06 April 2020

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.


05 April 2020

Sale of No Depression back issues

No Depression, the seasonal journal of roots music, spent seven years online before returning to a print edition in 2015. Issues since then have consistently had striking cover art - the image on the left is from the first issue of the return to print. and that on the right is from the 'Bluegrass beyond' issue of winter 2016.

No Depression is now offering back issues at $9.00 (plus shipping) instead of the regular $17. Browse the issues on offer here; the sale lasts till the end of Monday 6 April.

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The mountain minor available for streaming and on DVD and Blu-Ray

The team responsible for The mountain minor, the film drama of Appalachian migration and old-time music, report that the present crisis has hit their plans for screening the film and recouping funds through DVD sales, just as performing artists have been hit - seventeen screenings have had to be cancelled and no further events can be planned.

They have therefore decided to release the film for home entertainment through streaming media. Ihe mountain minor is now available on Amazon Direct and Vimeo On Demand. Those who don't stream movies can buy DVDs and Blu-Rays through Amazon. Full details on streaming are here.

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04 April 2020

More online sessions

Following on from Thursday's mention of an online gathering by the Sunflower Folk Club in Belfast, the Club's Facebook included on 2 Apr. three videos from past performances there - one of which is a video of William Duddy and his new Bulas dulcimer, playing Dirk Powell's 'Waterbound'.

Meanwhile, the FOAOTMAD news blog announces initiatives by Su Mo, multi-instrumental old-time musician based in Somerset, south-west England, and also webmaster for FOAOTMAD. These include online old-time jam sessions on Tuesday evenings at 8.00 p.m. (7.00 p.m. UTC), via this live stream direct link, and slow jam sessions on Sundays. A session for setting up ZOOM together was held last night (Friday 3 Apr.) at 8.00 p.m. More details are on the FOAOTMAD news blog, and you can also message Su on her Facebook page.

Thanks to Stephen Elkins of New York's Wild Magnolia bluegrass band, who writes:

... my picking buddies and I have responded to our self-isolation with a virtual jam video of 'You could hear the whistle blow (100 miles)' that I thought y'all might like to see [...]. Hope you are staying safe and well.

Same to you, Stephen! The video can be seen above. Nine musicians are taking part - from Poland, Texas, Connecticut, and several locations in Alabama and New York.

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03 April 2020

14th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival CANCELLED

The organising team of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival send this sad news:

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival, due to take place 5-7 June 2020.

As you all are aware, the world has a battle on its hands. We have been monitoring the ever-evolving Covid-19 situation, and while we always like to remain as optimistic as possible, it has become evident to us that this battle is going to take some time, and it is our duty to play our part, to ensure that life as we knew it will resume as soon as possible. With the cancellation of large public gatherings, the closure of pubs and venues, and the ban on unnecessary travel, we are left with no alternative. The health and safety of our musicians and our festival fans is of the utmost importance to us.

We had a great festival lined up for you, which we know you would have loved, and we would like to thank all our musicians for their willingness to attend in the first place, and now, for their understanding. We hope they will all make it to Westport next year, if not before!

If you had already purchased tickets for this year’s festival, we will contact you directly in relation to refunds.

Below is a list of the acts due to perform at our festival, so be sure to support them, buy their CDs, listen to them, share them!
We hope to run some sort of a gathering once we get through all this, to mark our 14th year running, and we will keep you posted in due course. But for now, dear friends, please stay at home, stay safe, and keep listening to music online!

With much love and solidarity,

Uri, Tim, Sarah, and Freda

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Fine instruments - from Poland to Ireland

Thanks again to William Duddy, this time for drawing attention to the work of Polish luthier Piotr Bulas of Bulas Banjos, based near Warsaw. Piotr has already made his Scarabeus model 5-string, with extended fingerboard, for Tabitha Agnew Benedict of Cup O' Joe, Midnight Skyracer, and Roots Revival. The photo above is now the cover image of the Bulas Banjos Facebook, and you can see and hear her and the new banjo on YouTube.

After seeing photos of this banjo, William ordered from Piotr a new custom-built mountain dulcimer, which fortunately was finished and deliveed before the lockdown. He adds that Piotr

... works with his son Michal and was a joy to deal with. It was made in the period after Christmas - with regular messages and pics to and fro to agree details - and, as good fortune would have it, I paid (the very reasonable price) at a time when the pound sterling peaked against the Polish zloty. It's a lovely instrument - see pics below.

William can be heard playing and singing with this strong and resonant instrument on Facebook.

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02 April 2020

Sunflower Folk Club (Belfast) meets TONIGHT on Zoom

Thanks to William Duddy in Belfast for a good deal of interesting information, which will appear on the BIB as soon as possible. Meanwhile, this item about one response to the closure of venues takes priority - William writes:

I have to say that Facebook (for all its pitfalls) is proving a boon in the present situation - and much time can be passed (if not wasted) in watching the home recordings posted by a host of people. Indeed, tonight, our Sunflower Folk Club is going to attempt a virtual gathering on 'Zoom' - so we'll see how that goes!

The Sunflower Folk Club announced a few hours ago on its Facebook:

Just click on link at 9 p.m. Make sure microphone switched on, so you can hear others, and you're all set! Singers/players and listeners welcome.

The link to click on is the 'Zoom' image included in the Facebook post.

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01 April 2020

New album from the Special C.

Alison Brown's Compass Records label has released Chicago Barn Dance, the latest album from our friends and regular visitors the Special Consensus. Their last album on Compass, Rivers and roads, won two IBMA awards.

The band, which celebrates 45 years of continuous full-time existence this year, is based in Chicago, hometown of its founder Greg Cahill. The title track celebrates the National Barn Dance country music show, broadcast on WLS radio from Chicago before there was ever such a thing as the Grand Ole Opry on WSM in Nashville.

You can hear the song 'Chicago Barn Dance' on YouTube and on John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today. It's a fine song, written by Becky Buller, Missy Raines, and Alison Brown, and the band (assisted by Becky Buller and Michael Cleveland on twin fiddles) do a fine job on it. At the time of writing, the album is not on the Special C.'s online store, but you should go there in any case to see the photo of the band with the lineup they had on their last visit to Ireland, since when Nate Burie has replaced Nick Dumas on mandolin.

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Two views of life in Southern mountains

Prof. Dan Boner, director of the celebrated bluegrass, old-time, and country music degree course at East Tennessee State University, is also a member of the Becky Buller Band and the IBMA board of directors. His latest album, West of West Virginia, with high-powered guest artists, was released on Monday (30 Mar.). Samples of all ten tracks can be heard on his website.

The title song of the album is also the soundtrack music of an eighteen-minute video documentary on living in - and leaving - the West Virginia mountains, centred on the experiences of Dan Boner's father and grandfather. More details of the album and the video can be seen here.
Another region of the South is warmly portrayed in a photo essay, 'Ozark life' by Terra Fondriest, raised in a Chicago suburb, who moved with her family to a country life in the Ozark Hills (which also, incidentally, produced Frank Ray and his fine bluegrass band Cedar Hill). The essay is published in the Bitter Southerner online magazine.

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Latest news from We Banjo 3

In the latest e-newsletter from Galway's We Banjo 3, the band are meeting the challenge of the present crisis. Enda Scahill describes the task of adjusting attitudes; band members are taking turns to play live on social media all through the week, and overcoming geographical separation to play together online; their ample catalogue of merchandise is open for shoppers; and for those who wish to contribute financially, the band will donate 20% of all contributions to MusiCares, the organisation for critical assistance to music people. Full details are here.

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Sacred Harp singings suspended in Dublin till further notice

Following the suspension of their March singing session, Sacred Harp Singers of Dublin have just added the following new post, 'Suspended singing', to their website and Facebook. Links have been added by the BIB.

Our regular Friday singings will also be suspended during April, and until further notice. Please keep an eye on the Facebook, Meetup, or WordPress sites for when we will resume. Keep well, and thanks.

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31 March 2020

Sweet Sunny South 2020 (UK) postpones advance ticket sales

As the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis continues to spread, the organisers of the UK's Sweet Sunny South old-time music festival, still five and a half months away, announce that in the present uncertainties they have decided not to put tickets for this year's event on sale at Easter:

Of course we earnestly hope to be able to hold the festival in September; however, until we have more information on the future of social distancing and travel restrictions, we cannot bank on this. There are too many variables affecting too many areas: the health and safety of people attending, artists travelling from the US, the availability of hired equipment, and our insurance position in the event of sudden cancellation.

We are discussing as many of the possible outcomes that we can foresee and in the meantime please keep an eye on the website and our Facebook page for further developments. Stay healthy and safe everyone, play tunes and think positive thoughts!

A week ago Colin Meadows, the festival's founder, died; no further information is available at present.

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Joe Diffie

John Lawless reports on Bluegrass Today that country singer Joe Diffie died on Sunday after recently testing positive for COVID-19. An award-winning country srtist, he was from childhood involved with bluegrass music and musicians, and released in 2010 Homecoming: the bluegrass album on Rounder Records, for which (in Lawless's words) he

... used a band of Nashville super-pickers with Rob Ickes on reso-guitar, Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Mike Compton on mandolin, Bryan Sutton on guitar, Mark Fain on bass, and Charlie Cushman on banjo. It included a new set of songs, and one Flatt & Scruggs classic, showing that he never lost the touch of grass.

This is amply shown even in the brief snippets of each of the twelve tracks that you can hear on Bluegrass Today. Ralph Schut (NL/CZ), leader of the Czech band G-Runs 'n' Roses (concert performers at the 2018 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival), sends a comment on the Bluegrass Today post: 'Rest in peace, you were a great singer!!!'

PS: Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room at Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, sends the news that John Prine is now in hospital with COVID-19; his condition has been critical, but is now stable.

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30 March 2020


Riona McGrath sends the following sad news from the organising team of the 4th BAND Festival, scheduled for 4-8 June 2020 at Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal:

Unfortunately, we have made the difficult decision to cancel BAND 2020 due to the on-going Covid-19 crisis. Our thoughts are with all those affected at this time and those in the health service who are tirelessly looking after us all. Our thanks to you all for supporting us at the BAND Festival, and we hope to see you all in the not-too-distant, brighter future.

Until then, stay safe, stay home, and be sure to follow the musicians who are continuing to spread a little musical light in these darker days. Links to all musicians can be found on our Facebook page.

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10 String Symphony (USA) tour postponed for 12 months (update)

Music Network announce with regret the postponement of their national tours for April and May 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This particularly affects BIB readers through the postponement to May 2021 of the tour by the award-winning US duo 10 String Symphony (Christian Sedelmyer and Rachel Baiman, left), which was previously scheduled for 6-17 May 2020.

Update 31 Mar.: A one-hour video of Rachel Baiman of 10 String Symphony playing informally with New Zealand musician George Jackson (featured recently on Oldtime Central) can be watched here. It was recorded as part of the Stay at Home Festival (see the BIB for 20 Mar.).

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29 March 2020

Roger Ryan's 'Country Cuts', Apr. 2020 - plus release of 'Watauga miner'

Thanks to Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland for the April 2020 issue of his 'Country Cuts' e-newsletter, which as might be expected deals mainly with the effects of the coronavirus crisis on country music events and artists - including some inspiring aspects. Roger's news can be read in full here.
Roger also forwards news from US banjo player Mike Scott, who has just released an original instrumental single and video, 'Watauga miner', as a tribute to his grandfather 'Anthon' Scott, miner and banjo-player from the mountains of east Tennessee. The video (which you can see on YouTube) was shot in Tennessee by Irish videographer Stephen Rosney of Rosney Media (also leader of the Back Axles bluegrass-&-Irish band), and shows artifacts that belonged to Anthon. More details are on this Bell Buckle Records press release.

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28 March 2020

Online concert celebrates Gerry Grennan, 28-9 Mar. 2020

The BIB regrets being late in announcing the two-part Gerry Grennan Celebration Night online concert, organised by the Hawk's Well Theatre in his hometown of Sligo. The Hawk's Well says:

In Feb 2020 we produced and presented a long overdue celebration night for the inimitable Gerry Grennan, one of the most loved and respected musicians and music teachers in Sligo. Musicians from near and far gathered to join him for one of the most epic and joyous concerts we have ever had the privilege of hosting. Proceeds from the night went to Parkinson’s Ireland North West Branch, a charity that is very close to Gerry’s heart, and we were delighted to present them with a fund of €4K raised by this celebration night just last week.

We know times are really tough for everyone right now but if you enjoy this online concert and want to support this very worthy cause... please click here and choose the Sligo-Donegal branch in your donation.

Part 1 will be shown tonight (Sat. 28 Mar.) at 8.00 p.m. on the Hawk's Well Facebook, and Part 2 on Sunday night at the same time. The list of musicians who took part in the February concert can be seen here.

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27 March 2020

News from (and of) recent visitors

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, who topped the bill at Omagh last September, are looking forward to getting back on the road, which at present won't be until May. On the plus side, their new DVD, the vinyl edition of their latest album, and more merchandise are available at special bundle discount prices. More news and details are on their latest e-newsletter.
Gina Furtado was also here last autumn at Omagh and on other dates, playing banjo with Chris Jones & the Night Drivers. Her solo album I hope you have a good life has just received a Highight Review in the April 2020 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited from Nancy Cardwell Webster.
Kenny & Amanda Smith also played at Omagh some years earlier (Kenny has since been back as a member of the Band of Ruhks). Their latest album With you is now being released by Farm Boy Records.
Becky Buller, who played at Athy and elsewhere early this century with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike and has since won two Grammy swards and eight IBMA awards, has just released a new single, 'The barber's fiddle', a story of tradition, with eighteen award-winning fiddlers taking part in the recording. More details are on the latest newsletter from Dark Shadow Recording.
Finally, an artist who would have been a visitor earlier this month but for the coronavirus crisis: Thomm Jutz. When it comes to continental Europe's contributions to the US bluegrass scene, Jutz looks like having a comparable impact in songwriting and record production to what the Kruger Brothers have had as performers. The first volume of his record project To live in two worlds is being released today by Mountain Home Music Company. More details on his already impressive career are in Mountain Home's press release, and the track 'Moving up, moving on' can be heard in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

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26 March 2020

For considerate fiddle practice

The BIB editor writes:

In Italy Martino Coppo of Red Wine is finding himself with a lot of time to play mandolin. That can be one of the good things about self-isolation; but what if your isolation is still within earshot of people who aren't as keen on the sound as you are?

For fiddlers, a new solution is the Yamaha YEV104/105 electric violin (the -105 five-string model is shown on the left). This does a similar job to Yamaha's well established Silent Violin models at less than half the price, and it's a thing of beauty. A fiddler practising on a YEV in the next room is no bother at all, and he seems happy with it too...

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'Mother Jones in Heaven' live on YouTube

Si Kahn (USA), singer/ songwriter, recording and performing artist, and grassroots activist, announces that his musical play 'Mother Jones in Heaven', commemorating Cork-born Mary Harris Jones (1837-1930; see the BIB for 26 June 2019), will be streamed live tonight on the YouTube channel of Vivien Nesbitt, who plays the title role. The time in Si's newsletter is given as 8.30 p.m. Eastern (US) time; on the video is a note saying 'Live in 6 hours. March 27, 12.30 a.m.', which may indicate the time of showing in Ireland.

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British Bluegrass News, Spring 2020

Issue no. 89 (spring 2020) of British Bluegrass News, the quarterly journal of the British Bluegrass Music Association (BBMA), is out now, and as usual it's not just a model of what a national association's magazine should be - the production and contents are up to international standards, with full-page colour ads and plenty of other photos.

As well as covering British bands and events, the text includes exclusive interviews with the Kody Norris Show (USA; headliners at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival) and Nick Hornbuckle (USA; banjoist with John Reischman & the Jaybirds). The list of band members of BBMA includes Pilgrim St from Navan, Co. Meath, and the map of instrument teachers in these islands includes Hubert Murray in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

Other features include four pages on Sore Fingers Summer Schools, which will be 25 this year, and six pages (four of tablature) on playing the Monroe composition 'Stoney Lonesome'. The issue was prepared before the coronavirus crisis took hold; as a result, some of the events shown on the calendar page have already been cancelled or postponed, but this does not detract from a solidly worthy issue.

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25 March 2020

Eric Weissberg, 16 Aug. 1939-22 Mar. 2020

The BIB learns with regret of the death of Eric Weissberg, multi-instrumentalist, performing and recording artist, prolific session musician, and one of the major figures in the immense contribution to bluegrass music made by New Yorkers.

He is most widely known for playing 'Dueling banjos' with Steve Mandell for the soundtrack of the film Deliverance, but he had also played (in his teens) on the first bluegrass LP ever released, and the 1963 album New dimensions in banjo and bluegrass (cover image, above) with Marshall Brickman was the first full LP of 'melodic' banjo, developed earlier by Bill Keith.

An obituary by Richard Thompson appears on Bluegrass Today. Eric Weissberg played in Ireland in 1991 at the first Athy bluegrass festival, as a member of the New Blue Velvet Band, with Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, and Kenny Kosek.

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24 March 2020

Trials, troubles, tribulations - and alleviations?

Following on from the BIB post of 16 Mar., Bluegrass Today published four days ago Bill Conger's major article 'Survey of COVID-19 impact on bluegrass artists', which includes accounts of what bluegrass musicians are going through in the USA (including many who have performed in Ireland, such as Greg Cahill, Lorraine Jordan, Sammy Shelor, Gina Furtado, Joe Mullins, Becky Buller, Michael Cleveland); strategies for keeping active; and plans for recovery when the crisis eventually passes.

A week ago No Depression: the journal of roots music published Stacy Chandler's substantial piece 'Coronavirus crisis: how to help roots music artists', addressing the options open to the bluegrass-supporting public for helping the music and the artists for whom it's also their living.

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Greetings and more from Sideline

Sideline, the powerful North Carolina band who toured here last July (thanks to mygrassisblue.com), have put a video on YouTube with words of advice and comfort in the present coronavirus crisis. The video can also be seen in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

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More news (and a good idea) from FOAOTMAD

Following on from the news that the BIB republished last Saturday, FOAOTMAD, the UK organisation promoting American old-time music and dance, announce that their Spring camp is now definitely cancelled owing to new UK government restrictions. In addition Arnie Blake suggests to FOATMAD members in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex:

As we are all having to spend so much time indoors and cannot follow our normal pursuits in the usual way, I am planning to focus on a selection of tunes, some new to me, some half learnt at workshops but never really internalised, and then there are the tunes that seem to have languished forever on the 'to do' list. It then occurred to me that if a number of people worked on the same tunes then when we come out of this we could all meet up with a ready made repertoire in addition to the tunes that are already well known!

So if anyone would like to join in this local team effort, all you have to do is let me have your e-mail address and every couple of weeks or so a tune will turn up in your inbox. Tunes chosen will be available from Slippery Hill with other versions probably available too, e.g. on YouTube. Let's try to get some positive energy out of all this.

Enhancing both your own repertoire and your ability to play with others is something that pickers outside East Anglia should also find worth doing. There was (and perhaps still is) a regular jam in Belgium that published each month a list of half a dozen tunes (with YouTube sources) that would be played at the next meeting, so that anyone who came along could be prepared to fit in on those tunes, whatever else might be played.

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23 March 2020

Bluegrass Omagh 2020 CANCELLED

More bad news, from nearer home: this announcement has been made on the Ulster American Folk Park Facebook:

After careful consideration and monitoring of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming Bluegrass Omagh music festival in May (22–24) as a precautionary measure to protect the health and well-being of our community.

If you have already purchased tickets for Bluegrass Omagh 2020, please check your e-mail inbox for further instruction, as well as junk and spam folders (just in case).

Rest assured plans for next year’s Bluegrass Omagh festival in May 2021 are already underway – and will be bigger and better than ever!

For more information regarding purchased Bluegrass Omagh 2020 tickets, visit nmni.com/BluegrassOmagh.

The BIB learns that all artists have been informed, and that next year's event is planned for 28-31 May 2021.

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Bühl Bluegrass Festival postponed to 2021

The BIB learns with regret that the city information office of Bühl in south-west Germany has now officially announced that the 18th Bühl Bluegrass Festival (see the BIB for 22 Jan.) has been postponed to 14-15 May 2021, because of restrictions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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22 March 2020

A treasury of American traditions on film

This being a time when we all may be looking for entertainment (and more) at home - thanks to Dan Patterson, Kenan Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who sends a reminder about the Folkstreams website, with over 350 'mostly obscure' American 16mm films and videos, documenting and commenting on American traditional cultures.

The films include Steve Gebhardt's 'Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass music', Larry Edelman's 'Dance all night: the Highwoods Stringband story', John Cohen's 'The end of an old song', films on blues and Cajun music, and much more. Folkstreams is also on Facebook.


21 March 2020

Kristy Cox tour of Europe POSTPONED to 2021

Sad news from the mygrassisblue.com team:

We guess it was inevitable. It is with the heaviest of heavy hearts that we announce the cancellation of our Kristy Cox May 2020 tour of Europe.

Suffice it to say, a month-long multi-country European jaunt is just not viable given the present and exceptional challenge we are all facing as a result of the horrid Covid-19 pandemic.

We would like to thank everyone who worked with us to help make this tour possible, local bluegrass enthusiasts, festivals and venues in countries all over Europe who share our vision of spreading the bluegrass sound. Again, thank you all so, so much.

And thank you to Kristy Cox herself. We love you and can't thank you enough for the faith you've put in us from day one. From before day one even. We'll get there, together. Thank you again. Truly.

Despite the hard-hitting graphic, the tour is postponed, not cancelled, and we’re already working to make it a reality for May 2021. One more year of planning to make it even better than it would have been this year.

In the meantime, let’s hope that we return to some semblance of normality sooner rather than later. That’s what we’re all hoping for, particularly the artists who are being hit especially hard by this crisis. Buy their music, buy their merch, engage in online lessons, donate to virtual tip jar. It all helps.

Keep your grass blue, keep your chin up, and, most importantly, keep safe and healthy.

Regards, The mygrassisblue.com Team

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FOAOTMAD old-time camps during 2020

FOAOTMAD, the UK organisation promoting American old-time music and dance, announce their intentions for their 2020 programme of events in the light of the present health crisis.

No plans are being made for holding the Spring Camp, but if present restrictions are lifted in time it can be held at short notice. Assuming that the crisis is over by August, the Summer Camp will be held as planned, and for the Autumn Workshops 'two well known and respected American tutors' are provisionally booked and talks with a venue are in progress.

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Mules & Men new release featured on Bluegrass Today

Congratulations to Mules & Men, whose new single 'John Keavney' (see the BIB for 19 Mar.), together with two other tracks, 'Bow Lane West Exit' and 'Business', was released yesterday on Bandcamp yesterday as a digital album, The John Keavney singles. The band point out on their Facebook:

If you wanna support with your hard earned the Bandcamp link is there. Bandcamp are giving 100% of the money to us as the artist in light of the current shenanigans. Fair play.

Congratulations also on the feature by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today about the release, which shows the official video of 'John Keavney' and calls it a 'clever video [that] carries the rowdy vibe of this talented young band, with plenty of the Irish love for fun and whimsy... Highly entertaining!'

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20 March 2020

Appalachian Roadshow album launch as free concert online

The Appalachian Road Show (USA; left) who are scheduled as headliners at the Omagh bluegrass festival two months from now (22-4 May), will be launching their new album Tribulation (see the BIB for 5 Mar.) at the renowned Station Inn in Nashville on 25 Mar.

The event had already been designated as a benefit concert in aid of those afflicted by the recent tornado in the Nashville area, but as a further response to the present crisis in live entertainment it will be broadcast on the Station Inn TV channel and streamed live on the Facebooks of the Station Inn and Bluegrass Today. More details are in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

The Bluegrass Omagh website carries at present a message from National Museums Northern Ireland: 'Our museums are currently closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 situation.' Nonetheless, the Appalachian Roadshow's online tour schedule shows them as playing at 'OMGAH' on 22-3 May, as well as on 8 May at the Crossover Festival in England (see the BIB for 4 Mar.).

Update 23 Mar.: This year's Omagh festival has now been officially cancelled. Next year's is being planned for 29-31 May 2021.

Update 24 Mar.: The Appalachian Roadshow album launch concert has had to be rescheduled as a result of the city's mayor closing non-essential businesses for two weeks. The ban has since been lifted to allow streaming of live music - see Bluegrass Today.

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A new initiative: the #Stay At Home Festival, THIS WEEKEND on Instagram

April Verch (CAN) who has toured several times with her band over here, announces good news for music fans who have an Instagram account and internet access: the #StayAtHomeFestival, organised from Spain,

to raise moral and support live music by starting an online festival where groups or solo musicians can stream direct to peoples’ homes in an effort both to encourage people to stay in their houses to prevent further virus spread AND to give musicians an opportunity to make up for countless cancelled events and lost incomes.

Full details of lineup and scheduling are on the #StayAtHomeFestival website, together with a link for donations; the website announces that all donations go directly to the artists.

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Smithwicks Kilkenny Roots Festival 2020 CANCELLED (update)

John Cleere, director of the Smithwicks Kilkenny Roots Festival, announces on the Festival website:

We regret that, following discussions between organisers and sponsors, we have had to cancel Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic is still far from reaching its peak and we feel that to safeguard audiences, venue workers, technical crews, volunteers, and artists, this is the only option open to us. Keep safe.

The act most likely to have attracted BIB readers in this year's lineup was North Carolina's Chatham County Line. The Festival Facebook announces that refunds will be given for tickets, but that this may take time. Several responses to this news favour the idea (as proposed by the Baltimore Fiddle Fair) of passing the money on to the artists.

Update: Chatham County Line announce on their online tour schedule:

We're presently observing some social distancing folks. We hope to return to the stage as soon as we can but in the meantime please keep your eyes on our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds for information on live streams and other hopefully good news.

The schedule now shows no dates before the beginning of June - except that their Facebook displays their gig at the Bühl Bluegrass Festival in Germany in mid-May, and Bühl's Facebook at present gives no indication of any change in plans.

Update 23 Mar.: It has now been officially announced that the 18th Bühl Bluegrass Festival has been postponed to 14-15 May 2021.

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19 March 2020

Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music and Baltimore Fiddle Fair 2020 CANCELLED

The BIB learns with great regret that the organising team of the Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music festival in Co. Kerry, acting on advice received, have been obliged to cancel this year's event, which was scheduled to take place on the weekend 1-3 May. The team reports:

COVID 19 has really meant we cannot go ahead. It’s awful but we have no choice; all we can do is focus on Roots 21.
The Baltimore Fiddle Fair in Co. Cork has also announced on its website the cancellation of this year's event, scheduled for 7-10 May, coupling this with an announcement of next year's programme (featuring substantially the same lineup planned for this year), to be held on 6-9 May 2021. The Fair's Facebook announced earlier this week:

Hey folks. With a heavy heart we are sad to announce that Fiddle Fair will not take place this year. In the current climate we really have no other choice. We have asked all of our amazing lineup to put the dates in their diary for next year and hopefully we will all be back to celebrate what will be the best festival ever.

We will be in touch in the coming days regarding refunds but we ask, that those of you who are able, may consider donating some or all of your ticket price towards a fund that we will set up to pass on to our artists. We know it won't be a lot but every little will help as they are all facing a long time ahead with no income.

While this is sad news for all of us, we realise that a postponement is not the end of the world and many people will be facing much more difficult situations in the coming weeks so above all we ask that all of you stay safe, look after your loved ones and keep the faith. We will get through this. See you in 2021.

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Mules & Men release 'John Keavney' - and more

Thanks to Luke Coffey for the welcome news that Mules & Men (above) are releasing a new single, ‘John Keavney’, to all digital platforms this Friday (20 March). The release comes in anticipation of the upcoming Roscommon County Line, and includes two other tracks from the album. Watch the official video (with lyrics) here. Mules & Men's press release states:

Mules & Men take a different approach to bluegrass music, with original song writing celebrating the less celebrated parts of Ireland's rural landscape and lifestyle.

'John Keavney' packs a cautionary tale into its two-minute running time. A carpenter from Strokestown who becomes victim to an economic recession, John Keavney funds his wayward lifestyle by selling land that was in his family for generations. John Keavney ends up paying the price, losing everything he holds dear. Be careful, kids!

For the full press release and downloadable tracks on Google drive, please click here. Soundcloud downloadable links: https://soundcloud.com/user-530994629/sets/the-john-keavney-singles. On one of the extra tracks, the press release states:

'Bow Lane West Exit' is an epic ode to Dublin’s famous Liberties district, a consequence of Dublin native Paddy Cummins's involvement (vocals, mandolin) in the group. 'You can talk all you want about Roscommon and the country, but Dublin is where it’s at!', he explained. The avant-garde approach to improvisation in this track draws certain parallels with another young bluegrass artist, Billy Strings. His broad, spontaneous approach to bluegrass, both harmonically and melodically, is changing the approach of many younger musicians and listeners and gaining a foothold in the wider community.

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18 March 2020

Sore Fingers 2020: projected reschedule to 14-20 December

Moira Wirtz, co-organiser of the UK's Sore Fingers Summer Schools, issues the following announcement to all who have signed on for this year's edition of the premier bluegrass and old-time instruction week in Europe:

As Easter Sore Fingers Week scheduled from 13th to 17th April CANNOT RUN due to Government COVID-19 restrictions, John and I have arranged a reschedule BUT confirmation of the dates depends on your availability.

We know some will not be able to commit to the revised dates for a number of reasons, and this will release some places on certain classes. If you didn’t book at Easter due to pre-booked commitment but are free in December, then please consider booking as we do need a minimum number of students to make things work out.

Most of the students booked for Sore Fingers Week 2020 will have received an email outlining the plans to re-schedule the event for December 2020. We are aware that in some cases individuals have not received the message, and if this is the case, please contact us on john@sorefinges.co.uk or moira@sorefingers.co.uk a.s.a.p.

The new dates proposed are in DECEMBER as follows:
Arrival Monday 14th – Teaching days: Tuesday 15th to Saturday 19th – Departure Sunday 20th

All tutors currently booked for Easter are available that week except for:
Dede Wyland, Singing; Rachel Eddy, Old Time Fiddle; Peter McLaughlin, Guitar.

We are working on getting replacements which should not be too difficult.


1 – Please check your diaries and HIT THE REPLY BUTTON [on the e-mail sent by Sore Fingers] sending a short reply stating either:

“YES, I can attend” or
“NO, I cannot attend”

It is important to do this AS SOON AS you possibly can. We would be most grateful for your speedy co-operation otherwise we may lose the dates. We really hope you can make it because the success of this re-scheduling initiative depends on a majority being able to attend.

2 – If you CAN attend your booking will be carried over to the new dates. You will not need to complete a new booking form. If you CANNOT attend we will contact you separately shortly after establishing how the new dates are received.

3 – If you have booked flights or other modes of transport (rail, ferries, etc.), most carriers are allowing travellers to re-book their travel without penalty. Contact the carrier as soon as possible when we make confirmation.


Anyone following the news will have witnessed the speed at which things are changing. From a position just seven days ago when we expected to run as scheduled, numerous major actions and Government directives have prevented staging this event at Easter time 2020.

The main reason for re-scheduling is to protect health and safety of individuals and minimise impact on associated people’s lives all round. John and I are committed to turning this negative into a positive, ensuring Sore Fingers Week can continue preserving your respective interests as well as honouring promised work for musicians who have agreed to teach at the event.

We greatly appreciate your patience and moral support. Everyone’s reaction has been highly sustaining. The warmth contained in messages received has been wonderfully encouraging and we thank you unreservedly for your goodwill.
Hoping to hear from you very soon.

John and Moira
Sore Fingers Summer Schools

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Stillhouse Junkies (USA): tour CANCELLED

Stillhouse Junkies: (l-r) Alissa Wolf, Fred Kosak (seated), Cody Tinnin

Uri Kohen announces with regret another casualty of the corona virus (COVID-19) crisis. The first ever Irish tour of the Colorado trio Stillhouse Junkies, scheduled for 7-12 April (see the BIB for 2 Feb. 2020) has had to be cancelled due to a combination of factors: a ban on travel, the closure of venues, and the cancellation of a short tour in the UK which was to have preceded their coming to Ireland.

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Keeping on the sunny side

Under this inspiring picture of jewellery maker Gogo Borgerding with a Deering White Lotus banjo, Jamie Latty has published a feature on the Deering Banjos blog entitled 'Playing music can help in challenging times', including videos from Italy of people playing music from their apartments for the benefit of their neighbours. Quote (for the benefit of musicians of all kinds):

We possess something truly powerful that has the ability to not only help us through bad times, but others around us, too.


17 March 2020

Instead of a parade

The BIB editor writes:

St Patrick's day here in Dublin was not marked by the customary spectacular parade this year; so to make up for that, here's a video of the late, great Alan Jabbour (left; photo by Bill Petros) playing 'Rocky road to Dublin', which he learned from the fiddling of Burl Hammons of the legendary Hammons Family of West Virginia.

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Old-time news from Britain

The FOAOTMAD news blog announces cancellations of old-time sessions in Britain. The organisers of the fourth annual Richmond Old Time Music Gathering in the London area, scheduled for 10-11 April with the Dirk Powell (USA) Trio as headliners, announced three days ago:

Easter is four weeks away and a lot could happen in that time. We would like to hope we could still go ahead with the Gathering [...] but we also accept that it may not be possible, or wise, to do so. We’ll maintain contact with our venues and participants and keep you posted with any news. At best, it looks like we’ll be scaling down this year and we won’t sell advance tickets.

Update 29 Mar.: The organisers have confirmed on Facebook that Richmond Old Time Music Gathering will not be taking place at Easter,

but we'll see if we can come up with any alternative plans. We'll post any news here, on Instagram and our e-mail newsletter.

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16 March 2020

Trials, troubles, tribulations

The BIB editor writes:

In the last ten days the impact of COVID-19 has abruptly hit the bluegrass world. In the USA, institutions such as the Earl Scruggs Center, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Grand Ole Opry itself have suspended events or closed their doors till the end of this month or early April. Festivals, including the iconic MerleFest, have had to be cancelled because of state restrictions on the size of gatherings.

In this island, tours have already been cancelled or cut short; at present the BIB has had no official notice of other cancellations, but with venues from theatres to bars being closed, it's hard to see how some of the tours still on our calendar can take place. We hope that the festival schedule will remain intact, but at this stage nothing can be confidently predicted.

In a major article on Bluegrass Today last Friday, David Morris outlines what all this means to the bluegrass world in financial terms. An article in No Depression by Jake Blount describes forcefully what it means to a working musician who can see a month's income wiped out in a day. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has set up a Bluegrass Community Resource page on its website as part of its commitment to assisting the entire bluegrass music community in any possible way.

For us fans, the task is to do what we can to support the people who make the music by buying (direct from them wherever possible) what they're still in a position to sell: recorded music and other merchandise; online concerts; and instrumental tuition online, as instanced in David Morris's article. One of the bands Morris mentions as hit by the present crisis is our Italian friends from Red Wine, who have just had to cut short a US tour and go home to the most seriously affected country in Europe.

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15 March 2020

Irish politics illustrated through bluegrass

Thanks to Niall Toner for sending this photo of a picture published in today's Sunday Times to illustrate talks between Irish political parties: (l-r) Micheál Martin (FF), mandolin; Leo Varadkar (FG), guitar; Verona Murphy (Ind), guitar; Denis Naughten (Ind), banjo; and Michael Lowry (Ind), resonator guitar. As so often in bluegrass photos the bass player is unidentified, but as he's behind Mr Varadkar he presumably belongs to Fine Gael.

It's an inspired choice of imagery, and the BIB congratulates its creator James Cowen. As is only to be expected, the band are at present working on separate microphones. For the sake of the vocal blend, will they adopt the one-mike setup?


13 March 2020

Health advice for banjo players

The BIB editor writes:

Thanks to our good friend Pat Sheeran for the above advice. Judging by the instrument shown, the advice is for tenor players, so 'Get a real banjo instead of that amplified mandolin!' should be added. Pat also sends a historic photo (left) of Al Capone, playing a tenor banjo in his Alcatraz cell. Whatever one may think of the tenor, it's only fair to point out that his sentence was for tax evasion. There is no substance in the allegation that prisoners in adjoining cells complained of 'cruel and unusual punishment'.

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Sacred Harp Singers of Dublin cancel March singing

Sacred Harp Singers of Dublin have just added the following new post, 'Pause in singing for March 2020', to their website and Facebook. Links have been added by the BIB.

Hi everyone, we will not be holding our regular Friday singing during the month of March. Please keep an eye on the Facebook, Meetup, or WordPress sites for further updates.
Steve Martin (USA) and Martin Short (CAN) brought their critically acclaimed comedy tour 'The Funniest Show In Town At The Moment', featuring the Steep Canyon Rangers, to the 3Arena in Dublin on Wednesday (11 Mar.) but cancelled the show in the SSE Arena in Belfast last night, with this announcement from Steve on Twitter:

Dear Belfast ticket-holders, in light of the ever-evolving global situation, Marty and I have decided to postpone our Belfast show until happier times. Last night’s thrilling Dublin show turns out to be our sad farewell – for a while – to our beautiful Ireland and Scotland tour.

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