25 May 2016

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is as alive as ever, keeps its calendar updated, publishes news received, and adds new facilities every now and then. 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.


24 May 2016

The Cabin Sessions, Dublin, 26 May 2016

Following on the BIB announcement of 10 May, Gerry Fitzpatrick, organiser of the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', announces:

Just a reminder that we will have Nashville's First Lady of Banjo, Roni Stoneman, join us this Thursday at the Cabin Sessions.

Also to tell you that Seadhan McGonagle, son of Pat McGonagle (regular supporter of the Cabin Sessions) will be collecting during the interval to raise funds for an African charity, Aidlink. Seadhan and his schoolmates from St Mary's will be travelling to Ghana in June, and they hope to raise additional funds to help Aidlink.

Hope to see you 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.

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DanGem Bluegrass Get-Together at Lisburn, 28 May 2016: last before the summer break

DanGem Bluegrass in Craigavon, Co. Armagh (with the largest range of banjos for sale on this island), announce in their latest e-newsletter that Howard Walker of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band will be giving banjo lessons at this month's Bluegrass Get-Together, which will be held on this coming Saturday (28 May), at the usual place and time (the Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim BT27 4RL, from 9.30/10.00 a.m. to noon) and with the usual schedule:

10.00-10.30 Warm-up
10.30-11.00(ish) Break out time for beginners; rest of players, jam time
11.00(ish) to 12.00(ish) All back together

This is the last Get-Together to be held before the summer break.
The DanGem Get-Together combines a jam session for those who are already active pickers, with the opportunity to learn for those who are beginners or just want to listen. DanGem add: 'Bring along your banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dobros, and bass, or just come along and enjoy. Look forward to seeing as many of you who can attend.' A location map for the Centre is on Dangem's website.

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Kentucky Cow Tippers in Ireland, 6-12 June 2016

Thanks to the EBMA Facebook for making us aware of the full range of shows that the Kentucky Cow Tippers, from north-east England, will be playing in Ireland early next month. The Cow Tippers (Rupert Hughes, guitar; Sam Wear, banjo; Evan Davies, mandolin; Niles Krieger, fiddle; and Sam Quintana, double bass) post this schedule on their own Facebook:

Mon. 6th June: Cowboys & Heroes Country Music & Americana Festival, Drumcoura City, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim

Tues. 7th: 'Belfast Bluegrass Bash' with Cup O'Joe, Sunflower Public House, 65 Union St., Belfast, 8.00 p.m.

Wed. 8th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone

Thurs. 9th: McKenna's Bar, 62 Dublin St., Monaghan town

Fri. 10th-Sun. 12th: Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival, Westport, Co. Mayo

Sun. 12th: Mannion's, Main St., Balla, Co. Mayo

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23 May 2016

Bluegrass Camp Ireland Facebook - a work in progress

Headfort School, Kells, Co. Meath, location
of Bluegrass Camp Ireland

The Bluegrass Camp Ireland Facebook is carrying a lot of links to interesting material on learning and practice for musicians, not to mention the occasional fun thing as well. Have a look through last week's posts (to go no further back); see if you don't agree; and give serious consideration to registering with the Camp for a weekend of total immersion in bluegrass music (22-4 July 2016). See the Camp website and the BIB for 9 May for more details.

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22 May 2016

Today at Bob's - shows at 5.00 and 8.00 p.m.

On 5 May the BIB announced that this weekend Woodbine would be playing a mini bluegrass festival in Bob's Bar, Durrow, Co. Laois (above; the river flowing attractively past the pub is unfortunately not visible in the photo).

It was also announced that today's show (Sunday 22nd) would be at 5.00 p.m., with guests Evan and Amy Lyons. If you're thinking of attending (there's no cover charge), be aware that today's programme consists of two shows, with Evan and Amy performing at 5.00 p.m., and Woodbine going on at 8.00 p.m.

Update 23 May: Just for the record - from Facebook, the poster for the weekend's event, which went very well indeed.

On Sunday night Woodbine was in augmented configuration with Martin Cooney on fiddle, and in the second half Evan and Amy joined the band on stage to great effect.

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21 May 2016

Westport - poster and programme

Thanks to Uri Kohen for these images of the main poster and both sides of the programme for the 10th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, which is now less than three weeks away. More details of the design are on the Festival Facebook.

Last night (Fri. 20 May) saw the festival officially launched by Mr Brendan Mulroy of Mayo county council. Uri reports that it was 'a great night with music provided by the wonderful Pine Marten'.

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Hubert Murray Band: Shorten the road tour, 2-10 June 2016

Hubert Murray
Thanks to Sharon Loughrin for passing on news of the forthcoming tour by the Hubert Murray Band in Ireland, promoting Hubert's debut EP Shorten the road, which is due for release on 26 May. The tour schedule is:

Thurs. 2nd June: The Square Box, Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone
Fri. 3rd: 5th on Teeling, Sligo towm
Sat. 4th: Private function, Dublin
Sun. 5th: Mannions Bar, Main St., Balla, Co. Mayo
Mon. 6th: Kenny's, Lahinch, Co. Clare
Tues. 7th: Kilkee, Co. Clare, venue TBA
Thurs. 9th: Connemara Radio Station, 11.00 a.m.-12 noon
Thurs. 9th: Mullarkeys, Clifden, Co. Galway
Fri. 10th: Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Westport, Co. Mayo

The next day the band begins touring in northern England, with festival and other performances till 19 June.

The Westport festival website has bio details together with SoundCloud, Facebook, and YouTube links; you can also see and hear a fine old-time 'Liza Jane'. On the tour, the Hubert Murray Band will include Paddy Kiernan, one of the finest banjo-players in Ireland, and Kieran Towers, the most recent winner of the UK old-time fiddle competition, who has performed alongside Bruce Molsky, Brittany Haas, and Rayna Gellert.

Sharon (who with her husband Arnie operates the Red Room in Cookstown, Ireland's leading house-concert venue) also draws attention to the first venue on the schedule: the Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre (above) at Dungannon. Located in the former Belfast Bank and with stunning modern facilities, it is on the historic Hill of the O'Neills, with views over seven of the nine counties of Ulster. Sharon reports:

They have some great trad and modern music there, but they're very open to taking bluegrass and old-time and providing a venue for more of what we do, so we'll do all we can to help.

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20 May 2016

James King, 1958-2016: update

The BIB learns with deep regret that James King, one of the most highly regarded figures in bluegrass music, died yesterday at the age of 57 after a long period of health problems.

The news comes to us from Bluegrass Today, where John Curtis Goad contributes an outstanding appreciation. Don't miss the tributes that are already being added to that post, which include videos of James King and his band in performance a few years ago. Many will remember the special concert which the James King Band gave in 2003 at the Ulster American Folk Park in Co. Tyrone.

Shown above is the cover image from his Grammy-nominated Rounder album Three chords and the truth - a title that sums up a great deal about his music.

Update 21 May: Bluegrass Today explains that financial aid is badly needed for James's family and carers. Donations can be made here.

See also the major feature on the Prescription Bluegrass Blog.

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19 May 2016

Guy Clark, 1941-2016

The BIB editor writes:

Thanks to Des Butler for drawing attention to the death on Tuesday of Texas singer, songwriter, and luthier Guy Charles Clark at the age of 74. As well as a Wikipedia biography, a review of his career is on the New Yorker website.

A major force in 'outlaw' and 'progressive' country music, he shared with bluegrass a resistance to the increasing pop-rockification of the country music industry.  His 'Stuff that works', co-written with Rodney Crowell, is the title song of an album by Gary Ferguson (due to tour here in July).

I saw Guy Clark once in concert at Whelan's in Dublin, and decided that any bluegrass band around Dublin would do well to have a stock of his songs in their repertoire. It seems appropriate, therefore, to use the above cover image from his 1995 album Dublin blues.

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17 May 2016

Ticket sales open through Westport's new website

Thanks to Uri Kohen and his fellow organisers of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival for the news that the 10th Festival now has its completely new website, with details of all performers and all venues, together with online booking facilities. On this coming Friday (20 May) the Festival will be officially launched. Sales of tickets through the website began this morning.

There are five ticket options: one for each of the main concerts; a weekend pass covering all three main gigs; and a Friday-and-Saturday combination. For the workshops and Mystery Gig, admission will be paid separately on the doors. Uri emphasises:

Tickets are limited and it is highly advisable to purchase them in advance. The website also gives all the programme information and links to see all the acts in action.

There are also links to the accommodation providers in Westport, and it is very important to arrange accommodation in advance, as it is already getting hard to book rooms for the Festival weekend.

Looking forward to seeing you in Westport in what is shaping up to be an amazing weekend of music.

More news and frequent updates are on the Festival Facebook. To see the updated Westport schedule, click on the trigram that appears in the website's upper right-hand corner.

BIB editor's note: Among the abundant good news on the website, one very pleasant surprise is the addition of Cork's Prairie Jaywalkers - Kevin and Geraldine Gill plus Dave Riordan on mandolin.

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From Nashville to Clarinbridge - Roni Stoneman, First Lady of Banjo

Thanks to ​Ann Fox of the ​Clarinbridge Arts Group in Co. Galway for this revise of the release and poster that first appeared on the BIB on 10 May. Note that the show starts at 8.30 p.m.

When you think of banjo pickers in masculine terms you instantly think of the late Earl Scruggs. If you think in female terms, there is none other comes to mind than Roni Stoneman – First Lady of Banjo (both Scruggs and Roni achieved their recognition by mastering and making the banjo a lifelong career).

Roni Stoneman comes from one of the most famous family groups in early American country music. In the 60s, as part of the family group, she starred in Hee Haw - the most successful syndicated programme and country music show in the history of American television. She pursued a musical career as a virtuoso banjo player (country music and bluegrass) and is consequently known as the First Lady of Banjo, recognised as one of the great banjo masters of our time.

On Saturday 28 May at 8.30 p.m., Clarinbridge Parish Hall, Clarinbridge Arts Group, and Clareen Banjos are delighted to host this legendary musician, supported by traditional and contemporary bluegrass musicians, the Oldtown Rounders.

For booking and further details, please text/ring 086 835 1230 or go to http://www.banjo.ie/. Find us on Facebook.

BIB editor's note: Uncle Dave Macon, the first featured star of the Grand Ole Opry, said to the young Earl Scruggs: 'You play good in a band, but you're not a bit funny, are you?' No one can ever have made that last accusation about Roni.

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Frank Robinson keeps the music coming

Frank Robinson has been a pillar of hard-core country music, bluegrass, and jazz in the north-west for decades now. He writes:

I am doing a gig at the Danny Boy Jazz and Blues Festival in Limavady in June. (You can see me in my famed beauty on their website) [as in the photo]. I am also doing my annual gig at Dunfanaghy in September.

After that I shall confine myself to sessions with friends and I shall be doing a bit of recording (Percy has been at me for some time to finish a session I started a couple of years ago.) I have already recorded five instrumentals, one an original.

The BIB is delighted to pass on the news, and wishes Frank more decades of music-making.

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15 May 2016

Mile Twelve : final report on their tour in Ireland

Bluegrass Today published on Friday the final report from Boston's Mile Twelve at the end of their three-week tour of Ireland. The report mentions (among other things) times in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry; in Bruff, Co. Limerick; in Cork city; and in Dublin, where they met up again with Co. Armagh's Cup O' Joe. The photo shows them with none other than John Nyhan (centre). Read more here.

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12 May 2016

Barwick & Siegfried tour: new date in Sligo, 31 May 2016

Supplementing the BIB post of 1 May, thanks to music historian Jon Hartley Fox for a new date in the tour schedule of multi-instrumentalist and singer Kathy Barwick and mandolinist/ singer Pete Siegfried (USA).

In addition to the shows already listed, Barwick & Siegfried will be playing at the Roots Room, Strand Bar, Strandhill, Co. Sligo, on 31 May. This date has been added to those shown on 1 May, and to the BIB calendar.

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11 May 2016

Michael Miles: latest news

Our good friend Michael J. Miles of Chicago - the man who showed that Bach's music can be played perfectly on clawhammer banjo - will be playing in concert at Riverwoods, Illinois, on 26 May with members of the Chicago Arts Orchestra. His first guitar CD, A-sides, featuring instrumental settings of hit songs from the middle fifty years of the 20th century, will be out on 4 July. The all-star ensemble includes Darol Anger, one of America's finest violinists/fiddle players.

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10 May 2016

The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, 26 May 2016

Gerry Fitzpatrick, organiser of the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', announces the Session for Thursday 26 May:

We have a very special treat this month and are pleased to welcome back the First Lady of the Banjo from Nashville - Roni Stoneman. In addition to the usual Cabin Crew we also welcome from Monaghan Barry Jay Hughes.

BIB editor's note: Roni is playing this brief guest spot as the first performance in her second trip to Ireland because she had so enjoyed the Cabin Sessions in 2013. Anyone in the Dublin region can enjoy a full evening of this unique musician and entertainer at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre on Friday 3 June.

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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09 May 2016

Tribute to Mile Twelve and John Nyhan

The BIB thanks Neil O'Rahilly, who writes:

Over the last few weeks I was fortunate to see the young bluegrass band from Boston, Mile Twelve, on a number of occasions.

This stunning young band bring their own flair to the music we love but manage to retain a real traditional feel also. I feel very fortunate to hear their music and get to know these people in such intimate surroundings as libraries, sessions, and Art Centre gigs.

This young band is right up there with the best that Colorado, Kentucky, etc. can offer, and our thanks again to John Nyhan for his tireless efforts in bringing these great musicians to our shores.

The photo, from the band's Facebook, shows Mile Twelve in the stage area of Mannion's, Balla, Co. Mayo, where they played on 2 May. See also Pat Kelleher's comment below.

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First Bluegrass Camp Ireland, 22-4 July 2016!

Bluegrass instruction camps for learners at all levels are held in many countries: the UK's Sore Fingers Summer Schools are the premier example in Europe. Bluegrass festivals in other countries offer opportunities and facilities for jamming. Simon Humphries and T.J. Screen in Dublin asked themselves 'Why not in Ireland?' and set to work to make things happen. Hence this news of an exciting development for the bluegrass scene in Ireland; Simon writes:

We're delighted to present an Irish Bluegrass Camp which will take place at Headfort School, Kells, Co. Meath, the weekend of 22-24 July 2016.

It's a residential weekend - there will be accommodation and top-class food reflecting local provenance. The Hamilton County Ramblers (USA) will be our senior-level tutors: Roy Currie will offer in-depth guitar tuition, Jim Pankey 5-string banjo, James Kee mandolin, John Boulware fiddle, and Josh Hixon double bass. Luke Coffey (multi-instrumentalist) and Paddy Kiernan (5-string banjo) are our Irish-based tutors. We will announce others soon.

Why? Personally, as a 5-string player, I found it very difficult to find others to play with here in Ireland. After years of practice on my own, I left the instrument in its case one day, and didn't open it for many years after. Everywhere else I lived seemed to have tons of opportunities to play with others - Australia, UK, US, France. Great festivals and camps which were geared to jam sessions for all levels. Why not here? Unless you were on the bill at an Irish festival, there were few or no opportunities to play. Why not? How else do you progress? Bluegrass is all about playing with others. That's what this weekend will be all about. We have got some interest from abroad, and have picked a venue accessible from the North.

We are pitching it to cater for all levels - from beginners to red-hot players. So, come learn from some of the best bluegrass practioners in the world, play your heart out, have a few beers in a gorgeous place with a load of like-minded individuals. It's going to be a lot of fun! Spread the word.

Headfort School, Kells, Co. Meath

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07 May 2016

World Fiddle Day, 21 May 2016 - the Skip Gorman connection

World Fiddle Day will be held this year in two weeks' time, on Saturday 21 May 2016  - with the notable anticipatory exception mentioned below.

World Fiddle Day was set up four years ago by Donegal fiddler and music scholar Caoimhín Mac Aoidh to embrace and celebrate all the instruments of the violin and fiddle families, all who play them, and all the music that can come out of them. The project has the close support of Fiddler Magazine. Much more information is on the World Fiddle Day website and Facebook.

Those who are convinced that Co. Kerry is several steps ahead of the rest of the world are proved right: the Sliabh Luachra Music Trail website reports that this year Scartaglin will celebrate World Fiddle Day the previous Monday, 16 May. The organisers announce:

This will be our third festival having started in 2013. Our first event attracted seventeen fiddle players including an American bluegrass musician who was touring Ireland that month. His name was Skip Gorman and to celebrate his birthday we visited Scartaglin where he gave a workshop on American fiddle styles and tunings.

This of course is the Skip Gorman who will be playing at Athy, Co. Kildare* (see the BIB for 5 May), on the day the fun starts at Scartaglin. Skip's credentials in bluegrass are indicated by the photo above from several decades back, in which he is playing mandolin under the eyes of the Father of Bluegrass and the legendary promoter Carlton Haney. He has similar credentials in old-time music as a founder member of the Deseret String Band.

* The BIB awaits news of possible other appearances by Skip in Ireland.

Update I: Thanks to P.J. Teahan, who writes: 'You will find Skip Gorman and singer Connie Dover in Scartaglin, Co. Kerry, on May 21 2016. As part of World Fiddle Day celebrations they will play in concert at 3 p.m. in Scartaglin Heritage Centre. Later that evening at 7.30 Skip Gorman will be one of 35 fiddle players being recorded by RTE radio from our World Fiddle Day concert.' The BIB apologises to P.J. for publishing a shorter text, lacking details of the evening concert, as a comment to this post.

Update II: Thanks to Sharon Loughrin, who writes: 'I was given some leaflets this week for a show [Skip]'s playing along with Connie in The Gables, Carland, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, on Sun. 29 May at 8.00 p.m. (free admission). I'm also told there is a show in Ardara.'

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