25 September 2016

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: alive as ever

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

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

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Apply now to take part in EWOB 2017 (# 20)!

The European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) organising team announced a week ago on Facebook:

OPEN FOR APPLICATION! (Bands and Volunteers)

It gives us great pleasure to announce that EWOB 2017 is in the works! EWOB will be celebrating its 20th anniversary!

We're proud to have been one of the major meeting grounds for European bluegrass over these 20 years and are grateful for your presence and contributions.

We will be able to use the trusted location in Voorthuizen [central Netherlands] for another year and are hoping for your support to pull off this memorable 20th EWOB.

Bands can apply by visiting www.ewob.nl; download the submission form and follow the instructions!

Bands should deliver their applications by 1 December 2016; those bands selected to perform at the 2017 EWOB Festival (25-7 May 2017) will be informed in January.

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24 September 2016

Bruff Bluegrass Festival, 1-2 Oct. 2016: lineup announced

Jack Clancy and the organising team of the Bruff Bluegrass Music Festival in Bruff, Co. Limerick, announced earlier this week the lineup for this year's event, to take place next weekend (Saturday 1 October and Sunday 2 October).

As shown on the Festival's blog and Facebook, the bands taking part will be the Down and Out Bluegrass Band from the Belfast region, and two Dublin bands, Well Enough Alone and the Tin Box Company. All shows will be in Clancy's Bar at the Limerick end of Bruff's main street. Further details of times are TBA.

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Earl Scruggs: banjo icon - coming in Mar. 2017

Thanks to Richard Thompson for revealing (in his feature yesterday on the late Vic Jordan in Bluegrass Today) that a new book on Earl Scruggs, the Father of Bluegrass Banjo, is expected to come on sale early next year. It is based on extensive interviews with Earl's family and many notable banjo-players and others who knew him or came under his influence.

Earl Scruggs: banjo icon, a 256-page book by Gordon Castelnero and David L. Russell, is being published by Rowman & Littlefield and is scheduled to appear in March 2017. The hardback is priced at $40.00 and the e-Book at $39.99; no details appear at present of a paperback issue.

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23 September 2016

Slocan Ramblers (CAN) available for bookings, 20 Oct.-18 Nov. 2017

More news from Brookfield Knights for event organisers and venue owners planning for autumn next year - Loudon Temple writes:

Hi, folks - we are excited to confirm that we have teamed up with one of the hottest bluegrass bands on the circuit - the Slocan Ramblers from Toronto - to bring them to the UK for the first time in 2017.

Timing could not be better, as it was just announced last night that they have been nominated in the prestigious Canadian Folk Awards in the Traditional Album of the Year category for their fine CD
Coffee Creek that won them so much attention in 2016.

You can see video links and hear sample tracks here. The tour period will be 20 October to 18 November next year. We anticipate a lot of interest in this band. Please let us know if you'd like to grab them for a slot on your music programme.


The Slocan Ramblers (also on Facebook) consist of Adrian Gross, Alastair Whitehead, Darryl Poulsen, and Frank Evans. They have appeared on such prestigious festivals as Rockygrass in Colorado and MerleFest in North Carolina. Moreover, they have been mentored by Chris Coole, guitarist and lead singer for the Foggy Hogtown Boys (whose tour here in 2009 included the Omagh festival), who is also an outstanding clawhammer banjo player. Brookfield Knights quote Chris as saying of the Slocan Ramblers:

What really impressed me [...] was that, while they can pull off the precision and virtuosity that is at the backbone of bluegrass, they understand the power of the fragile moment in music.

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The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, 29 Sept. 2016

Gerry Fitzpatrick, organiser of the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', announces the Session for Thursday next week (29 September):

We're back again with you on Thursday 29 Sept. The Cabin Crew with special guests Sean McComish (contemporary), Capo Two (folk), and from the USA Charlie Roth (Americana)!

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.

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22 September 2016

Tennessee Mafia Jug Band in Ireland, 29 Oct.-12 Nov. 2016

The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band from Goodlettsville, TN, will be touring Ireland for two weeks this autumn, starting just five weeks from now. The band (also on Facebook) features the unique Leroy Troy (on the left in the front row), heir to the banjo acrobatics and other performance skills of the late Uncle Dave Macon via Cordell Kemp, and a firm favourite at the much-missed Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals.

The schedule, as shown on their website, appears below. Please note the shows shown as beginning at 7.00 p.m., which seems an unusually early starting time. The BIB has changed this to 8.30 p.m. in the case of 5 Nov., on the basis of what we know of the Red Room's general practice; so please check with the venues before going to any of these shows.

Sat. 29th Oct.: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 8.30 p.m.
Thurs. 3rd Nov.: Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, 8.30 p.m.
Fri. 4th: Coach House Hotel, Ballymote, Co. Sligo, 7.00 p.m., with Rackhouse Pilfer
Sat. 5th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, 8.30 p.m.
Sun. 6th: Athy Community Arts Centre, Athy, Co. Kildare, 7.00 p.m.
Mon. 7th: Kilworth Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 7.00 p.m.
Tues. 8th: Sixmilebridge Folk Club, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 7.00 p.m.
Wed. 9th: Schoolyard Theatre, Charleville, Co. Cork, 8.30 p.m.
Thurs. 10th: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (Clonmel World Music), 8.30 p.m.; 'phone Gerry on (086)3389619
Sat. 12th: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 7.00 p.m.

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The Railsplitters (USA) - available for Aug.-Sept. 2017

Thanks to Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency for the news that plans are being made for the third tour in these islands by the Railsplitters from Colorado (above). The date run is from 28 August to 17 September.

The Railsplitters toured Ireland in the second half of June 2015, and in November-December they were part of Rainer Zellner's 7th Bluegrass Jamboree! package on its three-week tour of central Europe. Loudon writes:

The Railsplitters have wowed the crowds at Shetland Folk Festival and were hailed as an outstanding success at the big Gate to Southwell Festival in Notts, too. This footage was recorded when they played a session for the John Murray Show at RTÉ 1 last time they toured Ireland.

Please let us know if you would like to grab them for a show and advise what date/s (one or two options would be very helpful) might be available, to help us with routing considerations.


The very appreciative reviews they have received can be sampled on their press page and on the Brookfield Knights website. Event organisers and venue owners who are interested in booking this rapidly rising band can contact Loudon by e-mail.

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20 September 2016

Special Consensus in Europe, 29 Oct.-10 Nov. 2016

The Special Consensus: (l-r) Nick Dumas, Dan Eubanks, 
Rick Faris, Greg Cahill

The BIB announced on 8 September details of the forthcoming tour of Ireland by the Special Consensus (USA) in the New Year. Our friends at Bluegrass in Belgium have just made us aware that the band will be touring widely on the Continent at the end of next month and in early November; they'll be playing shows in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Czech Republic as well as Belgium.

If you expect to be in Brussels on 31 Oct., take note that as the venue (Toogenblik) has limited capacity, tickets (€12 if booked before 10 Oct., €15 after) must be reserved in advance by e-mail.

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19 September 2016

Flatpick champions of Winfield 2016

The festival widely known as 'Winfield' (Kansas) originated as the Walnut Valley National Guitar Flat-Picking Championships Festival in 1972, and Winfield winners have often become prominent figures in the music.

So the BIB thanks the Walnut Valley Association for this photo of the National Guitar Flat Pick Championship winners: (l-r) second-place winner Jason Shaw of Lincoln, Nebraska; first-place winner Steve Lewis of Jefferson, North Carolina; third-place winner Eric Hardin of West Jefferson, North Carolina.

Steve Lewis wins a Collings Winfield model mahogany/Adirondack spruce guitar; and, as he was also second-place winner in the bluegrass banjo contest, he goes home with a Deering Calico 5-string too. More news of Winfield contest winners can be seen here.

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18 September 2016

Tragic death cancels Clare festival

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka sends the sad news that the 'Che do Bheatha' festival in Kilkee, Co. Clare, next weekend is cancelled due to the tragic death of the coastguard volunteer Catriona Lucas. Two Time Polka had been scheduled to play on Saturday 24 September.

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17 September 2016

Celtic Connections 2017: tickets now on sale

Thanks to the Celtic Connections organising team in Glasgow for their latest e-newsletter, announcing that tickets are already on sale for ten of the shows at next year's event (19 Jan.-5 Feb. 2017). Full details are on the e-newsletter.

The shows listed do not include that for the Special Consensus (USA), who are scheduled to play in the Strathclyde Suite at 8.00 p.m. on 30 Jan., in the last of seven shows in Britain during their New Year tour. The following night they will be playing in the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone - 'Ireland's welcoming hug for visiting bands', as the BIB put it some time ago. Full Irish dates for the tour are here.

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'Mr Winfield' - and the Irish connections


Thanks to the Walnut Valley Association (WVA), organisers of the annual instrumentalist championships and festival at Winfield, Kansas, for the news that guitar maestro Dan Crary has made his thirty-fifth appearance at Winfield, having been at the very first event in 1972 and contributed greatly to its development. The WVA is happy to endorse the title 'Mr Winfield', given to Dan by a fan in 1992. The photos above show him in the 1970s (left) and this year (right).

Flat-picking lead guitar was not unknown in bluegrass before Dan Crary, but the examples of Don Reno, Bill Napier, and George Shuffler were not widely followed; and although Clarence White had demonstrated how the immensely influential style of Doc Watson could be used in a bluegrass band, Crary's stunning work with the Kentucky-based Bluegrass Alliance seemed to open the gate for its full acceptance in bluegrass.

Crary's tastes range widely in music, and he is also a first-class communicator. This year's Winfield festival includes a special performance of his 'Primal Twang', a stage presentation of the guitar’s long history, comprising on-stage narration, video projections of rare historical footage, and live performances by Crary and international guitar stars. A DVD of 'Primal Twang' is available. The WVA adds: 'It has been said that viewing “Primal Twang” should be a requirement for anyone that has played or has the desire to play a guitar.'

Dan Crary first performed in Ireland at the Tailor's Hall, Dublin, in autumn 1978 with the Sackville String Band (in its new four-piece bluegrass-oriented format) opening for his impressive solo act. He has subsequently played here on several occasions, both solo and as a band member in Berline, Crary & Hickman and its expanded version, California. He became a good friend of Frank Robinson of Derry, and Frank's choice of a Taylor dreadnaught as his personal acoustic guitar owes something to Dan's example and advice.

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16 September 2016

Band news

Tonight (16 Sept.) the Down and Out Bluegrass Band will be playing in the courtyard of the Dark Horse (30-34 Hill St., Belfast) from 7.00 p.m.; while at Peacocke's Hotel, Maam Cross, Connemara, the Whileaways will be playing - doors 8.00 p.m., show starts 9.00 p.m., tickets €15. And over at the Chasin Bull, Main St., Bundoran, Co. Donegal, Erdini will be playing 'a full electric set'.
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Cup O' Joe, who like the Down and Outs had a busy time last week, are now in Britain: having played last night at Upwood Village Hall in Cambridgeshire, they are now going to be at the 13th Cornish Bluegrass Festival, Hendra Holiday Park, Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 4NY, for this whole weekend (Fri. 16-Sun. 18 Sept.).
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Greenshine, who are taking part in next month's Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, will be playing on Monday 19 Sept. at the Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway, as part of Clifden Arts Festival, from 10.00 p.m.; and on Tuesday 27 Sept. in the 'Attic Sessions' at the Cove Bar, Waterford city, 8.00 p.m.
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The Henry Girls will play their last (so far) Donegal gig this year at the Railway Tavern, Fahan, Co. Donegal, on Sat. 24 Sept. with special guest Charlie Roth; doors open 9.00 p.m. Tickets are €10.
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JigJam are en route to the Michigan Irish Music Festival (USA) this weekend, while Rackhouse Pilfer are in Toulouse, France, performing for the International Cartoon Forum 2016.
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Pilgrim St are playing at the Sally Gardens, Rathkenny, Co. Meath, on Sat. 1 Oct. as a fundraiser for Newtown United F.C. Tickets are €15, and the show starts at 9.30 p.m. The band will subsequently resume recording their debut album.
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The Watery Hill Boys of Drogheda will be playing this Sunday (18 Sept.) in Clarke's, and on Saturday 1 Oct. in Carberry's, both in their home town.
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And Wookalily have a busy autumn coming up, with the following dates:

Sat. 24th Sept.: Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 25th-Mon. 26th: Winterfell MiniFest, Strangford, Co. Down (Game of Thrones Visitor Attraction)

Fri. 7th Oct.: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, Co. Down, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 8th: Crusoe's Coffee Shop, Castlerock, Co. Londonderry, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 14th: 'Roots Fridays', Belfast Empire, 10.30 p.m.
Sat. 15th: Spookalily at Brownlow Castle Halloween Party, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 22nd: The Tap Room, Newcastle, Co. Down, 10.00 p.m.

Sat. 5th Nov.: The Alley Theatre, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, 8.00 p.m.

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The Moron Brothers - better very late than never

The Moron Brothers of Kentucky, who topped the bluegrass section of the bill at the Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival in Co. Clare two years ago, have released a 45-minute video on Facebook. This was originally scheduled to air last night; but as the Brothers explain, there were some technical difficulties (involving a mouse and a .44 Magnum), and they've now posted it under the heading 'Better very late than never!' John Lawless, on Bluegrass Today, calls them

everybody’s favorite bluegrass comedians [...] a rare and remarkable act, combining good, clean, cornpone humor with bluegrass music and backwoods ways. I dare you to watch and not laugh out loud.

NB: The Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival has since grown into the Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, the next edition of which will be starting just five weeks from now (21-3 October).

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14 September 2016

4th Italian Bluegrass Meeting at Cremona, 1 Oct. 2016

More news from Europe, but at any rate with a plain connection to Ireland; plus, it's a good idea for an autumn break in Italy with bluegrass. Danilo Cartia announces from Rome:

Dear friends and enthusiasts,

I'm proud to inform you that the 4th Italian Bluegrass Meeting, edition 2016, will take place for the whole day of 1 October inside Cremona Mondomusica on the stage reserved outside the pavilions, at Fiera di Cremona.

By informing you that I will be the coordinator this year too, I invite you to write me at my e-mail to submit your attendances and if you need any explanation.

The whole Acoustic Guitar Village will take place on Friday 30 September, Saturday 1 October, and Sunday 2 October, always organised by the Cultural Association Armadillo Club, with the artistic director Alessio Ambrosi and it will revisit the same form as the Acoustic Guitar Meeting of Sarzana.

The Acoustic Guitar Meeting has been held annually in Sarzana, Italy, since 1998, and will continue under the title 'Acoustic Guitar Village'. Danilo is the moving spirit of bluegrass in Rome, organises the Rome Bluegrass Jam, and has organised the Italian Bluegrass Meeting as part of the Acoustic Guitar Meeting since 2013. He jammed with Galway's Old Town Rounders in McGing's during last year's Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival, and visited Cork (and jammed there) earlier this year.

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13 September 2016

8th Bluegrass Jamboree! hits the Autobahns in Nov.-Dec. 2016

The BIB has mentioned in previous years our good friend Rainer Zellner, his Music Contact agency in Tübingen, Germany, and his annual Bluegrass Jamboree! - the 'travelling bluegrass festival' concept which he has firmly established in the European bluegrass calendar since it began in 2009.

The Jamboree's successful format consists in bringing three acts in bluegrass, old-time, and closely related acoustic music to a score or more of select venues throughout central Europe. This year the lineup comprises the Honey Dewdrops from Virginia, the Goodbye Girls from Boston, and - for lovers of hardcore traditional bluegrass - the Truffle Valley Boys from Italy. You can see a seven-minute video preview of the artists.

The Jamboree 2016 plays its first show on 16 Nov. in Hohenems, Austria; the tour will include twenty-one shows in Germany, one in Uitikon (CH), and one in Utrecht (NL). A complete schedule can be seen here. So if you're thinking of visiting a Christmas market on the Continent, why not pick a location where the Jamboree will be playing?

While Rainer is a very capable bluegrass mandolinist himself, his agency handles a wide range of 'Roots and World Music & Diverse Thrills'. The forthcoming diverse thrills include a thirteen-show tour (4-18 Nov.) by We Banjo 3.

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12 September 2016

Get your festival known in Europe

The European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festival team have extensively remodelled their website, with new sections giving information on bluegrass in different countries of Europe, including (of course) Ireland.

EWOB needs help in keeping information complete and up to date. For instance, the page showing festivals in Ireland gives links to the Athy festival (now replaced by the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree), the Bruff festival (present status uncertain), and the Dunmore East festival (in robust health). And that's all.

However, there's a remedy for any festival organiser who wishes to avail of it. Send an e-mail to EWOB with full contact details for your event. There is also a link to the calendar of European bluegrass festivals maintained by the European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA), which may also need supplementing, updating, or correcting (for instance, the Ardara festival is shown at present in June instead of July). In this case, contact the EBMA direct.

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Undercover Country offers airplay on UCC 98.3 FM

Undercover Country
Bluegrass in Ireland Facebook publishes this news from Dylan Fitzgerald, leader of the Americana band Rattlesnake County (also on Facebook) in Cork city:

I have a country/ bluegrass/ americana radio show called 'Undercover Country' on UCC 98.3 FM (Cork Campus Radio) on Fridays at 5.30 p.m., and I was wondering if there were any bands interested in sending in demos, mp3s, SoundCloud or YouTube links to the show, or festival organisers looking to plug their event.

I try to play an Irish band or two per show, and I am always looking for material. I also like to highlight any festivals or events around the country that our listeners may enjoy.

The program's e-mail address is undercovercountrycork@gmail.com. To message or follow the page, the address is www.facebook.com/UndercoverCountry. To listen to the show, here is the mixcloud page.

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11 September 2016

Woodbine dates in October

Tony O'Brien reports that Woodbine (above) will be out playing on at least three of the weekends in October. Starting on Sunday 2 October, the band will be in Tuohy's, Pound St., Rathdowney, Co. Laois - an intimate venue and one of Woodbine's favourites.

Three weeks later Woodbine can be seen and heard on all three days of the Bunratty Bluegrass Festival in Co. Clare, playing in the evening concert on Friday (21 Oct.) and at the session venues in Bunratty Village during Saturday and Sunday. Finally, at the end of the month they'll be at the Balla Bluegrass Festival in Balla, Co. Mayo, on Sunday 30 October. Any proposals for gigs on the other two October weekends should be put to Tony via the Woodbine contact page.

Woodbine's Facebook includes a brief video clip from one of their sets at last weekend's Bluegrass Music Festival in the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh. Co. Tyrone. Many other videos and photographs of bands at the Festival can be seen on the Park's Facebook.

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09 September 2016

Bill Monroe: twenty years after

Bill Monroe as he looked in the 1970s (source)

The Father of Bluegrass Music, William Smith 'Bill' Monroe, died twenty years ago today. A generation of fans, musicians, and commentators on bluegrass has grown up that never saw or heard a live performance by him and his Blue Grass Boys.

The first biographical study of him (and still a great read) was Jim Rooney's Bossmen (1971). It has since been joined by Steve Gebhardt's film Bill Monroe: father of bluegrass music (1993; now on DVD); Richard D. Smith's Can't you hear me callin': the life of Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass (2000); Tom Ewing's compilation The Bill Monroe reader (2000); and The music of Bill Monroe (2007), a magisterial discography and commentary by Neil V. Rosenberg and Charles K. Wolfe. And on 1 Oct. 2010 Richard Thompson began on Bluegrass Today a full year of daily notes of events in Bill Monroe's life, under the title 'I'm going back to old Kentucky'.

Ewing's meticulously researched biography of Monroe is still in preparation and eagerly awaited. In September 1998 Bluegrass Unlimited magazine published his article 'What did he say? Bill Monroe on bluegrass'. One statement not mentioned was Monroe's famous, dismissive 'That ain't no part of nothing.' Hear it in this commemorative song by the Special Consensus on YouTube. Several fine songs about the Father of Bluegrass have also come from Ireland's own Niall Toner.

Update: See also this feature by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today.

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