday 8 July. Doors 8.00 p.m.

The performing artists are Barry Johnston (acoustic guitar), front man with Illegal SmileRod Patterson (double bass), touring musician and musical director; and Ivan Gilliland (guitar, mandolin), who has worked with Van Morrison, James Galway, and many others.

Full details of them and the songs likely to be heard are on the Alley Theatre website. Sample numbers on YouTube include Barry's rendition of Guy Clark's 'LA freeway' and this excerpt from the Black Box show. Barry can be contacted at +447840 622731.

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24 June 2017

Major interview with Alan Munde

The BIB editor writes:

Back in April the BIB noted that a major interview with Tom Mindte by Katy Daley had appeared on Bluegrass Today, and that it was worth reading for any bluegrass enthusiast. On Thursday Bluegrass Today published Katy Daley's very substantial interview with Alan Munde (photo), one of the most respected bluegrass musicians alive.

It's indispensable reading as a high-profile professional's account of how music entered and developed in his life from childhood on, his banjos, his mentors, his heroes, his two years with Jimmy Martin at $35 a show, his teaching career, and much, much more. Any instrumentalist should read the passage on how to make a note 'quick', even if you read nothing else. But you should read it all.

Almost at the end, there's a brief passage on Alan's long association with Stelling banjos - he was (I believe) the first prominent player to become identified with playing a Stelling.

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23 June 2017

Mala & Fyrmoon (CH) back in Ireland, 28 Sept.-8 Oct. 2017

(L-r) Vincent Zurkinden, Mala, Stefan Behler

Our Swiss friends Mala & Fyrmoon (also on Facebook) will be back in Ireland this autumn, and Mala (lead vocals, fiddle, guitar, mandolin) writes:

Dear fans and friends from the green island,

Our third tour to Ireland is getting closer, and we are so excited about it!

Now we still have some open dates to fill. I thought I'll reach out to you, asking for advice, suggestions. For example listening rooms, folk clubs?

Or maybe you (or some friends of yours) are even interested in hosting a private house concert for us? To do so, you would need a room where at least 15-20 people could sit or stand, and invite over all your friends and family. Generally, you would ask them for a suggested donation as our pay. We've done that before, and it's definitely a very special, intimate moment for hosts, guests, and musicians...

If you are interested, let me know, or give me your phone number, so I can call you for further information.

The dates to fill are all in the first week of October:
Tues. 3rd (region or between Cork and Listowel)
Thurs. 5th (between Listowel and Sligo)
Sat. 7th (between Sligo and Dublin; Sunday 8th we'll take the flight home to Switzerland)

Thanks for any help and hope to see you in the fall!

Mala can be e-mailed at malamusic@gmx.ch. The band can be heard and seen on YouTube in these samples: 'Green light of May', 'On the run', and 'Still falling'.

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Bluegrass on the Walls, Derry city, 5-6 Aug. 2017

Thanks to Frank Galligan - writer, radio and TV presenter, doyen of bluegrass MCs, and 'Bluegrass on the Walls' organiser - for the news that the 'Bluegrass on the Walls' section of this year's Maiden City Festival in Derry city will have the following lineup of bands, all of them from Ulster:
More details will follow in the next couple of weeks.

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22 June 2017

Wookalily prepare their second album

Wookalily announce that they are recording their long-awaited second album with producer Julie McLarnon at Analogue Catalogue Recording Studios. Ten or twelve songs are ready to go: 'they have the Wookalily stamp of course, but we've crossed a little further over to the shady side of the street.'

The band are largely financing the album themselves, but need the support of their fans to reach the target (£4,000, with a deadline 28 days away). This can be given by pre-ordering the album or pledging support through a Kickstarter campaign. All money pledged will be used for the expenses of recording, producing, distributing, and marketing the album.

The band also have the following dates in the next two months:

Fri. 7th July: Portico, Portaferry, Co. Down
Fri. 14th: Supporting Martha Wainwright in the Soma Festival, Castlewellan, Co. Down
Sat. 15-Sun. 16th: Dalriada Fest, Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim
Sun. 16th: The Tap Room, Newcastle, Co. Down

Sat. 5th Aug.: Bennigans, Derry city
Sun. 27th: The Tap Room, Newcastle, Co. Down

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Bluestack Mountain Boys at Lissan House, Cookstown, 1 July 2017

Bluestack Mountain Boys: (l-r) Patrick Simpson, T.J. Screen, Luke 
Coffey, Aran Sheehan, Niall Hughes

Thanks to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for this news of hard-core bluegrass presented in concert in a new venue nearby:

The Red Room are delighted to have been able to work with Lissan House, Cookstown, to present the Bluestack Mountain Boys on Saturday 1 July.

Lissan is a fabulous 17th-century country house on the edge of Cookstown; some may remember it coming runner-up in the finals of the BBC Restoration programme a few years ago.

The concert will be held in the ballroom at Lissan, seated with refreshments in the interval or BYOB. It's a rare opportunity to hear first-class bluegrass in such a unique setting, with a chance to explore the grounds and wander through the main hall during the interval.

Start time is 8.00, tickets cost £15 and can be booked through Lissan, tel. 028 867 63312, online at this link ('Lissan House Music Room and the Bluestack Mountain Boys'), or get in touch with the Red Room, Cookstown, via Facebook, e-mail, or text/ tel. 077 36837779.

Payment at the door should also be possible, but best to check before travelling as seats are limited.

Lissan House

The event link includes a location map for Lissan House, and a writeup on the Bluestack Mountain Boys by Simon Humphries of Bluegrass Camp Ireland.

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21 June 2017

John's Bumper Bluegrass Package in Ireland, 4-16 July 2017

The Petersens

Yesterday we hoped to be able to give dates in Ireland for the wealth of US talent that will be here in the first half of July - so thanks once again to John Nyhan, who has organised the tours for three of the four US acts, for this news. John writes:

With such young bluegrass talent performing in Ireland between the 4th and 16th of July, you could nearly call it 'The Future of Bluegrass Tour'. Or something similar. Yes, there will be some older pickers in Jeff Scroggins, Al White, and Jon and Karen Petersen, but there will be nine musicians under the age of 30.

  • The four Petersen children, with the youngest, Juliana, just 16 years old; Matthew Petersen 23; and Ellen and Katie still in their twenties.
  • Tristan Scroggins is only 22 and playing mandolin as good as the best in the business.
  • The four students in the Berea College Ensemble are all around 20.

What a treat it will be, not alone for lovers of bluegrass but for anyone who has even the slightest interest in music. I guarantee they will be in for a real treat.

The Petersen Family Bluegrass Band from Branson, Missouri, are making their second visit to Ireland. On their previous visit they enthralled audiences with their superb sibling harmonies. They are also fine instrumentalists on banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and bass. They cover classic bluegrass, contemporary, gospel, country, and swing. Add to that twin fiddling, yodelling, and great stage presence, and you can be guaranteed that the future of bluegrass is in safe hands.

The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble
The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble from Kentucky are making their sixth visit to Ireland. With their teacher Al White at the helm and four students, you can be sure that they will be as formidable an outfit as they have been on previous visits. They will cover bluegrass, gospel, and old-time, playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and bass. They are first touring Denmark before they come to Ireland.

What can be said about Jeff and Tristan Scroggins? Two of the finest musicians playing bluegrass today. Jeff is US National Banjo Champion, and Tristan is an award-winning mandolin and guitar player. They are spending a few days in Ireland before they embark on a UK and European tour with their full band Jeff Scroggins and Colorado.

What a treat it is to have all these musicians in Ireland in the first two weeks of July. Here are the dates I have organised. As you will see, the Petersens are taking a few days sightseeing.

Tues. 4th July: The Petersens, Merry's Bar and Restaurant, Lower Main St., Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, 9.00 p.m. Tel. 087 064 0542

Thurs. 6th: The Petersens, McGregor's Bar and Restaurant, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 8.30 p.m. Tel. 086 8464509

Fri. 7th: The Petersens, Muintir na Tire Hall, Buttevant, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m., with support act Aroundo (Irish trad.) Tel. 087 691 3980

Sat. 8th: The Petersens, St Patrick's Gateway, Patrick's Hill, Waterford city, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 051 843 589

Sun. 9th: The Petersens and the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble. Church of Ireland, Bruff, Co. Limerick, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 086 302 7976

Mon. 10th: The Petersens and the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m. Tel. 087 792 1771

Tues. 11th: The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble. Chez Le Fab Restaurant, Arthur's Quay, Limerick city, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 087 962 1769

Wed. 12th: The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, Jeff and Tristan Scroggins, and Carrigcove (Irish trad), The Old Schoolhouse, Clashmore, Co. Waterford, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 086 045 4458

Thurs. 13th: The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p,m. Tel. 068 22566

Fri. 14th-Sun. 16th: The Ardara Bluegrass Festival, Ardara, Co. Donegal: The Petersens, The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, and Jeff and Tristan Scroggins (various times). Also appearing will be Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, Woodbine, and Colin Henry and Janet Holmes. This should be a superb festival with loads of picking. Tel. 087 690 0714

As John says, it should be an incredible couple of weeks of bluegrass!

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20 June 2017

Two Time Polka: gigs over the next month

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka sends news of upcoming gigs:

Hi all,

Here are our gigs for the next few weeks. Also please note the change in start times for our gigs this weekend in Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal.

The Bluegrass And Nashville Dunfanaghy (BAND) Festival:
Fri. June 23rd: The Shibeen, Oyster Bar, Main St., Dunfanaghy. Adm. free. Start 10.30 p.m. Tel. 074 9136039.
Sat. 24th: Arnolds Hotel, Main St., Dunfanaghy. Adm. free. Start 6.30 p.m. Tel. 074 9136039.
Sun. 25th: Molly's Bar, Dunfanaghy. Adm. free. Start 2.30 p.m Tel. 074 9100050

Sun. July 2nd: The Haven Hotel, Dock Rd., Dunmore East, Co. Waterford. Adm. free. Start 8.00 p.m. Tel. 051 383150
Sat. 8th: East Village Bar, Douglas, Co. Cork. Adm. free. Start 10.30 p.m. Tel. 021 7367000
Sat. 15th: Wild Atlantic Barn Dance, Community Centre, Ballinspittle, Co. Cork. Adm. €10. Start 9.30 p.m. For tickets contact 087 6287556
Fri. 21st: O'Drisceoils Bar, Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork. Adm. free. Start 10.30 p.m.
Sat. 22nd: The Blue Haven, Pearse St., Kinsale, Co. Cork. Adm. free. Start 10.00 p.m. Tel. 021 4772209

Regards & thanks,
Ray & TTP

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Ardara 2017 - a wealth of US talent

This year's Ardara Bluegrass Festival in Co. Donegal looks like being one of 2017's best-kept secrets. Ardara events websites keep mum, but this item about it appears on the website of Harvey's Point, at Lough Eske on the other side of the county:

Informal and irresistibly folksy Bluegrass festival. This year’s headline act is Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, who will be travelling all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina. They will be joined by festival regulars, Colin Henry and Janet, Tony O’Brien and Woodbine and a host of Bluegrass musicians. Be sure to stay around for the after gig jams.

This certainly grabs the attention: Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road (photo above) are a high-profile US band, often featured on Bluegrass Today. However, the dates are shown as 18-20 August - over a month later than the usual time for an Ardara festival. So what's happening?

Thanks to Tony O'Brien and John Nyhan for confirming that the Ardara Bluegrass Festival will be on the weekend 14-16 July, with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road at the head of the bill, AND the Petersens (USA); AND the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble (USA), following a tour of Denmark; AND Jeff and Tristan Scroggins (USA), before a tour of Britain and Europe. Woodbine and Colin and Janet will also be there, so the jams should be awe-inspiring.

The BIB hopes to be able before long to give details of any other appearances in Ireland by the visiting artists.

Update 24 June: Tour details for three of the four US acts appeared on the BIB earlier this week, and the full official lineup is shown in the poster image, from Woodbine's Facebook.

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17 June 2017

Bluegrass a sport?

The BIB editor writes:

BIB readers will have been following with intense interest the case of the English Bridge Union (EBU) in the European Court of Justice, claiming that bridge should be recognised as a sport. The court's advocate general, Maciej Szpunar, has been reported as defining sport as an activity that requires 'a certain effort to overcome a challenge or an obstacle' and 'trains a certain physical or mental skill'. The physical element is not even necessary: 'It is sufficient that the activity has a significant mental element which is material to its outcome.'

Bridge is already recognised as a sport by several countries and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the case is being closely followed by the English Chess Federation. The issue is primarily financial: recognition would bring tax exemptions and possible government funding.

Well, of course financial considerations are completely irrelevant in the bluegrass world; but otherwise, the BIB thinks the IBMA would have a strong case for claiming sports status for our favourite music. 'Trains a certain physical or mental skill' - yes; and if the physical element is deemed important, this would count in favour of old-school single-mic bands whose coordinated movement is a big part of what they do. They already have the 'significant mental element' in their passion and intensity. A claim to Olympic status would be based on the IOC's use of the term 'discipline' - bands in the Jimmy Martin tradition would find this requirement no problem. So go ahead and put our case, IBMA - before the other genres of music get in on the act.

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16 June 2017

Dunfanaghy BAND Festival next weekend - and something for banjo enthusiasts

A reminder that the 1st BAND (Bluegrass And Nashville Dunfanaghy) Festival begins a week from today and runs throughout the weekend (23-5 June 2017) in Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal.

The lineup has changed and expanded considerably since the first release about the festival. As recently announced on the BIB, Woodbine have been obliged to withdraw; and even more regrettably, the Down and Out Bluegrass Band have decided to retire after years as the most active, hard-core, go-anywhere band on the Irish scene.

On the plus side, bands added to the lineup include the Dirty Beggars from Scotland, who will appear later this year at Omagh; the Hillbilly Rednecks from Co. Donegal; Mules 'n' Men, announced on the festival website as 'the new name for the old New Breadwinners'; Geordie MacAdam and Friends; and the website says many more are to be announced.
Also taking part in BAND will be Alec Somerville with old-time songs and clawhammer banjo. Not resting on the laurels of contributing to Canadian military history, Alec continues to look out for interesting old banjos, and he reports his latest find:

... a fine fretless I had bought at an auction over there [UK], got it for 50 quid plus charges... it is by J. Clamp, Newcastle, who died in 1907. Very much like a J. Dallas I once owned, but some subtle differences. One thing is that the rim is WHITE OAK, which Deering have now discovered; and the skin sits on raw wood, no tone ring. There is no 'spun over' metal sheathing on the outside, either - it is covered with cross-banded rosewood, highly lacquered. Bone tailpiece was split, so I applied a spare and strung it, and whoopee...

The BIB has added links from the Vintage Banjo Maker website, which shows a Clamp banjo of visibly high quality. White oak, as noted earlier on the BIB, has Dwight Diller's highest approval as a wood for banjos.

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EBMA e-newsletter, June 2017

The European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) has issued the third of its new monthly e-newsletters.

The lead feature is the recent hospitalisation of Bill Clifton (86) for intestinal surgery, from which he is now recovering. Bill, who calls himself 'just a person who sings traditional country music', was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2008, and the biography of him by Bill C. Malone, Bill Clifton: America's bluegrass ambassador to the world, was published in October last year. The title is specially apt as regards his influence on bluegrass in Europe.

The second and final part of the interview with mandolin maestro Mike Marshall (USA) deals - among many other things - with his love of Brazilian choro music. He is seen below in the centre of a jam in Europe; Eugene O'Brien, Dublin-born chairman of the EBMA, is on banjo on the left of the picture.

The interview mentions the adoption of bluegrass instruments into the syllabus of Boston's Berklee College, and a Berklee campus at Barcelona is now offering programmes.

The newsletter continues with illustrated reports on the 20th and final European World of Bluegrass Festival at Voorthuizen, NL, and on Roberto Dalla Vecchia's 13th Acoustic Guitar Workshop in Italy (both in May), gig lists and event calendars for EBMA-affiliated artists and festivals, and reviews of CDs - including the latest album from the Original Five (SE), who completed a tour in Ireland earlier this week.

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15 June 2017

A north wind in north Co. Dublin

The Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, announces that Le Vent du Nord (CAN), a multi-award-winning ensemble from Québec, will be performing at the Centre this coming Saturday (17 June) at 8.30 p.m. Full details and a performance video are here. The Centre's blurb says:

The group never fail to delight crowds with their glorious mix of fiddle and foot-tapping, guitar, accordion, piano, bass, hurdy-gurdy and wonderful four-part harmonies. [They deliver] catchy songs and tunes, inspired and influenced by Québec traditional folk styles, and their well-polished musical arrangements simply enhance this uplifting repertoire.

The music of Le Vent du Nord bears little obvious relation to Cajun music, let alone the traditions of the south-eastern US. Nevertheless, the other date in Ireland on their tour schedule is the Doolin Festival in Co. Clare on Sunday 18 June, where the Horsenecks (GB/USA) will also be playing. For anyone who enjoyed the Horsenecks last weekend at Westport, it's not hard to imagine the two groups finding common ground.

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Fleck and Washburn to host IBMA awards show 2017

Thanks to Kelly Kessler of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) for the news that this year's IBMA awards show on Thurs. 28 Sept. in Raleigh, NC, will be hosted by Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn.

The couple, who performed together in Dublin eighteen months ago (see the BIB for 7 Dec. 2015), are shown above with their son Juno, who has not yet joined the act but has his own 5-string. A video interview on their partnership in music and life can be seen on the IBMA's e-newsletter, together with information about the awards show and online booking facilities.

Béla Fleck is scheduled to return to Dublin next month (Mon. 10 July) for a concert at the National Concert Hall with legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea. Full details are on the NCH website, and more on the NCH's summer programme can be seen here.

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13 June 2017

Tony Williams

Josh Williams with his parents Terri and Tony (photo from Bluegrass Today)

Admirers of Josh Williams - including those who remember him as a lanky teenage mandolin player with the Special Consensus on tour in Ireland earlier this century - will hear with deep regret of the death of his father Tony, who among a lifetime of active support for bluegrass music gave the young Josh every possible encouragement. Full details are on Bluegrass Today.

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Mountain music in the Low Countries

For anyone about to go to the Low Countries - two bluegrass festivals will take place there before the end of this month.

Bluegrass in Belgium sends news of the Low Country Bluegrass Festival this coming weekend (16-18 June). This is at present the only bluegrass festival in Belgium since the suspension of the much-missed Picnic Festival at Namur. It is held in Oelegem, about 15 km east of Antwerp. The lineup over three days includes four Belgian bands (including the unique Rawhide), two from the Netherlands, and one each from Slovakia, Germany, and Britain (the Kentucky Cow Tippers, concert stars at last year's Westport festival).

The following weekend (23-5 June), as mentioned earlier on the BIB, the Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival will be held in the Netherlands, with a lineup including several acts from the USA headed by Sierra Hull in her only appearance in Europe on this trip.*

For those travelling further afield: the oldest bluegrass festival in Europe, the 45th Banjo Jamboree, takes place this weekend at Čáslav in the Czech Republic with over 25 bands (lineup here).

*Update 16 June: Since the above was written, it appears from the latest EBMA newsletter that Sierra Hull will be playing six dates in Britain after Rotterdam.

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09 June 2017

Dale Ann Bradley to head Omagh 2017 lineup

The Ulster American Folk Park at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, announces this year's 26th Bluegrass Music Festival (Fri. 1-Sun. 3 Sept.): Dale Ann Bradley (USA) - five times winner of the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award - returns to Omagh to head the 2017 lineup, which will also include Viper Central (CAN), Robirohi (EST), Flats & Sharps (GB), Dirty Beggars (Scotland), and Rackhouse Pilfer. More acts are to be announced.

Times are announced as 14.00-20.00. A full weekend pass costs £35. Day tickets for an adult are £15 for Friday, £15 for Saturday, and £12 for Sunday. Children of 4 and under are admitted free of charge; tickets for those of 17 and under are £6. A family ticket (admitting up to five persons with a MAXIMUM of two adults or a MINIMUM of one adult) costs £35 for Friday, £35 for Saturday, and £30 for Sunday. Tickets can be booked online from Monday 26 June, or by calling the ticket hotline on 028 8224 3292. Regular updates will appear on the Folk Park website.

The Folk Park also announces that Cup O' Joe will be part of its American Independence Celebrations on Tuesday 4 July (10.00-17.00).

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'Roots Freeway' back on the air

Niall Toner's 'Roots Freeway' returned to RTÉ Radio 1 for a new three-month schedule on Saturday 3 June, airing every Saturday at 11.00 p.m. Niall announced on his Facebook that he will have

... Music and song from Conor O'Donnell, Ed Dupas, We Banjo 3, the Glee Club, Eamonn O'Dowd, and more, and I'll have the Old Yellers in the studio for a chst about their current Ireland tour. Join me, if you can, and if not 'live', then check us out on the RTE Radio Player! Yours, Niall. PS. It's all about the ROOTS! E-mail the show: rootsfreeway@rte.ie.

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08 June 2017

Jim Lauderdale at Triskel Christchurch, Cork, 14 July 2017

Thanks to Tina Darb of the Triskel Christchurch arts centre in Cork city for the news that multi-Grammy-award-winning American country, bluegrass, and Americana singer/ songwriter Jim Lauderdale (above) will perform at Triskel Christchurch on Friday 14 July. His 29th album, London Southern, is due for release on 30 June.

Jim has featured in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and worked with many bluegrass artists: his friendship with Dr Ralph Stanley is exemplified by this video in which he joins Dr Ralph and the Clinch Mountain Boys (including Jack Cooke and James Alan Shelton) for a bout of friendly dissension. Another video of Jim in a solid bluegrass context is 'Old time angels'. For an example of Jim's country side, watch 'I met Jesus in a bar'.

The show starts at 8.00 p.m. on 14 July; tickets (€23.50) can be booked online or from 021 4272022. This is the first show in a European tour that includes nine dates in Britain, one in the Netherlands, and - for Dubliners for whom Cork is just too far away - a final show on Sunday 30 July at the National Concert Hall, Dublin 2, with Beth Nielsen Chapman.

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The BIB editor writes:

As announced beforehand, I was 'out of the office for reasons of pleasure' from Tuesday 16 May to Sunday 28 May inclusive, having planned a Continental trip to include the 15th International Bühl Bluegrass Festival in south-west Germany, followed by two bluegrass events in the Netherlands: the mini-festival at De Parel van Zuilen in Utrecht, and the 20th (and final) European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festival at Voorthuizen.

This ambitious plan came unstuck halfway through, and I had to miss the two Netherlands events. Apologies to all the friends whom I was looking forward to seeing at Voorthuizen; I greatly regret being absent, and the final EWOB (quite apart from its historic significance) is moreover reported to have been outstandingly good.

At the Bühl Festival, however, I'd already met friends, heard a load of very impressive music, and been given much food for thought. The following photos (by Carol Hawkins) were taken at Bühl.

Jussi Syren and the Groundbreakers from Finland (above) consistently win warmly favourable reviews in Bluegrass Unlimited for the fidelity and passion with which they capture the raw spirit and energy of bluegrass in its early years. I enjoyed them so much that a prominent member of the German bluegrass community came over to try to tone down my enthusiasm. The attempt was unsuccessful; if (as many fans in Ireland do) you want to hear bluegrass played with the guts that it had in the 1950s, very few bands anywhere do it as well as Jussi Syren and the Groundbreakers.

Curly Strings (above) have won a string of awards in their native Estonia, and last year at the 19th EWOB Festival they won not only the #1 European Bluegrass Band award but the Liz Meyer European Innovation of Bluegrass Music Award. On one level, this is completely comprehensible: they're a young, original band, full of charm, verve, and musical mastery, and worth anyone's time to see and hear. The puzzle is why they should be considered as a bluegrass band or as innovators in bluegrass. They share with bluegrass the use of bass, fiddle, mandolin, flatpicked guitar, and vocals; what they play is popular and tradition-based music in Estonian, and it's in that field that (in my view) they should be considered innovators. The music of We Banjo 3 (which I would not personally nominate for a bluegrass award) is in fact a good deal closer to bluegrass.

Balsam Range (above) from North Carolina were the headliners at Bühl, and they delivered a set with overpowering vocal, instrumental, and emotional impact. (Some of the reasons behind this are indicated in the Bluegrass Today review of their latest CD.) They have four strong lead singers, and their fiddler Buddy Melton and bass/dobro player Tim Surrett have outstanding voices, but the strength of the ensemble is something to wonder at. This is traditional bluegrass on steroids.

These were just three bands from the Bühl lineup; many more photos and videos are on the Festival Facebook, and the same applies to the EWOB Festival Facebook.

PS: The week before we reached Amsterdam, the Tropenmuseum opened its Rhythm & Roots exhibition (open till 7 January 2018), which traces the development of modern musical styles from roots in Africa. It's well worth a visit; but though the ngoni and other ancestors of the banjo can be seen and heard, the instrument in its modern form is barely mentioned.

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06 June 2017

The West's awake this weekend!

A welcome reminder from Uri Kohen, head of the organising team in Westport, Co. Mayo, together with these sticker images:

The 11th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival is taking place this weekend (9-11 June). The 2017 festival is bound to be the biggest and most ambitious one to date.

The festival will include many favourite gigs as well as some new additions to the programme. The programme will see 20 official gigs in 11 different venues, 2 workshops, 1 children’s concert, 1 vinyl record fair, 1 luthiers’ exhibition, 1 official session, and many more spontaneous ones.

Performing at the festival will be 18 different acts from 4 different countries - 10 of them are international and 8 are Irish-based. The 18 acts are made up of 60 individual musicians…. and that’s just the official count! No doubt, there will many more people arriving in town with banjos and fiddles under their oxters.

Tickets are still available via the festival's website. The festival's organising committee are very much looking forward to see all music fans in Westport this weekend.

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9th Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival, 22-4 Sept. 2017

Thanks to C. Paul Lyttle, organiser of the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival in south-west Scotland. Paul is a regular attender at the annual Omagh festival and engaged several bands from Ireland for Moniaive in earlier years. The 9th Moniaive Festival will feature the Ballinger Family Band with Matt Flinner (USA), the Horsenecks (USA/ England), Dapper McDan (Scotland), the Reckless Abandoners (England), Hot Rock Pilgrims (England), the François Vola Trio (France), Legs Levens Appalachian Clog Dancers (Cumbria)*, and Wayward Jane (Scotland)

Performance videos for all these, together with the programme and ticket information, can be seen on the festival website. The Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival is also on Facebook.

*We're not sure whether this designation indicates Cumbrian separatism or the territorial ambitions of Dumfries and Galloway. For the time being, Cumbria remains officially part of England.

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05 June 2017

Cairncastle Ulster Scots Festival - Bluegrass Evening, 27 July 2017

Thanks to Adrian Rolston of Cairncastle Ulster Scots for these images and details of this year's Cairncastle Ulster Scots Bluegrass & Folk Cross-Community Festival, and in particular of its Bluegrass Evening (Thursday 27 July).

The Festival programme (above) shows events from from 19 July to 1 September, with a central continuous core from Tuesday 25 to Sunday 30 July. Events on the 27th are in the Halfway House Hotel, Ballygally, Co. Antrim, about eight miles north of Larne. The evening concert (7.30 p.m.) features two bands: the Bluestack Mountain Boys from Dublin (who went down extremely well there last year) and the Prairie Jaywalkers from Cork, making their first Cairncastle appearance. Admission is £10.

In addition, the Thursday afternoon workshop programme includes a talk on the history of bluegrass music at 3.00 p.m. Admission is free.

Bluestack Mountain Boys: (l-r) Patrick Simpson, T.J. Screen, Luke Coffey, Aran Sheehan, Niall Hughes

Prairie Jaywalkers: (l-r) Cian Gill, Kevin Gill, Dave Riordan,
Geraldine Gill

The Bluestack Mountain Boys are members of the Dublin Bluegrass Collective which maintains the weekly jam session every Tuesday in central Dublin. Also every Tuesday, the Prairie Jaywalkers host their own session from 9.00 p.m. in Coughlan's, 7 Douglas St., Cork city. Admission to both sessions is free.

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Woodbine and the BAND Festival

Tony O'Brien, leader of Woodbine, announces:

Woodbine are NOT now playing the BAND Festival in Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal, at the end of month, due to unforeseen circumstances. We are still listed on their website but wish to let people know we are not now on programme. We wish the festival well and hope it's a great success, as we need more festivals like this.

The 1st BAND (Bluegrass And Nashville Dunfanaghy) Festival, with its impressive lineup, will be held on 23-5 June 2017. Fans of Woodbine can look forward to seeing and hearing them and their guest artists at the 2nd Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree at Athy, Co. Kildare, on 7-8 July.

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04 June 2017

Music Week at La Fuente, 23-30 Sept. 2017

Thanks to Kate Lissauer for details of the coming autumn's American Traditional Music Week at La Fuente in Andalusia, southern Spain, with host teachers Beverly Smith and Katie Bradley. Kate says:

This promises to be an amazing week, with the usual La Fuente attractions of great food, great company, and the lovely Andalusian countryside, and we will be offering our most extensive list of class option ever! The classes will be a little broader in scope than they are in Old-Time weeks. We will offer our familiar selection of fiddle, banjo, guitar, ukulele and old-time duet singing. Additionally, classes will be held in blues banjo, blues guitar, blues singing, harmonic, and individual singing.

Full details are given here and in Kate's latest e-newsletter. Multi-instrumentalist and singer Stu Weetman, who will teach blues banjo and blues guitar, says:

For those of you who haven’t had the 'La Fuente Experience', you are in for a treat. I attended my first old-time music week there a while back, and haven’t missed one since. The 2017 old-time music week will be my fourth, and the American Traditions week will be as much of a blast, if not more!

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03 June 2017

Danny Carter

The Carter Brothers (USA) were audience favourites at successive Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals in the early years of this century, and many will be sorry to hear that Danny Carter (left) is facing major health problems. Bluegrass Today reports that he

has been moved to a rehab facility after spending a month in Vanderbilt Hospital being treated for the aftermath of multiple strokes and dementia. His brother Tim says that Danny is facing a long and arduous road trying to recover, and that a long term stay in a skilled nursing facility may be in his future.

Tim asks fans and friends of the Carter Brothers to support his brother in this trying time by sending cards and letters with good wishes to Danny at The Waters of Cheatham, 2501 River Road, Room 409, Ashland City, TN 37015.

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Updated tour schedule for the Original Five

Thanks to Ola Persson, mandolinist of Sweden's The Original Five, for this poster image with the complete updated schedule of their tour over the next week. Click on the image to enlarge it. The schedule now reads:

Wed. 7th: Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover, Headford, Co. Galway, 9.30 p.m.
Thurs. 8th: Mullarkeys Bar, Clifden, Co. Galway, 9.30 p.m.
Fri. 9th: McGing's, High St., Westport, Co. Mayo, 10.00 p.m. (part of Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival)
Sat. 10th: Clew Bay Hotel, James St., Westport, Co. Mayo, 12.00 p.m. (part of Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival)
Sun. 11th: Bridge St. Pub, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, 4.00 p.m.
Sun. 11th: Black Gate Cultural Centre, Francis St., Galway city, 8.00 p.m.

This supersedes the schedule that appeared on the BIB on 13 May. All other details there about the band's achievements still apply.

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02 June 2017

News from the Mother Country

The BIB doesn't usually carry news about US artists unless there's some Irish connection. However, Mikaya Taylor (left) from Lawrenceburg, KY, is a striking example of the rising generation of young musicians in the States. Twelve years old now, she has been attracting attention for the past two years with a traditional bluegrass repertoire. It's not impossible that she and her band Raging River may be festival headliners over here some time in the future. A video sample of her singing appeared on Bluegrass Today last year.

The BIB also doesn't do reviews, but we're happy to draw attention to Hold your head up high, a new album by the North Carolina 'soulgrass' band Hank, Pattie & the Current, due for release this month. Pattie Hopkins Kinlaw has played at the annual Omagh bluegrass festival with Lynda Dawson of Kickin Grass. so her masterful fiddling and vocals are already known over here. Banjoist Hank Smith has led a Béla-Fleck-&-the-Flecktones tribute band and studied under Jens Kruger. They are backed by NC musicians E. Scott Warren (bass), Ben Parker (guitar, vocals), and Robert Thornhill (mandolin, vocals). A feature on the launch of the band appeared in Sept. 2015 on Bluegrass Today, and they are now on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Their music is described as

... combining traditional bluegrass and infusing it with their own flair, drawing from a melting pot of styles including Latin and jazz. They approach music and improvisation with deep emotion, lightning-fast thought and reaction, compose intricate, as well as dulcet melody, vocal harmony and lockstep rhythm. For them, music is an endless playground of texture, tone and space that allows for pure joy in playing.

This album should reward close study by progressive pickers, and is well worth a listen even for those whose tastes are more for traditional bluegrass,


Underhill Rose (USA) back in Ireland, 6-9 June 2017

Thanks to Geraint and Deb Jones of G Promo PR (UK) for the news that the acclaimed North Carolina 'folk-Americana' trio Underhill Rose, 'Asheville’s pre-eminent female trinity', will be back in Ireland next week for four shows as part of an eighteen-day tour of these islands that began yesterday in Winchester.

Underhill Rose were last here in early November 2016 (see the BIB for 18 Oct. 2016). The trio consists of Molly Rose (guitar, vocals), Eleanor Underhill (banjo, vocals), and Salley Williamson (bass, vocals). They'll have their latest album, Live, with them; the fifteen tracks feature original songs from their three studio albums, written by all three band members. The tour schedule shows the following dates over here:

Tues. 6th: Bronte Music Club, Rathfriland, Co. Down
Wed. 7th: Sunflower Bar, Belfast
Thurs. 8th: Colfer's Pub, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford
Fri. 9th: McAuley Place, Sallins Rd, Naas West, Co. Kildare

‘Who brought the sun’ and 'The end of 27' can be heard on SoundCloud; 'When I die' and ‘Whispering Pines Motel’ are on YouTube, together with plenty more of Underhill Rose's music.

Underhill Rose are also on Facebook and Twitter. For further information, interview, session or guest list requests, please contact Geraint or Deb Jones at G Promo PR by 'phone (+44 (0) 1584 873211; mobile + 44 (0) 7855 724798) or e-mail.

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