18 August 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.


16 August 2019

Mike Seeger's last banjo documentary - out next month

Yesterday would have been Mike Seeger's eighty-sixth birthday, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings announce that Just around the bend: survival and revival in southern banjo sounds, the last documentary recorded by Mike Seeger, is due for release on 20 Sept. 2019 and can be pre-ordered.

The project comprises two CDs with a total of forty-three tracks by nineteen musicians, an eighty-page book, and a DVD which (like the CD set) runs for 110 minutes. A brief trailer can be seen here. The Smithsonian Folkways news release includes a link to a Bitter Southerner article on the banjo (mentioned on the BIB a year ago).

The release refers to Mike Seeger as 'one-third of hunky '50s boyband the New Lost City Ramblers'; similarly, it later refers to the 'unknown and underappreciated singer/ songwriter Robert A. Zimmerman'.

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15 August 2019

Fiddle rhythm becomes a written language

Casey Driessen (photo: Laura Ruiz)

All fiddlers, especially (but not exclusively) those involved with innovative music, should be aware of the Chop Notation Project devised by Casey Driessen and Oriol Saña. More detail is given in a feature by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today: this includes several video examples of rhythm licks, and a twenty-seven minute video (also on YouTube) in which Casey Driessen demonstrates not just rhythm licks but a new system of notating them. A forty-page handbook is available as a free download PDF document - it includes an illuminating account by Richard Greene of how his rhythm playing developed while he was a Blue Grass Boy.

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14 August 2019

Della Mae, Ron Block for Tradfest in Dublin, 22-26 Jan. 2020

The organising team of Tradfest announce the lineup for the 15th event, which will take place in Dublin from Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 January 2020, with 'new venues, more concerts, incredible headliners, and much, much more'. Tickets are now on sale.

For BIB readers, the incredible headliners include Della Mae (USA), who are scheduled for a concert in Lost Lane, Dublin, at 8.00 p.m. on Sun. 26 Jan. Della Mae (left) comprises Celia Woodsmith (guitar, lead vocals), Kimber Ludiker (fiddle), Jenni Lyn Gardner (mandolin), and Zoe Guigueno (upright bass).

Two nights earlier (Fri. 24 Jan.), Ron Block (USA) and Damien O'Kane will be at the same venue in a combined concert of 5-string and tenor banjo, as on their Banjophony album of a year ago. American and Irish music will also be combined on Friday night at the Button Factory, where Boxing Banjo (Dara and Mick Healy, Joseph McNulty, and Seán O’Meara) will present a 'blend of traditional Irish music and song, old-time and bluegrass music'. More details are on the Tradfest e-newsletter.

Update 17 Aug.: Tradfest 2020 has released a new single, 'Beautiful affair', as a YouTube video, confirming 'Trad' as a division of pop music. See the latest Tradfest e-newsletter.

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13 August 2019

New member for Sideline

Sideline (USA), who ended their first tour in Ireland just a month ago, announced today that Troy Boone, their mandolinist on the tour, is withdrawing from touring to spend more time with his family and will be replaced by Zack Arnold, founder member of another North Carolina band, ClayBank. Full details are given by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today.

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12 August 2019

Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, 22-5 Aug. 2019

Thanks to Karen Cheevers of B2B Communications for this new release on this year's Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival:

The picturesque Co. Waterford fishing village of Dunmore East plays host to the 25th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival from Thursday 22 August to Sunday 25 August. Fans of bluegrass, honky-tonk, blues, country, Americana, and rhythm ‘n’ roots are in for a real musical treat. The festival will feature a whole host of artists playing almost forty free gigs throughout the village.

Making their Dunmore East debut is the 19th Street Band. Hailing originally from Holywood, Northern Ireland, Caolaidhe Davis moved to the US in 2005 to pursue a career in music. While establishing an earlier group, he found himself in need of a fiddle player. This led him to meet Meghan, who auditioned for his band. What Caolaidhe didn’t know was that he was also auditioning his future wife. Fast forward a few months and the pair found themselves living on 19th Street in Arlington, Virginia. There, they wrote songs and created the sound that would become the backbone of the 19th Street Band - a fusion of Americana, country and rock.

Another new act to appear at this year’s festival is Missourian Liz Moriondo. Embarking on her first ever Irish tour, she is a talented singer/ songwriter who is well known for her dynamic voice.

There’s also Raglan Rodeo, a Dublin band renowned for their blend of originals and covers. Raglan Rodeo draws upon a wide range of influences, from Hank Williams and Carter Family classics to Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and other Americana artists.

Alfi, a new Dublin trio, combines Appalachian old-time music and Irish trad sounds to produce their own unique songs. Their tracks feature an unusual blend of harp, five-string banjo, low whistle, uilleann pipes and vocals.

Meanwhile, another notable fresh three-piece is acoustic harmony band the Blue Light Smugglers, comprising Luke Coffey, Terence Cosgrave, and Niall Hughes. Specialising in bluegrass, country, and swing, the group can usually be found playing a residency at the Blue Light Pub, nestled at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.

In terms of returning acts, there’s Pilgrim St – who made an electric Dunmore East debut in 2018. The seven-piece outfit bring a broad range of Americana, country, folk, and bluegrass to their concerts. Those familiar with the group have come to expect a lively and energetic performance from Navan’s finest.

There’s also Lands End, whose members hail from Cork, Galway, Dublin, Munich, Liverpool, and Gloucestershire. Whilst their music is strongly embedded in the bluegrass tradition, each bandmate brings a distinctive sound of their own to the musical arrangements of the group.

Another returning act is Kiss My Grass. Hailing from Co. Wexford, the band is all set to bring an energetic and vibrant bluegrass and rockabilly sound to the festival.

Meanwhile, Dublin outfit Whistle specialise in Americana-style folk, roots, bluegrass, country, and rock ’n’ roll. Together the six-piece deliver multi-part vocal harmonies, alongside guitar, banjo, violin, bass, harmonica, mandolin, and accordion instrumentals.

The Northern Ireland-based Mons Wheeler Big Band also makes a welcome return to the festival. Their trademark big rockabilly sound is guaranteed to get the crowds on their feet.

Another crowd-pleaser is Charlie Reader, often referred to as ‘The One-Man Band’, as the Liverpudlian artist performs acoustic folk melodies and harmonies with the energy one would typically expect from a full group.

The 25th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival will kick off on Thursday 22 August at the Strand Inn in Dunmore East, Co. Waterford. The event heralds the start of forty free gigs throughout the village at the Strand Inn, the Spinnaker Bar, Azzurro Restaurant, Power’s Bar, and the Ocean Hotel.

You can also keep up to date on all things bluegrass on Facebook; @DiscoverDunmoreEast, Twitter; @DiscoverDunmore, #DunmoreEastBluegrassFestival or by visiting www.discoverdunmore.com.

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'Bluegrass Omagh': 30 Aug.-1 Sept. 2019

Martha L. Healy and Geordie McAdam

Thanks to Orry Robinson of JComms for the following full press release and photos of this year's Omagh Bluegrass Festival:

Finger Pickin’ Good – Ulster American Folk Park tunes up
 for three-day bluegrass festival
Lineup includes award-winning international and local
 bluegrass talent

Taking it home this summer will be the toe-tapping rhythm and harmonies of mandolins, guitars, fiddles and banjos, of course, as the 28th annual bluegrass festival returns to the Ulster American Folk Park.

Now dubbed 'Bluegrass Omagh', the festival takes place from Friday 30 August to Sunday 1 September and will bring together award-winning bands and performers from North America and Europe with the very best bluegrass acts from across the UK and Ireland.

This year’s headliners, bringing their popular and growing brand of bluegrass music to the festival, is industry and fan favourites Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers. Led by banjo-playing bluegrass veteran Joe Mullins, the band boasts a symphony of instrumental and vocal talent with Jason Barie on fiddle, Mike Terry on mandolin and vocals, Adam McIntosh on guitar and vocals, and Randy Barnes on upright bass and vocals.

Joining them from across the Atlantic will be Chris Jones & the Night Drivers. Led by a soulful Chris Jones, a multi-talented singer-songwriter and instrumentalist, the band produces some of the most elegant yet driving music to be heard on the scene today. Comedy icon and bluegrass maestro Steve Martin described the Night Drivers as 'some of the best players in bluegrass! Chris Jones's voice is there with the great masters.'

Asheville, North Carolina guitarist Mark Kilianski and fiddler Amy Alvey, otherwise known as Hoot and Holler, draw inspiration from wordsmiths such as Townes Van Zandt and authentic mountain musicians, including Ola Belle Reed, for their unique blend of storytelling that has seen them release an EP and full-length studio album to date, with a second in development.

Described as 'a hybrid of rugged Americana and purposeful pop', Front Country, a Californian band fronted by powerhouse singer-songwriter Melody Walker, infuse contemporary bluegrass with pop, Americana, country, blues, and jazz influences.

With a distinctive sound that lies somewhere between old-time country and vaudeville, Bill and the Belles also join this year’s lineup following the release of their debut studio Dreamsongs, etc. last summer.

Fresh from a tour following the release of her new album, Keep the flame alight, in October 2018, Scotland’s Martha L. Healy, likened to Nanci Griffith and Gretchen Peters, will make her festival debut.

Local acts who will take to the stage during the three-day festival, include fan favourite Geordie McAdam, from Co. Down, who will mark his 28th year performing at the festival. Fellow Co. Down musicians the Broken String Band, another pillar of the bluegrass community in Ireland and festival regulars for many years, will also make a welcomed return.

From Lurgan, Co. Armagh, Northern Exposure, made up of twin brothers Pete and Patsy Toman, Pete’s son Jonathan Toman, and Brendan Hendry, return to delight fans for another year, as will Omagh’s very own Knotty Pine String Band.

It’s not only the musicians that will be bring the energy to the festival this year. Making a welcome return all the way from Mars Hill University, in the mountains of North Carolina, the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, an American folk-dance ensemble, will bring their high-energy and personality-filled brand of dance to the Ulster American Folk Park.

Bringing the 2019 festival to a close will be the 'Spirit of Bluegrass' concert, with a performance from Joe Mullins and his multi-talented band of bluegrass brothers.

Richard Hurst, Visitor Services Manager at the Ulster American Folk Park, said: 'It’s fantastic to be able to welcome such distinguished international bluegrass talent to the Ulster American Folk Park and in doing so we’re also shining a light on the quality of homegrown bluegrass musicianship from across the UK and Ireland that will take centre stage at the festival.

'This year, we’re delighted to see some returning faces but also to host some festival debuts by musicians making waves in the industry, including Front Country, Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, and our headline act, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers. Alongside these, we’ll see some regular faces from our own circuits, including Northern Exposure and Geordie McAdam – both of whom have been festival regulars for over two decades now.

'We’re showcasing one of our most diverse line-ups ever this year with acts whose music is steeped in Appalachian music and others with their own brand of modern country. From traditional bluegrass to contemporary Americana, there’s an act for everyone.'

The event is part-funded by Tourism NI and Fermanagh & Omagh District Council.

Aine Kearney, Business Support and Events Director, Tourism NI, said: 'We are delighted to support the Bluegrass Music Festival and now in its 28th year, this is a well established event, attracting both local and international visitors. Events such as the Bluegrass Festival are firmly established within our tourism fabric, adding value to the positive perceptions and profile of our destination and have been recognised as having an important role in contributing to the economy.'

Speaking about the festival, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Siobhán Currie, said 'The Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park is one of the most popular festivals of its type in Europe, and over the years the organisers have ensured that the festival patrons have been regularly exposed to the best exponents of bluegrass music from across the globe. The festival has always attracted large crowds to the Ulster American Folk Park and to the district, and I am confident that this year’s lineup will prove equally popular. It has also been a hugely significant contributor to the local economy and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is once again delighted to be a festival sponsor.'

Bluegrass Omagh kicks off from 2.00 p.m. until late on Friday 30 August. On Saturday, the music will start earlier, running from 12.30 p.m. until late. Sunday’s programme will run from 12.30 p.m. until the closing 'Spirit of Bluegrass' concert at 8.00 p.m.

For more information about this year’s festival and to purchase tickets, call +44 (0) 28 8224 3292 or visit nmni.com/Bluegrass-Omagh.

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10 August 2019

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers: basic background information

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers (USA; photo) head the list of international acts presented at this year's 28th Bluegrass Music Festival (30 Aug.-1 Sept.) at the Ulster American Folk Park at Omagh, Co. Tyrone.

Dave Berry's feature on the band in his 'California report' series on Bluegrass Today is strongly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about them, as it includes a substantial interview with Joe Mullins, an audio player giving teaser samples of all the tracks on their For the record album, and YouTube videos of 'The guitar song' and 'When the snow falls on my Foggy Mountain home' from the album.

The interview was conducted at the California Bluegrass Association's Father's Day Festival, so there's also a two-minute video of Mr Mullins talking about the CBA.

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09 August 2019

Leroy Troy and his Hillbilly Trio (USA) in Ireland, 5-15 Sept. 2019

Thanks to Dave Byrne jr of mygrassisblue.com for the latest news of Leroy Troy & his Hillbilly Trio (see the BIB for 6 May):

Making a welcome return to Ireland, this is a trio with an utter lack of self-consciousness (and some might say any sense of decorum), a trio that know the music, wear the costumes, tell the corny jokes, and do the slapstick gags that throw an audience into hysterics. The 11-gig nationwide tour kicks off in our home county of Wicklow on 5 September before embarking on a loop through some familiar, hillbilly-friendly venues – we’re especially looking forward to Leroy’s 7 September return to Longford town, setting, of course, for the much-missed Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival (Leroy was on the bill of the last festival to be staged in Longford in 2011). Bolstered by a bevy of new material recorded just for the tour (listen up for the track 'The best cooks I've ever seen'), this is a trio who are looking forward to both reconnecting with their friends from past visits and to making friends anew.

We’d like to acknowledge the accommodating nature and assistance of the following in helping to piece this tour together: Leigh and Ashley Williams in Mickey Finns, Redcross; John Murphy in Colfer’s, Wexford; Tom McGuire in Longford; Conor Malone in the Balor, Balleybofey; the Red Room’s Sharon and Arnie Loughrin; Pat McGill of the Beehive Bar, Ardara; Susan Flynn of Tom Malone’s Pub & Market House in Miltown Malbay; Gerry Lawless of Clonmel World Music; and John Nelligan of the Glórach Theatre in Abbeyfeale.

The Trio have also recorded a special YouTube video (above) giving the dates of the tour. Dave adds:

A full tour-and-artist overview, with ample videos, can be found on the tour page of the website.

The schedule, as shown on the poster image, is:

  • Thurs. 5th Sept.: Mickey Finn's, Redcross, Co. Wicklow
  • Fri. 6th: Colfer's, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford
  • Sat. 7th: Longford Arms Hotel, Longford town
  • Sun. 8th: Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal
  • Mon. 9th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
  • Tues. 10th: Beehive Bar, Main St., Ardara, Co. Donegal
  • Wed. 11th: Tom Malone's Pub & Market House, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare
  • Thurs. 12th: Clonmel World Music, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
  • Fri. 13th: The White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork
  • Sat. 14th: Glórach Theatre, Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick
  • Sun. 15th: DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 8

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Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown: more news

On 10 May the BIB relayed the news that Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today had reported the forthcoming publication by the University of Illinois Press of Thomas Goldsmith's Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown: the making of an American classic in their 'Music in American Life' series. A jacket image is now available, showing Earl with the RB-11 he bought in 1941 and was playing when he first became a Blue Grass Boy.

Richard now has a further article on Bluegrass Today about the book, with a statement by the author, a schedule of appearances, and a video feature (also on YouTube) with the original 1949 recording of 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown'.

The Press announce the book as having 200 pages and twelve monochrome photos. US prices appear as $99.00 (cloth-bound) and $19.95 (paper), and the release date as October 2019. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.co.uk (where the release date appears as 30 Sept.) with prices of £82.00 and £14.99 and free shipping within the UK (and contrary to what was stated in May, it can be shipped to Ireland).

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08 August 2019

Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards (USA) tour, Aug. 2020

The BIB post of 8 July published the report of Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency that Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards [above; photo by Patrik Bonnet] would be returning to the UK and Ireland for the whole of August 2020. Three festival appearances in that period are already confirmed.

Loudon now reports that the band have received great media attention for their California calling album (Album of the Week at BBC Radio 6) and enthusiastic critical acclaim for their live shows. They will have a brand new CD released well ahead of August 2020, which will win them even more exposure. He writes:

Please let us know if you would like to grab them for a slot on your music programmes and, if possible, indicate which date/s would be preferred to help us navigate the issue of routing as sensibly as possible. Many thanks - and very best wishes to one and all.

'Enthralling' – AmericanaUK
'A class act and a musical force of nature' - Folk Radio UK
'Incredible' – Acoustic magazine
'Robust, muscular and melodically beguiling live' – RnR magazine
'Remarkable, unique 21st-century roots music' – American Roots UK

Contact Loudon via the Brookfield Knights website or by e-mail.

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10 String Symphony (USA) tour dates, 6-17 May 2020

The BIB reported on 6 June that Music Network's 2019/20 touring programme will include 10 String Symphony (Christian Sedelmyer and Rachel Baiman).

The duo (formed in 2012) took part in the recording of 'Squirrel Hunters' on the last Special Consensus album, the track that won the IBMA's 2018 Instrumental Recorded Performance award. They have at present a busy touring schedule with their own latest album, Generation frustration. A video of their 'I can't have you anymore' can be seen on their Music Network web page and on YouTube.

Their full tour schedule for May 2020, with links for online booking, is now on the Music Network website. Here are the dates:

Wed. 6th: Sugar Club, Leeson St., Dublin 2, 8.00 p.m. (doors 7.30 p.m.)
Thurs. 7th: Belltable, Limerick city, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 8th: 9:00 pm Fiddle Fair Marquee, Baltimore, Co. Cork, 9.00 p.m.
Sat. 9th: Garter Lane Theatre, Waterford city, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 10th: National Opera House, Wexford town, 8.00 p.m.
Tues. 12th: Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 13th: glór, Ennis, Co. Clare, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 14th: The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 15th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 16th: Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, 8.30 p.m.
Sun. 17th: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, 8.00 p.m.

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Two Time Polka: upcoming gigs

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka announces:

Here are our gigs for August.

Clonmel Busking Festival, Co. Tipperary
Fri. 9th: Mitchell St., Clonmel. Open-air. Start 2.00 p.m.
Fri. 9th: Chawkes Bar, Gladstone St., Clonmel. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 052 6121149

7 Hills Blues Festival, Armagh city
Sat. 10th: Red Ned's, Ogle St., Armagh. Start 9.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 0044 2837522249
Sun. 11th: Golf Club, Newry Rd, Armagh. Start 6.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 0044 2837525861

Sat. 17th: Carey Faughs GAC, St Patrick's Rd, Cushendall Rd, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. Start 10.30 p.m. Adm. £10 includes a BBQ. Tel. 0044 7711987143
Sun. 18th: Manor House, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim. Start 2.30 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 0044 7553359596

Fri. 23rd: Holohans Bar, Slaney Place, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. Adm. free. Start 10.00 p.m. Tel. 053 9235743
Sun. 25th: Haven Hotel, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford. Adm. free. Start 6.00 p.m. Tel. 051383150

Our next mail will have details of our gigs at the Phil Murphy Weekend, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford, and Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival, Co. Donegal.

Regards & thanks,
Ray & TTP

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07 August 2019

Cork Sacred Harp hosts ninth All-Day Singing, 24 Aug. 2019

Thanks to Laurie Skelton of Cork Sacred Harp for this press release:

Cork Sacred Harp will host its ninth annual Sacred Harp All-Day Singing on 24 August 2019 at St Finbarre's Hall on Dean St. in Cork city. 

Sacred Harp singing, a folk tradition with strong ties to the southern United States, has been thriving in Cork for over a decade. There are a lot of peculiarities about the musical style, but the first thing most people notice is that it's loud. Very loud. Unlike conventional choirs, Sacred Harp singers sing in their full natural voices, which produces a powerful sound capable of booming down corridors and rattling windowpanes.

The second thing people tend to notice is the unfamiliar musical notation. Sacred Harp music uses a system of shaped notes — composed of squares, triangles, circles, and diamonds — to represent the solfège syllables (e.g. fa, so, la, and mi) of the scale. This system, dating from at least the late eighteenth century, was developed as a teaching aid to make reading music easier for beginners. To learn a new tune, participants first sing the notes on the page as syllables before singing the song with the words.

The Cork Sacred Harp All-Day Singing consistently draws seasoned shape-note singers from all across Europe. Spectators are welcome, but singing along is highly encouraged! To get a sense of what the music sounds like, you can find recordings from Cork Sacred Harp on YouTube and Bandcamp. For those interested in participating, all voices are welcome and no experience is necessary! More details are available on Facebook, on Meetup, and at corksacredharp.com.

Thurs. 22nd: 19.00–21.00, weekly singing in the Unitarian, Princes St., Cork
Fri. 23rd: 19.00–21.00, singing school with Matthew Parkinson of Bristol in the Unitarian, Princes St., Cork
Sat. 24th: 10.30–16.00, All-Day Singing in St Finbarre's Hall, Dean St., Cork

The Tenth Ireland Sacred Harp Convention will be held on the last weekend in February 2020 (details TBA). The Sacred Harp Singers of Cork can be contacted by corksacredharp@gmail.com, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Chris Jones & the Night Drivers: new release

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers - who will be playing on the 28th Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, less than four weeks from now - have just had another single released from their current album The choosing road, on Mountain Home Records. The single is 'I can't change the rhyme'; a clip from it can be heard in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

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Red Hat Acoustic Music Club at Naas, 9 Aug. 2019

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for the news that the Club's eighth meeting of 2019 will be held this coming Friday (9 August).

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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Another gong for Greg!

Last weekend the lineup at the 22nd Milan Bluegrass Festival in Michigan included our friends of the Special Consensus. The report by Bill Warren on Bluegrass Today includes two photos of the Special C. on stage, and one of their leader Greg Cahill, who received a new honour on that occasion. Bill Warren explains that Greg

was inducted into the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor for his work in the area through IBMA’s Bluegrass in the Schools initiative. Greg did over 90 assemblies in area schools. Other bands followed his example, also doing assemblies in the area.

The programme of 2019 inductees can be seen here. Congratulations to Greg, who is clearly going to need a bigger mantelpiece.

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06 August 2019

19th Street Band (USA): 'Kickin' up dust' tour in Ireland, 16-25 Aug. 2019

The 19th Street Band, based in Arlington, VA, toured Ireland a year ago and are back in 2019 as headliners at the 25th Dunmore East International Bluegrass Festival (22-5 Aug.). They will also be playing seven other shows in Ireland.

The band (also on Facebook) comprises Ulster expat Caolaidhe Davis (guitar), Meghan Davis (fiddle), Patty Dougherty (drums), and Greg Hardin (bass). The dates shown on their tour schedule are:

  • Fri. 16th Aug.: Jamaica Inn, 188 Seacliff Rd, Bangor, Co. Down, 10.00 p.m. (part of Open House Festival)
  • Sat. 17th: Groomsport Harbour, Main St., Groomsport, Co. Down, 6.00-10.00 p.m. (part of Open House Festival)
  • Sun. 18th: The Belfast Barge, 1 Lanyon Quay, Belfast, 7.00-9.00 p.m.
  • Tues. 20th: The Chasin’ Bull, Main St., Bundoran, Co. Donegal, 9.00-11.30 p.m.
  • Thurs. 22nd: The Bakers Bar, 17 Parnell St., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00-11.00 p.m.
  • Sat. 24th: The Uluru Outback Bar & Restaurant, Dunmore Rd, Waterford city, 8.00-11.30 p.m.
  • Sun. 25th: The Leeson Lounge, 148 Leeson St. Upper, Dublin city, 8.00-11.00 p.m.

More details and venue contact links are on their website.

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Hoot and Holler in Ireland, 28 Aug.-1 Sept. 2019

The old-time duo Hoot and Holler from Asheville, NC, will be touring all too briefly in the North in addition to playing on all three days (30 Aug.-1 Sept.) of the 28th Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Their dates here form part of their first tour of the UK, which begins on Friday 23 August and ends on Wednesday 4 September. The first show in Ireland is on Wed. 28 Aug. at Sessions in the House, Castledawson, Co. Londonderry; the second (Thurs. 29 Aug.) is at Dorney Bridge (house concert), Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh.

Hoot and Holler is Amy Alvey (fiddle, vocals) and Mark Kilianski (guitar, banjo, vocals). Their fourth record, Milkers and Hollers, released last November, features a full string band, the Old-time Snake Milkers, and the whole nineteen tracks can be heard and bought on Bandcamp. Their UK tour is organised by the True North agency.

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05 August 2019

Athy Bluegrass Festival/ Jamboree 1991-2019: end of an era

Homer Ledford & the Cabin Creek Band (1991): (l-r) Pamela Case, 
Rollie Carpenter, L.C. Johnson, Homer C. Ledford

From Athy, Co. Kildare, Tony O'Brien announces this sad news, together with photos of the first and last bands to play at the longest-running annual bluegrass event in Ireland:

After twenty-nine years of bluegrass music and almost a hundred bands/ artists, the curtain has finally come down on the event. Great friends and memories have been made in Athy, and I wish to thank all the very loyal supporters and fans for their support during the those twenty-nine years. I also want to remember friends and supporters who have passed away but will never be forgotten (RIP).

Thanks also to all the musicians who have played Athy, in bands or just as bluegrass pickers - you have all been part of something special. I will cherish the memories for as long as I live. THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE.

Alecia Nugent and her band (2019): (l-r) James Kee, Beth Lawrence, 
Alecia Nugent, Jed Clark, Gena Britt

Tony's announcement appeared earlier on the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree Facebook and Woodbine Facebook.

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We Banjo 3 in good company at Owensboro

Galway's We Banjo 3 are once again in high-ranking bluegrass company in the concert schedule for the coming autumn at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum at Owensboro, KY, where they are due to perform on 12 October. Other acts in the series include the SteelDrivers, Della Mae, Balsam Range, the Grascals, and the Po' Ramblin' Boys. More details, with links for online bookings, are on this e-newsletter.

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Niall Toner honoured by Irish National Folk Company

The performance given yesterday afternoon (4 Aug.) by the Niall Toner Band at the Pearse Museum, St Enda's, Rathfarnham, was a treat for all concerned. It was to have been outside in the courtyard, but as reconstruction work there was incomplete, it was held in the school hall, which has excellent acoustics, and no PA was needed. The show was part of an annual series of music in Dublin parks organised by the Office of Public Works.

It was also a notable occasion, as Niall was presented by Mr Frank Whelan, director of the Irish National Folk Company, with a Loyalty Certificate (see image) marking his thirty-one years of association with the Company. The inscription reads:

Presented to
Niall Toner
to Acknowledge & Honour
Long Years of Friendship
Respect - Loyalty - Support
The Irish National Folk Company
with Our Deepest Gratitude

The Irish National Folk Company's motto is 'Music has no borders'.

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03 August 2019

Gold Tone price reductions

Gold Tone Musical Instruments announce a sale with 10% 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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02 August 2019

News from the Mother Country

Greg Blake (above), powerful lead singer and guitarist, has (thanks to John Nyhan) toured here several times with Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, brought his own Greg Blake Band over in January 2018, and toured Ireland for three weeks as a solo artist earlier this year, so many people over here should be interested in his 'other life' back home.

In an interview with Dave Berry on Bluegrass Today, Greg talks at length about his Midwest-based band Real Country (a name which older BIB readers may recall was the name George and Thaddeus Kaye used for their bluegrass-plus-country band in Ireland in the early 1970s). There's an hour-long video of Greg and the band at a live show, together with a Spotify player giving brief snatches of the songs on Greg's album Songs of heart and home.
The IBMA announces the full lineup for the 'Wide Open' two days of this year's World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC. Links for ticket booking and a full press release are on the e-newsletter.
The August 2019 issuse of the Bluegrass Standard magazine (free and available in mobile and desktop editions) is out, with a cover picture of Jesse McReynolds, whose 90th birthday was celebrated at the beginning of last month. More details are on this e-newsletter.
Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, headliners of the 2016 Dunmore East festival, will release their third album, World full of blues, on 4 Oct. on the Compass Records label. It can be pre-ordered, and a teaser trailer can be seen on YouTube.

LATE EXTRA: Nick Dumas, mandolinist with the Special Consensus, and his fiddling fiancee Hana Rass (who have visited Ireland together) were married in Wisconsin last Saturday at the Fiddler's Farm, the venue that they operate together. Four photos and a two-and-a-half-minute video clip of the happy couple, the Special C., and friends playing 'East Virginia', are in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today. Congratulations and all good wishes to Nick and Hana.

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01 August 2019

Ireland’s favourite contraband debut at Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival

Thanks to Karen Cheevers of B2B Communications for this new release on this year's Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival (22-25 Aug.) in Co. Waterford:

The Blue Light Smugglers are a bluegrass/ country/ folk group which began as a resident band for the Blue Light Pub in the Dublin Mountains. The band began playing on Monday nights in the pub with the panoramic view of Dublin in October 2015.

The pub, the Blue Light, was associated with smuggling in previous times. A blue light would be shone from up the mountain to let boats in Dublin Bay know that the Customs and Excise officials weren’t on duty. A shebeen grew up to service the men providing this ‘service’ which later became the ‘Blue Light’.

So, the name ‘The Blue Light Smugglers’ was a pretty obvious one.

Since then the band have played all over Ireland and completed a short Canadian tour. They released their debut album Record in June 2019. The album contains ten original tracks and one cover – Tom T. Hall’s ‘That’s how I got to Memphis’.

The band consist of members Niall Hughes (double bass, lead guitar, vocals) and Terence Cosgrave (lead vocals, guitar), along with Luke Coffey (banjo, fiddle, vocals).

When the group first got together, the Blue Light seemed the ideal place for acoustic music. There was a room with a fire and a low ceiling where it was just about possible to play with any amplification, much as music used to be played before the invention of recording.

Their album features the eponymous song ‘The Blue Light Smugglers’ which claims the group sing ‘songs of death and longing, fear and loathing, youth and age’. Another song, ‘Defenestration blues’, recalls the jibes of unappreciative audiences, while ‘As I went out one evening’ is a murder ballad that is both horrific and chilling. ‘Time in love’ is a love song, but also - claims lead singer Terence Cosgrave - the only and first example of someone singing in lowercase.

'Sometimes when we have a falling out with the pub, I think of the Blue Light as the "blue light". And it works in the song. So, I’m actually singing in lowercase, which is an achievement', Terence says.

The Blue Light Smugglers will appear along with the 19th Street Band, Liz Moriondo, Whistle, Lands End, Alfi, Mons Wheeler Band, Raglan Rodeo, Charlie Reader, Kiss My Grass, and Pilgrim St, playing forty free gigs throughout the festival.

The 25th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, Co. Waterford, kicks off on Thursday 22 August at the Strand Inn, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, and heralds the start of four days of free gigs at the Strand Inn, the Spinnaker Bar, Azzurro Restaurant, Power’s Bar, and the Ocean Hotel.

For more information visit www.discoverdunmore.com or keep up to date on the Discover Dunmore East Facebook page.

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Woodbine at Durrow, Co. Laois, 3 Aug. 2019

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the news that Woodbine will be playing from 4.00 to 6.00 p.m. this coming Saturday (3 August) at Durrow, Co. Laois, as part of the annual Durrow Scarecrow Festival.

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31 July 2019

The Petersens (USA): Finland-Ireland tour, Aug. 2019

Following the BIB post of 17 July, thanks to John Nyhan for the full schedule of the coming tour by the Petersens from Branson, Missouri - their fourth tour of Ireland, and their second this year.

The Petersens (also on Facebook) are coming back to Ireland, as they are to perform at a festival ('American Bluegrass Gospel Night') on 17 August in Klippan, Monäs, Nykarleby, Finland. John explains: 'As they are performing in Finland, they wanted to extend their trip to Europe with a short tour of Ireland. They have proved very popular in Ireland on their last visits. Their first show is three weeks from today at O Gliasáin's Bar, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare.'

The full schedule in Ireland is:
  • Wed. 21st: O Gliasáin's Bar, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 086 607 9864
  • Thurs. 22nd: Coachman Bar, Parnell St., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 085 850 2289
  • Fri. 23rd: Ballinvreena Community Hall, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 087 792 1771
  • Sat. 24th: The Grain Store, Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 087 792 1771
  • Sun. 25th: St Mary's Church of Ireland, Emmet St., Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, 3.00 p.m.; tel. 087 064 0542
  • Mon. 26th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 087 792 1771
For further details on the above, tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail

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JigJam: busy schedule and acclaimed album

JigJam announce that after July dates in the US, Scotland, and France, their next US tour begins this coming Friday and lasts till the beginning of October. In early November they'll play an Irish tour with dates in Dublin, Dundalk, Cashel, and Mullingar.

Their latest album, Phoenix, available through their website, is on the cover of the September issue of Irish Music magazine, and last week RTÉ made it the Album of the Week.

Update 1 Aug.: Nancy Cardwell Webster's positive review of Live in Tullamore, JigJam's earlier album, appears in the August issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. Nancy also contributes the cover feature of this issue, on Jeff Parker, who played at Omagh with Dailey & Vincent some years back and now leads his own band.

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Rye River Band at Howth, 16 Aug. 2019

Thanks to Pat Burgess of the Rye River Band for the news that the band will be playing the Howth Roots & Blues Festival 2019 at the Waterside bar, 15 Harbour Rd, Howth, Co. Dublin, on Friday 16 August. The show will start at 10.00 p.m. and admission is free.

The festival, which extends over the weekend 16-18 Aug., features twenty-three events at nine venues around Howth, and acts taking part include Mules & Men and the Prairie Dawgs.

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30 July 2019

Online booking for Omagh 2019

Online booking for bluegrass events at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, is now available; and this of course includes the coming 28th Bluegrass Omagh Music Festival, for which a full weekend pass (Friday morning to Sunday evening) for one person is £48.00 (access helpers free). Tickets for Friday and Sunday are £15.00 (child £6.00) each day; Saturday is £20.00 (child £6.00); and the separately ticketed Spirit of Bluegrass Gospel Concert (6.30-8.00 p.m. on Sunday evening) is £15.00. Photos of Bill & the Belles, Front Country, the Buffalo Gals, and Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers adorn the booking page.

Much closer in time, the Watery Hill Boys (photo above) from Drogheda will be playing at the Park from 4.45 to 7.00 p.m. this coming Sunday (4 Aug.) in the 'BBQ & Bluegrass Sessions' series, where a ticket (£15.00 adult, £6.95 child) entitles the holder to a quality beef burger or pulled pork (vegan option available), served with a side salad and a complimentary drink. Full details and booking links are here.

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Ramblers nominated for five IBMA awards

Good news of another leading US band who are on the lineup for this year's Omagh festival, just a month from now: Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers. A new radio single is now available: 'Tell me true', an ancient-sounding original composition by Sarah Jarosz. You can hear the Ramblers' version on YouTube.

The single comes from the band's album For the record, which has been nominated for the 2019 IBMA's Album of the Year award. The Ramblers have also been nominated for the Gospel Recording, Collaborative Recording, Entertainer, and Song of the Year awards. The album is on the Billy Blue Records label.

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29 July 2019

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers (USA) in Ireland, Sept. 2019

Last year Chris Jones & the Night Drivers toured Ireland with a well established personnel: Chris (guitar, lead vocals), Jon Weisberger (bass), Mark Stoffel (mandolin), and Gina Clowes (banjo). Recently, changes to this lineup have been announced; so, looking forward to their arrival a month from now, we're delighted to have the straight tip from Chris himself (photo):

We will have a somewhat different lineup for this tour (and I think a really good one), partly due to band changes and partly just due to other scheduling circumstances.

Marshall Wilborn, who is replacing Jon Weisberger on bass, will start his tenure as a Night Driver with this tour. Mark Stoffel is unable to do this tour due to circumstances with his other job (he’s the only of us with a decent day job!). He is being replaced, just for this tour, by the very talented Tristan Scroggins, who has toured Ireland in the past with his father Jeff. Gina, though she is leaving the band, will still be on this tour. In fact our last show on the tour will be her final show as a band member, so that makes this tour a really notable transition time for us: Marshall’s first show at the beginning, Gina’s last show at the end.

Personnel changes are never easy, and I’ve been blessed for a number of years with having very few of them, but they can also breathe new life into the music, and Mark Stoffel and I are very excited about the new lineup, much as we appreciate Jon and Gina, both musically and personally. Jon had played with me for seventeen years, so that’s a very big change, but Marshall and I have played music together in different forms going all the way back to 1985, so getting to play with him will feel like a musical homecoming.

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Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival: photos for 2019, dates for 2020

Thanks to Uri Kohen, head of the organising team of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, for this news:

We have just uploaded some great photos from most of the events that took place during the 13th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival last June.

We are looking forward to share some more crowd pictures, in which most people will be able to see themselves enjoying the fantastic weekend.

The pictures can be seen on the festival's Facebook page and credit is to Chris Sweeney.

We also added many more videos of gigs, concerts, and sessions from the weekend, and they can be seen on the festival's YouTube channel.

Last but not least, Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival 2020 will take place on June 5-7.

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Old-time news

The team producing the film The Mountain Minor (see the BIB for 3 July), in which old-time music takes a central place, now has a new member, Abigail Karr, as media outreach coordinator. You can see Abigail (with a very nice T-shirt on) in the project's latest e-newsletter, where it is also mentioned that the film will be screened at this year's Clifftop Festival in West Virginia. A programme of further screenings is being developed.

The BIB learned about The Mountain Minor from Old Time Central (OTC), and the Mountain Minor e-newsletter recommends the comprehensive review article on the film that appeared on OTC. The latest OTC e-newsletter, entitled 'Let's make it work!', includes this appeal from the OTC founders, Richard Osban and Ben Smith:

Oldtime Central exists to support local oldtime communities around the world. But we can't do this without your support.

We are 100% community supported. Consider making a donation to Oldtime Central to support our efforts to connect and strengthen oldtime communities around the world.

Monthly or one-time donation options are available. All donations make a big difference.

You can make a one-time donation using PayPal, or become a monthly supporter through Patreon.

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Bluegrass and Americana at Naul, Sept.-Oct. 2019

The Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, Main St., Naul, Fingal, Co. Dublin, announces its New Season music programme, which includes concerts by Chris Jones & the Night Drivers on Saturday 7 September, and by the folk-rock Americana band Session Americana on Friday 4 October.

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers will be at Naul a week after their appearance at this year's Omagh festival. The BIB for 17 July mentioned recent changes in the band's lineup, and yesterday we cited a recent report from Tristan Scroggins that he would be on the tour. Further info will appear on the BIB as soon as we receive it.

The Naul show by Session Americana (also on Facebook) will be the last of their coming tour in Ireland. The five shows that now appear on their website (with links for online booking) are:

Sat. 28th Sept.: Leap Castle, Co. Offaly (near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary)
Sun. 29th: Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal

Wed. 2nd Oct.: Campbell's Tavern, Headford, Co. Galway
Thurs. 3rd: Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford town
Fri. 4th: Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin

Their tour will then continue in the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium till the end of October.

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28 July 2019

NTB at St Enda's, 4 Aug. 2019

Niall Toner (centre) with Andrea Booth and Rohan Healy of the Rhythm & Roots Show. Niall writes:

Just a note to say that the NTB are travelling all the way to Dublin city for a string extravaganza of the rootsy/ Americana/ bluegrass type in St Enda's/ Padraig Pearse House, Rathfarnham, on Sunday 4 August, between 3.00 and 5.00 p.m. The stellar lineup will include the amazing Johnny Gleeson on dobro, vocals, and guitar, the magic of Richard Gladney on upright bass, the fantastic Paddy Kiernan on 5-string, 6-string, and possibly 7-string banjo, and the ubiquitous Noel Tuner on guitar, vocals, and dubious jokes, as well as the tantalising prospect of a guest appearance by the beautiful and talented Andrea Booth, and possible appearances by a few other rising stars.

This amazing opportunity is provided for your visual and listening pleasure by the generosity of the Office Of Public Works, which means that there is no cover charge, but seating is limited, and there will be a gargantuan crowd of Nellie Towbar fans, all pushing for a spot close to the stage. Don't say you weren't warned … CDs and T-shirts will also be available for sale on the day.

Yours, Niall (alias Nellie Towbar/ Noel Tuner)

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Deering's new GOTR banjo

Following the announcement (see the BIB for 4 July) of the issue of 'the ultimate touring banjo', the Winston Marshall Signature Model, Deering Banjos announce a corresponding addition to their Goodtime range: the GOTR, now on sale at $649.00 list price. More details are on the Deering website. As shown in the image (above), a free gig bag and set of strings are offered with a GOTR bought from now to 9 August.

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27 July 2019

Tristan Scroggins - and Ireland

Anyone who has seen and heard Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) in the course of their tours in Ireland will have admired - among other components - the mandolin playing and general high energy level of Tristan Scroggins.

Tristan (also on Facebook) is now pursuing several personal projects independent of the band, as revealed in an interview with John Lawless on Bluegrass Today, and some of them have an Irish connection: for instance, a collaboration with David Benedict, mandolinist with Mile Twelve and (since 31 May) husband of Tabitha Agnew of Cup O' Joe and Midnight Skyracer. Tristan adds: 'I’m also going on a tour to Ireland with Chris Jones in September.' The BIB hopes to publish details of this tour shortly.

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One of the classier venues

Thanks to Ray Barron of Two Time Polka, who writes:

Here's a photo of one of our recent gigs in Italy at Folkest International Folk Festival. The venue itself was in Aquileia which is an ancient Roman city.

Our next gigs will be at the Spraoi Festival in Waterford, and looking forward to seeing everyone there.

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26 July 2019

Buck Forty Nine (USA) in Ireland, Aug. 2019

Thanks to Fiona Max for the news that two brothers from Washington DC - one still based in Washington, the other in Denmark - have joined up to create a country / honky-tonk band, Buck Forty Nine, who will be playing in Finns Ale House, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, on two nights - Tuesday 6 Aug. (on stage) and Friday 9 Aug. (at the bar).

As the poster image above shows, they will also be playing on Sunday 4 Aug. at the Dublin Blues, Roots & Brass Festival; on Wed. 7 Aug. at Joe Watty's Bar, Inishmore, Aran Islands; and on Saturday 10 Aug. at McCarthy's of Fethard, Co. Tipperary.

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24 July 2019

The Comet Bluegrass All-Stars (USA) - for Ireland in summer 2020?

The Comet Bluegrass All-Stars: (l-r) Jeff Roberts, John Cole,
Artie Werner, Ed Cunningham, Missy Werner, Chris Goins

Thanks to Marcia Falk, who writes, asking about bluegrass festivals in Ireland during summer 2020....

... from Cincinnati, Ohio, where we are fortunate to be able to enjoy the superb music of the Comet Bluegrass All Stars. They are very popular here and have played with the Cincinnati Symphony as well as many venues in the area. [...] My son says he believes Ed Cunningham, leader of the band, has the best bluegrass voice he's ever heard. I think their harmonising is magical. So, if there is a festival, I would like to work on a way to have them be part of it. Last summer we visited Ireland and my family fell in love with your beautiful, friendly, and welcoming country. It would be spectacular if we could hear the Comet Bluegrass All Stars play in Ireland!

The Comet Bluegrass All-Stars (also on Facebook) are the house band at 'The Comet' northside neighborhood bar in Cincinnati, OH. The title 'house band' may sell them a little short; they're a tight, hard-driving, tradition-oriented band with fine lead vocals, well blended harmonies, an imaginative choice of material, and no wasted time between numbers. See this 110-minute video of an outdoor show they played three years ago. The BIB recommends them to event organisers. Marcia can be contacted by e-mail.

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23 July 2019

Ardara 2019

 (L-r) James Henry, Janet Holmes Henry, Colin Henry

Thanks again to Des Butler, this time for his report and photos from the 2019 bluegrass festival in Ardara, Co. Donegal:

The 12th Annual Ardara Bluegrass Festival took place last weekend (19-21 July) with the opening night being held in the public bar of the Beehive pub. This amounted to a jamming session, albeit with some fine musicians - Mel Corry, Sean McKerr, et al. - seated in a corner of the bar. The bar was full to capacity with a small group of attendees standing up close to the musicians totally blocking the view of the majority of the bar patrons. The conversational noise level developed to such a pitch that the music became inaudible. The crush became quite intense, so I decided to leave after an hour or so. I met several people during the festival who were also in attendance at the opening and in conversation with them they appeared to have done the same.

However, I thought things can only get better, and indeed they did. From Saturday around noon till well into late afternoon/ early evening a jam took place in the Beehive bar. This was a more orderly session with many fine musicians taking part in what developed into a very enjoyable afternoon.

King Blue: (l-r) Colin Henry, Sean McKerr, Mel Corry, 
Charlie Cooper, The Chief

The main event, 'The Gala Concert', took place in the function room of the Nesbitt Arms Hotel, starting at 20.00 hrs on Saturday night with the Henry Family [photo at top] opening the show with some fine soft ballads of her own composition being sung by Janet Henry, accompanied by her own excellent guitar playing. They finished their set with two bluegrass breakdowns with first-class performances by Colin and James Henry. They were quickly followed by King Blue, fronted of course by Mel Corry. We were treated to some fine bluegrass music from this band doing some excellent covers of some Bill Monroe and Osborne Brothers classics. This band is always a pleasure and an enjoyment to listen to.

L-r: James Kee, Beth Lawrence, Alecia Nugent, Gena Britt, Jed Clark

They were followed by Alecia Nugent and her band who seemed to play mostly country ballads and not so much bluegrass - but what more can I say about this band’s harmonies and musicianship that I have not already said after their performance in Athy, always a pleasure to listen to.

Foreground: Alecia Nugent, Gena Britt, Beth Lawrence

Sunday saw another great jam taking place in the Beehive bar starting about noon again and going on well into the afternoon. Alecia Nugent and the two female members of her band arrived and joined in to the great enjoyment of all present.

The final formal event on Sunday night was a Bluegrass Jamboree hosted by Tony O’Brien and what a great show he put together. The first half was taken up with Tony, Liam Wright, Dessie from Donegal on fiddle, an excellent mandolin player whom Tony explained that in another life had played with Joe Dolan & the Drifters, whose name escapes me,* and the bass player from the Alecia Nugent Band. They performed a very lively set that left the crowd wanting more.

Tony then invited Alicia Nugent and her band to take to the stage which they did and performed some excellent numbers leaning more towards the bluegrass genre. The finale saw all the performing musicians take to the stage to give a heart rendering version of 'Will the circle be unbroken'. This finished the formal part of the Festival, but a large number of musicians continued to jam out in the smoking area at the back of the pub to a large appreciative audience.

* BIB editor's note: Thanks to Tony O'Brien, who sends these additional details of the 'Jamboree':

For the first half of the show there was myself, Liam, Dessie Crerand on fiddle, Joe Meehan on mandolin, and Beth Lawrence on bass. Guest appearances from Sean McMonagle and Paddy McMenamin. Second half of show was Alecia Nugent & Band and finale 'Will the circle' with everyone (photo). It was an all-acoustic show with a full house upstairs in the Beehive.

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