14 November 2019

Welcome to the BIB

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. The BIB does not do reviews or accept posts with 'marketing messages'.

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


13 November 2019

Greenshine for Christmas gig at Leap Castle, 29 Dec. 2019

L-r: Noel Shine, Ellie Shine, Mary Greene

Thanks to Tom Stapleton, veteran promoter of acoustic music, for the news that the Christmas gig at Leap Castle, Co. Offaly (between Birr and Roscrea, Co. Tipperary) on Sunday 29 December will feature Greenshine. Tickets can be reserved by 'phone (087 2238040).

Tom and friends made the long trip from Roscrea to this year's Omagh festival, and the experience inspired him to poetry, culminating in a tribute to Brian O'Nolan ('Myles na gCopaleen'). Here's an extract:

... Enjoy the music while we share
A perfect pint, a cause for wonder
And let a burger slake the hunger.

Sun on wet leaves starts to flicker
Bow on strings and banjo picker
Put sweet music in our souls...

So here’s to Danny and to Sean
and the friendship that has grown
With their humour and good grace
That took us to a different place

Home by streets of sweet Strabane
Where the Mourne meets the Finn
Where the sculpture of the writer,
He who makes our journeys lighter,

Reminded of his wiles, we smile,
At what we owe to Myles.

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JigJam prepare to Hiberniate (stet)

Jigjam (Jamie McKeogh, Cathal Guinan, Daithi Melia, and
Gavin Strappe) with Charlie McGettigan (centre)

JigJam, who ended a very full year of touring with their four dates in Ireland last week, announce in their latest e-newsletter:

When we began planning our world tour almost eighteen months ago the one absolute certain was that we wanted to finish our touring year performing at home. Every Irish group has the same feeling. We tour all over the world and rarely get to perform in our local areas so, for us, to finish our tour with an Irish tour was really special. But we could have never realised the response we would have gotten from the audience and media in Ireland.

Sold-out shows ranging from amazing sit-down theatres in Cashel and Mullingar, an intimate gig in wonderful Dundalk, and an absolute RAVE in Dublin city! We want to thank everyone for their support and all the radio stations, newspapers, and local people that made our tour something we won't forget. Thank you everyone!

A link is also included to Charlie McGettigan's Eurovision-winning composition 'Rock 'n' roll kids' (which can be imagined being played by the Seldom Scene, let alone New Grass Revival). In January the band will play an eleven-show tour in Germany; details are on their website and Facebook. Soon after, they will be official showcase artists at the annual Folk Alliance International Conference in New Orleans (22-26 Jan.).

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11 November 2019

Gainsborough - and Lisdoonvarna

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog for the announcement that tickets for the 26th Gainsborough Festival, 'Europe’s biggest and best American old-time music festival', are now on sale. The festival will be held at the Queen Elizabeth's High School, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. DN21 2ST, England, from 14 to 17 February 2020.

The lineup has an impressive contingent of US visitors - and BIB readers will note that Ireland's Grits & Gravy Stringband are pictured on the top line of the poster between Emily Schaad and Travis Stuart. Bands from Norway, France, and of course Britain are also featured. Full details, including YouTube links, are on the Festival website.

As well as being the biggest old-time event in Europe, the Gainsborough festival is also one of the earliest on the calendar. However, the Third Annual Irish Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering will be held just a week later (21-23 Feb.) in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, with Clay Buckner of North Carolina's historic Red Clay Ramblers as the leading US visitor. For details and registration, see the Gathering's website and Facebook.

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10 November 2019

Yet more news of recent (well...) visitors

L-r: Leroy Troy, Gina Furtado, Bill Evans

This is the fourth day of the 8th Annual California Banjo Extravaganza Mini-Camp, featuring this year three outstanding banjoists, all of whom have played in Ireland - two of them pretty recently.

The Extravaganza is conceived and organised by Bill Evans, who toured here more than once a few years back. With him are Leroy Troy, who (thanks to the mygrassisblue.com team) was touring here with his Hillbilly Trio two months ago, and Gina Furtado, who at about the same time was touring with Chris Jones & the Night Drivers. Bill has them all backed by some of the leading West Coast bluegrass musicians. More details are on Bluegrass Today.

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09 November 2019

New video from Cup O' Joe

Co. Armagh's Cup O' Joe released yesterday a video of 'Run run', the second single from their new album In the parting, which is due for release this coming January. The video can be seen on YouTube, and is also featured on Bluegrass Today by John Lawless, who says:

We’ve watched these artists grow and mature from teens into young adults, matching the rich musical traditions of their homeland with bluegrass sounds from the US, into a hybrid that is distinctive as its own thing. In particular, we’ve seen Tabitha Agnew develop into an engaging and empathetic vocalist – and a fine banjo player to boot. Accompanied by brothers Reuben on guitar, and Benjamin on bass, the Agnews make compelling music that is hard to peg, but very easy to listen to.

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4th BAND Festival, 4-8 June 2020

Thanks to the organising team of the BAND (Bluegrass And Nashville Dunfanaghy) Festival in Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal, for this news:

We’re very happy to announce that the BAND Festival is returning next year on the earlier dates of Thursday 4th-Monday 8th of June! The BAND 2020 lineup is well under way, and updates will be coming soon! Keep an eye on our website and Facebook for details!

Thanks for being a part of the BAND Festival! If you would like to get in touch with us regarding music, sponsorship, or anything BAND-related, you can contact us at info@thebandfestival.com.

A brief promo video to accompany this announcement is on the BAND Facebook, and a two-minute video made at the 2018 BAND Festival is here.

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08 November 2019

'Stronger than turpentine': Jeff Scroggins & the Scroggdogs (USA) tour begins THIS SUNDAY

L-r: Scott Gates, Yoseff Tucker, Jeff Scroggins,
Jan Purat, Zach Sharpe

Thanks to the indefatigable John Nyhan for a reminder that on this coming Sunday (10 Nov.) Jeff Scroggins & the Scroggdogs (above) will begin their second 2019 tour of Ireland. They will be playing at Tuohy's Bar, Rathdowney, Co. Laois, at 9.00 p.m. Jeff has announced on Facebook that this tour will be

eight straight nights of West Coast bluegrass in the tradition of Vern and Ray, Rose Maddox, the Louvin Brothers, etc. OK Ireland, this is going to be stronger than turpentine, so come out and check out the most HARD CORE, in-your-face bluegrass band I've ever assembled and brought to Europe, or anywhere!!

This powerful and dynamic band guarantee a great show to all who come out to support any of the eight dates on this tour. Bluegrass fans in Ireland are fortunate to have musicians of this calibre playing over here, but we can hardly expect this to continue if they are playing to half-empty theatres. John adds:

I would especially like to thank the audience who have supported live bluegrass music over the years. Their support is very much appreciated.

The band's complete schedule is:
  • Sun. 10th Nov.: Tuohy's Bar, Pound St., Rathdowney, Co. Laois, 9.00 p.m.; 087 967 5752
  • Mon. 11th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; 087 792 1771
  • Tues. 12th: Finn's Ale House, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, 8.30 p.m.; 087 977 8347
  • Wed. 13th: Dorney Bridge, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, 8.15 p.m.; 0044 (0) 7716 / 267 625
  • Thurs. 14th: Beehive Bar, Adara, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.; 087 690 0714
  • Fri. 15th: Mannion's Bar, Balla, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.; 087 229 6018
  • Sat. 16th: Ballinvreena Community Hall, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, 8.30 p.m.; 087 792 / 1771
  • Sun. 17th: Levis's Bar, Ballydehob, Co. Cork, 7.00 p.m.; 028 37118, 086 837 0518
For further details on any of the above, tel. 087 792 1771 or e-mail.

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Nick Dumas to leave the Special Consensus (update)

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

Nick Dumas, mandolin player for the Special Consensus (USA) for the past four years (during which the band has toured twice in Ireland), announced yesterday on Facebook that he will be playing his last show with the Special C. on 6 December in Chicago. Nick writes:

I want to thank Greg Cahill, Rick Faris, & Dan Eubanks for giving me the once in a lifetime opportunity to play with them. No doubt some of the best music I have ever played and I am going to truly miss it. Never thought in my wildest dreams that I would receive three IBMA awards and a Grammy nomination with this band!

Nick will be spending more time at home with his wife Hana, and with a range of musical activity still very much at the centre of his life. Read more in his message on Facebook.

Update 12 Nov.: The new mandolin player for the Special C. will be Nate Burie of Wisconsin, as from the beginning of 2020. More detail is on Bluegrass Today. By the way, if you haven't visited the Special C. website recently, pay a call; it's been completely reworked and looks gorgeous.

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07 November 2019

Seven years of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for a reminder that the Club's eleventh meeting of 2019 will be held tomorrow night (Friday 8 October), and that this will mark the Club's seventh birthday, which should certainly be celebrated.

The Red Hat meets on the second Friday of every month at the Harbour Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. Music starts around 8.30 p.m.; a donation of €3.00 covers coffee/ tea and sandwiches at the interval.

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Kristy Cox (AUS) back in Europe for May 2020 tour

Thanks to the mygrassisblue.com/ team for this announcement:

After a busy inaugural 2019, 2020 will see us concentrate on developing an offering in the UK and mainland Europe, and we’re delighted to have our very first touring artist of 2019, Kristy Cox, on board with us for this overseas foray. The tour will kick off on 7 May at the Crossover Bluegrass, Old-Time & Americana Music Festival in Shropshire, England, before embarking on a run through select venues in mainland Europe. Kristy will return to Ireland for a few gigs before featuring on the roster of the 29th Annual Bluegrass Festival in Co. Tyrone’s Ulster American Folk Park from 22 to 24 May, where the tour will end. We’re busy piecing the tour together and hope to have it confirmed by early 2020.

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06 November 2019

More news of past visitors

Following Monday's BIB news of the award-winning duo Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Bluegrass Today carries news of two other award-winning US acts who have both played at past Omagh festivals: Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass (headliners at Omagh in 2008) and Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, whose Omagh performances this year were followed by a tour.

Danny Paisley has signed up with Pinecastle Records. A performance video (also on YouTube) is on the BT post. Chris and the Night Drivers have released a fifth single, 'Your remarkable return', from their latest album The choosing road. An audio clip can be heard on BT. Several photos from the tour in Ireland can be seen on the band's Facebook. The photo below shows them in their new regular (post-tour) lineup.

L-r: Marshall Wilborn, Mark Stoffel, Chris Jones, Grace van 't Hof

PS: Added to which, David Benedict of Mile Twelve has called his latest tune 'Bish bash bosh', a phrase he learned from his Co. Armagh wife Tabitha of Cup O' Joe. You can hear the tune on Bluegrass Today.

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05 November 2019

Jeff Burke and Bluegrass Chicago

Jeff Burke, well known in Ireland from his many tours as half of Jeff & Vida as well as being an instructor at Bluegrass Camp Ireland, moved three years ago from Nashville to Chicago and found that plenty of people there were interested or active in bluegrass - fans, pickers, bands, institutions, and organisations - but lacked a unifying hub or an established network of communication.

Jeff and friends have accordingly set up the Bluegrass Chicago website to serve the bluegrass and old-time community for the Chicago metropolitan area (with a population about twice that of Ireland). More details are given by John Lawless in a feature on Bluegrass Today.

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JigJam begin Irish tour tomorrow

As announced on the BIB on 26 Oct., Tullamore's JigJam will be winding up their Phoenix World Tour with four shows in Ireland, beginning tomorrow (6 Oct.). The dates are shown below and on the BIB calendar; the links give online booking facilities.

Wed. 6th Nov.: Whelan's main venue, Wexford St., Dublin 2
Thurs. 7th: Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Fri. 8th: Brú Ború Cultural Centre, Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Sat. 9th: Mullingar Arts Centre, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

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04 November 2019

Record chart debut for Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Bluegrass Today of Darin and Brooke Aldridge (USA), who were headliners at last year's 27th Annual Bluegrass Festival in the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh, Co. Tyrone, released their new Rounder album Inner journey on 18 October. It went to #2 on Billboard’s bluegrass album chart, which is the highest chart debut of their career so far. This year, additionally, Brooke won the IBMA's Female Vocalist award for the third time in a row. More details are on the Morris Public Relations e-newsletter.

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02 November 2019

Old Time Central: first year complete

There was no mid-October update on Old Time Central (OTC), so there's a bumper stock of new iterms in the editors' latest e-newsletter:

The editors thank readers for making it possible for OTC to complete its first year. OTC is completely community-supported, and links are provided in the newsletter for making one-off or monthly donations.

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01 November 2019

Open monthly session in Rathdangan, Co. Wicklow, TONIGHT

Byrne's, Rathdangan

Thanks to Paul Browne for the news that:

... there is now a regular bluegrass / Americana open session on the first Friday each month in 'Juniors' (Byrne's), Rathdangan, in Co. Wicklow, near Baltinglass. The session is quite well attended by musicians and listeners. It's hosted by banjo player Dermot Gillespie and guitarist Blanch Cummins.

Paul himself plays mandolin and guitar. As today is Friday 1 November, the session is on, beginning about 9.30 p.m.

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In the Nov. 2019 BU

The November 2019 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine includes a major obituary of John Cohen by Gary Reid; a Highlight review by Chris Stuart of Cohen's most recent published collection of photographs, Speed bumps on a dirt road; and a favourable review by Bob Allen of Thomas Goldsmith's Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. 'a fairly short but rather remarkable book' (see the BIB for 28 Sept.). Chris Stuart also gives a Highlight review to Lew Stern's Tommy Thompson: new-timey string band musician (see the BIB for 6 June).

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Transatlantic Hillbilly Band at Dungannon, 30 Nov. 2019

Thanks to Sharon Loughrin for the news that on Saturday 30 November Willie Drennan and his Ulster-Scots Band (aka the Transatlantic Hillbilly Band) will present a performance of "traditional grassroots Ulster-Scots songs and tunes, laced with Appalachian Fusion and some rare new creations thrown in for good measure. High energy entertainment embellished with fiddles, bagpipes, and Lambeg drum". The concert will be held in Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, at 8.00 p.m. Tickets (£12) can be booked online.

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31 October 2019

For guitarists

Randy's Pickin' Parlor in Nashville announces that this coming Saturday (2 Nov.) flatpicking guitar master David Grier (above) will be playing there from 8.00 p.m.

Not many BIB readers may be able to attend, but fortunately the Parlor's announcement includes links to YouTube videos of David Grier playing 'Wheel hoss' (59 seconds) and 'Bill Cheatum' (four minutes). The shorter video has closeups of his right hand; but both of them should really be listened to, rather than viewed. Plenty more of his work is on YouTube.

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30 October 2019

Jeff Scroggins & the Scroggdogs (USA) back in Ireland, 10-17 Nov. 2019

L-r: Scott Gates, Yoseff Tucker, Jeff Scroggins, 
Jan Purat, Zach Sharpe

Anyone who saw and/ or heard Jeff Scroggins & the Scroggdogs during their tour in Ireland in April and May this year - or who even just read what was on the BIB about them at that time - will be glad to know that they will be back in ten days' time for what Jeff describes as:

eight straight nights of West Coast bluegrass in the tradition of Vern and Ray, Rose Maddox, the Louvin Brothers, etc. OK Ireland, this is going to be stronger than turpentine, so come out and check out the most HARD CORE, in-your-face bluegrass band I've ever assembled and brought to Europe, or anywhere!!

The band is coming as part of a European tour, beginning next week at the annual Al Ras Bluegrass & Old Time Festival in Barcelona, and continuing after 17 Nov. in Germany. Many thanks to the irreplaceable John Nyhan for organising their tour in Ireland, which will follow this schedule:
  • Sun. 10th Nov.: Tuohy's Bar, Pound St., Rathdowney, Co. Laois, 9.00 p.m.; 087 967 5752
  • Mon. 11th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; 087 792 1771
  • Tues. 12th: Finn's Ale House, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, 8.30 p.m.; 087 977 8347
  • Wed. 13th: Dorney Bridge, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, 8.15 p.m.; 0044 (0) 7716 / 267 625
  • Thurs. 14th: Beehive Bar, Adara, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.; 087 690 0714
  • Fri. 15th: Mannion's Bar, Balla, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.; 087 229 6018
  • Sat. 16th: Ballinvreena Community Hall, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, 8.30 p.m.; 087 792 / 1771
  • Sun. 17th: Levis's Bar, Ballydehob, Co. Cork, 7.00 p.m.; 028 37118, 086 837 0518
For further details on any of the above, tel. 087 792 1771 or e-mail.

John adds: 'They made a huge impact on their previous visit. High energy, with great classic bluegrass and country.'

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Daniel Greeson

One of Tom Mindte's ongoing policies is to foster young talent, both through his Patuxent Music record label and his Patuxent Partners band. Tom and the Partners were last in Ireland in 2015 (time for another visit?), with a conspicuously talented 16-year-old Daniel 'Slim' Greeson from North Carolina on fiddle.

Daniel has since recorded two fiddle albums for Patuxent (see CD cover image); since March 2018 he has been fiddle player for the dynamic Sideline, and in July this year he toured Ireland with the band. Sandy Hatley now reports on Bluegrass Today that Daniel has a new job in the production, sales, and marketing of the celebrated Blue Chip Picks. He will also be marrying fellow musician Hannah Ruth Sparks this coming March. Congratulations to Daniel on all counts; more details are on Bluegrass Today.

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28 October 2019

Steve Martin, Martin Short, and the Steeps in Dublin and Belfast, 11-12 Mar. 2020

Many thanks to John Nyhan for drawing our attention to the fact that next spring the comedy giants Steve Martin (USA) and Martin Short (CAN) will bring their critically acclaimed comedy tour 'The Funniest Show In Town At The Moment' to Ireland, with shows at the 3Arena in Dublin on Wednesday 11 March and the SSE Arena in Belfast on Thursday 12 March, both shows being scheduled for 8.00 p.m.

The shows form part of a tour of these islands, beginning in Glasgow on 9 Mar. and continuing with four dates in England from 14 to 18 Mar. Tickets have been on sale since 27 Sept. at Ticketmaster.ie, which also lists an appearance by them in the Heineken Lounge of the SSE Arena at 6.31 p.m. on 12 Mar. A fifty-minute RTE interview with them can be heard here.

The clincher for the bluegrass fan is that the duo will be joined on stage by the Grammy-Award-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers from North Carolina, who have played regularly with Steve Martin for a long time now, and (even before that) at the Omagh festival.

Much more information about Steve Martin and Martin Short is on the Ticketmaster website.

PS: Bluegrass Today carries a live video (also on YouTube) of the Steep Canyon Rangers playing 'Blue Monk' at this year's Merlefest.

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Monday night at 11th Balla Bluegrass Festival

Congratulations to the 11th Balla Bluegrass Festival in Co. Mayo for another rousing weekend at the two venues of Mannion's and the Olde Woods. This year the Festival filled a valuable role as a showcase for bluegrass bands from Ireland, presenting the Rocky Top String Band, Mules & Men, the Rocky River Bluegrass Show, and Pilgrim St.

Tonight Balla's own Colonel Bullshot Rides Again (photo below), led by the festival organiser Tommy 'T-Bone' Lyons (centre of front row), will bring the festival to a close with a bluegrass gig at Mannion's.

The festival's handsome poster (above left) is another example of the tendency of four-string banjos to creep in anywhere, as the BIB commented on 17 Oct.

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26 October 2019

JigJam: tour in Ireland, 6-9 Nov. 2019

Following the BIB posts of earlier this month, thanks to Tullamore's JigJam and Take 2 Promotions Ltd of Fermoy, Co. Cork, for a reminder of the band's coming Irish tour, beginning ten days from now. The dates, as shown on the poster image, are:

Wed. 6th Nov.: Whelan's main venue, Wexford St., Dublin 2
Thurs. 7th: Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Fri. 8th: Brú Ború Cultural Centre, Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Sat. 9th: Mullingar Arts Centre, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

The venue links above incorporate online booking facilities.

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The Horsenecks in Ireland, 6-15 Dec. 2019

Following the BIB post of 9 Oct., the BIB announces with pleasure that the December tour of Ireland by the Horsenecks ('hard-hitting and heartfelt old-time and classic bluegrass music') will be twice as long as we then thought, stretching from Fri. 6 Dec. to Sun. 15 Dec., with shows in all four historic provinces.

Thanks to Gabrielle Macrae for the schedule shown below and additional information. The Horsenecks (also on Facebook) will be touring as a four-piece: Gabrielle on fiddle, Barry Southern on banjo, Alan Wright on guitar, and Vera van Heeringen on bass, who will also be opening some of the shows (indicated below) with a set of her own material.

Please note that at present the dates 9 and 10 Dec. are not yet filled. If you can offer or suggest a booking, contact Gabrielle by e-mail.

  • Fri. 6th Dec.: An Bhun Aibhainn, Bridge St., Clooncarrabaun, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo; free
  • Sat. 7th: Roisin Dubh (with Vera opening), 9 Dominick St., Galway city
  • Sun. 8th: Tom Malone’s Pub & Markethouse (with Vera opening), Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare V95 YT2V
  • Mon. 9th: TBA
  • Tues. 10th: TBA
  • Wed. 11th: The White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork
  • Thurs. 12th: Upstairs at The Cobblestone, 77 King St. North, Smithfield, Dublin 7
  • Fri. 13th: Dorney Bridge, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh (with Vera opening)
  • Sat. 14th: House concert, Sligo (details)
  • Sun. 15th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone (with Vera opening)

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25 October 2019

Sideline's 'Return to Windy Mountain' now on YouTube

The BIB reported on 20 Sept. that Sideline (USA), whose July tour of Ireland was organised by mygrassisblue.com, had released two new singles, 'Return to Windy Mountain' and 'I'll live again'. The Mountain Home Music Company now announces that the band has released an official video of 'Return to Windy Mountain' - a tribute to the late Melvin Goins (1933-2016) - which can be seen on YouTube.

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24 October 2019

Jim Brock, 5 Aug. 1934-16 Oct. 2019

Richard Thompson sends on Bluegrass Today the sad news that fiddler James Earl 'Jim' Brock sr of Alabama died last week. He was one of the generation raised in traditional music, who began professional careers before the name 'bluegrass' was applied to what they played.

Jim Brock played with Carl Sauceman & the Green Valley Boys, Jim & Jesse & the Virginia Boys, and many more. A comprehensive discography, two videos, several photos, and memories by those who knew him are included in Richard Thompson's feature.

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Book report: John Duffey's bluegrass life (and Irish roots)

John Duffey’s bluegrass life: featuring the Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, and Washington DC. By Stephen Moore and G.T. Keplinger, with a foreword by Tom Gray. Booklocker, 2019. 420 pp, fifty monochrome photos.

This is not a review - I bought the book because of interest in the subject and am writing now about how it impressed me. Chris Stuart reviewed it in Bluegrass Unlimited for Oct. 2019, and wrote: 'I can recommend this book whole-heartedly... I rarely use the word “essential” in reviews, but this one has earned it', and I agree.

A copy-editor will spot the odd slip, most visible in names (e.g. 'John Fortster' for 'Nick Forster', 'Marty Stewart', 'Ronnie Dillard'), but that's a featherweight against the tons of information and anecdote from and about John Duffey himself and practically everyone involved with him, and the light these throw not only on Duffey's own multi-faceted personality but on the internal workings of the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene, and the factors that produced their distinctive and very influential sounds.

Ads for the book draw attention to 'Duffey's Irish roots', examined in an appendix by Robert Kyle, whose opening sentence is likely to please many BIB readers:

John's wit, smile, personality, story-telling and love of music left no doubt his ancestors were Irish.

Not all of them were, though. The earliest to be named is his great-great-grandfather John M. Duffey, born 1770 in Pennsylvania. John M.'s wife was Catherine Waldeck, born in Maryland of German parents. John (1811-89), son of John M. and Catherine, had two successive wives, Catherine Raimer and Arthalinda Bauers; both names may indicate German origin. So John Humbird Duffey jr (1934-96) had some German ancestry, whether it showed itself or not.

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23 October 2019

Level Best at Sixmilebridge TONIGHT to launch Shannonside Winter Music Festival 2020

L-r: James Field, Terry Wittenberg, Wally Hughes, 
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes, Joe Hannabach

After a break in Dublin for rest, recreation, and jamming, Level Best from Virginia begin the second leg of their current tour with a show for the Sixmilebridge Folk Club in the concert venue of Gleeson's (Ó Gliasáin's) Bar (also known as the Greyhound Bar), Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, tonight (Wed. 23 Oct.) at 8.30 p.m.

The Club is presenting Level Best as part of the launch of Shannonside Winter Music Festival 2020, which will be held in Sixmilebridge and Bunratty from Thurs. 16 Jan. to Mon. 20 Jan. Tickets for tonight's show are €15 and can be booked at 086 607 9864.

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22 October 2019

John Cohen's The high lonesome sound

Music is the celebration of the hard life here in Kentucky. The home music and the church singing are a way of holding on to the old dignity. Music is not an escape. It gives a way of making life possible to go on. Life is hard here, and music is the celebration.

These words follow the beginning of the half-hour documentary film The high lonesome sound (1963). Shot by John Cohen in eastern Kentucky in 1962, it shows musicians including Roscoe Holcomb (1912-81) and an open-air show by Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys in Hazard, KY. Many classic still photos shot at the same time are in Cohen's latest book, Speed bumps on a dirt road (see the BIB for 11 Sept.).

John Cohen, the last member of the original New Lost City Ramblers, died on Monday 16 Sept. at the age of 87. A video of the film can be viewed here.

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The LAST La Fuente Old-Time Music Week, 9-16 May 2020

Kate Lissauer sends an announcement of events including the coming spring's Old Time Music Week (9-16 May 2020) in La Fuente, Andalusia, in southern Spain. Instrumental classes for fiddle, banjo, guitar, group duet singing, and more, will be taught by a faculty headed by Dave Bing (of the Bing Brothers of West Virginia), with Beverly Smith, Johnny Whelan, Kate herself, and other tutors TBC. More details are here. Kate writes:

This is the LAST La Fuente Old-Time Music Week planned! So let's make it a great one.

A Ukulele Week, hosted by Matt Stead, will be held at La Fuente on 23-30 May.

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21 October 2019

Martino talks about Red Wine to Dave Berry

A major feature about our longtime friends from Italy, Red Wine, appears today on Bluegrass Today, where BT's California correspondent Dave Berry shares a major interview he conducted with Martino Coppo (centre, above; photo by Stefano Goldberg) at this year's World of Bluegrass.

Martino talks about his long experience of the international bluegrass scene, the scene in Italy and in Europe, the band's tours in the US (the next is scheduled for Feb. 2020), their plans for a new all-Italian album, their 11th Bluegrass Party (below), scheduled for 16 November in their hometown Genoa, their recording of songs by Athy songwriter Shane Sullivan, and more. There are also four videos of Red Wine in live performance.

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Gold Tone: big price reductions

Gold Tone Musical Instruments announce a sale with 30-40% reductions on the listed price of blemished and B-stock instruments: having only cosmetic blemishes. The full list can be seen here. The downside of the lower price is that the buyer pays shipping costs; so as the Gold Tone depot is in Florida, readers outside the USA may need a friend there who is willing to bring over an instrument. Full details are on the latest Gold Tone e-newsletter.

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20 October 2019

Last show of the Adams & Staats tour TONIGHT

Tonight (Sun. 20 Oct.) the ninth and final show in the tour by Brandon Lee Adams and Johnny Staats, organised by mygrassisblue.com, will take place in the Asgard Theatre at 34/5 Lower Main St., Arklow, Co. Wicklow (above Kenny's of the Harbour Bar).

As well as being the last show in their tour, it's also the nearest to Dublin - the proven difficulty of getting an audience in the city for a bluegrass event ruled out a closer venue. It is known, however, that there are lovers of great bluegrass guitar-playing, mandolin-playing, and singing in Dublin; and Arklow is really not that far away by car down the M11. The video above shows Adams & Staats nailing 'Road to Columbus' and 'John Hardy' in an informal setting.

Tickets for the Asgard can be booked via this link.

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19 October 2019

Local Honeys (USA) in Ireland, Jan.-Feb. 2020

Anyone who saw and heard the Local Honeys from east Kentucky on their previous visits to Ireland (including the 13th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival this past June) will be glad to know that they will be back early in 2020.

Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs, who will be touring Britain in the first half of next month, are scheduled to play at the Grand Social, 35 Lower Liffey St., Dublin 1, on Fri. 17 Jan. at 8.00 p.m., and at Whelan's, Wexford St., Dublin 2, on Tues. 4 Feb., tickets €15. The dates are part of a tour in these islands. At present the Honeys' online tour schedules don't extend further than 22 Jan.; the BIB will report any other dates in Ireland as soon as we have the information.

Update 20 Oct.: Six shows in Ireland are planned, so we look forward to being able to give full details in due course.

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18 October 2019

All happening

A busy day for bluegrass in Ireland: the seventh show in the tour by Brandon Lee Adams and Johnny Staats, organised by mygrassisblue.com, takes place tonight on the Aran Islands, Co. Galway, and will be streamed on video on the IBMA's Facebook from 8.30 p.m. GMT. Two videos from Monday's show at Kilworth, Co. Cork (one featuring John Nyhan on vocals, in great form) can be seen on the mygrassisblue.com Facebook.

Further inland, Level Best begin their tour, at Dorney Bridge, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, and Lunch Special will be playing at JJ Harlow's in Roscommon town from 7.00 p.m.; not to mention the Old Time Mountain Music session at McLynn's in Sligo on the opening night of this year's Sligo Live festival.

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17 October 2019

4-string infiltration in bluegrass iconography

The BIB editor writes:

A long time ago it occurred to me that the logical development of melodic banjo-playing was to drop the 5-string and fingerpicks, and change to the full-length plectrum banjo. This has not yet, as far as I know, happened in bluegrass; though in the field of Celtgrass... is it just my eyes, or has Enda Scahill of We Banjo 3 taken up the plectrum banjo as well as the tenor?

However, images of 4-string banjos are creeping into bluegrass contexts. The one above (showing a Clareen Clarenbridge tenor from Co. Galway) is used by the Song of the Mountains show, based at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA. The image below (showing a 4-string with Gibson inlays) is used by Rebel Records, a pillar of the bluegrass record industry, based in Charlottesville, VA. Are these just signs of the growing vogue for Irish music, or is the bluegrass banjo world being softened up for a coming complete plectral takeover?

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Your 2020 festival - in BU

The deadline (1 Nov.) for getting details of your bluegrass festival published in the January 2020 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine is just two weeks away. BU asks festival organisers to submit completed entry forms as soon as possible and send them in by post (P.O. Box 771, Warrenton, VA 20188), e-mail, or fax (540-341-0011). Here's what should be entered about your event:
  • CITY of Event
  • STATE of Event
  • DATES in 2020
  • Name of Event
  • Location (name of park, brief directions)
  • ADDRESS........................
  • CITY.................STATE.................ZIP....
  • Phone (1 only)
  • E-mail (1 only)
  • Web (1 only)
These categories are devised for the USA, of course, but giving equivalent information for here shouldn't be hard. If you run more than one event, a separate entry should be made out for each of them. If you can't complete a form in the next two weeks, it's not the end of the world: a supplementary list will appear in the following BU issue.

Ireland has always ranked high in the numbers of events shown in BU's list for countries outside North America, even though not all the festivals here have been entered. Please let the BIB know your 2020 dates too!

Update 18 Oct.: Thanks to Mick Daly at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, who had already sent the necessary info to BU and announces that the dates for next year's festival will be 27-30 Aug. 2020.

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15th Sligo Live Festival, 18-28 Oct. 2019

The fifteenth Sligo Live Festival (also on Facebook) opens tomorrow (Friday 18 Oct.) and continues to Monday 28 Oct. A full free programme for the wide-ranging schedule is available and downloadable online, and includes a location map for all venues. Events of particular interest to BIB readers include:
  • Old-time mountain music sessions at McLynn's on Old Market St. at 9.30 p.m. on both Fridays (18 and 25 Oct.);
  • Lunch Special (see the BIB for 20 Sept.) in Lyon’s Café at 11.00 a.m. on Sat. 19 Oct.;
  • Mules & Men in Baker Boys at 4.00 p.m. on Fri. 25 Oct.;
  • Old Hannah in Anderson's at 4.00 p.m. on Sat. 26 Oct.; and
  • Willie Watson (USA; founder member of Old Crow Medicine Show) in concert with Niamh, Deirdre and Séan Farrell at the Hawk's Well Theatre at 8.00 p.m. on Sun. 27 Oct.
The concert, together with three other ticketed events during the festival, is available as part of an Americana pass deal. Similar offers for other genres are also available.

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15 October 2019

Jerry Garcia in Ireland - On the track of the truth (UPDATE)

Yesterday the BIB reported on Cory Arnold's article on Jerry Garcia and the 5-string banjo, drawing attention to an account of a visit to Ireland. Thanks to Tim Rogers, both for his comment on the first BIB post and for this further clearing of the air:

I've been looking into Jerry's trip to Ireland and have tracked down a number of people who met him. As far as I know, it was in 1994. There are urban myths around this visit as you can imagine, so I am hunting the truthful accounts of people who met him and can tell their tales. I've tracked down photos and I'm working on a piece for publication. Deborah Koons is the only surviving member of the entourage for that trip and I haven't reached out to her. I haven't found any written account of the 'roadside gypsy' encounter yet. If anyone can direct me to this account, I'd be grateful.

In any case - I have tracked down at least one online author of an account of this trip... and he conceded that his account was entirely fictitious. I advise everyone to take these tales as they find them - but add a large pinch of salt.

Peace, love, and banjos,

Tim Rogers

Tim can be contacted by e-mail.
UPDATE: Cory Arnold states plainly in his article that he is not a musician, and he consequently does not assess Garcia's banjo-playing or comment on his instruments. Fortunately this gap is filled by a four-part series, 'Jerry Garcia's musical roots: the banjo years', written in the late 1990s by Sandy Rothman, a former Blue Grass Boy and member of Garcia's Acoustic Band. This is well worth reading in any event; it also points out, for instance, that in the Hart Valley Drifters, the first band with which Garcia ever recorded, he played not banjo but guitar. If so, then in the first video in Arnold's article the banjo is being played by Brooks Adams Otis.

Moreover, a review in the September issue of
Bluegrass Unlimited takes a dim view of Jerry Garcia's banjo-playing. Sandy Rothman, conversely, has a high regard for it and says why in detail.

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Raymond Fairchild, 15 Mar. 1939-13 Oct. 2019

The BIB learns with great regret from Bluegrass Today of the death of Raymond Fairchild of Cherokee, NC, whose mastery of the banjo resembled Scotty Stoneman's of the fiddle. Biographical details, together with YouTube videos of two of his instrumental showpieces, 'Whoa mule' and 'Shucking the corn', are included in John Lawless's obituary.

A feature in Banjo News Letter about an event where Raymond was playing told how the road out of the festival grounds was lined with men with tears in their eyes, offering to take their banjos to pieces and sell them for spare parts. He was half-Cherokee, and in one of Alan Lomax's film documentaries of Southern music, Raymond was asked whether he was proud of his Cherokee heritage. He replied promptly: ' Yes sir, and I'm proud of being a banjo-picker too!'

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14 October 2019

Good news for 15 Oct.

The tour of Ireland by Nu-Blu from Siler City, NC, officially ended last night with their high-energy show at Paul Lee's DC Music Club in Dublin 2 (a hundred yards or so from one of the best-known music venues in the city).

The good news is that they can now relax and look around Dublin for a couple of days; and, though travel fatigue prevented them from dropping in last Tuesday on the weekly Dublin Bluegrass jam at Sin E on Ormond Quay, they mean to be there tomorrow night (Tuesday 15 Oct.).

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Fleck and Washburn at the NCH, Dublin, 21 Jan. 2020

The National Concert Hall in Dublin announces that Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, 'the king and queen of the banjo', will be playing in concert there at 8.00 p.m. on Tuesday 21 January 2020. Tickets (from €27.50) will go on sale this coming Wednesday (16 Oct.); priority booking for Friends of the NCH is now open. The NCH release states:

Fifteen-time Grammy Award winner Béla Fleck makes a welcome return to the NCH with musical and life partner, acclaimed singer, and clawhammer banjo player Abigail Washburn on 21 January 2020 as part of the NCH Perspectives Series.

Since releasing his debut solo album in 1979, Béla Fleck has become internationally recognised as a virtuoso of the banjo; bringing the instrument to a diverse audience via his dynamic interpretations of music from multiple genres. His partner Abigail Washburn has, through her solo output and as a member of Uncle Earl and the Sparrow Quartet, built a reputation as a unique stylist who adds extra dimensions to her playing by infusing it with oriental aspects.

Their debut album
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (2014) reached number one on the Billboard Bluegrass charts and earned them a Grammy for Best Folk Album, and its follow-up Echo in the valley (2017) garnered similarly glowing acclaim.

Over the course of more than four decades Béla Fleck has courted jazz, classical, bluegrass, and more with a singular skill and sensibility, whether solo, with lauded ensemble Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, or in other guises. Complementing the wealth of experience he brings, Abigail’s distinctive vocal and uncanny ability to meld sundry influences make the duo a compelling musical force that harnesses both traditional and modern elements.

More detail and online booking facilities are on the NCH website.

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Jerry Garcia's banjo career in detail

For anyone interested in the part played by the 5-string banjo in the musical career of Jerry Garcia, a comprehensive account is given by Cory Arnold in his article 'Jerry Garcia and the banjo' on the Deering banjo company's blog, edited since its original appearance two years ago on the Hooterollin' around blog.

In its Deering form, the article features ten YouTube videos showing Garcia's banjo-playing at different stages of his career. Points of interest include the relation between Garcia's use of steel guitar and his return to banjo-playing, as well as his later clawhammer-style playing. Near the end of the article, Cory mentions an occasion about 1993 when Garcia played some songs on the banjo in a pub in Ireland. He writes:

Enjoyable as that must have been, that wasn't the former South Bay banjo gunslinger taking on all comers, just a middle-aged guy in a bar plunking out a few tunes to amuse his fellow patrons. The banjo had been an essential instrument in Garcia's musical arc, it resurfaced, had a renaissance, and then it had gone.

Does anyone remember this occasion in Ireland? And could there be any possible connection with the Ballydehob mural painting (see the BIB for 15 Feb. 2019)?

Update: See the comment by Tim Rogers concerning this episode, below.

Update 15 Oct.: Tim has since sent in a further comment, important enough to warrant appearing as a new post, here.

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13 October 2019

Adams & Staats at Ardara - and now on video

Following the BIB post yesterday on the start of the tour by the outstanding US guitar-and-mandolin duo of Brandon Lee Adams and Johnny Staats, thanks to Dave Byrne jr of mygrassisblue.com, who sends this photo from the first show of the tour - in the bluegrass-friendly Beehive Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal. Dave writes:

The first gig was special – they truly are phenomenal musicians and it’s a pleasure to not only facilitate their tour but also to be around them.

I’ve put a few select videos on our Facebook page of what’s in store for those who come out to see the guys. Seeing them play, it’s really hard to believe that before last night they had never – NEVER – before played a gig together.

I’ll be hoping to highlight the tour as best I can on our Facebook page as we move around the country over the coming week, but keep in mind that the gig on Friday next (18 Oct.) from the Aran Islands will be streamed LIVE on the IBMA Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/intlbluegrass/). We’re due to get going on the night at 8.30 p.m.

JigJam: Irish tour, 6-9 Nov. 2019

Following the BIB post of Thursday last (10 Oct.) on Tullamore's JigJam and the review of their latest album Phoenix on Bluegrass Today, the band's latest e-newsletter includes a link to the review, together with a look back at their latest nine-week tour of the USA; their coming tour in Ireland, culminating in their home town; the support acts for their Dublin shows; and more.

The schedule for JigJam's Irish tour is:

Wed. 6th Nov.: Whelan's main venue, Wexford St., Dublin 2
Thurs. 7th: Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Fri. 8th: Brú Ború Cultural Centre, Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Sat. 9th: Mullingar Arts Centre, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

The BIB congratulates JigJam on achieving and sustaining this impact with 'I-Grass'!

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12 October 2019

Ken Perlman: news, fall 2019

Ken Perlman (USA), father of 'melodic clawhammer', has had his whole website remodelled, making it both more handsome and more user-friendly.

Ken has recently completed work on a new book, entitled Appalachian fiddle tunes for clawhammer banjo, which should be released by Mel Bay Publications in autumn 2020. It will include over 100 note-for-note arrangements in clear tablature, which keep to the spirit and style of the fiddling traditions from which the tunes derived. About half the tunes in the collection come from the repertoire that Ken performed and recorded with the late, great Appalachian-style fiddler and folklorist Alan Jabbour; and the old-time backup style that Ken developed while playing and touring with Alan will be one of the fields covered in the book.

Much more news and information, including links to the three main instructional camps in which Ken is involved for 2020, is on his website.

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Adams & Staats (USA) tour begins TONIGHT in Ardara

A reminder that tonight (Sat. 12 Oct.) sees the start of the debut tour of Ireland by two outstanding US musicians, Brandon Lee Adams (guitar) and Johnny Staats (mandolin), organised by the mygrassisblue.com team of Co. Wicklow. The first show of the tour is in the bluegrass-friendly environment of the Beehive Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal, the HQ and festival club of the annual Ardara Bluegrass Festival.

All dates in the tour are shown on the poster image above and entered in the BIB calendar, and complete artist and tour details can be found on the tour webpage at http://mygrassisblue.com/adamsandstaats-2019/.

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11 October 2019

Dorney Bridge programme to December 2019

Early this year John and Hilda Watson announced the launch of their house concert venue Dorney Bridge, at Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh (see the BIB for 3 Mar.). We're now delighted to  publish their report on a very successful start and a powerful programme for the rest of this year:

We have had a tremendous first year providing a house concert venue for the music we love. Never could we have imagined such a fabulous lineup for our concerts. Ample car parking is available and anyone wishing to attend should get in touch to indicate their interest. Supper is served and a donation of £12.50 is collected which goes entirely to the Band. All the shows listed below start at 8.15 p.m. sharp.

18th October (Friday): Level Best, USA

Level Best comprises three members of East of Monroe - Lisa & Wally Hughes and Terry Wittenberg (banjo) - Joe Hannabach (bass) and James Field (guitar), a widely experienced musician in bluegrass, James took part as a Charles River Valley Boy in the historic Beatle country album (1966) and has played festivals in Ireland as a member of the fine French band Blue Railroad Train. Really looking forward to meeting these lovely folks again, this will be a tremendous night of music and song along the old time country and bluegrass flavour.

13th November (Wednesday): Jeff Scroggins & the Scroggdogs, USA

Jeff is one of the top banjo players to be found anywhere in the world. The band boasts an all-California lineup, featuring some of the hottest pickers and singers from the Golden State, with Scott Gates (mandolin and guitar), Yoseff Tucker (guitar), Jan Purat (fiddle) and 'The Wingman' Zach Sharpe (bass). The music is rooted and steeped in the hard-driving bluegrass tradition, although it will also feature great songs from other genres as well. You will absolutely be enthralled with these guys.

29th November (Friday): Bawn Folk Group, Norin Iron

Dorney Bridge Charity Night - Collection for Chest Heart & Stroke. A night of well known country songs with a bluegrassy twist and also some comedy acts! (*DONATION to CHARITY only tonight) Hosts will pay the band tonight, we are asking everyone to give generously to charity.

13th December (Friday): The Horsenecks, USA

What a way to finish our first year! Gabrielle Macrae from Oregon who is a fiery fiddle player herself, is accompanied by a great guitar, mandolin player and singer, Vera van Heeringen along with the Horsenecks on this tour. This will be a night to remember with very talented musicians.
Some bookings have already been confirmed for 2020, along with a few more in the pipeline. We are always interested in hearing from bands looking for a house concert venue.

We would wish to pay a very sincere tribute to Arnie and Sharon (well known in bluegrass circles) for their help and advice during our first year.

Further details are updated on our Facebook page - Dorney Bridge
e-mail dorneybridge@gmail.com;  mobile 077 1626 7625
Venue location: 36 Dorney Bridge Road, Ballinamallard, Enniskillen, BT94 2DR

The Dorney Bridge Facebook has some tantalising indications of what's coming next year, but the BIB will wait for complete schedules from the tour organiser(s).

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Red Hat Acoustic Music Club at Naas, TONIGHT

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for a reminder that the Club's tenth meeting of 2019 will be held tonight (11 October).

The Red Hat meets on the second Friday of every month at the Harbour Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. Music starts around 8.30 p.m.; a donation of €3.00 covers coffee/ tea and sandwiches at the interval.

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10 October 2019

Phoenix reviewed on Bluegrass Today; We Banjo 3 at Owensboro

Phoenix, the latest album by Tullamore's JigJam, was released this summer and has now received on Bluegrass Today review ending: 'It’s hard to conceive of a more compelling combination.'

A fairer impression of the music can be formed by listening to the thirty-second snatch of each of the thirteen tracks from a player on the Bluegrass Today post, or from one of the sources linked to the band's website. The comment following the post, from Dave Berry, who writes Bluegrass Today's 'California report' series, carries more weight. Berry writes: 'Love this, I saw JigJam at the Hartford Memorial Festival, great high energy musicians and nice people.'
The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum at Owensboro, KY, sends a reminder that this coming Saturday (12 Oct.) Galway's We Banjo 3 will be in concert there:

The multi-award winning We Banjo 3 combine supergroup credentials with a breath-taking command of the emotive power of fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Simply put, the gold standard of Irish and American roots music. 

The few remaining tickets can be booked here, and a fifty-minute video of their set at the ROMP Festival at Owensboro this past summer can be seen here.

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