28 February 2015

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is still alive. Its calendar is kept updated, and news received is posted. Send in news for the calendar by e-mail; and please also send it by e-mail to Wendy Connolly for publication on the 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page, which is the interactive medium in Ireland for bluegrass news.

The resources already on the BIB, including archives and links, remain accessible and may be improved for the convenience of readers. The BIB's background and purpose are explained here, and tips on using it are here. To reach both, click on the 'Welcome' label below.

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27 February 2015

More on Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music Weekend, 1-4 May 2015

Following on from the post of two days ago on the Mountain Roots Music Weekend which will be presented by the Teacht Thar Sáile Folk Club of Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, on 1-4 May this year - thanks to Celine Kavanagh for more info and this link to the full-colour 19-page brochure for the event, including details on performing artists, sponsors, the nine venues, local accommodation, and other essentials. The lineup is headed by Sonny Condell, together with much more music from several genres.

In addition to the Martin Gilmore Trio (USA) and the New Breadwinners from Dublin, the bluegrass-related part of the bill includes Mo O'Connor, John Nyhan, the Cross River Band, and Clare Horgan. Celine writes:

The weekend, which was a great success on its inaugural year in 2014, is hosted by Teacht Thar Sáile Folk Club. Our aim is to promote and encourage performance and interest in live music, its traditions and development.

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More on the Wernick Method Jam Camp at Rosscarbery, Nov. 2105

Two weeks ago (on 13 Feb.) the BIB thanked Wendy Connolly and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' for news of a Wernick Method Jam Camp to be held in West Cork in early November this year. Thanks again to Wendy for passing on this message from Larry Kernagis (photo), who will be leading the Camp.

Larry sends this link to a flyer giving full details of the Camp. While the Wernick Method makes it as easy as possible for pickers on any and all of the bluegrass instruments to jam together, the Jam Camp is not intended for absolute beginners, but the only requirements are as follows:

You must be able to tune your instrument (electronic tuning devices welcome) and change smoothly between G, C, D, and A. (Fiddles and basses need to know which notes work with which chords.) Fast playing is not expected, nor is the ability to solo required.

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26 February 2015

Wookalily in Garry's Barbershop Sessions

Thanks to Adele Ingram of Wookalily and One-A-Chord Music Promotions for the news that Wookalily have appeared in a twenty-minute video feature forming volume 7 of the Garry's Barbershop Sessions series. It was shot in Holywood, Co. Down, by local film-maker Michael Foster.

The video can be seen on Google Plus (on the Wookalily or Adele Ingram pages) and also on YouTube. Wookalily add: 'Looks like we should've got a wee trim or 3 while we were there.'

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25 February 2015

A gift from the birthday boy

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for a reminder that today is the 88th birthday of Dr Ralph Stanley. A good occasion, perhaps, to order a copy of Dr Ralph's own story Man of constant sorrow: my life and times, and/or Gary B. Reid's The music of the Stanley Brothers.

In the immediate aftermath of the death of his brother Carter in 1966, Ralph was initially at a loss to know how to go on. One of the rocks on which he founded his own career was a cappella harmony singing - now a staple part of bluegrass bands' repertoire, and Dr Ralph was the first to introduce it. Here's an early example: 'Bright morning stars' - still, for your editor's money, the best recording of it available (on Rebel CD REB-1499). And yes - in the picture, those are Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, still teenagers, on either end of the band.

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Dangem Bluegrass Get-Together at Lisburn, 28 Feb. 2015


Thanks to DanGem Bluegrass in Craigavon, Co. Armagh, for a reminder that their next monthly Bluegrass Get-Together will be held this coming Saturday (28 Feb.) at the usual place and time (the Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim BT27 4RL, from 10.00 a.m. to noon); and with the usual schedule:

10.00-10.30 Warm-up
10.30-11.00(ish) Breakout time for beginners; rest of players, jam time
11.00(ish) to 12.00(ish) All back together

DanGem add: 'So let everyone know. Bring along your banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dobros, and bass, or just come along and enjoy us make music. Look forward to seeing as many of you who can attend.'

The DanGem Get-Together combines a jam session for those who are already active pickers, with the opportunity to learn for those who are beginners or just want to listen. DanGem's e-newsletter includes a reminder that they have the largest range of banjos for sale in this island - not to mention the other bluegrass instruments.

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Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music Weekend, 1-4 May 2015

Thanks to Ritchie MacCarthy for the news that the May tour in Ireland by the Martin Gilmore Trio from Denver, Colorado (see the BIB for 14 Feb.) will include the Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music Weekend (1-4 May) presented by the Teacht Thar Sáile Folk Club of Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry.

Also confirmed to take part are the Dizzy Blues Band from Cork and the New Breadwinners from Dublin. The Club's mission statement says:

We simply want to support, encourage and promote live music performance, by enabling venues, supporting performing artists and composers. Above all, we remember that music needs to be heard and appreciated!

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Jim Lauderdale in Dublin, 3 Mar. 2015

Thanks to Paul Foley for the news that - just as he did after his appearance at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival last year - Jim Lauderdale (USA) will be coming to Dublin on Tuesday 3 March to play a solo show at Whelan's, Dublin 2. The show is presented by the Ubangi Stomp Club; tickets are €15, available in advance from WAV tickets at 1890 200 078.

As the Whelan's blurb says, 'Jim Lauderdale is a multiple Grammy® and Americana Music Association Award-winning musician and one of the most respected artists working the Americana, bluegrass, and country music communities today.' In this photo, taken at IBMA's World of Bluegrass in 2010, Jim is shown with Niall Toner.

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24 February 2015

Mala & Fyrmoon (CH) in Ireland in June

On 10 Dec. 2014 the BIB mentioned the excellent Swiss trio Mala & Fyrmoon (right) as being keen to play at a festival in Ireland. Thanks to Stefan Behler (who contributes vocals, guitar, dobro, mandolin, and upright bass to the group) for the news that they will be playing a string of shows here in mid June. The dates confirmed so far are:

Fri. 12th June: Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Westport, Co. Mayo
Sat. 13th: Monroe's Live, Galway city
Wed. 17th: Barry's Pub, Grange, Co. Sligo
Fri. 19th: Tech Amergin Arts Centre, Waterville, Co. Kerry
Sat. 20th: The Cobblestone, 77 North King St., Dublin

... and other dates are being negotiated. As Stefan mentioned in December, the trio present all-original material, in between acoustic Americana and bluegrass, with great vocals by female singer/fiddler Mala, backed by bass, guitar (and other instruments), and harmony vocals. Last year they released their first album and did a short US tour, playing in Boston, New York (with Vincent Cross; see the BIB for 6 June), and at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.

As well as their website, the band are on Facebook and SoundCloud. The following links are to videos of their CD title track, the making of the CD, and live shows on tour, in Sweden, at the Little Restaurant, and at Grey Fox.

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Old-time at the Glenside - scrubbed for 25 Feb. 2015

Cathal Cusack (guitar), Tim Hawkins (fiddle), and Richard Hawkins (banjo) announce with regret that their intended meeting to play old-time music upstairs at the Glenside, Landscape Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14, will NOT now take place on 25 February 2015, owing to day-job pressures.

A plan for future meetings will be announced as soon as possible. For the format of the session, see the BIB of 20 Aug. 2014, where a list of tunes is given.

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23 February 2015

Woodbine gears up for a new season

Tony O'Brien (third from left in the photo above, taken in the Olde Woods at Balla, Co. Mayo, during the 4th Balla Bluegrass Festival in Oct. 2013) announces on the Woodbine Facebook page that Woodbine are busy at present working on a lot of new material for the coming year, and are open to any offers of bookings. Contact details can be found on the band's website.

The BIB editor (on the extreme right) can confirm that at the latest Woodbine practice session the band rehearsed eight new songs and one original instrumental - phew! So if you liked our previous shows, you'll love the new stuff.

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I Draw Slow - now in the USA

Earlier this month Dave Holden of Dublin's I Draw Slow (pictured) mentioned that the band would be touring in the US and Britain in 2015; so thanks to their record label Pinecastle Records (USA) for more details on their first tour:

I Draw Slow, of Ireland, is currently stateside for a winter 2015 tour with a couple of dates in the Northwest. The group has just attended the 27th Annual Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City, MO and is now headed to Mississippi Studios in Portland, OR [23 Feb.], and then on to Wintergrass in Belleview, WA [26-7 Feb.].

I Draw Slow released their second album, White wave chapel, on Pinecastle last summer and have since released two videos of songs from the album, 'Valentine' and 'Souvenirs'. The 'Valentine' video features actor Aiden Gillen, famous for his roles on 'Game of thrones', 'The wire', and many more, alongside the band. White wave chapel is the third album from the band full of original tunes written by Dave and Louise Holden who, with the help of their band, have blended the sounds of old-time Appalachia, Irish and bluegrass music. The band will return to the US and Canada this summer with tour dates to be announced soon.

What people are saying about White wave chapel:

... it seems a matter of time before I Draw Slow will dominate the global folk scene. (Huffington Post UK)
For an all-acoustic group, I Draw Slow sure do have a fully realized sound. (The Bluegrass Situation)
It's as gritty as it is beautiful. (CMT Edge)

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KingBlue onstage at Armagh

L-r: Mel Corry, Clem O'Brien, Caolan Derby, Sean McKerr (photo: Michael Barbour)

Those of us who didn't manage to get to the concert by KingBlue at the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre, Armagh, on Friday 6 February, can now see some fine photos by Michael Barbour ('2nd Shooter') taken on the occasion - the above is one, and there's a whole album here.

A video of the band belting out 'Katy Cline', shot by Peter Fox, can also be viewed here.

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21 February 2015

Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, 4-8 Mar. 2015

Thanks to Colin Magee, director of Panarts, for a reminder that the 11th United Airlines Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, involving a hundred songwriters, begins in the first week of March. The brochure, giving details of over forty events during the five days of the Festival (4-8 Mar.), can be read online.

For anyone interested in bluegrass, the main attraction looks like being the return of Jim Lauderdale (USA) as concert performer and MC, plus the chance of winning an Avalon guitar. See the Panarts e-newsletter for details and links.

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20 February 2015

Notable publications

The BIB editor reports:

On 6 Feb. the BIB drew attention to a new book, The Bluegrass Hall of Fame: inductee biographies 1991-2014, by Fred Bartenstein, Gary B. Reid, and others. The publishers - the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM) in Owensboro, KY - announced the 250-page book as 'an absolute treasure for bluegrass fans'; and I'm delighted to confirm that that is exactly what it is.

This is a reference book of bluegrass history, packed with well organised information and attractively designed. The text (a pleasure to read) is pithily written by people with a vast knowledge of what and who they're writing about. The photos, many previously unpublished, were mostly taken when the subjects were at the height of their careers - a notable exception is the 1953 shot of Doc Watson playing a gold-top Gibson Les Paul electric.

Watson, like the original Carter Family (also covered here), was not 'in' bluegrass but had such a profound influence on it that he could not be passed over. Similarly, as well as musicians the Hall of Fame includes agents and promoters (Lance LeRoy, Louise Scruggs, Carlton Haney), record label owners (Syd Nathan, Dave Freeman), writers (Bill Vernon, Charles Wolfe, Neil Rosenberg), and more. Some names are more familiar than others - which is exactly why this book needed to be written. These are all people who have been recognised as of outstanding importance in the development of bluegrass since 1945. As their careers were closely interwoven with many others inside and outside the bluegrass world, the reader learns a great deal more about the music and the lives it affected than a mere list of the names here might suggest.

The Hall of Fame gains new members every year. I hope the successor to this book appears before 2039 and measures up to it in quality; though this will be a hard act to follow.
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Several years ago British Bluegrass News, the quarterly journal of the British Bluegrass Music Association, was already a model of what a national association magazine should be. It is now measuring up to international standards in production and especially in content. Though its primary concern remains with the scene in Britain, the latest issue includes three interviews with US artists (Mike Marshall, Tim Stafford, and Mike Compton) that match anything I've seen in a US publication. Tom Travis's series on 'The development of bluegrass music in Britain' will be a primary source whenever someone gets round to writing up that piece of history. There are ads for instruments of mouth-watering quality. The BBMA has appointed an international representative, Dublin-born Eugene O'Brien of the fine Belgian band The Sons of Navarone. And there's a nice half-page guide to 'Jam etiquette'... Really, it's a very good bluegrass magazine; and knowing what's going on in the neighbouring island has to be a bonus.
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PS: The BIB reader who sent me a query recently about the continuance of the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival in England will be glad to learn that it is happening! This year's festival is on 4-6 September; acts are still being booked, and progress can be followed on the Festival's website and Facebook.

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The New Breadwinners at the Five Lamps Arts Festival, 12 Mar. 2015

Thanks to John Denby for the news that the New Breadwinners (John, mandolin; Luke Coffey, banjo; Niall Hughes, guitar) will play as part of Dublin's Five Lamps Arts Festival at Annesley House, 70 North Strand Rd, Dublin 3, at 8.30 p.m. on Thursday 12 March, sharing the stage with folk songwriter Barry McCormack. John adds:

We're the only bluegrass band at the festival and it's being quite strongly promoted, so if you want to be sure of a seat (it's a small venue) we recommend booking a seat in advance at www.eventbrite.ie for €12.

This news also, of course, appears on the band's Facebook page.

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18 February 2015

Sacred Harp group singing session in Belfast, 22 Feb. 2015

The Open House Festival team in Belfast announce that on this coming Sunday, 22 February, a Sacred Harp group singing session will be held in the Megaw Room, Newtownbreda (St John’s) Presbyterian Church Hall, 374-8 Ormeau Rd, Belfast, from 7.30 to 9.30 p.m. Admission is free; a donation of £1 is suggested. For more info, contact the Belfast Sacred Harp Facebook page. The Open Festival team also give the following introductory information in their e-newsletter:

Sacred Harp (or shape note) singing is a powerful traditional form of four-part harmony from the southern states of America, performed a cappella (without instruments) that can range from a dozen to a thousand people at a session. It is going through a revival after its recent prominence in the soundtrack of the film Cold Mountain.

'Shape note' refers to the four distinctly shaped notes (fa, so, la and mi) used to aid sight-reading. 'Sacred Harp' comes from the songbook of this name, first published in 1844, and used by most singers today. It is widely regarded as instrumental in keeping the folk hymn tradition alive, including such pieces as 'Amazing grace'. The singers sit in a hollow square formation with one voice part on each side, all facing inwards so they can hear and see each other. Visitors are always welcome to join in, or sit anywhere in the room and participate as listeners.

This class is secular and no singing or choral experience is needed. All welcome.


YouTube examples of Sacred Harp singing are given at the following links: 'I'm going home' and '"Awake my soul: the story of the Sacred Harp" movie trailer'.

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For visiting bands - finding places to play

From the BIB editor:

Wendy Connolly writes on 'Bluegrass in Ireland':

All too often this page's website is stuffed full of musicians looking for venues, festivals, and potential to add Ireland to their European tour itineraries. I know you all love to hear bluegrass and old time, and it seems people want to play here. What seems to be lacking is the means for them or their agents/managers to hook up with all of you. If there is a hub, website, data base, or directory of bluegrass/old time friendly places to play, I'd sure love to hear about it, and pass it on to those who can use it, put it here, or email to bluegrasseire@gmail.com.

The short answer is that no such database exists at present, but there are the makings of one:
  • The European Bluegrass Music Association Festival Network maintains a calendar of bluegrass festivals throughout Europe, with input from Ireland that includes the main annual events.
  • Closer to home, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) has a 'Thinking of touring in Ireland?' section (first published in 2010, updated in 2012). Our advice on venues is to check through the BIB's calendar and its recent archive and note the places where visiting bands play. The best places are easily identifiable, as the same locations will be found recurring many times.
  • Yes, that's a chore, we know, but if you really want a one-stop shop our advice is to e-mail John Nyhan and/ or Nigel Martyn, the two most experienced and successful tour organisers in this island for our kind of music.*
  • And for someone who'd like to compile a database (with some of the work already done), here's a real opportunity. Ten years or so ago, Niall Toner generously made available, to any band who applied for it, a list of all the places where he and his band had played throughout Ireland, which of course included the major festivals and many folk clubs, bars, hotels, and other music venues, with ample contact data. Such a list needs to be kept up to date and uniform; Niall and I had such a revision in hand five years ago but never completed it; the draft revised list still exists, but of course further updating is needed by now. Anyone who undertakes this task will be doing - as Wendy makes clear - a very good deed for bluegrass music in Ireland.
Finally, the example of Roger Green, leader of the fine US band Annapolis Bluegrass Coalition (and, incidentally, one of the first contributors to Bluegrass Unlimited magazine), should be mentioned. Roger brought his band to Ireland for several tours, making his own contacts and bookings and (in the process) bringing bluegrass music to places where it had never before been heard. So it can be done...

*Update 19 Feb.: We should also, of course, have mentioned the We Dig Roots agency, which exists for the primary purpose of bringing roots musicians and venues together.

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Belfast Bluegrass is for you

Richard Leeman, organiser of the monthly Belfast Bluegrass sessions (and also guitar player and lead singer of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band), announces the date of the next meeting (Tuesday 3 March) on the Belfast Bluegrass Facebook page. Richard adds this introduction - a good introduction, in the BIB's view, for any session to have:

It's over four years now since our first session in December 2010 and since then our number of 'likes' on Facebook has grown steadily to over 300 of you! I think however that there might be some people out there who are interested in coming along but haven't made it yet, and this post is for you.

The session always takes place on the first Tuesday of the month, upstairs in the Errigle Inn, Belfast, starting around 9.00 p.m. If you play a 'bluegrass' instrument - acoustic guitar, 5-string banjo, fiddle, mandolin, double bass, dobro - if you sing, or if you just want to listen and enjoy the music, the session is for you. It is not a closed group of musicians. The atmosphere is always friendly and you will be made to feel very welcome.

Maybe you've been playing music for years. Maybe you got a new instrument for Christmas and are taking your first steps. Whatever your level of ability, the session is for you. There is always something to be learned from other musicians, not to mention the fun and enjoyment of playing music together.

Some people might be nervous of playing in front of others. Well, we all were once. Everyone progresses at their own speed and no-one is ever put under pressure to perform if they're not comfortable. But maybe after a couple of sessions that will start to change. And who knows where that journey could take you?

So maybe this post is making sense to you, if you've been thinking of getting out of the house and playing some music. Or maybe it's not you, maybe it's your husband or wife, son or daughter, friend - whoever. Please share this post and tell them about the session. You will all be very welcome and I hope to see you there soon.

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17 February 2015

Southern Tenant Folk Union: new album and tour in Ireland, 3-8 Mar. 2015

Thanks to Ann Marie Walsh of Novatone Music Media for news of the award-winning Edinburgh-based roots collective Southern Tenant Folk Union, led by Belfast-born Pat McGarvey, whose new album The Chuck Norris project was released in Ireland yesterday (16 Feb.); they will be touring here with it early next month.

Southern Tenant Folk Union are Adam Bulley (mandolin), Rory Butler (acoustic guitar, lead vocals), Steve Fivey (cajon/percussion), Chris Purcell (acoustic guitar, vocals), Craig Macfadyen (double bass), Pat McGarvey (5-string banjo, vocals), and Katherine Stewart (fiddle, vocals).

The Chuck Norris project is their sixth and most ambitious album to date. The concept derives from the film star's stance during the last US presidential election campaign, and all the songs take their titles from Norris films, examining issues such as gun laws, labour and management, equality, and paranoia at both ends of the political spectrum - and doing so with 'beauty, space, and clarity'. For the purpose, the band have expanded their sound with guest vocalists; orchestrated fiddle, clarinet, and cello; and influences from soul, disco, and film soundtrack music. The eye-catching graphic design is by Irish designer Jonathan McClean.

You can watch the band perform live on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show and RTE's Late Late Show. The March dates on their Irish tour are:

Tues. 3rd: Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth, 8.00 p.m.; €13.50 (€12.00 + €1.50 booking fee). Bookings: e-mail or tel. 042 9352697
Wed. 4th: Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart, Co. Londonderry, 8.00 p.m.; all tickets £10 (incl. complimentary interval refreshments). Bookings: 0044 (0) 28 7083 1400
Thurs. 5th: Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim, 8.00 p.m.; £12 (£10 concs). Bookings: 0044 (0)28 9250 9509
Fri. 6th: Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, 8.00 p.m.; €15. Bookings: 071 9855 833 or e-mail
Sat. 7th: Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.; €15 on door, €12 early bird tickets available. Bookings: 0504 90204
Sun. 8th: Upstairs at Whelan’s, Dublin, doors 8.00 p.m.; €12 adv. or €14 on door. Bookings: WaV box office, tel. 1890 200 078

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Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son available for bookings in Ireland, 14-20 Sept. 2015


Back on 10 December the BIB posted the news that that 'the new kings of old-time', Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son (CAN), will be coming to these islands this year. Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency now sends word that immediately after their return to the big Tønder Festival in Denmark at the end of August, they will be coming to Britain for two fully-booked weeks, and adding a week of dates in Ireland in response to demand.

They will therefore be available for bookings in Ireland for the period 14-20 September 2015. For further info and bookings, event organisers and venue owners who are interested should contact Brookfield Knights. Video clips of Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son can be seen on their website. They have received very enthusiastic reviews for their live shows - one of those cited by Loudon is:

After they enthralled a capacity crowd at the legendary Jumpin’ Hot Club event in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Graham Anderson, a man who has booked all of the biggest established old-time performers - and we mean them all - said: 'If there’s a more vintage/authentic act that’s so damn entertaining, then in twenty-nine years as a music promoter, I ain’t seen them!'
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PS: Another visiting band on the Brookfield Knights artist roster is Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys (USA), who are scheduled to play six dates over here in August 2015. According to this feature on Bluegrass Today, their sound has recently developed towards what John Lawless considers Americana rather than bluegrass. A video by the band can be seen in the BT post.

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The Cabin Sessions - next on 26 Feb. 2015

Gerry Fitzpatrick announces the next show in the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dundrum, south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station in the city direction):

Hey Y'all,

We're back on Thursday 26 February with The Cabin Crew! (Spats, Con, Gerry, Christian, Cathy, and Richard Hawkins on banjo). Special guests: Tom Horan (country/folk), Davie Fury (contemporary folk), and Damien Browning (contemporary). 9.30-11.30 p.m., and admission is FREE. Hope to see you there!

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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16 February 2015

Ireland in the Feb. 2015 BU

Country superstar Garth Brooks is not the most uncontroversial subject in Ireland; but if you want to read some nice things he has said about bluegrass people, go to the website of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and read the first paragraph of the cover story on Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road. You won't even have to scroll down.
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BIB readers may have seen the Willis Clan (USA) last spring at the Watergate Theatre in Kilkenny (20 Apr. 2014). They're a family band who place strong emphasis on their Irish roots, as their first album, Chapter One: Roots, made clear. Their second album, Chapter Two: Boots, concentrates on traditional country and bluegrass, with good original material. Read the review by Bill Conger (who also wrote the cover story) online.
*
Tony Friel, broadcaster and bluegrass historian in Co. Tyrone, wrote to Walt Saunders's indispensable 'Notes & Queries' column last year, asking about recordings of the Louvin Brothers song 'I'm no longer in your heart'. Congratulations to Tony, who now knows that it was recorded not by the brothers but by Charlie Louvin on his first solo album.

All this (quite apart from things not relating to Ireland) just in one issue. Look out for next month's BU - by established custom, the March issue every year is the one for instrument enthusiasts.

Update 22 Feb.: We forgot to mention that the book by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr, Wayfaring strangers: the musical voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia (see the BIB for 8 Nov. 2014), was given a Highlight Review by Chris V. Stuart in this issue, which you can read here.

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EWOB website operational again!

For some time, the website of the European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festival - held every year since 1998 in the Netherlands - has been undergoing reconstruction. The BIB drew attention to this on 24 June last year and advised using the EWOB Facebook for information while waiting for the website to be returned to full operational status.

We're glad to learn that this has now been achieved, and the website can be visited at the old address, http://www.ewob.nl/. Full details of this year's EWOB Festival (14-16 May 2015) at Voorthuizen are not yet online, but the lineup and programme should be on display in the very near future.

And yes, that is a piano-accordion you can see at bottom left in the poster image - the band is the Stroatklinkers from Groningen province in the northern Netherlands, and Henk Bloupot plays good, hard-driving bluegrass piano-accordion!

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15 February 2015

Own (and drive, and live in) a piece of bluegrass history

Fans and friends of the Special Consensus (USA) will be interested in this news published a couple of days ago on the Prescription Bluegrass Blog. Special C. leader and founder Greg Cahill writes:

We are finally ready to announce that our mini-bus 'Snowball' is for sale! We have downsized to a new Sprinter and will sell 'Snowball' for a very affordable price - and it's actually running well, after many repairs and even with the high mileage. Huge mileage = 650,000 but the Ford E450 Power Stroke engine is called the 'million mile engine' and we have replaced many parts over the years. Asking $14,000 - will consider reasonable offers.

The photo above shows 'Snowball' looking fine on 30 May 2014 in Auburn, AL, with 630,000 miles on the clock. The only problem for prospective buyers in Ireland is getting 'Snowball' to make the trip over... Contact the Special C. by e-mail or 'phone (001-708-422-4335).

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'Precious memories' - radio interview

Thanks to singer/songwriter and activist Si Kahn (USA) for this news:

Tune in to ROUNDTABLE! on 91.7 FM WSGE at noon today (Sunday 15 February) to hear a half-hour interview with Si Kahn and old-time banjo virtuoso Sue Massek [above], who stars in Si's new one-woman musical 'Precious memories'.

The show, about an Eastern Kentucky coal-mining family in the early 1930s, opens for a two-week, eight-production run this coming Thursday (19 February) at Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius, North Carolina, half an hour north of Charlotte.

Sue plays traditional singer and union songwriter Sarah Ogan Gunning, whose songs are featured in the musical and on ROUNDTABLE! this morning. The interview with Sue and Si will begin at about 12.30 p.m.

For those out of range, the show can be streamed live here. You can reach the program’s host Randy Walker for comments by e-mail. Also, please look for Podcasts of selected show segments from the Roundtable at the WSGE website.

The photo shows Sue Massek in costume for the part of Sarah Ogan Gunning. She also plays banjo with the Reel World String Band.

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14 February 2015

Tours by Martin Gilmore Trio and the Petersens in May 2015

Thanks to John Nyhan for the news that the Martin Gilmore Trio from Denver, Colorado, will be touring Ireland from 1 May to 12 May 2015, with a repertoire of bluegrass, country, and some folk. The Trio consists of Nick Amodeo (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Ian Haegle (bass, vocals), and of course Martin Gilmore (right) on guitar, banjo, and vocals.

Back in Colorado, Martin is the guitarist and lead singer with the bluegrass band Long Road Home, which features the iconic banjo player Pete Wernick ('Dr Banjo'). As well as being a fine songwriter, he is the son of Steve Gilmore, guitarist with High Plains Tradition, and came over with the band on their tour a year ago, playing support on several of their dates as well as a lively solo schedule.

John also reports that The Petersens family bluegrass band from Branson, Missouri (see the BIB for 5 Feb.), will be touring from 18 to 30 May. John, who is organising both tours, will send full tour schedules soon.

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The gospel according to Butch

(L-r) Roland White, Leroy Troy, Butch Robins, Ronnie McCoury

The BIB editor reports:

Thanks to Sean McManus for the news that the unmissable video series 'Butch Robins presents: Blue Grass music, its origin and development as a unique and creative art form' (see the BIB for 27 Jan.) is now complete.

The whole series adds up to several hours' viewing. I reiterate that every minute is worth it; but if you need any convincing, watch this five-minute trailer first, and then read Bud Bennett's two introductions (one short, one long) on Banjo Hangout. Links to the series are also on Butch's website.

Viewers who don't already have Butch's outspoken memoir, What I know 'bout what I know (2003) are likely to want it after watching the series. It can be got from Amazon. Thanks again to Tom Hanway (seen left with Butch at Derry a few years back; photo by Denise Hanway) for my first read of it.

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13 February 2015

Bluegrass Jam Camp in West Cork, 6-8 Nov. 2015

The BIB editor writes:

Something to brighten the prospects after the clocks go back later this year: many thanks to Wendy Connolly and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' (and to Sean McGrath, who drew it to their attention) for the news that a Bluegrass Jam Camp using the Wernick Method, taught by Larry Kernagis (photo), will be held at the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork, on the weekend 6-8 November 2015. Wendy says: 'Oh, man, this link is bluegrass gold', and she's not kidding.

Many of us have already felt the benefit of learning from 'Dr Banjo' himself, Pete Wernick, whose banjo workshops at past Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals included some of the best instruction I've ever received. His 'Jam Camp' system, focused on the essential skill of playing with others (which can bring about a quantum leap in one's playing), is now spreading into a worldwide network, with registered Wernick Method teachers already active in Europe and further afield. This is the first Wernick Method Jam Camp to be held in Ireland.

Larry Kernagis is a certified Wernick Method teacher for Alabama and Tennessee - two weeks ago, on the weekend 30 Jan.-1 Feb., he led a Jam Camp at Mount Juliet, TN, and this year he'll be doing so in other states. He has thirty years experience of leading jam sessions at his back, as well as teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago (where Greg Cahill and Michael Miles also teach). He plays in the Def Leprechaun band and the Don't Be Brothers duo.

Full details of the Roscarbery Camp are here. The blurb says: 'Closet pickers, this is for you! • All bluegrass instruments welcome • No jamming experience necessary • You will be jamming the first morning!'.
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PS: For anyone wanting a starter banjo, there's a valuable feature in the current (Feb. 2015) issue of Banjo NewsLetter: 'Picking out a starter banjo' by Eddie Collins, with an appendix by Dan Levenson on starter banjos for old-time players, all of which can be read online.

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