23 January 2017

A work in progress

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is as alive as ever, keeps its calendar updated, publishes news received, and adds new features: in 2016 the right-hand sidebar was enhanced by a slice of the calendar, a list of known bands, links to readers' comments, visual images, and (most recently) 'New releases' and regular jams. Send in news by e-mail.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? 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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22 January 2017

Woodbine: a change

From the core members of Woodbine:

For the past fifteen years Woodbine has been to the forefront in Irish bluegrass music, playing all its festivals and gigs all over the country. For nine of those years Richard Hawkins (BIB editor) has been our banjo player, a great 5-string player, great band member, team player, and most of all a great friend. Sadly for Woodbine, Richard has decided to retire from playing gigs and festivals.

We have travelled the country together from Belfast to Wexford, Limerick to Donegal, Mayo to Meath, and many more places in between. We have enjoyed some fantastic shows together and made many friends on our journey. It has been a real pleasure to play with Richard, a most courteous and affable gentleman who will be hard to replace.

We wish you well Richard, and thanks for so many memories that will endure for the rest of our lives.

Tony, Liam, and Nicola
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From the BIB editor:

I owe Tony, Liam, and Nicola a great deal for those years - and not just for the pleasure of their company, great as that has been. Woodbine is the best band I've ever been in or could have hoped to be in, and I have been proud to be their banjo player. Learning their material (I admired their choice of songs long before I had any idea of joining them) and learning how to fit in to the band sound and complement their fine singing, has made me more of a banjo player than I ever was before.

All my best wishes go to Tony, Liam, and Nicola, and I look forward to hearing the characteristic Woodbine sound for years to come.

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Old-time in the far West

Thanks to Tim Rogers of the Clew Bay Critters (above) - as far as we know, the only old-time outfit to feature charango solos - who confirms that the band are in residence every Thursday in McGing's of High St. in Westport, Co. Mayo. The Critters can also be seen and heard on the second Sunday of every month at An Bhunn Abhain, Bridge St., Clooncarrabaun, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo.

McGing's is one of the main venues for the annual Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, especially for the big jam sessions on Saturday afternoons. Tim also sends the sad news of the death of John McGing, the former owner; as a result, there was no music last Thursday night.

Please keep the BIB informed of what's happening to your local sessions, especially if this requires additions, subtractions, or other changes to the 'weekly sessions' part of the BIB calendar.

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21 January 2017

Geopolitical accuracy

The BIB editor writes:

We're delighted to see a post on the European Bluegrass Music Association Facebook at 12 Jan., with a message from Nigel Martyn, organiser of the current tour by the Special Consensus (USA), that the band's shows at Clonmel and Roscrea last weekend were sold out in advance.

Slightly less delighted by the title of this post yesterday on Bluegrass Today, 'Special C. does the UK in '17'. The text of the post is by Greg Cahill, but we know Greg wouldn't have put that title on it. Just to clarify: of the twenty-six dates in the tour, nineteen are in the island of Ireland, and fifteen of those are not in the UK. Still, no hard feelings - good wishes to all our friends over there in British North America.

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The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, Dublin, 26 Jan. 2017

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

Hey Y'all !

Happy New Year! We're back on Thursday 26th with special guests: Factor One (singer/songwriters), Collette Donoghue (contemporary), and Pat McSweeney (Americana). Hope you can get along!


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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20 January 2017

The Henry Girls in Germany, Mar. and Oct. 2017

Thanks to our good friend Rainer Zellner and his Music Contact agency in Germany for the news that the Henry Girls of Donegal will be touring twice in Germany this year. Rainer's website shows at present four dates for the Girls in late March, and three in October (with presumably more to come).

Dates are also given for the May tour by the highly regarded Balsam Range (USA) in Germany, the Czech Republic (two Prague shows in one day), and Switzerland.

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Uri Kohen in IBMA's Leadership Bluegrass class 2017

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) have announced the names of the twenty-six persons who will be taking part in the IBMA's 2017 Leadership Bluegrass class (20-22 Mar.) in Nashville, TN. Among them is Uri Kohen, founder and chief organiser of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, held every June in Westport, Co. Mayo.

A Leadership Bluegrass (LBG) course is a pressure-cooker-like three days of intense interaction between people in all fields of bluegrass activity. The BIB congratulates Uri - we can't think of anyone on the scene here who is better placed to benefit from the opportunities that LBG offers. As can be seen from the IBMA release, he is the only member of this year's class to come from outside the USA.

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19 January 2017

Alan Jabbour, 1942-2017

Alan Jabbour
(photo: Bill Petros)
The BIB editor writes:

The FOAOTMAD news blog publishes today the sad news that Alan Jabbour, fiddler, musicologist, arts administrator, and one of the most influential people in the revival of old-time music during the last fifty years, died last Friday (13 Jan. 2017).

Through learning from, working with, and documenting traditional musicians such as Henry Reed and the Hammons family of West Virginia, Alan Jabbour - together with Bert Levy and Tommy and Bobbie Thompson, as the Hollow Rock String Band - set new standards of playing the music for those who come from outside the tradition, and introduced from the playing of their mentors many tunes that are now part of the core of old-time repertoire. Another of his contributions was to show the strong influence of black music and musicians in Appalachian fiddling.

A survey of his life and career is on Wikipedia. Many will remember his performing, in duet with Ken Perlman, at the first Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival in Longford (2002). Here's a link to a video of the two of them playing 'Waynesboro', an American relative of 'Over the moor to Maggie'. I use this as infallible 'cheer up' listening.

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Ballymore Acoustic Gigs schedule, Feb.-May 2017

Ballymore Acoustic Gigs publish today their schedule for the coming months, as shown below. One of these shows has already appeared on the BIB: Brooksie Wells & Round Hill on 3 April. Follow BAG's advice and check out the links given, in case other shows on the schedule are your cup of tea.

Posted: 19 Jan 2017 01:29 AM PST
The BAG Spring 2017 gig schedule is now fully booked. All dates are Monday nights. All gigs start at 9.00 p.m., with doors open at 8.30 p.m., and admission to each gig is €12, unless otherwise noted.

The descriptions included below are a guide to the type of music each artist plays. Descriptions are subjective, and can mean different things to different people, so for a real flavour of the music, follow the links to artist websites, where you'll find samples of what you can expect. Suffice to say: it's all good!

Feb. 6 - John Spillane (IRL) - Folk - http://www.johnspillane.com/ Admission: €15

Feb. 13 - Kern (IRL) - Folk/Trad - http://kernmusic.com/

Feb. 20 - HATS (IRL) - Folk/Blues/Roots - www.hatssongs.com

Feb. 27 - Mark Geary (IRL) - Indie/Folk - http://markgeary.com/

March 6 - Ger Wolfe (IRL) - Folk - http://www.gerwolfe.com/

March 13 - Peter Byrne & Conor Mahony (IRL) - Folk/reinterpretation - https://www.facebook.com/peterbyrneconormahony/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QGR_ISa2uY

March 20 - Susan Tomelty & Pat Brennan (IRL) - Blues/Roots - http://www.susantomelty.ie/

March 27 - Pat Coldrick (IRL) - Classical, but so much more - http://www.patcoldrick.com/

April 3 - Brooksie Wells (USA) - Roots/Americana - http://www.brooksiewells.com/

April 10 - Luan Parle & Clive Barnes (IRL) - Folk/Country/Roots - http://www.luanparle.com/

April 24 - John Statz (USA) - Alt. Folk/Americana - http://johnstatz.com/

May 8 - Cormac O'Caoimh (IRL) - Indie/Folk/Pop - http://www.thecitadels.net/

May 15 - Krista Detor (USA) - Alt. Folk/Indie - http://kristadetor.com/

May 22 - Tim Grimm Family Band (USA) - Roots/Americana/Folk - http://timgrimm.com/

May 29 - Roy Thompson (IRL) - Folk/Roots/Country - https://www.facebook.com/roythompsonmusic/

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Ox Mountain Session (OT) in Sligo every Friday

Photo: Breda Reid Hammond
Many thanks to Fionnuala Kennedy in Sligo for this welcome news:

I just realised there's no mention of our weekly old-time session in your excellent blog, we've been going for over a year so maybe it's time to announce it! Here are the details:

The 'Ox Mountain Session', old time music. McGarrigles pub, O'Connell St., Sligo. Every Friday 5.30-8.00 p.m. All welcome.

Fionnuala adds:

(An interesting footnote... the Ox Mountains in Sligo were once part of the Appalachian range, before the continents split. Hence the name!)

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18 January 2017

Tristan Scroggins and the Why Lonesome Sound

This time last year a tour by Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) was about to begin, starting with powerful, exciting shows at the Shannonside Winter Music Festival (and continuing with powerful, exciting shows in the rest of the country).

Two weeks before the Festival (7 Jan. 2016), mandolinist Tristan Scroggins (left) had his twenty-first birthday. For those of us who have wondered what he's been doing since then, fellow mandolinist C.J. Lewandowski of the Po' Ramblin' Boys has an answer in Bluegrass Today: Tristan is exploring, through books, articles, and direct personal experiences, the reasons why bluegrass music gets the firm grip on us that it does. He has recently started a blog about his quest, 'The Why Lonesome Sound', and his first post, a week ago, was entitled 'How bluegrass music changed my life and why you should read my blog'.

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The life of Alice Gerrard - on film

A cause that should be close to the hearts of bluegrass and old-time music enthusiasts alike - work is in progress on a documentary film, You gave me a song: the life and music of Alice Gerrard, by a team led by director Kenny Dalsheimer and based in Durham, NC.

Many more details are on the project website and Bluegrass Today; but for a very slight indication of its importance, see the BIB's post on 11 Nov. 2016 about Old Time Herald (OTH):

No bluegrass fan should forget that OTH was founded by Alice Gerrard (friend of Bill Monroe and Tommy Jarrell, and pioneer woman bluegrasser in partnership with Hazel Dickens), with great support from Pete Kuykendall, founder of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

Anyone can take part in the project by donating, by sharing information of any kind on Alice Gerrard, by hosting an event to benefit the project, and even by simply signing up to be kept informed of progress; more details are here.

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17 January 2017

Chatham County Line (USA) at Whelan's, Dublin, Sat. 28 Jan. 2017

Many thanks to BIB reader Daphne McAllister, who spotted on Aiken Promotions Facebook this notice of an event we hadn't known about:

Not to be missed! American bluegrass band Chatham County Line headline Whelan's, Dublin, on Saturday 28 January. Tickets are available here.

Chatham County Line, based in Raleigh, NC, consist of Dave Wilson (guitar, harmonica, vocal), John Teer (mandolin, fiddle, vocal), Chandler Holt (banjo, guitar, vocal), and Greg Readling (bass, pedal steel, piano, vocal). They have been together since the late 1990s and have made many fans on previous visits to Ireland. Note the Ear Trumpet mic in the photo.

Their online tour schedule gives Whelan's as their only Irish date in a tour (25 Jan.-10 Feb.) that also comprises four shows in Britain, five in Belgium, and four in the Netherlands. Tickets at Whelan's (in the main venue, with support) are €16.50, and doors open at 8.00 p.m.

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16 January 2017

Halshaw Music: updated information

Thanks to Tony 'Sully' Sullivan of Halshaw Music in Britain for pointing out that the information originally given in the BIB post of 12 July 2007 - mostly consisting of details of banjos he then had in stock - is now completely out of date and should no longer be on the internet. His website now lists publications, song sheets, and contact data of which the most important is his e-mail address.

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Apply now to showcase at IBMA WOB 2017

The IBMA will be receiving from tomorrow (17 Jan.) applications from artists who want to showcase at this year's World of Bluegrass convention in Raleigh, NC (26-30 Sept. 2017). The process is not free of charge, but the immediate benefits for those who are accepted, in terms of facilities at World of Bluegrass, are substantial; and the potential benefits of bringing one's sound to a wider professional audience are hard to overestimate. For more details, see Bluegrass Today.

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13 January 2017

Special C. make a hot start in the cold snap - AND a new Dublin date

The BIB editor reports:

Despite snow showers, the Special Consensus last night drew their biggest Dublin audience to date, in the finest venue they have so far played in the Dublin region - the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire - to begin their current tour of Ireland and Britain. The band were on top form, opening with 'Long I ride', the title track from their latest album. Everyone who was there will have favourite moments to remember: two of mine were the a cappella quartet 'Jesus is my rock (and I ain't gonna roll)' and the commemorative 'Monroe's doctrine'.

It was a great night - and there's more good news, especially for anyone in the Dublin area who missed it. Nigel Martyn and his Old Flattop agency have added a further date to the tour schedule (already described as a demanding one by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today). On Wednesday 1 February the Special C. will be playing in central Dublin, in the intimate setting of Paul Lee's DC Music Club at 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2. Doors open at 8.30 p.m.

NB: this is the time shown on the venue's own website. To avoid missing anything by the Special C., please check opening times in advance with the venues at whatever shows you're going to.

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12 January 2017

Red Hat Acoustic Music Club: first meeting of 2017

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for the news that the Club's first meeting of 2017 will be held tomorrow (Friday 13 January).

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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Don't be late!

To all bluegrass fans in Dublin: please note that though the BIB has been showing tonight's show by the Special Consensus (USA) in the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin - the first in their current tour - as starting at 8.30 p.m., the Pavilion itself gives the time as 8.00 p.m. and advises attenders not to be late.

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Anna and Elizabeth: but not in Ireland?

The FOAOTMAD news blog announces that Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt (USA) will be touring Britain for two weeks in the middle of May this year. They were last over in August 2016, when they played one date in Ireland: in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. This year their online tour schedule shows at present no dates in Ireland at all. The BIB hopes to let old-time fans here know if this should change.

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11 January 2017

Michael J. Miles: New Year news

Thanks to clawhammer-banjo maestro Michael J. Miles (above) for his latest e-newsletter on coming events,

Monthly from 17 Jan., he and Rick Kogan will present 'Panorama', a monthly forum of music, politics, and stories at the Hideout in Chicago; on 28 Jan. he joins John McEuen at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago to celebrate the epoch-making 1972 release of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the circle be unbroken; his programmes of banjo and guitar instruction at the Old Town School began this week; and he will also be teaching at the Suwanee Banjo Camp in Florida (Apr.) and Banjo Camp North (May), and taking part in the Mike Seeger Banjo Festival in Virginia (June).

You are invited to visit existentialbanjo.com, which has an ongoing video series and also gives access to Michael's store of books and records.

Update 13 Jan.: Thanks to Michael for his message appearing below as a comment - especially the part about his coming over in October.

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10 January 2017

Two Time Polka: gigs in late Jan. 2017

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka sends this news:

Here are our upcoming gigs: -

Shannonside Winter Music Festival
Fri. 20th: The Mill Bar, Frederick St., Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare. Start 10.30 p.m. Adm. free.

Sat. 21st: Bunratty Folk Park, Bunratty Castle: Haybarn, 1.00-1.45 p.m.; Castle Main Guard, 4.00-4.45 p.m.
Cover charge: adults €15, family €35. This allows access to all gigs in the Folk Park.

Sat. 21st: McGregor's Bar, Sixmilebridge. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free.
Sun. 22nd: The Old House, Sixmilebridge. Start 3.00 p.m. Adm. free.
*
Fri. 27th: Old School House, Clashmore, Co. Waterford. Adm. €15 (€12 under 12s & over 60s). Doors 7.30 p.m. Tel. 087 4148651

White Horse Winter Music Festival
Sat. 28th: The Kasbah, the White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork. Start 11.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 021 4871388

Regards,
Ray & TTP

Two Time Polka's latest CD, New road, is available at their gigs and from Music Zone, Douglas, Cork, and Custys Music, Ennis, Co. Clare; or on line from both outlets, www.musiczone.ie and www.custysmusic.com. You can also contact Ray directly.

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'The fundamentals of singing' taught by Dede Wyland

Thanks to Cash Edwards Music Services in Austin, TX, for the news that Dede Wyland (right) is now offering a thirteen-lesson online course, 'The fundamentals of singing', on subscription.

Longtime Athy festival followers will remember Dede from her stratospheric vocals with Tom Mindte's Patuxent Partners ten or eleven years ago. Her long experience as a singer and teacher of singing in a bluegrass context is made available through the course, which can be followed at one's own rate. Learn the full details here and on her website.

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SkyCourt Shannon Bluegrass Concert at Shannonside festival, 22 Jan. 2017

Thanks to Brendan Walsh, head of the organising team for the 18th Shannonside Winter Music Festival, for this poster image of the Festival's main bluegrass concert, featuring the Special Consensus (USA), together with Greenshine from Cork. Full details are on the poster (click on the image to enlarge).

The 18th Shannonside Winter Music Festival includes over seventy acoustic music events at fifteen venues from 19 to 23 Jan. in Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare, and an all-weekend ticket (covering all events) is only €50. The full lineup is on the Festival website, together with the concert and gig schedule, a guide to accommodation in the area, and general Festival information including location maps for all the venues. Keep up to date with the Festival Facebook.

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09 January 2017

Sarah Jarosz (USA) in Ireland, 24-26 Jan. 2017

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz (USA), who began making her mark in bluegrass and related music in her mid teens, has toured in Ireland twice already: in 2014 with her third album, Build me up from bones, and in May 2015 with Sara Watkins and Aoife O'Donovan as the 'I'm With Her' trio. BIB readers will be aware that she is part of this year's Celtic Connections in Glasgow; while on this side of the Atlantic, she will also play three dates in Ireland.

Tues. 24th: The White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork

Wed. 25th: St Werburgh's church, Dublin; doors 8.00 p.m., show 8.30; €19.99 (part of the Temple Bar Tradfest)

Thurs. 26th: First Presbyterian Church, 41 Rosemary St., Belfast

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08 January 2017

Blood Red Mountain Band call it a day

A month ago Dublin's Blood Red Mountain Band, suppliers of 'moonshine for your ears', announced with regret on Facebook:

Hey folks, we’ve been off air for quite a while and we have a major announcement to make. Unfortunately it’s also a sad announcement, that, after twelve years on the road, the Blood Reds are calling it a day. We released a beautiful album and played at some of the best festivals. We’ve appeared on our favourite radio shows and sang to the most amazing people on the island, but we reached the limit of potential within the group and decided it was time to do something else. We’ve made great friends, climbed the prettiest mountains, and made some huge music in even the smallest of venues. It’s sad to go. New projects are afoot for all the cast, we’ll keep you updated. A really massive thank you to all our fans, our friends and the venues and services that supported us over the years - we’ve had a blast: hope you did too.

The BRMB consisted of Mark Flynn (guitar, vocals) Joeby Browne (bass, uke, vocals), Alison Byrne (oboe, vocals), Dave Keegan (drums), and Sarah May Rogers (fiddle, vocals). They can still be seen and heard on YouTube, and read on their blog.

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07 January 2017

Lilly of the West - a busy 2016, plans for 2017

Two weeks from now, the 18th Shannonside Winter Music Festival will be in full swing, with the Special Consensus (USA) and Cup O' Joe as the main bluegrass elements. Regular attenders will recall that in 2013 the lineup included (as well as the Special C.) the band Lilly of the West from Bulgaria, who attracted a lot of well deserved attention. What have they been doing since? Well...

Singer, songwriter, performing and recording artist, bandleader, broadcaster, music promoter, and journalist, the multilingual Lilly Drumeva is the moving spirit of bluegrass and acoustic music in the Balkans. She founded her band twenty years ago, performed at the first European World of Bluegrass Festival and many subsequent EWOBs as well as elsewhere in Europe and the USA, and is not slowing down - as her review of 2016 shows.

On St Patrick’s day 2016 the band performed at the Irish embassy in Sofia, as they have done in the past, with Lilly singing the 'Soldier's song' in Gaelic. Later in the year she released her tenth studio album, Strong machine, attracting a lot of airplay and media attention. Her song 'You can count on me' reached no. 4 on the Bulgarian pop charts. Notable shows during the year included Lilly of the West performing before a large audience at the National Art Gallery in Sofia to honour the European Day of Museums and Galleries (21 May); the big La Roche Bluegrass Festival in France (4-7 Aug.); a release concert in Slovenia (11 Sept.); a concert in Sofia celebrating twenty years of Lilly of the West (Oct.); the Kantfest Belgrade in Serbia (24-7 Nov.); and the concert 'Music of the World' at the National Palace of Culture, Sofia (5 Dec.), at which Lilly sang in French, German, Spanish, Russian, Slovenian, and Habra before a packed audience.

The new year will begin for Lilly of the West with a concert at the Delta Blues Bar in Sofia next Saturday (13 Jan.). Part of a show that Lilly played there on 9 July can be seen on YouTube. More details and photos from 2016 and more plans for 2017 can be found on Lilly's website.

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Special C. tour begins 12 Jan. 2017

A reminder that, as Nigel Martyn announced on the BIB just over two months ago, the Special Consensus (USA) are preparing for their most ambitious Irish gig to date: they begin their 2017 tour in the Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, on Thursday next week (12 Jan.). Tickets are available (with extra booking charge) from the venue box office (01 231 2929) and online (with no extra charge) from here.

Nigel also supplied the flyer (left) for what will be their most ambitious and longest tour of Ireland and the UK to date. IBMA award winners, Grammy nominees, and Compass Records recording artists, the Special C., led by Greg Cahill, have been coming to Ireland since 1995 and will have their latest CD, Long I ride, with them. All the dates in the 2017 tour can be seen on the flyer image (click to enlarge) and on the BIB calendar. Nigel's Old Flattop agency has been organising bigger and better tours for the Special Consensus each time they come, for nearly twenty years now.

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06 January 2017

Banjo and fiddle in Tipperary and Kilkenny

Thanks to Michael O'Grady, who writes:

I play fiddle and 5-string banjo. Are there any bluegrass workshops or teachers, or group classes or sessions for intermediate or beginner adult musicians aged 23 to 35 in the Co. Tipperary or Kilkenny area?

The BIB is aware of musicians in those areas who would be capable of giving instruction, but not (at present) of any organised workshops, group classes, or sessions there. Anyone who can give information or other assistance should contact Michael by e-mail.

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