08 October 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, keeps its calendar (the most important part of the BIB) updated, and publishes news received. Send in news by e-mail; and please also e-mail it to Wendy Connolly for the 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page. 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.


Bunratty Bluegrass Festival - schedule updates

Thanks to Brendan Walsh, director of the First Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, which begins tomorrow (Friday 9 Oct.) and continues over the full weekend, for this news:

Rugby is disturbing some Sunday gigs! Please find new schedule for Bunratty Bluegrass Festival attached [click on image on left to enlarge].

Sunday times have altered slightly, and you'll notice we have added Leonard Pollock and Mat Gordan to our [Friday night concert] lineup.


07 October 2015

Apply now for EWOB 2016

The European World Of Bluegrass Festival (EWOB) Facebook announced on 3 Oct.:

Dear Bluegrass Bands of the World.....

This is the time to apply for the European World of Bluegrass festival, May 5-7, 2016 in the Netherlands!
Grab your chance to perform at EWOB 2016 and send in your application before December 1st, 2015!
For details and downloadable application form visit http://www.ewob.nl/Files/HTML/apply.html.

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Special C. in Bluegrass Unlimited

Following the BIB's post of 30 September, the October 2015 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited has the current lineup of the Special Consensus on the cover, a full-page ad for Peterson tuners featuring the band, and a major feature by Nancy Cardwell, former IBMA executive director, commemorating the forty years of its existence.

A list of all the regular members of the Special C. since 1975 is given: sixteen guitar players, fifteen mandolin players, twelve bass players, two fiddlers, and one banjo player. The list includes Clem O'Brien, who was guitarist and lead singer with the band during 1997. The full text of the article can be read here.
The same issue of BU contains a three-page article by Steve Chilcott on Flats & Sharps, the high-powered young British band who headlined the Saturday night concert at this year's Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival.

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06 October 2015

Next Arklow Roots Music gig, 14 Oct. 2015

Brendan O'Regan announces that the next show at Arklow Roots Music presents singer/ songwriter Krista Detor from Indiana, who is touring her new (sixth) album, Barely. Brendan adds:

Krista plays piano and accordion and will be accompanied by Dave Weber on guitar and Mike Lindaur on bass. Venue is The Breffni, Main St., Arklow on Wed. 14 Oct. at 8.00 p.m. She is a regular visitor to Ireland and gives a wonderful live show. The Allmusic Guide calls her 'an artist of rare ability with a deep poetic gift', and Rolling Stone 'a small miracle'.

Krista Detor’s solo albums have reached national and international prominence. She's shared stages with Victor Wooten, Loudon Wainwright, the Neville Bros, and Suzanne Vega, among many others.

Not by any stretch of the imagination bluegrass, but 'roots' music whose roots may be found tangled up with those of bluegrass if one digs deep enough. It could be fun to work out an instrumental setting for 'Middle of a breakdown'...

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Red Hat Acoustic Music Club at Naas, 9 Oct. 2015: update

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, curators of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, meeting every month at the Harbour Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare, for the news that the next Red Hat meeting of 2015 will be held this coming Friday (9 October). Music is expected to start around 8.30 p.m., and a donation of €3.00 covers coffee/tea and sandwiches at the interval.

Update 6 Oct.: This will be the Red Hat Club's third birthday, so it should be an especially memorable night.

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Milan Miller: a songwriter's progress

Following the BIB post on Sunday about the forthcoming visit by bluegrass singer/ songwriter Milan Miller (left), thanks to Richard Thompson for this link to his interview of Milan Miller, published fourteen months ago on Bluegrass Today. It's a detailed account of the development of a songwriter from an early age - when

... my initial reason for trying to write songs was probably out of necessity. I couldn’t play guitar well enough to play the songs that my favorite singers were doing, so I just made up my own

- through college years in Boone, NC, when Doc Watson and Tony Rice were strong influences, to the present, when his songs are nominated for IBMA Song of the Year awards and recorded by such award-winning bands as Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out and Balsam Range. The interview includes IIIrd Tyme Out's video of Miller's song 'Pretty little girl from Galax', which can also be seen on YouTube.
Thanks also to Melanie Miller for more news of the week-long visit:

We arrive Cobh on Monday 26 October so that will be a night of craic at the Roaring Donkey for sure (as will every night). Wednesdays are usually trad nights at the Roaring Donkey so everyone will be sitting in.

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05 October 2015

Accommodation for Bunratty Bluegrass Festival

Thanks to Brendan Walsh, director of the First Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, which takes place this coming weekend (9-11 Oct. 2015), for some vital information.

Bunratty is usually seen as a well equipped area for accommodating visitors, but the added draw of the Festival has meant that people are experiencing difficulty getting places to stay next weekend. Brendan therefore draws attention to the following contacts:

8 km from Bunratty: Shannon Court Hotel* 061 364588
8 km from Bunratty: Oak Wood Arms Hotel 061 361500
1 km from Bunratty: Caravan, campers, and B&B - Ann Linane 086 1792653

*Brendan adds: 'All our bands are staying at the Shannon Court.'

Full details of the lineup, the schedule, and bands taking part can be found on the events page of the Bunratty website. Brendan Walsh is also director of the annual Shannonside Winter Music Weekend and leader of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club, and has been for many years a good friend to bluegrass (and many other genres of music) west of the Shannon.


Strong contingent from Ireland at Eagle Music event, 7 Nov. 2015

The BIB reported on 28 July that JigJam (above: photo by Michael Quinn Photography) will be taking part on Saturday 7 November in the annual Banjo Event at the Eagle Music Shop, Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield, West Yorks., England, along with the phenomenal Kruger Brothers. Thanks to the European Bluegrass Blog for making us aware that the Event will have an even stronger contingent of musicians from the scene in Ireland than we'd thought.

The programme, as shown on the EBB, includes two banjo workshops: Pat Kelleher of Dripsey, Co. Cork, is giving one on the long-neck banjo; and Bill Forster, who plays with the Banjaxed Bluegrass Band and Gone to Grass, is giving an intermediate-to-advanced bluegrass banjo workshop.

Steve Noon's Eagle Music Shop is the world no. 1 dealer for Deering banjos, and Greg and Janet Deering will be at the Event, which is also celebrating forty years of the Deering company. Tickets can be booked online, where full details of the Event can be found.

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A welcome message from Bluedust (I)

The BIB announced earlier this year that the headliners for the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival (25-7 Sept.) in Scotland would be Bluedust from Milan, Italy. Your editor greatly enjoyed seeing and hearing them at the European World of Bluegrass Festival (EWOB) in the Netherlands two years ago. We're glad, therefore, to hear from Josh Villa, Bluedust's mandolinist, who writes:

The festival of Moniaive in Scotland was a very positive event for us, musically and humanly. We found we had a great feeling with the people of Scotland and everyone enjoyed our show. Sorry! we didn't come in Ireland, but we hope to do so soon. Playing in Ireland is our next dream.

I personally have made my honeymoon in Ireland and since that day I have always thought of returning with Bluedust. If anyone is interested in one of our tours or our participation in some Irish festivals and can help us to organise it or report our band to some organiser, contact us through our website or by e-mail. I think that the meeting with the people of Ireland will be a blast.

Josh adds that the band has grown since EWOB 2013:

We did more than 70 concerts in Italy and around Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Holland, France, Scotland...) We hope to see you soon in Ireland! A warm greeting to all the friends of the blog and the many Irish who came to listen to Bluedust in Moniaive.

The BIB cordially reciprocates! Bluedust consists of Perry Meroni (guitar, lead vocals), Dino Barbè (banjo), Josh Villa (mandolin, vocals), Tony Spezzano (guitar, vocals), and Marco 'Fisherman' Centemeri (double bass, vocals), and they're a solid, driving band whose music comes from Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse, Jimmy Martin, and others of the founding generation of bluegrass. Plenty of videos from their shows are on their website.

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04 October 2015

Milan Miller + Kay & Patrick Crouch (USA) in Cobh, 29 Oct. 2015

Thanks to Melanie Miller for the news that she and her husband, Nashville-based bluegrass singer/songwriter Milan Miller (above), will be back in Ireland in a few weeks on holiday with their musician friends Kay & Patrick Crouch (below) of Strictly Clean and Decent from Lenoir, NC, who have been to Ireland many times.

Milan, Kay, and Patrick will be playing a formal concert (see also here) in the Sirius Arts Centre at the Old Yacht Club, Cobh, Co. Cork, on Thursday 29 October at 8.00 p.m. (doors 7.45 p.m.) Tickets (€12.00) can be booked online or through the Centre's office (021 4813790; e-mail).

As the trip is basically a holiday, they are not actively looking for other gigs but will be playing informal and impromptu sessions with friends in the Roaring Donkey (also on Facebook) and seeing what's up in other Cobh bars.

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This could have been you or me...

On a chilly Dublin autumn evening, the BIB particularly welcomes this photo from Fiddlin' Tim Hawkins, showing a sunset session at the Old-Time American Music Week which has just ended, in the idyllic surroundings of La Fuente de Musica, Andalusia, Spain. Note the set table in the foreground. Tim says he had a fantastic time, and we're inclined to believe it.

Old-time country music workshop holidays are held at La Fuente in spring and autumn each year. Fiddle, banjo, guitar, song, dance, and beginners’ instrumental are taught by some of the best old-time teachers in the world. Tutors last week, for example, included Beverly Smith and John Grimm (USA) and Kate Lissauer and other members of her Buffalo Gals band. Kate wrote earlier this year:

This wonderful week takes place on a beautiful remote oasis in south-eastern Spain, where all of your needs are taken care of so you can play music, learn, explore, eat great food, swim, hike, visit the beach, or relax all day and night. It’s a non-profit project and so your costs are very low! Contact us through the website or via e-mail for information and enrolment.

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03 October 2015

Bluegrass at the Errigle, 6 Oct. 2015

Richard Leeman, organiser of the monthly Belfast Bluegrass sessions (and also guitar player and lead singer of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band), announces that the next session will be on this coming Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

The Belfast Bluegrass session is held on the first Tuesday of each month, upstairs at the Errigle Inn, 312-320 Ormeau Rd, Belfast, starting about 9.00 p.m. All are welcome.

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02 October 2015

Video treasury at 'I Dig Bluegrass!'

Thanks to Wendy Connolly and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' for passing on news from David Slone, who runs the I Dig Bluegrass! website, devoted to videos of live performances of bluegrass and old-time music at festivals, concerts, and other events in Kentucky. There's a strong and natural emphasis on performers from Kentucky, but outstanding artists from elsewhere, such as Ralph Stanley or IIIrd Tyme Out, are also included.

I Dig Bluegrass! at present carries the staggering total of 1,787 videos, shot at over twenty venues; many more are being processed for uploading, and yet more will be added in time. The website is well organised so that viewers can search by artist name, band name, festival name, etc. David adds:

I love traditional bluegrass music as well as some contemporary stuff. I also get into old-time traditional music. [...] The music you will find here is wide-ranging but it is all live and real.

Bluegrass in this country has been connected with Kentucky for a long time - thanks to institutional links, a succession of Kentucky artists appeared at the early Athy Bluegrass Festivals, notably Homer Ledford & the Cabin Creek Band. The late Homer C. Ledford, a legendary luthier and musician in central Kentucky, made many friends in Ireland; and yes - the videos on I Dig Bluegrass! include many from the commemorative Homer Ledford Concert Series. Videos can also be seen on the I Dig Bluegrass Facebook.

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01 October 2015

Cup O' Joe (and more) at IBMA WOB

Tara Linhardt took this fine photo of Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh at the IBMA's World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC, on Wednesday this week. Many more photos (and some videos) shot by Tara Linhardt can be seen on Bluegrass Today. OK, Sean McKerr - the ball is now in your court...

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The NTB helps launch Slane distillery

The BIB apologises for not keeping its eyes on the ball. A week ago we wrote that Niall Toner 'is now about to travel to the States as compere and guide on the Topflight package tour of the bluegrass heartlands (26 Sept.-4 Oct.)'. Niall's website, however, clearly announces that the tour has been rescheduled for 2016.

Moreover, the Niall Toner Band Facebook announced on Tuesday this week that the NTB would be headlining a show at Slane Castle that day to mark the launch of Slane Whiskey Distillery - a fair indication that the band's leader would be present. A link with the bluegrass heartlands has been maintained, though: the Slane distillery will be part of the Brown Forman corporation, which makes Jack Daniels.

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Five weeks till the Wernick Method Jam Camp at Rosscarbery

Five weeks to go, and time for a reminder about the Wernick Method Bluegrass Jam Camp to be held at the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork, on the weekend 6-8 November 2015. Above is the Camp flyer, giving all the essential information - thanks to Larry Kernagis, the qualified and thoroughly experienced Wernick Method teacher who will be leading the Camp. The flyer can be seen full-size here, as a downloadable pdf document.

Jamming is one of the most effective and transformative ways of learning how to play bluegrass, and a really good jam is one of the best experiences one can have in playing it. The Wernick Method is the gold standard in bluegrass instruction (plenty more about it is on the Dr Banjo website), and the BIB strongly recommends this opportunity, which seems a good way of going into winter...

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30 September 2015

New video from Pilgrim St

Congratulations to Pilgrim St of Navan, Co. Meath, who announce:

We're very happy to announce the release of our second official video - 'How can a man be happy (when happiness costs so much)'. Enjoy!

The video can be seen on YouTube. On their Facebook the band also announced on 5 Sept.:

We're going back to basics, folks - back to where it all began for us, the session. From next Friday [11 Sept.] until Xmas we will be popping up in different taverns all over Meath and Louth, starting in Hamills, Ardee. If your local would like Pilgrim St, In Session, send us a message; more dates to follow.

Their next date, as shown on the band website, is at Beggy's in Navan, starting at 10.00 p.m. on this coming Friday - 2 Oct.

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Special C. news

The Special Consensus, the US band most welcomed to Ireland over the past twenty years, will celebrate forty years as a full-time touring and recording band in a special concert to be held on 24 October. In those forty years, the Special C. has had 41 regular members (not to mention many fine pickers who have stood in on occasion), and 24 of these will be taking part in the show. More details are on the band's news web page.

Bluegrass Today announces that Dustin Benson (second from right above) will be leaving the band two weeks after the concert - on 7 November. Dustin has been the Special C. guitarist for four-and-a-half years, including two tours in Ireland. Band founder and leader Greg Cahill is reported to have a replacement in mind.

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Ramble back in the limelight

IBMA's World of Bluegrass began yesterday in Raleigh, NC, and Ramble the Banjo-Picking Squirrel (above: photo by Becky Johnson) was there at the end of a five-month journey (see the BIB for 27 April). He looks lean and fit (if a little tousled) after the trip.

Attentive readers will see that he has not just changed strings and bridge since the spring: he has a new banjo with gold-plated hardware, more brackets, a scalloped tension hoop, and a fingerboard that overlaps what looks like a Renaissance head. This instrument, like the other, is distinctly old-time in style, an impression emphasised by the new sling. Is this a message about the direction that IBMA is taking?

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29 September 2015

Bluegrass and Barcelona: now, Nov. 2015, and Mar. 2016

Plenty of people in Ireland have been to Barcelona; plenty have also (without going to that magnificent city) enjoyed the music of banjo maestro Lluís Gomez and the Barcelona Bluegrass Band at previous Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals in Longford and Tullamore, where they became regular favourites with concert audiences.

You can now enjoy a combination of Barcelona ambiance and the music of Lluís and his friends in a video just published on Bluegrass Today, which shows a quartet composed of Lluís Gomez (banjo), manouche guitarist Valentí Moya, Oriol Gonzàlez (mandolin), and Maribel Rivero (upright bass) performing the waltz-time 'Indifference' by Tony Muréna and Joseph Colombo in the bar L'Anima del Vi in central Barcelona. A tablature of the tune appeared in the March 2015 issue of Banjo NewsLetter.

Bluegrassers who fancy a break in Barcelona in the coming months can look forward six weeks to the annual one-day Al Ras Bluegrass & Old Time Festival (Sat. 14 Nov.), and another four months to the first Barcelona Bluegrass Camp (Sat. 5 Mar. 2016).

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28 September 2015

Sean McKerr at IBMA WOB

On Friday (25 Sept.) the BIB mentioned that during this year's IBMA World of Bluegrass (beginning tomorrow) at Raleigh, NC, the Tír na nÓg bar will be hosting bluegrass musicians from Co. Armagh - Cup O' Joe and Sean McKerr (of KingBlue, the Tennessee Hennessees, and other previous bands in Ulster). Sean will be in an international band led by fiddler Jan Johannson.

Today Sean is mentioned in a feature by Richard Thompson on the international band in Bluegrass Today. In a long quoted passage, Jan Johansson outlines how he came to form friendships with musicians from different parts of the world. The band includes Toshio Watanabe (Japan) on mandolin, Scott McBride (USA) on fiddle and vocals, Jens Kruger (CH/USA) on banjo - and Sean on bass, who is described thus:

... a fine fella and a soul mate in music. He played with me last year at IBMA and I asked him to join me again this year. A very fine bassist and mandolin player and a great sense of humour.

No disagreement from this quarter...

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27 September 2015

Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, 9-11 Oct. 2015

Two weeks from now, the Bunratty Bluegrass Festival will be in its busy final day at Bunratty, Co. Clare; of the fourteen events scheduled for Sunday, eight will take place in the Folk Park adjoining Bunratty Castle. The festival begins on Friday evening (9 Oct.), with a lineup including the Corn Potato String Band (USA), Maple Tree Circus (CH), The Grove Bluegrass Band (UK), the Oldtown Rounders (Galway), the New Breadwinners (Dublin), and JigJam (Tullamore).

Full details of the lineup, the schedule, and bands taking part can be found on the events page of the Bunratty website. Thanks to Brendan Walsh, director of the annual Shannonside Winter Music Weekend and leader of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club, for developing this full-blown event from its predecessor, the Bunratty Banjo Festival (2013-14).

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26 September 2015

Sara Grey, Kieron Means, & Ben Paley in Ireland, 23-8 Oct. 2015

The celebrated old-time trio composed of Sara Grey (banjo), her son Kieron Means (guitar), and Ben Paley (fiddle) will be playing the following dates in Ireland four weeks from now:

Fri. 23rd Oct.: The Front Bar, McGrory's, Culdaff, Co. Donegal, 9.30 p.m.; tel. Rory, 0044 7926971125

Sat. 24th-Sun. 25th: South Roscommon Singers Festival, Knockcrogherty, Co. Roscommon; tel. Declan Coyne, 087 966 7029; e-mail

Mon. 26th: Roadside Tavern, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, 9.00 p.m.; tel. Peter Curtin, 087 830 0069

Tues. 27th: Buttevant, Co. Cork, venue TBC; tel. John Nyhan, 087 792 1771

Wed. 28th: DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2; tel. Paul Lee, 087 682 5306

Sara, who moved back to the States a few years ago after long residence in Britain, is featured in the recent book Wayfaring strangers: the musical voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr (see the BIB for 8 Nov. 2014), to which she made important contributions.

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25 September 2015

Co. Armagh at IBMA WOB

Picking in front of the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh in the centre of
Raleigh, NC; the canopy is formed from Deering banjo parts

The International Committee of IBMA has issued this news of bands and organisations from outside the USA taking part in the coming World of Bluegrass (29 Sept.-3 Oct.) at Raleigh, NC. The programme includes (like last year) a seminar on touring and gigging abroad, with a panel including Greg Cahill of the Special Consensus and Chris Keenan, organiser of the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals.

Also like last year, the Tír na nÓg bar at 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh, which regularly hosts Irish traditional music and dance throughout the year, is one of the main performance venues during WOB. Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh will be playing there at 8.00 p.m. on Thursday 1 Oct., and again at 10.00 p.m. the following day, as well as playing at the Pour House at noon on Thursday (we hope they have Everett Lilly's 'Over the hills to the Poorhouse' in the set list).

Also playing at WOB, and at the Tír na nÓg for a ninety-minute slot beginning at 6.00 p.m. on Friday, will be an international band led by Jan Johannson, master fiddler from Sweden and long-time resident in the US. One member of the band will be Sean McKerr (right) of KingBlue, veteran of many past WOBs and of a previous World International Blue Grass Band led by Butch Robins.

Sean reports that he is 'looking forward to just having a good time' (which, as the photo suggests, he's well able to do), and hopes to send a few photos from the gig.

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Bill Andrews

Barbara Andrews sends from Belfast this sad news of one of the most dedicated supporters of bluegrass music in Ireland:

It is with deepest regret that I have to tell you about the death of my father Bill Andrews. He passed peacefully this morning (24 Sept.) at 6.00 a.m. His funeral is to be at Roselawn Crematorium, Belfast, on Tuesday 29 September 2015 at 3.00 p.m.

The cancer had spread from the lungs into the lung fluid and his bones, so he is at peace now and is back with Mum where he belongs. His funeral is arranged for the first anniversary of Mum's death last year on 29 September.

The family request please no flowers; if anyone would like to make a donation to the Marie Curie Cancer Hospice, please forward to Wiltons Funeral Home, 324-326 Woodstock Rd, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT6 9DP.

They both loved their bluegrass, but especially Dad.

If anyone wishes to contact us, please ask Richard for our details and we will be honoured to hear from Dad's friends.

Barbara (Daughter) and Megan (Granddaughter)