26 February 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.

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25 February 2017

BassTree String Band (GB) now on Facebook

Thanks to Mark Jones for the news that the BassTree String Band (see the BIB for 10 Feb.), based in eastern England, are now on Facebook.

The band comprises (photo, l-r) Mark, guitar; Howard Burton, banjo; and Asa Hardy-Brownlie (bass). Mark and Howard are also members of the Dude Coopers bluegrass band, well known on the UK festival circuit. The BassTree String Band will be playing several dates in Ireland in early June, including the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival: see our earlier post and the BIB calendar.

NB: please note that the Westport Festival Facebook has a new address.

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24 February 2017

'Country Cuts'. Mar. 2017 issue

Thanks to Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland for the March 2017 issue of his 'Country Cuts' e-newsletter. It includes details of the tour by Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA), which began last night (23 Feb.) in Sixmilebridge; of the 13th United Airlines Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival at the beginning of next month; and also of the 2nd Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree, which will be held on 7-8 July. The newsletter can be read in full here.

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23 February 2017

A full life!

The BIB asked Belfast multi-instrumentalist and dobro maestro Colin Henry about the bands and artists with whom he plays. Colin replies:

GorseFire are on Sabbatical at the moment and I play when schedules allow with the Tennessee Hennessees. I have been doing quite a bit with various singers which is very enjoyable and satisfying. I of course play with Janet and we are performing on 2 March in the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival in 'Songs from the heart'. I have recently been recording on Janet Dowd's forthcoming album and on other projects that are in the pipeline and slowly coming to fruition.

Most Saturdays will find me in the [Count Me In] session at Ellie Mays, Dunadry, Templepatrick (3.00 p.m. to 6.00), and the first Saturday of the month I try and make the Corner House, Lurgan, for a really great session (2.00 p.m. to 6.00) led by Mel Corry and Sean McKerr. So - busy musically, as I like to be. I have decided I am too old to retire yet!

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22 February 2017

I Draw Slow to headline Dunmore East 2017 festival

Dave and Louise Holden of I Draw Slow

Thanks to Mick Daly, head of the organising team of the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, who sends -

Good news from Dunmore: I DRAW SLOW will headline this year's festival [24-27 Aug.]. Three bands in a row from Compass Records (something that was not planned but very pleased that it happened).

See the BIB for 13 Feb. Mick alludes to the headliners at Dunmore in the last two years: the Claire Lynch Band in 2015 and Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in 2016, all on the Compass Records artist roster. The new album from I Draw Slow, Turn your face to the sun, is scheduled for release on 17 Apr. 2017.

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20 February 2017

Baltimore Fiddle Fair, 3-7 May 2017

The programme for this year's Fiddle Fair in Baltimore, Co. Cork, is now on its website, and there's a great deal in it to interest BIB readers, especially fiddlers. Bios and website links are given on the Fair's lineup pages.

On Thursday 4 May the evening concert includes Gilles Apap (F) whose wide-ranging tastes include bluegrass, which he has played with Blue Railroad Train (F); he will be playing at Baltimore with Myriam Lafargue.

Following them will be the Foghorn Stringband (USA), whom the Fair describes as 'possibly the most popular act in the history of the festival'. At present their online tour schedule shows only two other dates in Ireland in the first half of May, but we hope to be able to give a fuller list soon.

On Saturday 6 May Nick Gareiss (USA) & Allison de Groot (USA), and Darol Anger's Republic of Strings (USA) will be playing; and on Sunday 7 May Darol Anger will be joined by Tim O'Brien, whose stint at the Fair appears to be his only Irish show in a tour including Britain and the Netherlands. Tickets are now on sale for all the Fair's events.

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Bluegrass guitar lessons on video from Musika Inc.

Thanks to Jason Bannon of Musika Inc., who writes:

I made this three-part 'Rolling in my sweet baby's arms' video guitar tutorial with a friend of mine who is a very talented bluegrass and acoustic guitar teacher, you can see all parts here.

The first part is a basic rhythm lesson, second part is intermediate, and third has some more advanced links and runs. The hope is that people can use this to learn the tune and play in their local jam circles, no matter their skill level. If we get enough interest in this we hope to keep making these tutorials for other popular jam circle tunes. With that in mind, feel free to send any suggestions for our next round of lessons.

Suggestions can be sent to the Musika Inc. website or direct to Jason by e-mail. A link to Musika bluegrass guitar lessons has been added to the 'Instruction' section of the links in the BIB's sidebar.

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19 February 2017

A night to remember

The BIB editor writes:

I want again to give my warmest thanks to everyone who was a part of the gathering last night (Saturday) at the GAA Centre in Athy, Co. Kildare, marking my retirement as a member of Woodbine. Many had come a long way to be there, and the kindness and generosity shown to me - and Carol - were overwhelming.

Special thanks must of course go to Tony O'Brien for bringing it about; and to the many musicians who came and picked, making it one of the most enjoyable nights of music I can remember. The show was opened in great style by Woodbine in their present lineup (above, with Martin Cooney on banjo). There is every good reason to look forward to the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree in July.

Update 22 Feb.: An album of 21 photos taken on the night can be seen on Woodbine's Facebook.

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18 February 2017

Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards (USA) available for bookings 27 Sept.-11 Oct. 2017

Laura Cortese (2nd from left) & the Dance Cards (photo: Patrik Bonnet)

Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency announces that Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards will be available for bookings in these islands in the period from 27 September to 11 October inclusive, as opportunities in Scandinavia will make it practicable for them.

The band (also on Facebook) consists of Laura (fiddle, vocals), Valerie Thompson (cello, vocals), Jenna Moynihan (fiddle, vocals), and Natalie Bohrn (bass). The first three all went to Boston's Berklee College of Music, and Bohrn to Brandon University's School of Music. Their bio says:

The result is a sound that can start as a string band and morph into a string quartet, female a cappella group, or indie band; all while staying honest and true to their identity as folk instrumentalists. [...] This is post-folk that seriously rocks.

Their music can be heard on YouTube, including their own channel. Loudon sends this link as a sample, and adds:

Please [...] let us know if you would like to grab them for a slot on your music programme – and if possible provide a steer on preferred date or dates – to help us when it comes to looking at sensible routing.

You can also hear their version of the old-time 'Greasy coat' here. Contact Brookfield Knights here.

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Earl Scruggs: banjo icon out next month

The new book on Earl Scruggs, father of Bluegrass Banjo, mentioned in the BIB on 24 Sept. last, is due out next month: Earl Scruggs: banjo icon, by Gordon Castelnero and David L. Russell. 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. John McEuen writes:

Earl Scruggs was a leader whose unassuming nature meant he was always excited to meet a new fan, even though he was a music legend. This book gives us essential insights into Earl’s life. His life’s work will influence and inspire forever, as rare few have over the years. Earl made it a better world, and he’s the reason I have a life in music. Without him there would not have been a Will the circle be unbroken record.

The 256-page book comprises eight chapters, bibliographical notes, and a select bibliography, and includes a foreword by Béla Fleck. More details and advance reviews are on the publishers' website. Earl Scruggs: banjo icon, by Gordon Castelnero and David L. Russell, is published by Rowman & Littlefield at $40.00 (hardback) and $39.99 (e-Book).

The Rowman & Littlefield catalogue includes other books on country and related music; in Alanna Nash's Behind closed doors: talking with the legends of country music, one of the artists interviewed was Bill Monroe.

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16 February 2017

Rackhouse Pilfer: coming gigs in Ireland and Britain

Sligo's Rackhouse Pilfer continue to set the standard for busy bands: here's their schedule, beginning with tomorrow night.

Fri. 17th: Gilroys, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo
Sat. 18th: 5th on Teeling, Sligo town
Sun. 19th: John The Miners, Carrick, Co. Sligo
Mon. 20th: McGarrigles, Sligo town
Thurs. 23rd: Convention Centre, Dublin
Fri. 24th: The Weigh Inn, Omagh, Co. Tyrone
Sat. 25th: Percy Whelan's, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
Sun. 26th: Voodoo, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Mon. 27th: McGarrigles, Sligo town

Fri. 3rd Mar.: Belfast Empire, Belfast
Sat. 4th: Abbey Hotel, Donegal town

In the rest of March their dates are in Britain. Full details are on their Facebook schedule.

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New album from the Henry Girls

The Henry Girls announce that they will be launching their new album, Far beyond the stars, at An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, on 10 March, followed by dates all over Ireland from March to May. The opening act at the launch show will be Donegal fiddler Damien McGeehan. Tickets and info here.

The cover art is by Ciaran Harley and Richard Walsh in Zoocreative, Derry city.

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Aoife O'Donovan solo in Dublin, 27 May 2017

Aoife O’Donovan's fans in the Dublin region will be pleased by an announce-ment by Whelan's (25 Wexford St., Dublin 2) that she is scheduled to give a performance in their upstairs venue on Saturday 27 May. Doors open at 8.00 p.m., and tickets are €19.25. This is the only performance scheduled for her in Ireland; it follows five shows (also solo) in Britain.

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15 February 2017

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA): tour begins at Sixmilebridge, 23 Feb. 2017

Thanks to Brendan Walsh of the Shannonside Winter Music Festival and Sixmilebridge Folk Club, for this poster image of the concert beginning this year's tour by Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA), a week from tomorrow (Thurs. 23 Feb.) at McGregor's, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare. The show starts at 8.30 p.m., and tickets are €20.

The poster is shown at the BIB's maximum size to give a chance of reading the salient details without artificial aids; but everything can be seen without difficulty if you click on the image or go to the Winter Music Festival website. An important point is that the great Mark Schatz (not shown in the picture) will be the bassist on the tour. More details about the band are on their website and on the BIB for 2 Feb. 2017, which gives full tour dates (also on the BIB calendar).

As mentioned on the BIB on 18 Jan., Tristan Scroggins (mandolinist in the band, and Jeff's son) has launched a blog, The Why Lonesome Sound, on aspects of bluegrass history; and his latest entry, '"Scottish Traditional Music" and how to preserve bluegrass (jams, contests, festivals, and regional diversity)', was published yesterday. It should stimulate reflection on how traditional music has been reinvigorated in this island, and what lessons this may have for bluegrass.

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14 February 2017

I Draw Slow at Naas, 24 Feb. 2017

I Draw Slow (now Compass Records recording artists) announce on their Twitter that they will be playing at the Old Dara Cinema, Main St. North, Naas, Co. Kildare, on Friday 24 February at 8.00 p.m., in a Downdaroad Productions concert in aid of the Naas Food Bank, which will receive all profits. Support on the night will be from Lisa Loughrey of the Mariannes, and tickets are €20.

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Earl Scruggs Mastertone for sale

Jimmy Tomkins (see the BIB for 12 Feb.) has a top-class banjo for sale: a 1990 Gibson Earl Scruggs Mastertone 5-string banjo, with Keith tuners on 2nd and 3rd strings, hearts and flowers inlay, and Five Star banjo head. The photo above, and the link, are from the Gibson website; ten photos of Jimmy's banjo can be seen at this page on adverts.ie. Ignore the 'Sold' label on the page.

The description there continues: 'superb banjo, original condition, with a wonderful sound, with original case [also shown in the photos]. No p/ex. Cash only.' The asking price is €3,000. Jimmy is selling the Gibson as he intends to buy a Stelling Staghorn. Perhaps there's a Staghorn owner out there who wants to swap? It was just such an exchange that got Earl his Granada and Don Reno his RB-75 'Nellie'. Jimmy can be contacted at 086 8442026.

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13 February 2017

I Draw Slow signed by Compass Records

I Draw Slow: (l-r) Colin Derham, Konrad Liddy, Louise Holden, Dave Holden, Adrian Hart

Dublin's I Draw Slow have joined the artist roster of Compass Records. The respected Nashville-based label records such bluegrass artists as Michael Cleveland, Claire Lynch, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, and the Special Consensus, while its acquisition of the Green Linnet and Mulligan Records catalogues gives it the largest catalogue of Celtic music anywhere in the world.

Garry West, co-founder of Compass with banjo wizard Alison Brown, says of I Draw Slow: 'More than anything we’ve been impressed with the strength of the songwriting, the sibling harmony, and the musical proficiency of the band. They are truly dedicated to their craft.' Read more here.

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Sarah Jarosz wins two Grammies (update)

In the 2017 Grammy awards, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz (USA), who played three shows in Ireland at the end of last month, won the awards for Best American Roots Performance with her 'House of mercy' and Best Folk Album with Undercurrent. She also took part in the awards ceremony as a presenter.

Vince Gill, as writer of 'Kid sister', won the Best American Roots Song award; and the award for Best Bluegrass Album went to the O'Connor Band with Mark O'Connor for their Coming home. More details on Bluegrass Today.

PS: See also this post on Bluegrass Today on the Special Merit awards to Jimmie Rodgers and Ralph Peer.

Update 17 Feb.: Sarah Jarosz's Undercurrent was also Album of the Year at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City on Wednesday; see Bluegrass Today.

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12 February 2017

A good night - but not goodbye!

Thanks to Tony O'Brien, who has just posted this on Woodbine's Facebook:

Woodbine host a special retirement night for Richard on Sat. 18th Feb. in Athy GAA Centre @ 8.30 p.m. Many guest musicians will attend and we hope to see many of our loyal supporters there for a great night of bluegrass.

Fashion note: The 'blazer' is a cowboy shirt cut down into a short jacker. 'Keep on the Bluegrass' T-shirt by Anne Steel of Maui Waui Graphic Design. Taken at Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival 2015.

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Banjo lessons in Kilkenny and Tipperary?

On 6 Jan. 2017 the BIB published a request from Michael O'Grady (fiddle, banjo) for any information on bluegrass instruction, group classes, or sessions in the Co. Kilkenny or Tipperary area.

Jimmy Tomkins now sends a similar query about banjo lessons in the same general area, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Anyone who can give information or other assistance should contact Jimmy by e-mail.

For reference: Tom Cussen has a list of music teachers on his Clareen Banjos website, which includes half a dozen names of 5-string teachers in various parts of the country. Check this list if you're looking for instruction; and if you give banjo lessons, please make sure your name and contact details are on the list.

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Ken Perlman: news, winter 2017

Melodic clawhammer banjo and fingerstyle guitar master Ken Perlman sends his latest e-newsletter for the first quarter of 2017, with news of some major events later in the year.

Ken's playing of Harold Schiffman's 'Concerto for banjo and orchestra' is now on CD (Vintage soundscapes); informal video of a short passage can be seen on his Facebook. He also has a new solo banjo CD in preparation, largely consisting of tunes he collected on Prince Edward Island (PEI). His book on PEI fiddle music has received high praise, and the website Down Home Bowing holds well over 1,500 musical selections and 400 oral history selections from PEI, together with hundreds of photographs and video clips.

Ken teaches at several major banjo camps and is also available for person-to person lessons by Skype. His website includes a personal tribute to Alan Jabbour, who died a month ago. Ken will be touring next month in Kentucky and Tennessee with the celebrated West Virginia fiddler Bobby Taylor (who was interviewed in the last issue of Old Time Herald magazine). More details, plus news of publications and recordings, are on Ken's website.

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11 February 2017

3hattrio (USA) available for bookings 8-24 Sept. 2017

L-r: Hal Cannon, Eli Wrankle, Greg Istock

Loudon Temple sends word that his UK agency Brookfield Knights (BK) had its busiest ever run at this year's Celtic Connections in Glasgow; nine acts handled by BK took part and most shows were sold out. A specially strong buzz arose from a concert a week ago featuring Lizabett Russo (Romania/Scotland) and 3hattrio (Hal Cannon, banjo, guitar, vocals; Greg Istock, bass, foot percussion, vocals; Eli Wrankle, violin/fiddle, vocals) from Utah, USA.

Loudon also sends this link to a review of the concert by Paul Kerr of AmericanaUK, as an indication of 3hattrio's impact, which also won them a live appearance on the BBC's 'Another Country' radio show with presenter Ricky Ross.

3hattrio have already won impressive critical acclaim with three albums. The Glasgow concert was to have been their only show in these islands this year; but due to the interest it created, BK are planning to bring them back over for the period 8-24 September 2017. Venue owners and event organisers interested in booking them should contact Loudon by e-mail, indicating if possible preferred date(s) as a basis for planning the tour.

Neither bluegrass nor old-time, 3hattrio's music uses clawhammer banjo, fiddle, and bass under strong influence from the desert and canyon country of the western USA. An eight-minute video, 'In the desert with 3hattrio', is on their website.

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10 February 2017

Basstree String Band in Ireland, 7-10 June 2017

Thanks to Mark Jones for the news that the Basstree String Band (above; GB) will be visiting Ireland in early June; the tour includes the opening night of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. Mark sends this introduction:

The Basstree String Band, with roots in Norwich and Lincolnshire, play classic and contemporary bluegrass with close harmonies and blistering instrumentals. Their musicianship is top-notch with a respect for tradition and played with soul.

Howard Burton is a sought-after bluegrass banjo player, who has led banjo workshops at numerous UK festivals and at the Sore Fingers School in the Cotswolds, placed at the Galax Fiddlers Convention, and teaches banjo from his home in Norwich.

Mark Jones is a flatpick guitarist, having studied the genre in the UK and East Tennessee whilst working at Steve Kaufman's Palace Theatre. Mark and Howard have played bluegrass together for over twenty-five years and also are part of the Dude Coopers, an established band active on the UK festival circuit since 2007.

Asa Hardy-Brownlie is a talented multi-instrumentalist with a background in traditional American music and Gypsy Jazz. He performs bass duties as well as main and harmony vocals.


Mark also sends two video clips of the band in rehearsal: 'Raised on pain' and 'Pike County breakdown'. The dates on their schedule are:

Wed. 7th June: The Craigdarroch Hotel, Moniaive, Scotland
Thurs. 8th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Fri. 9th: Jesters Bar, Westport, Co. Mayo
Sat. 10th: The Weigh Inn, Omagh, Co. Tyrone

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Non-feuding banjos

Tenor and plectrum banjos showed up among some old-time bands of the 1920s and '30s; one of the most widely known bluegrass instrumentals was originally recorded as a 'feud' between a 4- and a 5-string banjo; and Dom Flemons played a 4-string banjo in the Carolina Chocolate Drops. A new combination is announced on the FOAOTMAD news blog - a collaboration between US players Mark Olitsky and Gary Moskowitz (above), on 5-string 'minstrel' banjo and 4-string plectrum banjo respectively.

Playing together at the Clifftop festival in West Virginia last summer, they decided to take it further and record a CD, Duets, which is expected to be ready for release this spring. If you're likely to want a copy, please let them know via this link. Their playing together (in the recording studio) can be sampled on a 5-minute YouTube video.

Possibly another ripple on the same wave - We Banjo 3 will be playing at the International Bluegrass Music Museum's ROMP festival in Owensboro, KY, this coming midsummer.

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9th Annual IMRO Live Music Venue of the Year award, 21 Feb. 2017

The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) recognises the contribution made by live music venues to the scene here by giving an overall national award for the best venue, as well as regional awards. This year, in the ninth annual awards, members of the public can vote as well as IMRO members. One lucky voter will win a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.

A short list has been compiled of twenty-five venues that can be voted for, and it includes several names of venues that often appear on the BIB calendar. If your favourite is on this list, you can vote for it here.

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09 February 2017

The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, Dublin, 23 Feb. 2017

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

Hey Y'all!

Back again on 23 Feb. - the Cabin Crew with special guests Shane & Paul Hennessy, HueGrass, and from the USA JoJo O and the Woods! Hope to see ya there!


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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