21 July 2017

A work in progress

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.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page (now updated). Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background, purpose, and uses.


20 July 2017

Limerick woman to give IBMA Keynote speech

The International Bluegrass Music Association announces that Rhiannon Giddens will be the Keynote speaker at this year's World Of Bluegrass (WOB) in Raleigh, NC. Almost exactly two months later (25 November) she is scheduled (as reported on the BIB of 3 May) to perform at Vicar Street, Dublin.

Last year she was awarded the 2016 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. The IBMA press release, with more details on WOB, can be read here; a Bluegrass Today feature is here. And 'Past is present', a fine feature on Rhiannon Giddens by Gayle Wald, appeared five months ago on the Oxford American online magazine. Married to Irish musician Michael Laffan, she has a home in Limerick.

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The Cabin Session, Dundrum, Dublin, 27 July 2017

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

Glad to let you know we'll be back on Thursday 27 July with another great lineup. Guests are Elga Fox (singer/ songwriter), Vicky Sargeant (contemporary), and Clarence Winter (Americana).

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.

The BIB apologises for publishing this post at first with the date shown as 28 July instead of 27 July.

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Woodbine at Ardara

Tony O'Brien writes on Woodbine's Facebook:

What a great w/end we had in Ardara just gone by. With almost an all-American lineup it was down to us to represent Irish bluegrass and we hope we didn't let anyone down with our performance at the Sun. night concert when we shared the stage with Lorraine Jordan & the Garrett Newton Band and Jeff Scroggins. A big thank you to Mel Corry & Des Crerand for joining us over the w/end. Congrats to Pat McGill for a wonderful 10th festival and thanks for having Woodbine play all 10. Looking forward to 2018.

The photo above, showing (l-r) Mel Corry, Liam Wright, Nicola O'Brien Kennedy, Des Crerand (partly hidden) and Tony, dates from 2016, though the lineup is the same as for this year's Woodbine set. Photos from the 2017 festival are awaited.

More photos are on the Garrett Newton Band Facebook.

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18 July 2017

Ardara 2017 - a young persons' time

Thanks to Colin Henry for this report on last weekend's Ardara festival and the evocative photo abovr, of which he modestly says: 'Not a a great quality photo but this sums it up - Evan and James at the late-night session.'

I have always enjoyed Ardara Bluegrass Festival since its inception. The music is always good, the jam sessions are the stuff of legend, and the hospitality is mighty. This year was no exception and indeed, with the presence of three American bands in the form of the Peterson Family from Branson, Missouri, the Berea College band, and Lorraine Jordan with the Garrett Newton Band, and in addition to all that Jeff Scroggins and his son Tristan, this was maybe the best festival so far. The town was buzzing and the concert was a full house and then some. The quality of the American musicians and singers is a model for all bluegrass players here in Ireland. My own favorite of the bands was the Peterson Family, but it was a close call as all were exceptional.

A special mention for Jeff Scroggins and Tristan. Both are no strangers to Ireland and their performance at Ardara was brilliant and mesmerising. It didn't stop there, however, as they both joined every jam session going, created their own and literally played to dawn. Never mind that I am a dobro player, I learned a lot from both father and son.

My abiding memory overall is that this was a young persons' year. The youth of the Peterson family, the youth of the Berea College, the youth of Garrett Newton, the youth of Tristan Scroggins. To top it all off we had young Evan Lyons from Tipperary and my son James. They all played in a monster session on Saturday night after the concert in the Beehive. I couldn't resist joining them, but youthful stamina and musical excellence meant that I quietly retired at 3.00 a.m. and left them to it. I think the bluegrass torch has been well and truly passed to a new generation, both across the pond and here in Ireland... it looks to me like it is in good hands. A special big thanks to Pat Magill for keeping the torch lit!

Update: A feature on the weekend has just appeared on Bluegrass Today, including more photos and a quotation from Sean McKerr, who appears in one of them.

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Lineup announced for Dublin Blues, Roots, & Brass Festival (4-6 Aug. 2017)

Following on from the BIB post of 2 July, Whelan's of Dublin have announced the lineup for the 4th Dublin Blues, Roots, & Brass Festival, a three-day event over the August bank holiday weekend (4-6 Aug.) on the three stages of Whelan's in Wexford St., Dublin 2. As shown on the festival website, they include Dublin's own Dublin Bluegrass Collective (aka Bluestack Mountain Boys) and Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra from Oslo, Norway, with all six regular bluegrass instruments plus accordion and the strong lead vocals of Rebekka Nilsson. Both these bands appear on Friday 4 Aug.

The festival is supported by Fáilte Ireland, O'Hara's Irish craft brewery, and IMRO. Admission (7.00 p.m. to closing time) is free.

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Geoff Stelling speaks

In the 'Banjo' section of the links in the BIB's right-hand sidebar, the first link is to Bud Bennett's 'Banjo Masters video series', which in the last couple of years has included interviews with Butch Robins, Sammy Shelor, Jens Kruger and others with a special place in banjo history. The heading (above) shows a Stelling banjo, and the latest interview in the series consists of two hours of Geoff Stelling talking about his lifetime of involvement with banjos - including of course his invention of the 'wedge-fit' tone ring/ pot/ flange combination, the first major development away from the Gibson Mastertone formula. Indispensable for learning what goes into a Stelling banjo.

In the second hour he talks about the people who've made them; the different Stelling models; the importance of banjo setup; Alan Munde and other players who have endorsed Stellings; the present state of the market; and more. At 74, he has no plans to quit making banjos.

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17 July 2017

EBMA newsletter, July 2017

The European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) has issued the fourth of its new monthly e-newsletters.

The main feature is a well illustrated transcript of a 1974 interview with Bill Monroe by Wim Bloemendaal, Dutch radio producer, music connoisseur, collector, teacher, editor, and journalist. A link to an audio recording of the interview is included.

The newsletter continues with gig lists and event calendars for EBMA-affiliated artists and festivals, including Cup O' Joe and Bluegrass Camp Ireland. You can arrange to receive the newsletter by contacting the EBMA board, without having to be an EBMA member.

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16 July 2017

Jim Lauderdale goes Underground in Sept. 2017

Jim Lauderdale (photo) performed at Triskel Christchurch arts centre in Cork city on Friday (14 July); any comments by BIB readers who saw the show will be welcome.

The BIB briefly hinted at Jim's solid and extensive bluegrass credentials on 8 June. He will be ending his current European tour in concert with Beth Nielsen Chapman on Sunday 30 July at the National Concert Hall, Dublin 2.

On 9 September he will be leading the Jim Lauderdale Bluegrass Band at one of the most unique venues in the States: Bluegrass Underground in the historic Cumberland Caverns, 333 feet (101.5 metres) below McMinnville, TN. As it happens, this will be a fortnight after Maura O'Connell plays there. More on coming shows at Bluegrass Underground can be read here.

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15 July 2017

Ardara - the first contribution

Following on from the last BIB post, the BIB editor writes:

The first photos to arrive from the 10th Ardara Bluegrass Festival come from Bluegrass Today (where the link given for the festival leads to the web page that says it will take place on 18-20 August) - nine photos taken by Lorraine Jordan herself, and including a nice view of the Garrett Newton Band (USA) playing in the Beehive at Ardara.

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14 July 2017

10th Ardara Bluegrass Festival

The BIB editor writes:

The 10th Ardara Bluegrass Festival is already under way tonight in Ardara, Co. Donegal, and will continue through the weekend with what I believe is an unprecedented number of American bands for an event of this size in Ireland, as well as Woodbine (and others?).

I greatly regret that I won't be there, but any accounts and photos of bluegrass activity in Ardara during the festival will be welcome on the BIB.

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Dutch dobroist wins US music scholarship

Owen Schinkel (Share America photo: Loletta Lita Grant)

Owen Schinkel, a young dobroist from Meppen, a small village in the eastern Netherlands, has just been awarded the 2017 Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarship by the Share America Foundation, Inc. The $1,250 award, given to students excelling in the Appalachian musical arts, helps to support him at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), which has a long established Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music programme in its Appalachian Studies department.

Owen came to the US in January this year and is now resident in Johnson City, TN. Mountain music changed his life at the age of 16, when he found a video of Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski playing ‘The boy who wouldn’t hoe corn’ on the Transatlantic Sessions, and fell in love with the dobro sound. He enrolled in ETSU with the dual aims of becoming a master on his instrument and building up a network of contacts to increase the popularity of the music overseas. ETSU encourages students to form bands, and he's already a member of three bands in college and another outside.

'Encouraging the future of youth is the focus of what we do and our name "Share America" has never been more appropriate as we help a young man bring Appalachia with him when he completes his education and returns to Europe,' said Share America chairman Gary Knowles.

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13 July 2017

Wookalily's Kickstarter deadline approaches

Three weeks ago Wookalily announced the recording of their second album, produced by Julie McLarnon at Analogue Catalogue Recording Studios (see the BIB for 22 June).

The band are largely financing the album themselves, but need their fans' support to reach the target of £4,000. Support can be pledged through a Kickstarter campaign or by pre-ordering the album. All money pledged will be used for the expenses of recording, producing, distributing, and marketing the album. Wookalily now announce that the deadline is only one week away:

If we don't reach our target we don't get anything and our new album might never see the light of day. It's your chance to buy some unique products and/or receive our album before the official release date. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT! Visit our website for more info on how to support this project!

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IBMA's Wide Open Bluegrass - 17 amazing reasons to be there

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) announces that the programme for this year's Wide Open Bluegrass (successor to FanFest) in Raleigh, NC, includes several 'extraordinary one-time collaborations and musical experiences you truly can't find anywhere else'. For instance:
  • The Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Steve Martin - a live performance to launch their new CD, The long-awaited album.
  • A tribute to the Country Gentlemen by Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush with Charlie Cushman, Mark Schatz, and Jon Randall.
Also on the lineup are Chatham County Line (who have many fans in Ireland from previous tours); Molly Tuttle (whose younger brothers Michael and Sullivan will be in Ireland for a week from this coming Saturday, with their mother Maureen - see the BIB for 2 July); and the Bluegrass 45 from Japan, who are now celebrating 50 years together with the same personnel, and 45 years since they made a big impact with their first appearances in the USA (see the July 2017 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine).

The full schedule for Wide Open Bluegrass (29-30 Sept.) can be seen here, and a YouTube video playlist of the artists taking part is here.

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12 July 2017

Red Hat Acoustic Music Club at Naas, Fri. 14 July

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 (14 July).

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.

11 July 2017

Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree 2017 - a great success

Photo from the Jamboree Facebook

Thanks to Des Butler for this report on last weekend's Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree, and for all the photos appearing below. No one is likely to disagree with Des's opening sentence:

Well, I feel that having returned from the second Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree in Athy it was a great success.

L-r: Taylor Bailey, Evan Lyons, Amy Lyons

The proceedings opened on the first night with a set performed by Amy & Evan Lyons and Taylor Bailey: there is no end to these young people's talent.

Colonel Bullshot Rides Again, with Liam Wright on bass

Their set was followed by Colonel Bullshot Rides Again who are always a pleasure to see and hear, especially their very talented fiddle player. The official part of the evening was rounded off by the ever enjoyable Woodbine themselves, accompanied by P.J. Power on dobro [see photo at top].

The second evening saw Clem O'Brien make a very welcome return to the stage after a year's rest. Clem's high lonesome sound entertained us with some old classics and some great flat-picking of some of his own compositions.

Having heard the Watery Hill Boys many times in the past, their performance here on Saturday night as the next band to take to the stage was in my opinion their best, playing some great bluegrass and old-timey numbers that never fail to entertain.

The official part of the evening again was rounded off by Woodbine, accompanied by the very talented Colin Henry on Dobro.

Friday after-concert jam: Johnny Brady (centre) supported by Taylor Bailey and Amy Lyons (barely visible), Eamonn of Della Belle, Evan Lyons, and James and Colin Henry

Each evening saw practically all musicians, both playing at or attending the Jamboree, taking part in what was a very enjoyable jamming session.

Saturday after-concert jam: (l-r) Liam Wright, James and Colin Henry,
Donal Black, BIB editor, Jim MacArdl

Jam in Dunne's: (clockwise l-r) BIB editor, Johnny Gleeson (partly hidden), Paul McEvoy, Paddy Fortune, Simon Humphries, Evan Lyons, Colin Henry, James Henry, Amy Lyons

There was also an excellent jamming session in Dunne's Bar from 2 o'clock till 6.00 on Saturday afternoon, with Johnny Gleeson, Richard Hawkins, Colin Henry and his very talented banjo-playing son, and several of the other musicians taking part. The entire official lineup for the Jamboree and all the jamming musicians were all home-grown Irish bluegrass talent.

Looking forward to next year's Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree - long may it continue.

BIB editor's note: The Saturday afternoon jam may have been a historical milestone: in Colin Henry's experience, there has been no previous jam in Ireland where the first two arrivals were both reso-guitar players (himself and Johnny Gleeson). And, of course, I don't qualify as 'home-grown talent'.

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10 July 2017

Two Time Polka: additional July gigs

Following the news on the BIB post of 20 June, Ray Barron of Two Time Polka reports two dates to be added to the band's July schedule, both of which by coincidence are in Wexford. The schedule for the rest of July should therefore now read:

Sat. 15th: Wild Atlantic Barn Dance, Community Centre, Ballinspittle, Co. Cork. Adm. €10. Start 9.30 p.m. For tickets, contact 087 6287556
Sun. 16th: Centenary Stores, Charlotte St., Wexford town. Adm. free. Start 3.30 p.m. Tel. 053 9122303

Fri. 21st: O'Drisceoils Bar, Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork. Adm. free. Start 10.30 p.m.
Sat. 22nd: The Blue Haven, Pearse St., Kinsale, Co. Cork. Adm. free. Start 10.00 p.m. Tel. 021 4772209

Sun. 30th: Phil Murphy Weekend, Colfers Bar, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford. Adm. €5. Start 3.00 p.m. Tel. 051 561159

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Jim Lauderdale in Cork this coming Friday

Following the BIB post of 8 June, Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland sends a reminder that multi-Grammy-award-winning American country, bluegrass, and Americana singer/ songwriter Jim Lauderdale (photo) will perform at Triskel Christchurch arts centre in Cork city this coming Friday (14 July). His 29th album, London Southern, was released on 30 June. Roger adds:

Jim hosts a weekly TV show called 'Music City Roots' from the Factory in Franklin, TN, and will visit Cork as part of his current European tour. The Americana legend turned 60 in April this year.

The show starts at 8.00 p.m. on 14 July; tickets (€23.50) can be booked online or from 021 4272022. This is the first show of the European tour, which includes nine dates in Britain, one in the Netherlands, and a final show on Sunday 30 July at the National Concert Hall, Dublin 2, with Beth Nielsen Chapman.

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Ken Perlman: news, summer 2017

Following the news in February, melodic clawhammer banjo and fingerstyle guitar master Ken Perlman (also on Facebook) sends his latest e-newsletter for the third quarter of 2017, with news of some major events later in the year.

Ken's forthcoming solo banjo CD, largely consisting of tunes he collected on Prince Edward Island, is expected out in the next few months; the working title is Down East barn dance. He has also just signed with Mel Bay to do a new tab/instruction book, Old-time Appalachian fiddle tunes for clawhammer banjo, with note-for-note settings of over 100 tunes and a chapter on old-time backup, in the style he developed while touring with the late Alan Jabbour.

On 3 August Ken will be in the 'Masters showcase' at the 28th Appalachian String Band Music Festival ('Clifftop') in West Virginia. These showcases are designed to present 'the legends who have dedicated their lives to the preservation and presentation of old-time music'. More details, plus news of publications and recordings, are on his website.

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Remembering Vinny

Thanks to Danny Slevin of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, for the news that mass will be celebrated on Sunday 23 July at 10.30 a.m. in St Camillus Nursing Centre, Killucan, Co. Westmeath, to mark four years since the unexpected death of the irreplaceable Vinny Baker (left).

Danny headed the organising team for the very successful tribute concert held in 2014 in Vinny's memory, in his home town of Mullingar. The proceeds from the concert were used to develop a Garden of Tranquillity at the Nursing Centre, where Vinny had played many times for elderly residents. See the BIB for 27 July 2013, and many later posts.

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09 July 2017

Dale Ann Bradley: new album

When Dale Ann Bradley (USA) comes over to headline this year's 26th Bluegrass Festival (1-3 Sept.) at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, her new Pinecastle album, Dale Ann Bradley, should be available - it is scheduled for release on 18 August. The Bluegrass Today report says that apart from guest artists such as Vince Gill, the recording

was made primarily with her touring band: Mike Sumner on banjo, Tim Dishman on bass, Scotty Powers on mandolin, Matt Leadbetter on reso-guitar, and Bradley on guitar.

At present the BIB is not aware whether this is the band that will be with her at Omagh. BIB readers will remember Tim Dishman as bass player with the Special Consensus on one of their earlier tours of Ireland. The lineup of acts for each day of the festival can now be seen on the Folk Park website.

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07 July 2017

FOAOTMAD wants old-time reviewers - and material for review

FOAOTMAD, the UK organisation promoting American old-time music and dance, announces on its news blog that reviewers of CDs, DVDs, and books relating to old-time music are wanted for FOAOTMAD's Old Time News magazine. A sample page of the latest issue is given, which incidentally shows how well the magazine is produced. That issue contained twenty reviews, and Paul Bennett of FOAOTMAD adds:

I’d like to encourage everyone to get the word out to any old-time musicians you know that we would love to receive any new CDs, books, etc. for review. If you know of anyone, or if you see a good band at a festival, please do recommend that they consider the Old Time News as an outlet for having their work reviewed.

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The Danberrys available for bookings in June 2018

Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency reports that the Danberrys (Dorothy Daniel and Ben DeBerry), based in Nashville, are about to complete a very successful first tour of Britain.

Their latest album, Give and receive, was released a year ago and received two Independent Music Award nominations for Best Americana Album and Best Country Song ('Let me ride'), and one win for Best Bluegrass Song ('Long song').

A return trip in June 2018 is already being planned, and venue operators and event organisers are invited to contact the agency with suggested dates. Read the whole announcement here.

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06 July 2017

Viper Central (CAN) back in Ireland, 9 Aug.-3 Sept. 2017

Geraint and Deb Jones of G Promo PR (UK) announce that the acclaimed bluegrass/ old-time/ country band Viper Central from Vancouver, Canada, will be touring in Britain and Ireland from 2 August to 3 September 2017 in support of their new album The spirit of God & madness, which is due for release on 4 August in CD and download formats. In fact, apart from two engagements in Scotland at the beginning of the tour, the band will spend over three weeks in Ireland, taking in three of the four provinces.

The touring band will consist of Kathleen Nisbet (vocals, fiddle), Steve Charles (vocals, guitars, banjo), Patrick Metzger (vocals, bass), Tim Tweedale* (vocals, steel guitars), and Chris Suen* (banjo, vocals) [*=on select dates only]. Viper Central is established as a fine bluegrass band with a gift for exploring Métis music, country, rockabilly, western swing, and old-time without losing their footing. The new album is their boldest project to date, with Kathleen Nisbet's songs celebrating figures from the past, and such guest artists as John Reischman on mandolin. ‘The Mission’ can be seen and heard on YouTube, where there are also plenty of videos of them at the Red Room and Westport on previous tours.

Confirmed dates on the schedule are:

Wed. 9th-Thurs. 10th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Fri. 11th: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, with Ulaid & Duke Special 7.30 p.m. OUTSIDE
Sat. 12th: Bronte Music Club, Rathfriland, Co. Down
Sun. 13th: Enler Delta Blues Club, Comber Rec F.C., Comber, Co. Down
Tues. 15th: Groucho’s, Richhill, Co. Armagh
Wed. 16th: The Weigh Inn, Omagh, Co. Tyrone
Thurs. 17th: Ballyholme Yacht Club, Open House Festival, Bangor, Co. Down
Fri. 18th: The White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork
Sun. 20th: Levis Corner House, Ballydehob, Co. Cork
Tues. 22nd-Wed. 23rd: Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School, Carlingford, Co. Louth
Fri. 25th: Colfer's Pub, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford
Sat. 26th:-Sun. 27th: Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
Wed. 30th: Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal
Thurs. 31st-Sun. 3rd: Bluegrass Music Festival, Ulster American Folk Park, Castletown, Omagh, Co. Tyrone

Viper Central is also on Facebook and Twitter. For further information, interview, session or guest list requests, please contact Geraint or Deb Jones at G Promo PR by 'phone (+44 (0) 1584 873211; mobile + 44 (0) 7855 724798) or e-mail.

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2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland, 28-30 July 2017

Simon Humphries and T.J. Screene organised a highly successful first Bluegrass Camp Ireland in July 2016, so the BIB is delighted to have this message from them:

We're pleased to announce the second Bluegrass Camp Ireland at Headfort School near Kells on the 28th to 30th July 2017.

Headfort School is a gorgeous old Georgian pile set on a couple of hundred acres of parkland, about 3 km from Kells, Co. Meath, 70-odd km from Dublin. It has restored a few of its great rooms to their original splendour, with fabulous views over the rear sculpted gardens. This is a place of real beauty and majesty, especially with a pint of Guinness on a sunny evening on the rear steps. There are beds for everyone (it operates as a boarding school), mostly in dormitories, but there are also a few private rooms available.

It's a residential weekend for musicians who wish to refine their skills, be inspired, and learn from the best. We have eight professional musicians offering in-depth classes in guitar, 5-string banjo, mandolin, fiddle, double bass, and singing/ songwriting. They are from the US, UK, and the best available from Ireland.

  • Pat Flory (US) Guitar
  • Mike Kirwin (US) Guitar/ Double Bass/Voice
  • Jeff Burke (US) Mandolin
  • Bill Forster (UK) 5-string Banjo
  • Luke Coffey (Ire) 5-string Banjo
  • Paddy Kiernan (Ire) 5-string Banjo
  • Kieran Towers (UK) Fiddle
  • Hubert Murray (Ire) Songwriting/ Voice/

The three days will be structured around classes, seminars, and more informal picking sessions (jams), with evening stage shows, fabulous food, and a bar. The philosophy of the weekend is around playing ​with other musicians. We welcome beginners, intermediate, and red-hot 'pickers'. When there is nothing structured going on, there is always music happening, and we aim to make it as welcoming as possible for everyone to play, to jam, no matter their level. We try and create an informal and fun environment. Playing goes on till early morning - yes, get lots of sleep before you come down! We take under-18s if they're accompanied by an adult, but generally we cater for adults.

Ballymaloe-trained foodies Erin and Jo of 'The Edible Flower' dish up terrific breakfasts, lunches, and three-course dinners in the dining halls downstairs - decent wine is available.

In conclusion, it's a unique event in the Irish music scene. It's for musicians (or those wishing to become musicians) only. It's bluegrass music, but the skills honed in bluegrass are of course transferable. It's in a gorgeous place. You meet some great people. We have some of the best bluegrass musicians around - you'll get to play and hang out with them. There is a great friendly atmosphere. It's a ton of fun. You leave inspired to be a better player. Come on down to Bluegrass Camp Ireland 28-30 July at Headfort School. Check it out at www.bluegrass.ie and on Facebook.

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Even more US talent at Ardara festival

The BIB has already drawn attention to the wealth of US talent that will be at this year's Ardara Bluegrass Festival (14-16 July) in Co. Donegal. It now appears that Ardara will be hosting as many US bands as one would expect of a much larger event.

This entry on the Facebook of the Garrett Newton Band (shared on the Facebook of Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road) announces:

Please join us in our excitement over the upcoming Ireland Tour with Lorraine Jordan. What a great opportunity to play music in this beautiful country! We will share lots of pictures and keep you all up to date on our adventures :)

The dates shown are 14-17 July, so it looks as if the Ardara festival will be the only opportunity of seeing and hearing these two North Carolina bands. Dates for the other bands taking part are on the BIB calendar.

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Fleck and Corea at the NCH, Mon. 10 July 2017

A reminder from the National Concert Hall in Dublin that this coming Monday (10 July) two legendary musicians, Chick Corea (jazz keyboardist, composer, and bandleader) and Béla Fleck, will be playing in concert together there from 8.00 p.m.
The BIB mentioned on 15 June that Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn will host this year's IBMA awards show. The IBMA's July 2017 newsletter adds the news that the show’s theme this year will be 'The bluegrass songbook' - not an actual book, but the body of music shared by bluegrass pickers around the world. The show's musical interludes will illustrate this interconnectedness.

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05 July 2017

Rodney McElrea - a lifelong friend

A week ago the BIB carried the news of the death on 25 June of the irreplaceable Rodney McElrea (right). We are grateful to Tony Friel - record collector, radio presenter, and friend of Rodney for forty-seven years - for sharing these memories.

In the early part of the summer of 1970 I received a knock on my front door. It was about 7.15 in the evening. When I went to answer the knock, I found a well dressed man with a big smile across his face and a warm handshake. 'My name is Rodney McElrea', he said, 'and I hear that you are very interested in Country & Western music.' (That's what they called country music back then.)

'Yes', I said - with some surprise, as I had not told anyone about my hobby. 'How did you hear about me?' I asked. Well, he said that some of his friends who I happened to know as well told him, and that some record shop owners had mentioned my name a few times, and he thought that he would contact me.

I brought him into the house and went to my modest little record room that I had at that time. My wife of ten months brought us in some coffee, and we talked for about two hours non-stop about country music. I had only about 450 or 500 LPs at the time. Rodney took great interest to see what I had collected and was surprised that I had a lot of bluegrass albums there as well. Any artist that he did not know about or hear before, he would ask me to tell him about them and play some track of whatever album caught his attention. I must admit my knowledge was down to whatever information I could get from album liner notes, as there were no books on country music to mention. Opry, a new country magazine, was just starting to make the rounds around this time - I still have the original issues somewhere. I was then asked to visit his new house in Omagh, where he had just moved to from his native Newtownstewart.

As the years passed Rodney and I became very close indeed. We would on our weekends travel to Belfast to visit the many record shops that were there at that time. Once a month we would head to Dublin to do the same, such was our interest. We would call with all the record collectors that we knew, sometimes getting records from them that we wanted.

Around 1974 Rodney slowed down a little as he had met a lovely girl called Ruth Little. Ruth took up much of Rodney's time, and our collecting outings became non-existing. We still kept in touch, but by this time we were able to get our records from dealers that sprung up all over England and Europe. After Rodney and Ruth married, I did not see him as often as we used to, but we still were in touch with each other.

He asked me to go to America with him a few times, but my simple wage at that time did not allow me to do so. Rodney came back from the USA fully charged with exciting news of artists he had met on his travels, and this filled me with envy. He told me about meeting Dorsey Dixon, Bill & Earl Bolick (Blue Sky Boys), Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, and the family of the great Charlie Poole.

Rodney came back one time and told me that he was going to erect a headstone to Charlie Poole as he was disgusted that the family did not bother to place a marker on Charlie's grave. Rodney went about the task of collecting money from readers on the bi-monthly booklet that he and Charles Newman were running at the time, called Country News & Views. These little booklets are now collectors' items. They collected enough to buy and erect a marker for Charlie. If you ever see a picture of this headstone, look closely and you will see the name of Rodney McElrea on it. I would slag him for years, telling him that he will be the only man I know that will have his name on two different headstones. He would laugh at this.

As the years rolled past so fast and took its toll on all of us, I could see Rodney's health fading somewhat. He would sit in his kitchen surrounded by books and CDs. He always had visitors any time I called. Then the family rang me one day to tell me that Rodney had taken a stroke and he was in hospital. I never forget when I went to his ward, I could see a great change on him. He came out of that a little after four months, moving from one place to another.

The last week of his life, I could not get anyone at all despite my ringing every phone number that I had connected to the McElrea family. Finally his son Richard contacted me to say that his dad was in hospital and was not doing good. His wife Ruth then rang me to ask me to come and see him. That was the last time I saw my lifelong friend alive. He passed away the next day, Sunday 25 June.

I have lost a big part of my life when Rodney went, and I am thankful that we were part of each other's lives for so long and never had a cross word between us in all that time. I learned so much from him, and he said he learned from me as well. I suppose we were two of a kind. He would listen to my radio shows and tell me where I was going wrong, or who I should have played. I always knew in my heart that he was listening in, so I had to be on my guard all the time.

I will miss him every day. Rest easy. my friend, as I am sure that you are up there in heaven giving A.P. Carter and Hank Williams some interesting news from down below.

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4th Dublin Blues Roots & Brass Festival, 4-6 Aug. 2017 - launch party TOMORROW (6 July)

Whelan's of Dublin announce that this Thursday (6 July) the launch party will be held for the 4th Dublin Blues Roots & Brass Festival, a three-day event over the August bank holiday weekend (4-6 Aug.) on the three stages of Whelan's in Wexford St., Dublin 2.

The three acts taking part in the launch include Beef Supreme, a seven-piece 'folkabilly acoustic rock' band from Carlow, who include Irish roots music and bluegrass in their influences and guitars, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and bass in their instrumentation along with bouzouki, melodica, harmonica, and percussion.

The complete lineup of the festival's thirty-five acts will be announced on Monday 17 July. Twenty-four are shown at present on the festival website, including Dublin's own Dublin Bluegrass Collective (aka Bluestack Mountain Boys) and Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra from Oslo, Norway, with all six regular bluegrass instruments plus accordion and the strong lead vocals of Rebekka Nilsson.

The festival is supported by Fáilte Ireland, O'Hara's Irish craft brewery, and IMRO. Admission (7.00 p.m. to closing time) is free.

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04 July 2017

The Needables: Deep down at the bottom of it all

The Needables [says the 'Story' page on their website] are Beat and Floyd Needable, both former fishermen, both former members of a cartoon-themed barbershop quintet, and both men living lives of blissful ignorance, who, on two non-simultaneous occasions, woke up to the realisation that the strings of their hearts made a kinda country twang.

Thanks to Floyd Needable for news of this Dublin-based Americana band who launched their new six-track EP, Deep down at the bottom of it all (cover art above left), six weeks ago. Basically a duo with vocal harmony in 'brother' style, backed by their own acoustic guitars, harmonica, and mandolin, they also list as band members 'other strays we pick up along the way' - other instruments on their recordings include banjo and percussion. They write strong original material reminiscent of the generation of singer/songwriters from which Bob Dylan emerged, and all of it would fit easily into a bluegrass treatment.

Deep down at the bottom of it all is now available to download on iTunes and Bandcamp, and available to stream through Spotify. The EP's lead track, 'Baby I'm on my way', can be heard on YouTube. The Needables are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud.

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10th Annual Ardara Bluegrass Festival, 14-16 July 2017

Following the BIB posts of 20 and 21 June, we're delighted to publish this announcement of the 10th Annual Ardara Bluegrass Festival, to be held in Ardara, Co. Donegal, on the weekend Friday 14 July-Sunday 16 July. The festival is organised by Pat McGill of the Beehive Bar in Main St., Ardara, which is the 'festival club' and the scene for the annual after-concert jams, which - given the number and calibre of the musicians taking part in this year's festival - should be awe-inspiring.

The festival this year features four respected US acts:

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, North Carolina;

Jeff and Tristan Scroggins, Colorado;

the Petersen Family Bluegrass Band, Branson, Missouri; and

the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble, Kentucky; together with

Woodbine, Athy, Co. Kildare, and many visiting musicians.

For further details, 'phone 087 690 0714.

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Dave Evans: update

The BIB carried a week ago the sad news of the death of Dave Evans. As since reported on Bluegrass Today, Dave's loss of earnings and medical problems during his last years have left his sons facing heavy expenses. A GoFundMe page has been set up for donations, with a target of $10,000 of which over $1,000 has so far been raised. Donations can be made by credit card.

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03 July 2017

Rackhouse Pilfer: summer break and back on the job

Rackhouse Pilfer are now taking a breather, having played Gilroy's Bar at Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, and Castle Fair Green at Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, over the weekend. They're back on the job on 21 July, managing to fit in eight dates from then till the end of the month, as shown on the schedule image:

Fri. 21st: Gilroy's, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo
Sat. 22nd: Granny Annie's, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
Sun. 23rd: Boyle Arts Festival, Boyle, Co. Roscommon
Fri. 28th: The Empire, Belfast
Sat. 29th: White Hag Brewery Fest, Ballymote, Co. Sligo
Sat. 29th: 5th On Teeling, Sligo town
Sun. 30th: Dergfest, Castlederg, Co. Tyrone

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02 July 2017

Bluestack Mountain Boys break new ground at Lissan House

Following the BIB post of 22 June, thanks to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room at Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, who sends these photos and -

... an update to your recent post on the first Red Room bluegrass gig at Lissan House, Cookstown - last night's concert was a huge success. The Bluestack Mountain Boys were superb and gave many of the audience in a very packed ballroom their first taste of bluegrass music. Hopefully we've converted a few new fans to the genre!

The attached photos show what an impressive setting the band played in, and we look forward to working with Lissan House again in the near future, watch this space!

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