23 August 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.


Triskel Christchurch 'Folk Fest' concert, 29 Sept. 2017

As reported on the BIB a month ago, Music Network's early autumn programme includes a tour by Cathy Jordan (voice, bodhrán, bones), Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes, whistle, voice), and Mick 'Black Dog' Daly (guitar, 5-string banjo, voice) of Cork. Details on the artists - together with full tour details, venue contact numbers, online booking facilities, and links to audio and video recordings - can be found here.

Thanks to Tina Darb of the Triskel Christchurch arts centre in Cork city for a press release on the final concert in the tour, which will take place at the Triskel on Friday 29 September at 8.00 p.m. Details, performance videos, and online booking facilities for the Triskel concert can be found here. The Triskel release also includes a new photo (shown above), in which a guitar replaces the 5-string that appeared in the original Music Network release (below).

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Gerry Madigan and George Kaye: Irish tour Oct./Nov. 2017

As announced on the BIB a week ago, this coming autumn will see the historic event of a tour by Gerry Madigan and George Kaye, who were the first to bring the sounds of bluegrass banjo and bluegrass fiddle, played at professional level, to audiences throughout Ireland. Their history as members of outstandingly successful bands can be read in the full text of the tour's advance press release. Full details of the tour schedule will appear on the BIB as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we can't do better than quote the release:

Gerry Madigan and George Kaye have been called ‘seasoned professionals’, and their offering of live music today is one born of a lifelong love for bluegrass music, years of hard experience on the road, and the illustration of that experience in the songs they have written. They are well known and respected among the musicians and devoted longtime fans of bluegrass and acoustic country music. And for today’s younger audience, avid to hear this music, these two guys are the ‘real deal’.

Gerry has enjoyed a successful career as a best-selling author and as a keynote speaker on the international speakers’ circuit throughout Canada and the USA, and now lives in Calgary, Alberta, in western Canada. He has also just released a new CD of all original songs, entitled Wild bird, fly free (available on iTunes).

George has enjoyed great success with multiple bands (including the Permanent Cure) in the UK and Germany, and now calls Germany his home. But now they’re ‘bringing it all back home’ with their visit to Ireland in October 2017. Playing a rich blend of authentic bluegrass, folk, country, and roots music (sprinkled with some original compositions), they will be playing a series of acoustic concerts (with a special guest at each show) in a select number of intimate theatres and clubs throughout Ireland. Two pioneers of bluegrass music in Ireland coming together to provide an exciting night of dynamic live music entertainment - this is a show not to be missed!

To book Gerry Madigan & George Kaye for your music venue, please contact Denise Hyland at MMI Music (denise@mmimusic.ca) or Gerry Madigan (gerry@mmimusic.ca) A final list of their tour dates and venues will be published on the MMI Music website (www.mmimusic.ca) in September.

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22 August 2017

The Skaggs connection - again

In addition to playing mandolin and guitar with Westport's Clew Bay Critters string band, Brian Lofthouse is a remarkable luthier, building high-quality carved- and flat-top guitars and instruments of the mandolin family (mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, and cittern).

A display of his instruments is part of each annual Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, and they are also available through Kieran Moloney's shop at 17 High St., Galway city - where one of Brian's octave mandolins was bought by Jake Workman of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. A brief video of Jake playing the instrument can be seen on the Critters' Facebook and also on YouTube.

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High society

The Henry Girls with Ricky Skaggs at the Bear Creek Folk Music Festival in Alberta, Canada, yesterday (from the Girls' Facebook).

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Harbour Roots Festival in Bray, 23-27 Aug. 2017

The Harbour Bar in Bray, Co. Wicklow, hosts this year's Harbour Roots Festival, a five-day event beginning this coming Wednesday (23 Aug.) and continuing through the weekend.

The festival presents a well varied programme, with Saturday 26 Aug. likely to be the high spot for BIB readers: the Whole Hog Band (with Cathy McEvoy from the Cabin Sessions on fiddle) are scheduled to play from 5.00 to 6.30 p.m., followed by the hard-driving Dublin Bluegrass Collective from 7.00 to 8.30. The DBC comment on their Facebook:

We have been meaning to play the Harbour Bar for years but never got around to it until now. It's about time too!

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19 August 2017

April Verch

Thanks to April Verch (CAN), who toured Ireland with her band three months ago, for this image of some Verch Merch - not yet on the website, but no doubt available at live shows. April is shown holding an example of the new poster heading.

On her website, you can see Instagram pictures including one of her and Joe Newberry (USA). The Ulster American Folk Park is preparing for the 26th Annual Bluegrass Music Festival just two weeks from now; both April and Joe have played separately at the Park in previous years, and they collaborated on the recent CD Going home.

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17 August 2017

Ardara visitors nominated for IBMA awards

BIB readers who enjoyed the Ardara festival last month (see the BIB for 18 July) will be glad to hear that the young Pinecastle recording artist, banjo-picker, and bandleader Garrett Newton from North Carolina is among the finalists for the IBMA Momentum Awards as instrumentalist in the 'performance' section, and Lorraine Jordan is also nominated as a mentor in the 'industry' section.

The IBMA states: '... a Momentum Artist is someone who is in the early stage of their career (less than 5 years playing gigs that are paid, OR less than 30 years old), someone who has caught the eye of music industry professionals, but has not yet established a solid reputation as an artist among the fans.'

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I Draw Slow on Whelan's Trad & Folk Festival, Dublin, 1-3 Sept. 2017

Whelan's of 25 Wexford St., Dublin 2, announce that in association with Smithwick’s Irish Ales they will be holding this year's Trad & Folk Festival on 1-3 September, with thirty acts (including I Draw Slow, who were touring the USA throughout July) taking part on three stages.

In addition to established bands, Whelan's are inviting up-and-coming folk and trad acts to apply – free of charge – for a chance to play on one of the stages. Applications can be submitted through this link.

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EBMA newsletter August 2017

Supporting European Bluegrass and Bluegrass in Europe

The European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) has issued the fifth of its new monthly e-newsletters. The main feature is an article on Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice (USA) by Don Kissil. Is the band perhaps contemplating a tour in Europe? There is also a comprehensive and well illustrated report on the recent La Roche Bluegrass Festival, where Pine Marten won joint first place in the band contest.

A typical evening audience at the La Roche Bluegrass Festival

There's a report by Lluis Gómez on a new bluegrass festival at Nofuentes in Spain; the first was held successfully on 29 July, and the second is scheduled for the last Saturday in July 2018. And although the last EWOB Festival was held at Voorthuizen (NL) in May this year, it has been announced that since the redevelopment plans for the old site have been postponed for three years, a volunteer team has undertaken to hold a three-day bluegrass festival there annually on Ascension weekend, beginning with 10-12 May 2018.

The newsletter continues with reviews, gig lists, and event calendars for EBMA-affiliated artists and festivals, including Cup O' Joe. You can arrange to receive the newsletter by contacting the EBMA board, without having to be an EBMA member.

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16 August 2017

The Cabin Session, Dundrum, 31 Aug. 2017

Gerry Fitzpatrick, organiser of the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', announces the Session for this month:

Hey Y'all,

We're back on 31 August with special guests Paul Hennessy (Americana), Jackie Hennessy (contemporary), and Emma Butler (contemporary). Lots of good music for ya!

The Sessions are held on the last Thursday of every month at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dundrum, south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station, in the city direction). Shows run from 9.30 to 11.30 p.m. and admission is FREE. If you or someone you know would like to perform at the Cabin Sessions, let Gerry know by e-mail. The Sessions are particularly interested in featuring local musicians and singers.
The Cabin has a special treat in store for two months from now, when Gerry Madigan (Cotton Mill Boys; see the BIB for 28 Mar.) and George Kaye (Smokey Mountain Ramblers), 'two pioneers of bluegrass music in Ireland coming together and bringing it all back home on their first Irish reunion tour', will be playing there on Thursday 26 October. Full details of their autumn tour will appear on the BIB in the very near future.

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Full colour brochure for Dunmore East 2017 published

Thanks to Mick Daly, head of the organising team of the annual Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, for these images of the colour brochure and programme schedule for the 23rd edition of the Festival, which will be held over four days at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, beginning a week from now (24-7 Aug.). Copies will be available in plenty at Dunmore East, but as an advance measure you can click on the images to enlarge them, and note the times and places of your favourite bands.


15 August 2017

Jason Wilber (USA) in Ireland, 12-26 Aug. 2017

Thanks again to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for mentioning that the Red Room will be presenting Jason Wilber (USA) on Thursday 24 August. Not bluegrass - but many bluegrassers like the songs of John Prine, and Wilber has been a member of Prine's band for twenty years.

As a solo artist, his singing and song-writing are straight, clear, and effective, and the same goes for his fingerpicked guitar accompaniment. His latest album, Reaction time, was released worldwide last Friday (11 Aug.), and three dates of the current tour have already been played. The remaining dates in Ireland are:
Tues. 15th: Bourbon Bar, Sligo town
Wed. 16th: An Grianan, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Thurs. 17th: Errigle Inn, Belfast
Fri. 18th: Leap Castle, near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary
Sat. 19th: Town Hall Theatre, Galway city
Sun. 20th: Whelan’s, Dublin 2
Tues. 22nd: Theatre Royal, Waterford city
Wed. 23rd: Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal
Thurs. 24th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Fri. 25th: Vicar Street, Dublin
Sat. 26th: Cultúrlann Sweeney, Kilkee, Co. Clare

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14 August 2017

Henhouse Prowlers (USA) in Ireland, 25-7 Aug. 2017

The Henhouse Prowlers: (l-r) Kyle O'Brien, Ben Wright, Jon Goldfine, Aaron Dorfman

Thanks to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room at Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for the news that Chicago's Henhouse Prowlers will be ending their current European tour at the Open House Festival Bluegrass Picnic in Bangor, Co. Down, on 27 August, after playing two other dates in Ireland. This is their second tour in Europe this year, and before coming to Ireland this month, the band will have played in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Britain. Their dates here are:

Fri. 25th: St John's Theatre, The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.; 068 22566
Sat. 26th: Thomas House, 86 Thomas St., Dublin, 8.00 p.m.; 085 203 9047
Sun. 27th: Bluegrass Picnic, Ward Park, Bangor, Co. Down, 2.30-5.00 p.m., with Open House Festival Choir (part of Open House Festival)

Sharon says of the Picnic: 'It's a free, family-friendly event in a beautiful location, bring a deckchair or sit on the grass with a picnic and enjoy the music - good weather obviously helps, but it's a great afternoon no matter what.' Plenty of the Prowlers' music can be found on YouTube, including their own channel.

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Viper Central: getting to feel at home at Omagh

Thanks to Gillian Grattan for these photos and report from the launch last Thursday (10 Aug.) of this year's Omagh Bluegrass Festival. A full press release on the Festival will follow.

Top bluegrass band Viper Central from Canada paid a visit to the Ulster American Folk Park to launch the 26th Annual Bluegrass Music Festival taking place from Friday September 1 to Sunday September 3. The popular festival will feature award-winning international and homegrown artists including the multi-award-winning Dale Ann Bradley Band from the USA, as well as bands from across Europe and up-and-coming Irish talent including Rackhouse Pilfer, who recently played at Glastonbury. For further information and to book online, visit www.nmni.com/uafp.

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13 August 2017

Ferguson and Henry reunite for July 2018 tour

Colin (left) and Gary on an earlier tour

Thanks to singer/songwriter Gary Ferguson (USA) for news of his tour in Ireland during July 2018, in which he will be reunited with Belfast dobro maestro Colin Henry. This will be Gary's twelfth tour of Ireland, and Colin has been his musical partner on five previous tours. In 2018 they will also have the support of Colin's son James on 5-string banjo. More information, including photos and ample bio details, are here. The dates confirmed for the forthcoming tour are:

Thurs. 5th July: Sunflower Folk Club, Belfast
Fri. 6th: Moy River B&B house concert, Cloonacool, Co. Sligo
Sat. 7th: TBD
Sun. 8th: Tech Amergin Arts Centre, Waterville, Co. Kerry
Mon. 9th: TBD
Tues. 10th: TBD
Wed. 11th: TBD
Thurs. 12th: TBD
Fri. 13th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Sat. 14th: 3rd Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree, Athy, Co. Kildare

For bookings and more information, contact Gary by e-mail.

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11 August 2017

25th Omagh Festival nominated for IBMA Special Award

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) issued yesterday a press release listing the nominees for the Special Awards at this year's World of Bluegrass (26-30 Sept.) in Raleigh, NC. Paul Schiminger, the IBMA's executive director, writes:

The Special Awards honour and celebrate the outstanding annual contributions of those who are the backbone of the bluegrass community.

So it's something for the whole bluegrass community in Ireland to celebrate that the 25th Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, is one of the five nominees for Bluegrass Event of the Year, and the only one from outside the USA. Richard Hurst, head of the festival organising team at the Folk Park, writes:

We are very happy here today up in Omagh! Thinking now of banjo master Al Batten, Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, Mike Auldridge, Miss Ethel Elliott, the great Ralph Blizard, Jim Irvine, Tarmo Vardja, as well as our own Tony McAuley, Ronnie Crutchley, and gentleman Rodney McElrea who would all be happy to know about this fabulous nomination for our Festival!
The categories for IBMA Special Awards include Broadcaster of the Year, Bluegrass Event of the Year, Best Graphic Design for a Recorded Project, Best Liner Notes for a Recorded Project, Print/Media Person of the Year, and Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year. Nominees in each category are selected by a specially appointed committee of bluegrass music professionals who know that field well; and the recipient of each award is selected by the Panel of Electors, an anonymous group of over 200 veteran bluegrass music professionals selected by the IBMA Board of Directors.

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10 August 2017

Bigfoot (USA) to headline Gainsborough old-time festival, 9-11 Feb. 2018

Bigfoot: (l-r) John Herrmann, Cleek Schrey, Rhys Jones, Meredith McIntosh, Susie Goehring (photo: Mike Melnyk)

The FOAOTMAD news blog announces that at the next annual old-time music festival in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England (9-11 Feb. 2018), the headline band will be Bigfoot. More details TBA. Tim Rooke, festival organiser, adds:

The band are planning to stay in the UK for approximately one week after the festival with John and Meredith possibly staying longer. If anyone is interested and able to accommodate them with a booking can they please contact me by email at tim.rooke@btinternet.com.

No hint that they might come to Ireland, but we can hope...

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Omagh 2017

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for the news that Dale Ann Bradley, who will top the bill at the 26th Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, three weeks from now, will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in May 2018, joining a distinguished company of bluegrass musicians who have previously been inducted. Full details are on Bluegrass Today.

Important clarifications to the Omagh timetable have also appeared on the Festival web page. The first times the reader sees are 'Time/Date - 16:00 - 20:00, Fri 1 Sep 2017 - Sun 3 Sep 2017', but this is misleading. According to the more detailed commentary that follows, the programme begins on Friday at 2.00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday at 12.30 p.m.

On Friday evening Old Hannah (Sligo), Flats & Sharps (England), Viper Central (Canada), and the Dirty Beggars (Scotland) will deliver a programme beginning 'as dusk falls' and continuing ''til late'.

On Saturday the evening programme begins at 6.30 p.m. and continues to midnight with Robirohi (EST), the Henry Girls (Co. Donegal), Dale Ann Bradley, and Rackhouse Pilfer (Sligo).

On Sunday the 'Party in the Park' lasts till 6.30 p.m. There will be a gospel concert by Robirohi and Dale Ann Bradley (time not specified).

And - a very welcome inspiration - the Saturday lecture will be held this year, renamed 'the Mc Lecture' in honour and memory of both Tony McAuley and Rodney McElrea. From 1.00 to 2.00 p.m. Dale Ann Bradley will be talking about her life and music.

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Jimmy Martin, born 10 August 1927

James Henry Martin, as rhythm guitar player, lead singer, songwriter, and bandleader, has always been recognised as one of the foremost makers of classic bluegrass style and repertoire. To mark his birth, here's a 2012 tribute, 'My name is Jimmy Martin', composed by banjo-picker Ray Edwards, with vocals by guest stars.

Many in the music business, as well as others in his life, found Jimmy Martin mercurial, abrasive, and hard to understand. The admirable University of Illinois Press has now published Don't give your heart to a rambler: my life with Jimmy Martin, the King of Bluegrass by Barbara Martin Stephens, who has earned her own place in bluegrass history as one of the first women to take on the role of booking agent. See this feature by John Curtis Goad on Bluegrass Today. The book (with or without audiobook) can also be bought here.

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09 August 2017

Pine Marten win joint first place at La Roche 2017 band contest!

Pine Marten at La Roche: (l-r) Niall Hughes, Simon Guy, Paddy Kiernan, Cristal Sénès, Alec Brown (photo: Laurence Laisne-Guy)

Congratulations to Dublin's Pine Marten on coming joint first in the band contest at the great La Roche Bluegrass Festival on the edge of the French Alps last week. The European Bluegrass Music Association Facebook announces that they shared first place with Le Chat Mort (Sweden), with Candy Floss (Slovakia) coming in third; and adds:

First and second place prize money will be divided between the two first-place bands and both have been invited to play at the Rapidgrass Bluegrass Festival in Colorado in June next year. All three bands are offered free EBMA membership for two years.

The Festival website indicates a total of €3,000 in cash to be divided between Pine Marten and Le Chat Mort, and $5,000 travel allowance for attending Rapidgrass. They may also be headliners at the 2018 La Roche festival. Congratulations again to Pine Marten; the photo above is on their Facebook. Many more photos from La Roche are on the Festival's Facebook.

Pine Marten will be playing on the last weekend of this month at the 23rd Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.

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Glen Campbell

The world's media (including Bluegrass Today) are carrying the sad news that multi-talented, multi-award-winning Glen Travis Campbell died yesterday at the age of 81. His success as a performing and recording artist followed a thriving career as a session musician: in the early 1960s, for instance, he was the guitarist on a dobro LP by Tut Taylor.

His 'Rhinestone cowboy' hit led one journalist to write (with apparent approval) that he had brought country music away from the image of gingham dresses and banjos - in fact, Glen Campbell brought a succession of outstanding banjo players (John Hartford, Larry McNeely, Carl Jackson) before the mass audience for his 'Goodtime hour' TV show. The Bluegrass Today feature includes a video of Campbell and McNeely doing a blistering one-minute version of Don Reno's 'Dixie breakdown'.

Not only did Glen Campbell pick banjo himself (see photo above) - his daughter Ashley took up the 5-string on her own initiative in 2008 and has since been accompanying her father in stage shows (see this 2012 BT feature).

Update 10 Aug.: Tributes to Glen Campbell from Ricky Skaggs and other members of the country and bluegrass music communities can be read on the Prescription Bluegrass Blog.

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08 August 2017

Ireland's sirens underground

That's the heading on the latest e-newsletter from Bluegrass Underground, the unique music venue in caverns below McMinnville, TN. The venue celebrates its ninth birthday this month. The words refer to a concert on 26 August featuring Maura O'Connell, 'a singer's singer, technically flawless, but with a rich emotional core that is genuinely breathtaking', supported by Bluegrass Underground's own Irish-country-bluegrass fusion group, the Celtic Sojourners. Full details (together with much more information on coming events) are on the newsletter, and tickets can be booked here.

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Ralph Lewis

Richard Thompson reports on Bluegrass Today the sad news that Ralph Lewis of North Carolina died on Friday (4 Aug.) at the age of 89, having been active with his band the Sons of Ralph up to earlier this year.

Ralph became a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in 1974 as guitarist and lead singer (also at times playing twin fiddle with Kenny Baker). Older BIB readers may have seen and heard him playing in Belfast with the band during their 1975 UK tour. Also in the band at that time were Randy Davis (bass) and Bob Black (banjo). In his musical autobiography Come hither to go yonder: playing bluegrass with Bill Monroe, Bob frequently mentions Ralph, including this first impression:

... Ralph Lewis was fun-loving and relaxed - a country-type person who sang and played all the old songs with easy-going skill, knowledge, and soul. He spoke with an accent that reminded me of Andy Griffith. I felt I had known him all my life.

The photo above (from the Sons of Ralph website) shows Ralph, Bill Monroe, and Randy Davis (partly hidden) during a 1974 tour of Japan. A good deal about Ralph's life and music is on the internet.

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Michael J. Miles and Greg Cahill together

Following on from the BIB post of 2 Aug., thanks to Michael J. Miles for these two poster images for shows associated with his 'Panorama' series in collaboration with Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Kogan.

Note that the 'American Car' show features fellow Chicagoan Greg Cahill of the Special Consensus. Greg and Michael both teach at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music; their collaborations over the years include the compilation First 50 songs you should play on banjo, published by Hal Leonard, for whom they have just finished a second book, Gold mine for the banjo, with fifty bluegrass lessons from Greg and fifty clawhammer lessons from Michael.

Any suggestions for dates on 1, 2, or 3 November for Michael's forthcoming tour will be welcome. He can be contacted by e-mail.

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07 August 2017

This coming weekend at the Seamus Ennis Centre

The Séamus Ennis Arts Centre at Naul, Co. Dublin, announces a group of events on the three nights of this coming weekend (11-13 Aug.), some of which definitely will, and some could, interest BIB readers. All are 'Gigs in the Garden': outdoor events, held in the Piper's Garden at the Centre, with standing room only. Limited seating is available (first come, first served) and tickets are limited too, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Friday night: folk/trad groups Stockton's Wing and Ulaid with Duke Special, plus Viper Central (CAN) on the second show in their 2017 tour. Doors open 7.00 p.m., show starts 7.30.

Saturday night: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Donovan is supported by The Whileaways. Doors open 7.00 p.m., show starts 7.30.

Sunday afternoon: Family BBQ with country music - no artists are mentioned, but the accompanying photo shows what may be a Blueridge BR-140 dreadnaught. Doors open 1.30 p.m.; admission free (charge for BBQ food).

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04 August 2017

More on Bluegrass Camp Ireland 2017 - and Massey mandolins

The photo above of students, teachers, and organisers at last weekend's Bluegrass Camp Ireland is taken from the Camp's Facebook, where the event is comprehensively reviewed by Simon and T.J. Their final paragraph is worth quoting:

We think you deserve something pretty special to help you flourish as musicians, We think this may be capable of being a world class event. We're booked in for the same weekend next year (last week of July before the Republic August Bank holiday). Keep playing.

The BIB editor writes:

Also on hand at the Camp were flyers for Massey mandolins (photo above), designed and built since 1989 by Mick Massey, originally of Dublin and now based in Cavan: see his entry on the Session website. He specialises in arched-top, tap-tuned instruments of the mandolin family, mainly F-5, H-5 (mandola), and A styles, using mainly Alpine spruce tops and figured maple and other tonewoods for backs and sides; and also makes original designs and custom orders to suit the requirements of individual clients. Repairs, refrets, modifications, pickup installations, setup, and adjustments to all string instruments are also handled. He can be contacted at 087 2605259 or via Facebook.

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03 August 2017

Mo Pitney at Enniskillen (26 Aug.) and Westport (27 Aug.)

Thanks to writer, journalist, and Bluegrass Today contributor Richard Thompson for the news that Mo Pitney, a traditional country music singer and songwriter with a strong background in bluegrass music, will be playing two shows in Ireland later this month. Richard shares the news as he knows that some bluegrass enthusiasts love traditional country music as well.

Both shows are part of the new Aiken Promotions multi-venue country music festival Harvest 2017. Mo Pitney will be on the bill at Enniskillen Airport, Co. Fermanagh, on Saturday 26 August, and at Westport House, Co. Mayo, on Sunday 27 August. Both shows start at 8.00 p.m. These are the first dates in a tour of Europe that takes Mo Pitney to England for six shows and Switzerland for two. Full details are on his online tour schedule.

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Friday night is Bluegrass Night at Whelan's (4 Aug. 2017)

Whelan's of Wexford St., Dublin 2, send a reminder of their 4th Dublin Blues, Roots, & Brass Festival, a three-day event beginning tomorrow (Friday 4 Aug.). Tomorrow also appears to be the main night for bluegrass enthusiasts, with Dublin's own Dublin Bluegrass Collective (aka Bluestack Mountain Boys) playing on the Street Stage from 7.00 to 9.00 p.m., and Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra from Oslo, Norway, playing on the Upstairs Stage from 10.30 to 11.30 p.m. The Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra has all six regular bluegrass instruments plus accordion, and the strong lead vocals of Rebekka Nilsson.

The festival is supported by Fáilte Ireland, O'Hara's Irish craft brewery, and IMRO. Admission is free from 7.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Some noted figures on the Irish bluegrass scene can be seen (if you're quick) in the sampler video shot at last year's event.

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Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, 20-22 Oct. 2017

Thanks to Brendan Walsh of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club, organiser of the annual Shannonside Winter Music Weekend, for the following press release on this year's Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, to be held in Bunratty village, Co. Clare, on 20-22 October 2017:

Bunratty Bluegrass Festival is now established as one of Ireland’s best emerging bluegrass weekends on the National Bluegrass Events Calendar.

The headline concerts feature international artistes such as the Slocan Ramblers from Canada, the Malina Brothers from the Czech Republic, and the Munich String Band from Germany. A young UK bluegrass band, the Propane Brothers, who include the Agnew brothers from Cup O’ Joe (one of last year's favourites); Roger Green from the US along with American duo Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay; and UK father and son Kevin and Neil Garratt of the Grove Band complete the international lineup this year.

Bluegrass promoter John Nyhan, along with local bluegrass supporters Leo Hayes and Bill Forster, will ensure that the daytime sessions are open and welcoming to all bluegrass enthusiasts.

Bunratty village venues are intimate and cosy. Better still, the venues are all within easy walking distance of each other and the village itself is just off the main N18 Limerick/Galway road. With an abundance of top-rate restaurants and the unique Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, you’ll be able to pamper yourself while enjoying the fantastic music from 8.30 p.m. on Friday to 8.30 p.m. Sunday, maybe later if John Nyhan has his way!

Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday evening concerts are all priced at €15 each. Combined tickets for the three nights are available for €30 from Brendan at 0868464509; please text to book.

Once again the Bunratty Folk Park will take centre stage on Sunday 22 October. There will be eight scheduled one-hour performances by most of the bands taking part in the festival. A great way to walk off the excesses of Saturday night, while still enjoying the best of bluegrass! Normal seasonal entry rates apply.

The festival is hosted by a strong team of pickers and organisers from Sixmilebridge Folk Club. They are the backbone that keeps the festival vibrant and exciting every year. A highlight for visiting musicians is the warm welcome from local musicians who meet up to session at over twenty free events, in seven venues around Bunratty village over the weekend.

Full programme will be available early September on www.wmw.ie and www.bunratty.ie.

Update 5 Aug.: A comment received on this post reads: 'Be there or be square.' The BIB cordially agrees.

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More bands for Dunmore East 2017 lineup: updates

Thanks to Mick Daly, organiser of the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, for the news that more bands have been added to the lineup of the 23rd Festival three weeks from now (24-27 Aug.). In addition to those already announced - headliners I Draw Slow, Viper Central (CAN), Pine Marten, Molly and the Blackbriar Band, the Mons Wheeler Band, and the Backyard Band - the roster now includes the Back Axels (Offaly), One Horse Pony (Cork), Woodbine (Athy), and the Mojo Blues Band. More bands will be announced!

Pine Marten are taking part in the 12th La Roche Bluegrass Festival,* beginning today at La Roche-sur-Foron, on the edge of the French Alps. Similarly, this coming Saturday Woodbine will be supporting the Sweet Olive String Band (USA) at the Maldron Hotel, John Redmond St., Shandon, Cork, at 8.00 p.m., as part of the Mother Jones Festival.

Updates 14 Aug.: Thanks to Sisyphus for supplying the website address for Molly and the Blackbriar Band (see comment below). Keep rolling that rock!

*And they came joint first in the La Roche band contest! See the BIB for 9 Aug..

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Two Time Polka: August gigs

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka sends news of the band's gigs for August:

Spraoi Festival, Waterford city
Fri. 4th: The Tower Hotel, The Mall. Start 10.30 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 051 870129
Sat. 5th: The Three Shippes, William St. Start 10.30 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 051 843178

Sat. 12th: Main St., Skibbereen, Co. Cork. Open air. Start 9.30 p.m. Adm. free.

Canal Quarter Festival
Sun. 20th: Hugh Lynch's Bar, Kilbride St., Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Start 8.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 0872505422

Sun. 27th: The Haven Hotel, Dock Rd, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford. Start 6.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 051 383150

Our next mail will include our gigs at the Dunfanaghy Blues & Jazz Festival, Co. Donegal, and the Empire Bar in Belfast.

Regards & thanks,
Ray & TTP

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02 August 2017

Michael J. Miles (USA) back in Ireland to celebrate Pete Seeger, Nov. 2017!

The latest e-newsletter from Michael J. Miles (USA) - the man who showed that Bach could be beautifully played on the clawhammer banjo - includes the good news that he will be returning to Ireland in November to perform his 'From Senegal to Seeger' showcase for banjo music. Michael writes:

As we approach the 100th anniversary of Pete Seeger’s birth [1919], the words and passions that Pete brought to the world ring ever more loudly. His weapon of choice of course was his heart, his voice, and the banjo.

Confirmed dates in Ireland so far are:

Sat. 4th Nov.: Clarinbridge, Co. Galway
Mon. 6th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork
Tues. 7th: Athy, Co. Kildare

Other dates are TBD. Michael will then travel to Barcelona for the 16th Al Ras Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival (9-11 Nov. 2017). More news of his multifarious activities, including facilities for online buying of CDs and books, and a video of Michael and Darol Anger (fiddle) playing 'Midnight rider', are on his e-newsletter.

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'Bluegrass on the Walls' cancelled

With reference to yesterday's BIB post mentioning 'Bluegrass on the Walls' as due to take place this coming weekend (5-6 August) in Derry city, Frank Galligan sends the sad news that funding for 'Bluegrass on the Walls' has been withdrawn at short notice, and the event has consequently been cancelled. All bands scheduled to take part have been informed. The Maiden City Festival, of which 'Bluegrass on the Walls' traditionally forms a part, has itself been cut to three days (9-11 Aug.).


2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland - a great experience

The BIB editor writes:

Through the generosity of Simon Humphries and T.J. Screene, co-organisers of Bluegrass Camp Ireland, Carol and I were able to drop in on the 2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland when it was well into its second day on Saturday 29 July, and - a much appreciated bonus - stay over till after breakfast on Sunday. The best way to sum up our experiences as guests is to refer to the BIB of 6 July, in which Simon and T.J. describe the location, the organisation, the instruction, the atmosphere, and the food. We found every word of that to be true. 

Don't take our word for it: here are reports by two active participants for the whole weekend. First, William Duddy:

That was my second Bluegrass Camp Ireland and, if it were possible, I enjoyed it even more than last year's inaugural event, meeting many old friends and making more new ones - some of whom were venturing across from the Irish traditional scene. This is really a tuition weekend and mini-festival rolled into one, with the daytime classes followed, after dinner, by excellent stage concerts on both nights - featuring the top-flight American visitors who were well matched by our own local talent.

Jeff Burke [photo] opened many new doors for those of us in his mandolin class. It is a rare thing in a great player to be such a good teacher with a really focused, structured, patient approach as well as being an all-round nice guy (worth 380 of your euro in itself!). But then maybe not so rare, because all of the other tutors were earning the same feedback from their own students. The accommodation, in Headfort School, must be unique in bluegrass circles and the food by the Edible Flower catering ladies was top notch. Simon and T.J. deserve great credit for their warm welcome right from the 'get go', continuous hard work, and wonderful good humour throughout the whole weekend.

This has to be one of the friendliest gatherings on the island and along with Patrick, Luke, Niall, Aran, and Lily (of Dublin Bluegrass Collective) we couldn't ask for a nicer, friendlier bunch of people. I really hope we can help Simon and T.J. meet what seems to be a fairly critical numbers threshold for next year to establish this fine project as a regular calendar event.

Secondly, Colin Henry:

James and I thoroughly enjoyed the Bluegrass Camp Ireland. I thought Simon Humphries and T.J. Screene did a great job in putting together what was a well organised, informative, and above all fun weekend. The teaching standard was very good. Even though I am a dobro player I attended Bill Forster's banjo class. He is an excellent teacher and great player; and dobro or not, he managed to instil some wisdom into my old hands! James was very taken with him and told me on the way home that he had learnt a great deal from him over the weekend.

The jamming was non-stop from arrival on Friday to departure on Sunday afternoon. (And for some literally non-stop, with a few managing to forgo sleep between Saturday and Sunday). There were fast jams, slow jams, and all points in between to suit your abilities or inclination. I met many old and young friends and made many new ones. The setting at Headfort School in Kells was beautiful and perfect, and the accomodation was spot on. I must make a special mention of the food by Edible Flower. If truth be told it was worth it for that alone. In short, Simon and T.J. must be commended - and more importantly, supported - in taking a risk on this idea of a Bluegrass Camp in Ireland. Personally I think it is an asset to Irish bluegrass. I hope it can continue and flourish.

The attached photo is the Saturday evening concert with Sweet Olive String Band in the great room with the Headfort House ancestors looking down from the walls and enjoying cracking bluegrass!

The BIB applauds this unique event, Ireland's equivalent to the acclaimed Sore Fingers Summer Schools in England. It has already attracted attenders from abroad, but there's ample room for more support from within Ireland. 

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01 August 2017

Wanted - banjo lessons in the Derry area

Philippa Robinson in Derry city would be glad to know of anyone who could give three-finger style banjo lessons, either in or very near the city.

With 'Bluegrass on the Walls' due to take place this coming weekend (5-6 Aug.) and five Ulster bands taking part (though none of them from Derry itself), we hope someone knows of a banjo player who can help. Send an e-mail either to the BIB editor, or - even better - direct to Philippa.

Update 2 Aug.: Frank Galligan sends the sad news that funding for 'Bluegrass on the Walls' was withdrawn at short notice, and the event has consequently been cancelled. All bands scheduled to take part have been informed. The Maiden City Festival, of which 'Bluegrass on the Walls' traditionally forms a part, has itself been cut to three days (9-11 Aug.).

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Andy Gordon and Jack Bernhardt remember Rodney McElrea in Omagh Today

Following the BIB reports of 28 June and 5 July on the late, irreplaceable Rodney McElrea of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, we are most grateful to Rodney's widow Ruth and his daughter Lyndsey for copies of commemorations of him, published in the fortnightly magazine Omagh Today. These include two moving tributes: from broadcaster Andy Gordon, a friend for many years and Rodney's right-hand man in preparing and presenting each annual McAuley Lecture; and from Professor Jack Bernhardt of North Carolina, whose friendship with Rodney began when they joined forces in presenting the lectures. Copies of this issue of Omagh Today can be ordered through its website.

The funeral service programme shows that the hymns included the well known 'What a friend we have in Jesus' and 'Amazing grace', and another of which Andy Gordon writes:

As I sat at his funeral and the first hymn was announced as being Rodney's favourite, I couldn't believe it - he was doing in death what he did during our nights together - he played something I had never heard - 'There's a wonderful story' - and it was beautiful. I imagined him looking down and saying 'Here Andy, this one's for you, you'll not know it but you'll like it.'

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Banjo honours

Bluegrass Today reports that Scott Vestal has been awarded the 2017 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo & Bluegrass. BT's John Lawless calls him 'a true innovator on the five string banjo and one of the most creative players we’ve yet seen', and Steve Martin reveals that Scott has been on the short list for the award every year since it was founded.

On the album cover (above) Scott is shown playing a Stealth Banjo, designed and marketed by himself; one of the most conspicuous features is the tunnelled fifth string, as used on many English banjos of the 19th and 20th centuries. Several examples of his wide-ranging playing can be heard on the Bluegrass Today feature.
The Prescription Bluegrass Blog announces that the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City will hold its three-day Banjo Fest on 7-9 Sept. 2017, incorporating the inductions into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame of John McEuen, Paul Erickson, Roy Clark, Tony Trischka, and Joel Walker Sweeney. The Hall of Fame, originally dedicated to four-string banjo players, was extended in 2013 to include the 5-string, with which four out of the five 2017 inductees are associated. Performers at Banjo Fest will include the Kruger Brothers and Gary 'Biscuit' Davis (who was touring Ireland in January 2014 with the Nation & Blackwell Bluegrass Band).

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27 July 2017

East of Monroe (USA) in Ireland, 7-14 Apr. 2018

East of Monroe: (l-r) Jackie Frost, Gary Alan Ferguson, Billy Budd,
Wally Hughes, Lisa Kay Howard, Terry Wittenberg

Lisa Kay Howard (mandolin) and Wally Hughes (fiddle, dobro) were both on tour over here in April this year as 'Round Hill', accompanying singer Brooksie Wells. Both are members of the highly regarded Virginia-based band East of Monroe; and Lisa Kay sends the good news that East of Monroe will be coming to Ireland early next April (2018) for a tour of selected venues. The full lineup includes Gary Alan Ferguson (lead guitar), who was here in 2014 as musical partner to Gary Gene Ferguson on his tenth tour of Ireland. Confirmed dates are:

Sat. 7th Apr.: Moy River B&B, Cloonacool, Co. Sligo
Sun. 8th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Mon. 9th-Wed. 11th: Off (sightseeing)
Thurs. 12th: Matt Molloy's, Bridge St., Westport, Co. Mayo, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 13th: St John’s Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry
Sat. 14th: Blackrock National Hurling Club ('The Rockies'), Cork city

Full information on the band is on their website and Facebook. Lisa Kay now presents her 'The old home place' show on Bell Buckle Radio out of Bell Buckle, TN.

Update 1 Aug.: Note the confirmed date for Thursday 12 April, added since this post was first published.

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26 July 2017

Mick Daly on Music Network tour, 12-29 Sept. 2017

The latest Music Network e-newsletter includes lists of openings for musicians and a calendar of events for the next two months, which includes a tour by Cathy Jordan (voice, bodhrán, bones), Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes, whistle, voice), and Mick 'Black Dog' Daly (guitar, 5-string banjo, voice) of Cork; the banjo shown above is a 5-string, with (we believe) a frailing scoop.

Details on the artists - together with full tour details, venue contact numbers, online booking facilities, and links to audio and video recordings - can be found here. The tour will not be in any sense a bluegrass or old-time event. Mick Daly, though, is one of the pioneers of playing both genres in this country. His career in music is outlined and illustrated in a 36-minute interview on the YouTube channel of Crowley's Music in their 'The measure of Cork' series. Mick's time as a member of the Sackville String Band comes up at about minute 22. His 1874 S.S. Stewart banjo is also seen and heard.

Confirmed dates for the tour are:

Tues. 12th: The Sugar Club, Dublin 2, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 13th: glór, Ennis, Co. Clare, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 14th: Roscommon Arts Centre, Roscommon town, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 15th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 17th: Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m.
Tues. 19th: Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway, 10.00 p.m.
Wed. 20th: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 21st: Garter Lane Theatre, Waterford city, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 22nd: Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 29th: Triskel Christchurch, Cork city, 8.00 p.m.

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2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland THIS COMING WEEKEND

Headfort School, the magnificent location for Bluegrass Camp Ireland

Thanks to Simon Humphries, co-organiser with T.J. Screene of Bluegrass Camp Ireland (also on Facebook), for a reminder that the 2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland is this coming weekend (Fri. 28-Sun. 30 July). The instructors - who include members of the Sweet Olive String Band (USA), now touring in Ireland) - are:

  • Mike Kirwin: Guitar/ Bass/ Voice
  • Pat Flory: Guitar
  • Jeff Burke: Mandolin
  • Bill Forster: 5-string Banjo
  • Paddy Kiernan: 5-string Banjo
  • Luke Coffey: 5-string Banjo
  • Kieran Towers: Fiddle
  • Hubert Murray: Guitar/ Voice

Food by 'The Edible Flower'
Venue by courtesy of the Earl of Bective
Friday 28 July: Arrive 1.00 p.m.

See also the BIB for 6 July. The BIB applauds this unique event, Ireland's equivalent to the acclaimed Sore Fingers Summer Schools in England.

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