12 February 2016

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is as alive as ever, keeps its calendar (the most important part of the BIB) updated, and publishes news received. Send in news by e-mail.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page. Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background and purpose and how to use it.


11 February 2016

Bluegrass Tour with Niall Toner, Sept.-Oct. 2016

Niall Toner announced last Sunday on the NTB Facebook that

Things are shaping up for my Bluegrass Tour with Tour America in September and October 2016. I will be your escort on a visit to many of the iconic places associated with bluegrass music, including Jerusalem Ridge, Bill Monroe's home place, Ralph Stanley's home, and the IBMA Festival over three days in Raleigh, NC. Full details are now available at the Tour America website. [...] It will be 10 days of solid bluegrass, 24/7. It's booking out fast, so get in touch asap!

The BIB struck a hitch with the Facebook link, but this one gives all the details.

Niall also announced that on Tuesday (9 Feb.) the Niall Toner Band would record an interview and a couple of original songs for Carlow TV, which will be broadcast to over 1,000 TV stations in the USA and Canada over the following two weeks. And a photo of Niall on stage in Florida can be seen on the NTB Facebook, taken at his performance last month for the Gulf Coast Bluegrass Music Association in Pensacola.

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Rackhouse Pilfer - keeping on the move

Rackhouse Pilfer, the 'fiery, exciting, Irish-Americana & Folk-Rock Band' from Sligo, are busy: today they start a tour of Britain, and will be taking part in the London Country2Country festival on 11 and 12 March. Before then, however, they'll be returning to Ireland for a series of shows before the end of this month:

Fri. 19th: Gilroy's, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, 10.30 p.m.
Sat. 20th: Percy Whelan's, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, 10.00 p.m.
Sun. 21st: Voodoo, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, !0.30 p.m.
Fri. 26th: The Grand, Killarney, Co. Kerry, !0.30 p.m.
Sat. 27th: Campbell's, Headford, Co. Galway, 9.00 p.m.
Sun. 28th: TedFest, Inis Mor, Aran Islands, 10.00 p.m.

They have recently been recording demos for their new album at Transmission Rooms Recording Studio near Longford, and have also been nominated for this year's Hot Press Folk/Traditional award. You can vote for them here.

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Bands in Ireland for bluegrass, old-time, and related music

The Lee Valley String Band (Cork), Ireland's senior band in bluegrass and old-time music, on TV; date?

For the convenience of BIB readers, a list has been added to the right-hand column of the blog, showing (in alphabetical order) bands on a spectrum ranging from hard-core bluegrass and old-time music to 'Americana'. Links are given to their websites, Facebooks, and (in some cases) Twitter and YouTube channels.

Bands seem to be forming all the time, and occasionally some retire or dissolve; so additions and other corrections to the list are welcome. It's appropriate to illustrate this post with pictures of the Lee Valley String Band, which has been in continuous operation longer than any other bluegrass or old-time band in this island, having been founded by Niall and Colm Toner and the late Chris Twomey in the late 1960s.

The Lee Valley String Band in 2015: (l-r) Mick Daly, Brendan Butler,
Mick O'Brien, Hal O'Neill (photo: Eddie Hennessy)


The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, 25 Feb. 2016

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

Back again with you on Thursday 25 Feb. The usual Cabin Crew and special guests: Pat Killalea (performs the Shadows!), Jo Jo O & the Woods (contemporary), and Mary Hennesy (country/Americana). I've attached a copy of our new-look poster [left].

The Sessions are held on the last Thursday of every month at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dundrum, south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station, in the city direction). Shows run from 9.30 to 11.30 p.m. and admission is FREE. If you or someone you know would like to perform at the Cabin Sessions, let Gerry know by e-mail. The Sessions are particularly interested in featuring local musicians and singers.

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09 February 2016

Red Hat Acoustic Music Ciub meets at Naas, 12 Feb. 2016

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for the news that the Club's next meeting will be held this coming Friday (12 Feb.).

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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Bluegrass band wanted for K-Fest in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, 4 June 2016

Thanks to Wendy Connolly and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' for publishing news from Tim, who books music for K-Fest in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, which is to take place over the June bank holiday weekend (2-6 June 2016). Tim writes:

We are looking for a bluegrass band for Saturday 4 June. We will have a kinda barn set-up with a traditional act followed by bluegrass. If you can help get this message out, great. If anyone is interested they can e-mail with links and a quote.

Wendy adds: 'Man, I hope you jump on this one like a duck on a June bug!'

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Anniversaries in 2016 from the Bluegrass Hall of Fame

The BIB editor writes:

In September this year it will be twenty years since the death of Bill Monroe; three months later, it will be fifty years since the death of Carter Stanley. Go to the website of the International Bluegrass Music Museum: the first image you see will be of these two giant figures of bluegrass history, singing together.

A year ago the BIB drew attention to a new publication chronicling the pioneers of bluegrass music, to whom the International Bluegrass Music Association has given its highest award: The Bluegrass Hall of Fame: inductee biographies 1991-2014, by Fred Bartenstein, Gary Reid, and others. Fourteen members of the pantheon, who either were born or died one or more decades ago, are listed below. The biographies of those marked with an asterisk can be read on the International Bluegrass Music Museum website; other biographies are in process of being added. Even if you have the book, it is worth looking up the website for the different choice of photos there.

*Robert Russell 'Chubby' Wise, 6 Jan. 1996
Ann Louise Certain Scruggs, 2 Feb. 2006
*Charles Keith Wolfe, 9 Feb. 2006
*William Smith 'Bill' Monroe, 9 Sept. 1996
*Burkett Howard 'Josh'/'Buck' Graves, 30 Sept. 2006
*Don Stover, 11 Nov. 1996
*Bill Vernon, 20 Nov. 1996
*Carter Glen Stanley, 1 Dec. 1966
*John Humbird Duffey, 10 Dec. 1996

Ray Elwood Goins (Lonesome Pine Fiddlers), 3 Jan. 1936
*Donald Wesley 'Don' Reno, 21 Feb. 1926
*Nannie Omega 'Miggie' Lewis (Lewis Family), 22 May 1926
*Carl Moore Story, 29 May 1916
*Kenneth Clayton 'Kenny' Baker, 26 June 1926

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08 February 2016

To avoid confusion

Last week the BIB published a post about the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree (left), which will be held for the first time on 8-9 July this year to take the place of the venerable Athy Bluegrass Festival (1991-2015). The Jamboree will be hosted by Woodbine, with the Hamilton County Ramblers from Chattanooga, TN, as guests of honour at two evening concerts.

Bluegrass Today published today a feature on the Woodbine Opry (right). To avoid any confusion arising from the similarity of names, the BIB points out that the Opry is held every weekend in Woodbine, GA, with bluegrass and gospel music on Friday nights and old country music on Saturdays, raising funds for the Old Woodbine School.

The Woodbine Opry is just off US Route 17, not very far from the Florida border. The Woodbine Jamboree is just off the N78, not very far from the Laois border. If you're heading for the Jamboree and wish to avoid arriving at the Opry by mistake, take no right turns after leaving the M9.

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07 February 2016

10th Coastline Bluegrass Music Event, North Wales, 3-5 June 2016

The most accessible bluegrass festivals outside this country (unless you're in Ulster) are in Wales - so thanks to John Prytherch, organiser of the Coastline Bluegrass Music Event (CBME), for news of the 10th Event, which will be held on the weekend 3-5 June 2016 in the Pavilion at Llangollen, North Wales.

The complete lineup for this year's CBME is now on the website, with bio details. Topping the bill are Sunnyside from the Czech Republic, with Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh; and from Britain Flats & Sharps (who headed the Saturday concert at Westport 2015), Tilter Wheel, The Rip Roaring Success, Biggin Hillbillies, Stompin' Dave Allen, and the Appalachian dance teams Feet First and Leap to your Feet.

A definite plus, announced on the CBME Facebook, is that the MC will be Dublin-born Eugene O'Brien, current chairman of the EBMA and former banjo-player with the Sons of Navarone (B). Eugene's MC work is masterly, as anyone who's seen him at it can testify.

The CBME ranks high on the 'best festivals' choices of journals in Britain, including both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph - two papers that rarely agree on anything else... Tickets can also be booked online, with special provision for campers and BBMA members.

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05 February 2016

Old-time news from the Greasy Coat Stringband

Thanks to Derek Copley of the Greasy Coat Stringband for this news and poster for an upcoming gig in the Back Room of the Cobblestone in Dublin on Thursday 18 February. Derek writes:

The Black Feathers, a duo based in England (though Ray Hughes is from Dublin) will be performing and have asked the Greasy Coat Stringband along for support on the night.

It's a welcome opportunity for the Greasys as we are currently working with a new member and exciting new setlist, as ever deeply rooted in the nuances of traditional old-time fiddle-and-banjo music. We'd love to see some familiar faces - and new ones too - on the night. Doors 9.00 p.m. and tickets €8.

In other old-time news, the Thomas House old-time jam on Monday nights is thriving the past few months, since we decided to convene a little earlier, at 8.00 p.m. All old-time enthusiasts always welcome. There's going to be some drinks promos coming along in early spring too.

That is good news! Look out for some more exciting old-time news in the near future from the Greasy Coats. Meanwhile, the Black Feathers will be playing the following shows in Ireland this month; location data and links to venue websites are on their online tour schedule.

Sat. 13th: Market Place Theatre, Armagh city
Sun. 14th: Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Tues. 16th: The Ruby Sessions, Doyle's, 9 College St., Dublin 2
Thurs. 18th: The Cobblestone, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Fri. 19th: Theatre Royal, Waterford city
Sat. 20th: Glor Theatre, Ennis, Co. Clare

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04 February 2016

Baker's dozen: a new mandolin album by Gerry Madden

Gerry Madden
Thanks to Danny Slevin of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, for this news of a new recording featuring some of the most talented musicians on the scene here. A particular treat for admirers of Gerry Madden's mandolin playing, it also serves as a memorial to the much missed Vinny Baker, who died in July 2013. Danny, who organised the very successful tribute concert in Vinny's memory at Mullingar in June 2014, writes:

There is a brilliant new album out by Gerry Madden. It was recorded in Vinny's studio and was almost certainly the last album he produced.

The album features some amazing mando playing by Gerry. It also features Charlie Arkins on fiddle, Moyra Fraser on keyboards and accordion, Johnny Gleeson on dobro, and Vinny on guitar. For good measure, there is even a bit of clawhammer banjo by Ger McGrath.

On the last track on the album, you can hear Vinny's voice saying 'Take it from the top.' The words had been edited out but Gerry had a copy of the track on his phone, so they were able to put it back in. Very emotional.

Gerry, who was Vinny's colleague in the successful band Bending the Strings along with Moyra Fraser and Martin Cooney, now plays mandolin with the Waterford-based group Strange Fruit. The BIB will be posting further information on getting hold of the new album.

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03 February 2016

Bands wanted for Fourth of July weekend at Durty Nelly's

The BIB editor reports:

Wendy Connolly's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook carries an appeal from Paul Clover, manager of the celebrated Durty Nelly's bar (above) at Bunratty, Co. Clare. He is looking for 'American-style bands' to play over the American Independence Day weekend (Sat. 2-Mon. 4 July), and adds:

C'mon, folks! Don't let 4th July go by without some real bluegrass and Americana at this fine establishment! It'd be as unthinkable as going the day without fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob! Oil up those fingers and get pickin'!

In our experience, Durty Nelly's is a very welcoming place, which has hosted some fine music during successive events at Bunratty. Bands wishing to play there should 'phone Paul at 061 364861.

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2 Stroke String Sessions resume in Ranelagh, 6 Feb. 2016

Dublin's 2 Stroke String Sessions announce with pleasure that they have found a new home at the Mountpleasant Inn, Ranelagh. The Sessions will be recommencing this coming Saturday (6 Feb.) from 10.30 p.m. till late, and will then continue on the first Saturday of each month thereafter. Admission is free - so you're advised to

Come on down and get an earful of old-time fiddle and banjo tunes and the occasional murder ballad or two.

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Athy's phoenix rises from the ashes

The Athy Bluegrass Festival, Ireland's first and longest-running annual bluegrass music event, has officially come to an end (see its Facebook for 28 Nov. 2015 and the BIB for the same date). The good news is that its place is being taken by the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree - and Tony O'Brien is starting the new event (8-9 July 2016) with a bigger bang than we'd expected.

The 'support band' mentioned in November turns out to be the Hamilton County Ramblers, based in Chattanooga, TN, and including Jim Pankey on banjo. Many will remember Jim from four years ago with Chuck and Susan Nation in the band led by former Blue Grass Boy Curtis Blackwell (see the BIB for 9 Mar. 2012). Banjo players are likely to be familiar with the wealth of instructional material he has on YouTube, both in three-finger and clawhammer styles. The video of the Ramblers which Tony posted yesterday as a foretaste of July is also from Jim's YouTube channel.

The Hamilton County Ramblers: (l-r) Josh Hixson, Roy Curry,
James Kee, Jim Pankey, John Boulware

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02 February 2016

A hot two nights in Belfast: tonight and tomorrow

Tonight and tomorrow night should be a very satisfying time for bluegrass enthusiasts in Belfast and the surrounding area: tonight (Tues. 2 Feb.) there's the usual Belfast Bluegrass monthly session, upstairs at Errigle Inn, 312-320 Ormeau Rd, Belfast, from 9.00 p.m., to which all are welcome.

Tomorrow night (Wed. 3 Feb.) the powerful and exciting band Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) will be providing high altitude bluegrass from the Rocky Mountains in the Sunflower Pub, 65 Union St., Belfast. Doors open at 8.00 p.m., and admission is £10.00. This is a Belfast Bluegrass production. For further information, 'phone 07779 721643 or e-mail.

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01 February 2016

John Denby teaches mandolin in the Dublin area

For anyone wanting to learn mandolin in the Dublin region: John Denby, one of the most dynamic mandolinists to have appeared on the scene here in the last few years, is available to give mandolin lessons in bluegrass, folk, country, rock 'n' roll, bluesy styles, and basic trad - he also plays tenor banjo.

Since early 2012 John has been a full member of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band; the photo shows him in full-dress Down and Out uniform. His playing in field jams during the 24th North Wales Bluegrass Festival in July 2012 earned him a special spot on the main concert stage. In 2013 he and Hugh Taggart accompanied Roni Stoneman during her visit to Ireland. In 2014 John became a founder member of the New Breadwinners, and with both bands he has played all over Ireland and toured in Europe.

Contact John by mobile (085 185 9287) or e-mail.

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Your banjo (and you) can be part of history

As the BIB announced three weeks ago (11 Jan.), Roni Stoneman (left), First Lady of the 5-String Banjo, will return to Ireland this summer, combining a friendly visit with select performances, including (as in 2013) a show at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in June.

As any banjo-player knows, travelling with a professional bluegrass banjo in a hard-shell case can be hard on one's hands, arms, and back; and Roni would be glad to leave her bow-tie Mastertone 'warhorse' (see photo) at home if she could count on being able to use a decent banjo in Ireland for about a month - from late May to late June.

Hiring instruments is not as common here as in the US but isn't unknown, and that option will be explored. Meanwhile - if you have a good banjo that you keep as a reserve, or are otherwise not constantly using, give some thought to the idea of being able to say that it has been played by a historic figure in bluegrass: the first woman to be recorded playing Scruggs-style banjo, one of the stars of a long-running TV series, and daughter of one of the first major American old-time recording artists. Drop the BIB editor an e-mail if the idea appeals.

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31 January 2016

Competition answers

Last Monday the BIB drew attention to the new programme for events at the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin (a good friend to bluegrass and related music in the Dublin region), which can be read here.

By the courtesy of the Centre, the BIB was able to offer two seats for each of this weekend's shows at Naul in response to correct answers to two questions. NO answers were received; but here are the answers that were expected. For the Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) show on Friday, the question was:

Name three other bluegrass bands from Colorado who have played in Ireland before 2015.

Answer: Hot Rize, the Bluegrass Patriots, High Plains Tradition.

And for the Gordie Tentrees with Jaxon Haldane (CAN) show last night:

One of the most influential bluegrass albums featured two songs by a Canadian songwriter. Name the writer.

The writer was Gordon Lightfoot, whose 'Ten degrees and getting colder' and 'You are what I am' were recorded by J.D. Crowe & the New South on Rounder 0044. The album also includes Ian Tyson's 'Summer wages', so an answer pointing out that it featured three songs by Canadian writers would have been valid.

The Centre also draws attention to the return of Woody Pines (USA) on Sat. 12 Mar. in what is expected to be a sell-out gig. Other shows likely to interest BIB readers are in the planning stage.

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30 January 2016

Colorado comes to the Beehive, 31 Jan. 2016

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for passing on news from Pat McGill of the Beehive Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal. Pat organises the annual Ardara Bluegrass Festival; the Beehive, on the east side of the main street in central Ardara, serves as the festival club and has hosted some memorable sessions in its bar, yard, and upstairs function room.

Tomorrow night (Sunday 31 Jan., from 8.30 p.m.) the splendid band Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) will be playing at the Beehive. No bluegrass enthusiast who lives within range should miss it. They were in tremendous form last night at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, and are playing tonight at the Pikers Lodge Hotel in Lough Gowna, Co. Cavan. Details for the rest of the tour - they're playing every night till Thursday 4 Feb. - are on the BIB calendar.

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29 January 2016

Support for an Irishwoman in need

Bluegrass Today published yesterday news of Annie Nice, born in Ireland and resident in Raleigh, NC, the city that has generously hosted IBMA's annual World of Bluegrass (WOB) for the last few years. John Lawless writes:

Bluegrass artists and fans will recognise Annie as the long time manager of Tír na nÓg, an Irish pub in downtown Raleigh that regularly featured live bluegrass music in the restaurant. They also served as a Bluegrass Ramble venue during IBMA’s World of Bluegrass week, and many WOB attendees will recall the lively, friendly atmosphere she maintained at the club. [...] She is a fierce advocate for all things Irish, including notably, the traditional music of her homeland.

Artists from the bluegrass scene in Ireland who have played at Tír na nÓg include Niall Toner and Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh. The bar recently closed, since when Annie has been a managing partner of the Hibernian Pub in Raleigh and has set up Irish Mother Productions as an event agency.

On Tuesday this enterprising Irishwoman, who has been a good friend to bluegrass, was violently attacked and injured in the street in Raleigh. She is out of hospital, and a GoFundMe page was set up to raise $10,000 to support her and her daughter during recovery. We're glad to report that $10,263 was raised in one day by 163 people.

Update 2 Feb.: The target has now been set at $20,000, of which $17,521 has been raised in five days by 290 people.

Update 6 Feb.: The total raised is now $19,188.

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28 January 2016

More music in Clare, 1 and 5 Feb. 2016

Thanks to Brendan Walsh of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club in Co. Clare - and also director of the Shannonside Winter Music Weekend - for this news:

We have Jeff Scroggins & Colorado playing in the Mill Bar, Sixmilebridge, next Monday night [1 Feb.] at 9.00 p.m.; lots of seats and tickets €15 on the door.

Also, we have the Whileaways doing a gig in Kilkishen Cultural Centre on 5 Feb. Book tickets at 086 846 4509.

The photo (by Carol Hawkins) shows Jeff Scroggins & Colorado working close in the Main Guard, Bunratty Castle, on 23 Jan.

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Commemorating Tommy Jarrell

The BIB editor reports:

A year ago today was the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Thomas Jefferson 'Tommy' Jarrell (b. 1 Mar. 1901) of Surry County, NC. I missed that opportunity of commemorating one of the best-known figures in the history of old-time music, and this post is a small attempt to make up for the neglect.

A good biographical account is on the Old-Time Fiddlers Hall of Fame website. The 'Round Peak' sound, created by the musicians of that area of Surry County, is now practically the default setting of old-time music as it is played today, and this is largely due to the influence of Tommy Jarrell - felt both through his music and through the warmth and openness of his character.

The first record by him that I owned was the solo fiddle LP Sail away ladies (County 756), released in 1976, and I was (and still am) knocked out by its vitality. The phrase 'Round Peak' is so familiar these days that it is a surprise now to see that the sleeve notes use it only for his home area; he was seen then as a 'Galax style' musician. Alice Gerrard, friend both to Tommy Jarrell and to Bill Monroe, and musical partner of Hazel Dickens, will be among the instructors at the Old-Time Workshop Week in Andalusia in April/May this year.

Since 2002 Tommy has been commemorated with an annual festival in Mount Airy, NC, on the last weekend in February. On Friday 26 Feb. 2016 the Surry Arts Council will hold in his memory a Youth Competition at 5.30 p.m. and a Tommy Jarrell Birthday Concert and Dance at 7.00 p.m., both in the Earle Theatre on Main St., Mount Airy, which also holds the Old Time Music Heritage Hall.

Plenty of footage of Tommy Jarrell is on YouTube; here, from the Alan Lomax archive, is the first of two videos of him playing 'John Brown's dream' with friends. A question to be answered by scholars - how much of the klezmer revival is due to Tommy's asking Hank Sapoznik: 'Don't your people have music?'

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