18 April 2014

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor officially retired from bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is still alive. Its calendar is kept updated, and occasional news is posted. Send in news for the calendar by e-mail, and please add a copy to Ray O'Brien, whose 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page is now the most interactive medium on bluegrass in Ireland.

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.


A respected Bluegrass business

The BIB editor writes:

Every now and then I Google the words 'Bluegrass Ireland'. There's a paranoid element in this: I'm making sure that the World Wide Web has not forgotten about the Bluegrass Ireland Blog. The search was made this morning. There was the BIB, of course, it hadn't vanished in the night; there too were Ray O'Brien's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page and Kevin Gill's original 'Bluegrass in Ireland' website.

But just a little further down the list of search results is the website for Bluegrass Horse Feeds, a milling and animal-feed company established by A. N. Irwin & Sons in 1847, based in Co. Tyrone, and respected in its field throughout these islands.

I'm certain that Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, would have been interested; and that so would prominent horse-loving bluegrass musicians still with us, such as Ron Thomason of Dry Branch Fire Squad or Laurie Lewis. Moreover, the firm's merchandise includes a nifty baseball cap with a Bluegrass Horse Feeds logo for just £9.99.

Could there possibly be here a point of contact - even potential reciprocal benefits - for the bluegrass community and the animal-feeds industry? In putting this forward, I apologise to anyone, especially in Co. Tyrone, who has already made this connection for themselves; more especially if they've been walking round the annual Appalachian & Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh with their Bluegrass Horse Feeds caps on, and I haven't noticed.

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17 April 2014

Two Time Polka: Easter and after, in Ireland and the Netherlands

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka reports:

Here are details of our next few gigs:

Sun. 20 Apr.: South County Bar, West Village, Douglas, Cork. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 021 4891574

Sun. 27 Apr.: Marine Bar, Pulla, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Start 7.30 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 058 46520

We will be playing on Friday 2 May and Saturday 3 May at the International Cajun & Zydeco Festival, Raamsdonksveer [on the Maas, north of Breda], Holland. For any of you living in Holland or Belgium, as we know there are a few, it would be great to see you there.

Ray and TTP

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15 April 2014

The first Royal Roots session: Navan, 1 May 2014 (update)

We can now welcome a new organisation in Co. Meath, Royal Roots, catering for musicians who want to play bluegrass, old-time country, and other Americana roots music.

The BIB thanks Eugene Donegan for the news that Royal Roots will be launching the very first in a series of weekly music sessions on Thursday 1 May in Beggy's bar, Bridge St., Navan. The sessions will be a mixture of bluegrass, old-time country, American folk, Cajun, and gospel. All musicians are welcome, and the session kicks off at 9.30 p.m. Royal Roots have produced an attractive poster, which can be seen on the Royal Roots Facebook page and also on Ray O'Brien's Bluegrass in Ireland page.

Taken together with the Ashbourne concert series set up by Sean McManus and friends at the start of this year, we're delighted to see bluegrass flourishing in Royal Meath.

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Events at the Seamus Ennis Centre

Joost van Es of 4 Wheel Drive with the statue of Séamus Ennis outside the Centre (photo: Jan Michielsen)

The Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 'Ireland's biggest little venue' and a good friend to bluegrass and related music in the Dublin region, has just issued its latest schedule of events updated to 9 May 2014. Coming very soon: on Sunday 20 April the Centre holds a Record Fair, with

an even bigger collection of dealers selling everything from CDs, DVDs, rare CD box sets to vinyl LPs from the '50s to the present. Rock 'n' roll, metal, jazz, soul, indie, rock and country, blues, dance, folk, world music and hiphop/rap – it's all going to be here at our Record Fair to celebrate the weekend of World Record Store Day.

Maybe even some bluegrass or old-time music... And on Friday 9 May the Henry Girls from Donegal will be playing an evening concert at the Centre.

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14 April 2014

Cabin Sessions in Dundrum, Dublin, 24 Apr. 2014

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

The lineup for the Cabin Sessions for Thursday 24 April is:

The Cabin Crew with Spats Davenport (guitar), Con Butler (bass), Gerry Fitzpatrick (dobro), Cathy McEvoy (fiddle), Christian Volkmann (harmonica). Special guests Michael McIver (classical guitar), Grace Tallon (contemporary), Dave Hardy (clarinet/sax). 9.30-11.30 p,m. adm. FREE!

If you or someone you know would like to perform at the Cabin Sessions, let Gerry know by e-mail. The Sessions are particularly interested in featuring local musicians and singers.

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13 April 2014

George Shuffler

George Shuffler (11 April 1925-7 April 2014) was buried on Thursday in his hometown of Valdese, North Carolina. A full account by broadcaster Becky Johnson of the funeral - 'George Shuffler laid to rest', with many photos - was published on Friday on Bluegrass Today.

For those who are not yet familiar with his contributions to bluegrass music, a comprehensive outline by Richard Thompson was also published on Friday on Bluegrass Today, under the title 'George Shuffler: a career overview'. At the end of this feature is a link to where you can find tributes paid to him by such acclaimed musicians as Jack Lawrence, Tom Gray, and James Alan Shelton.

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11 April 2014

Instruments and sound equipment for sale

Thanks to Eamonn Quigley who passes on news from Bill Whelan, godfather of old-time music in this island: Bill has some instruments and sound equipment for sale. The BIB hopes to be able to reproduce photos before long; meanwhile, here are the details. Please note the prices given, as no offers will be accepted.

Nechville Midnight Phantom Heli-Mount banjo. The appearance and maker's specifications can be seen here. Bill's instrument has a black head fitted, and no resonator. €1,500.

Harley Benton BeatBass (fiddle-shape electric bass, resembling Paul McCartney's Höfner). Never used. €100.

Yamaha single-speaker 250-watt portable PA system, Stagepass 250m model. Six-channel mixer. Unused. €200.

T.Mix PM600 six-channel mixer amplifier block with digital effector. Unused. €120.

Contact Bill by mobile (086 2435231) or e-mail.

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The Down and Out Bluegrass Band at Ashbourne, 3 May 2014

Thanks to Sean McManus of Ashbourne, Co. Meath, for the news that the Down and Out Bluegrass Band will be playing in Molly's Bar (across the road from the church), Frederick St., Ashbourne, on Saturday 3 May. The show starts at 9.00 p.m., and tickets are €7.

This is the third concert in a series set up by Sean and friends around Ashbourne to bring bluegrass music to the area - where performances have been few in the past, but where there is also (as previous concerts have shown) a lot of potential support.

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10 April 2014

A shorter way to 'Tipperary'

The BIB published news on Monday of last Sunday's special instalment of BBC TV's 'Antiques Roadshow', in which old-time singer and clawhammer-banjo player Alec Somerville (left), appeared with the Roadshow's Paul Atterbury to talk about the historic 5-string banjo which he has donated to the Canadian War Museum.

At that time, we could only refer those who wanted to see this part of the show to the full version on BBC's iPlayer - which is not available for viewers outside the UK. Thanks to the weekly FOAOTMAD news blog for reporting that Colm Daly has put a video of Alec's section of the show on to YouTube. It can also be seen on the FOAOTMAD blog.

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Events in the next ten days

Events in the next ten days (from the BIB calendar; please check also the 'Weekly sessions' section of the calendar)

Thurs. 10th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Whelan’s, Dublin 2

Fri. 11th: The Whileaways (Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce, Noelie McDonnell), Cúirt International Festival of Literature, Galway city, 1.00 p.m.
Tumbling Bones (USA), McGing’s, Westport, Co. Mayo, 9.30 p.m.
Tangled Roots (Eleanor Shanley, Frankie Lane, Paul Kelly, Brendan Begley, and Mike Hanrahan), Dublin Conservative Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2, 9.00 p.m., €17 (€15 reserved in advance)
The Whileaways, (Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce, Noelie McDonnell), Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m., €13

Fri. 11th-Sun. 13th: Bluegrass Weekend, Kilcolgan, Co. Galway: Southern Welfare at Rafterys Rest

Sat. 12th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Aras Eanna, Inis Oirr, Aran Islands, 8.30 p.m.

Sun. 13th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Mannion’s, Balla, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.

Mon. 14th-Fri. 18th: Sore Fingers Summer School, Kingham Hill School, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England

Tues. 15th: The Broken Circle Breakdown (film), Droichead Arts Centre, Stockwell St., Drogheda, Co. Louth, 8.00 p.m.
Tumbling Bones (USA), Sea Rod Inn, Doohoma, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.

Wed. 16th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Aras Inis Gluaire Community Centre, Belmullet, Co. Mayo (afternoon performance)

Thurs. 17th: The Broken Circle Breakdown (film), Tech Amergin Community Arts and Education Centre, Waterville, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.
Tumbling Bones (USA), Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, 8.30 p.m.

Southern Welfare in residence at Kilcolgan, 11-13 Apr. 2014

Ray O'Brien announces on Bluegrass in Ireland:

Thanks to Peter Larkin from Galway who sends a reminder to all bluegrass fans in the west that Southern Welfare (Waterford) will be returning this weekend (11-13 April) to Rafterys Rest, Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, for a whole weekend packed with non-stop finger-picking bluegrass. Peter writes:

'Friday night: We will be having a bluegrass picking session in the bar and Peter sends the invitation out to all bluegrass pickers in the area that all are welcome to attend and jam with the Waterford boys.

'Saturday night: Southern Welfare take to the stage for what is set to be another fun-filled night of hard-driving bluegrass music (it has been nearly two years since these guys last visited Galway and we are all very excited to have them back).

'Sunday morning: Southern Welfare will join the Rafterys Rest bluegrass house band for some Sunday morning gospel music.

'We are looking forward to having this band back on the scene; they have been missed over the past number of years at festivals up and down the country', adds Peter. For more information on the weekend you can contact Peter Larkin on 087-9953555.

BIB editor's note: When the Weekend was announced back in late February, Southern Welfare's Tony Wall (banjo, guitar, vocals) was quoted as saying: 'This is possibly one of the best places to play bluegrass in Ireland, with so many people really interested in the music.' Taken together with the Banjo Gathering two weeks later just up the road at Clarinbridge, this part of Co. Galway will be pretty lively...

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09 April 2014

Tour news - and Ireland at MerleFest 2014

Thanks to Paul Lee of the Musiclee.ie agency for his latest list of shows, beginning with tomorrow night (10 Apr.), when Tumbling Bones, from Portland, Maine, will bring their mix of traditional bluegrass, old-time, country blues, and expert buck-dancing to Whelan's in Dublin; 8.30 start, €15 (€13 reserved in advance).

On this tour (their third in Ireland) Tumbling Bones will have their new album, Loving a fool. The BIB calendar shows all dates for the tour; it lasts till the end of the month, when they go to Germany for the 12th International Bühl Bluegrass Festival (2-3 May), followed by dates in Britain (8-20 May).

Tangled Roots, the 'Folk the Recession' group including Frankie Lane and Paul Kelly, will be playing just up the lane from Whelan's at the Dublin Conservative Club the following night (11 Apr.). Other artists on Paul's list with a special appeal for BIB readers include the highly acclaimed Cahalen Morrison and Eli West (USA), who will be playing at Whelan's on Thursday 8 May as part of a too-brief tour in Ireland - see the BIB calendar for the rest of their schedule.

Following the news that appeared on the BIB on 10 Feb. and 9 Mar., the Brookfield Knights agency reports that the period for which Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers (USA) will be available for bookings in Ireland later this year will be from Tues. 4 Nov. to Sun. 9 Nov..

They will have with them Zoe's third album, World of strangers. Promoters and event organisers who are interested should contact Brookfield Knights. The band's live shows can be sampled in this clip from 2012.

This year at MerleFest, the world's most prestigious acoustic Americana music festival, Ireland will be very actively represented by Niall Toner and I Draw Slow.

On Friday 25 April I Draw Slow will be performing on the Watson (11.45 a.m.-12.30 p.m.), Creekside (1.15-2.00 p.m.), and Dance (7.00-8.15 p.m.) stages. The same afternoon (2.00-3.30 p.m.), on the Austin Stage in Alumni Hall, Niall will be taking part in judging the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest finals, together with contest chairman Jim Lauderdale and fellow judges Darrell Scott and Charles Humphrey III.

On Saturday 26 April the Niall Toner Band plays at Creekside (10.45-11.30 a.m.) and the Cabin stage (1.45-2.15 p.m.), and I Draw Slow at the Americana (1.30-2.15 p.m.). Later that afternoon (3.45-4.45 p.m.), at the Mayes Pit-Cohn Auditorium, Niall and band, together with Dave and Louise Holden from I Draw Slow, will be part of a workshop entitled 'Irish roots music yesterday and today'.

On Sunday 27 April the Niall Toner Band will be at the Autograph MF Mall (9.00-10.00 a.m.) and the Americana (11.45 a.m.-12.30 p.m.) and Traditional (1.45-2.30 p.m.) stages, the latter with a 'Celtic connections' theme.

Thanks also to Pinecastle Records (the US label that both Niall and I Draw Slow are with) and Kim Fowler of Two Dog Media for the news that I Draw Slow's latest album, White Wave Chapel, will be released in the US on 8 July. For more details, including some of the many nice things that have been printed about their previous album, Redhills, see the Two Dog Media e-newsletter.

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08 April 2014

Complete lineup for Athy 2014 announced

The NEBB (l-r): Grahame Turner, Terry Hymers, Greg Smith (hidden), Paul Brewer, Marc Noel-Johnson

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the news that the complete lineup for the 24th Athy Bluegrass Festival (11-13 July 2014) is on the Festival's website, with band details, photos, and web links:

The New Essex Bluegrass Band (GB)
Ferguson & Ferguson (USA)
Nelson, Crosby, & Crosby (USA)
The Down and Out Bluegrass Band
Della Belle
Woodbine (host band)

A schedule for the three main concerts (Friday and Saturday, 9.00 p.m.; Sunday 1.00 p.m.) also gives ticket prices. Additional programme items are to be confirmed. The New Essex (NEBB), Britain's premier traditional hard-core single-mike bluegrass band, twenty years together and with many overseas appearances to their credit, will top the bill at all three concerts. More about them appeared on the BIB on 29 Nov. 2013.

If you haven't looked at the Athy Bluegrass Festival website since last year's event, it has been completely refurbished - and so has Woodbine's.

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07 April 2014

Links with the past: update

Alec Somerville with the banjo at the Canadian War Museum, 17 Dec. 2013 (photo: Ashley Fraser of the Ottawa Citizen)

Congratulations to old-time singer and clawhammer-banjo player Alec Somerville, now resident in Donegal, for his part in last night's special instalment of BBC TV's 'Antiques Roadshow', filmed with the Roadshow's Paul Atterbury in front of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing at the Somme.

Alec had brought the English-made 5-string banjo which he has since donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa - the sole example in its collection of a musical instrument that belonged to a soldier. On the inside of the original skin head are the signatures of twenty-eight members of the Canadian armed forces in France.

Alec rounded off his appearance by playing 'It's a long, long way to Tipperary' - on one of his own banjos, as the 'Paris banjo' is not in playing order. Later in the programme Linda Roland, a Canadian now living in Germany, appeared in a remarkable sequel. Alec writes:

Her great-uncle, Gunner Raymond Roland, signed the banjo and added the date 'Paris August 24th 1917'. He died in 1933 from the effects of having been gassed. I found her through the Platts family (another signator) and contacted her and she came to the filming at the Somme. She has since been to stay with us in Donegal. Raymond Roland and James Platts enlisted at Toronto January 9th, 1915, together - they were neighbours in the Niagara Peninsula fruit-farming area.

This was episode 16 of the thirty-sixth series of 'Antiques Roadshow', and the first in a sub-series of episodes dedicated to the first world war. It can be seen here for the next six days on BBC iPlayer (not available outside the UK, unfortunately), and will be re-broadcast on Wednesday 16 April at 9.20 a.m. on BBC Two. Alec's story is also expected to be featured in Banjo NewsLetter.

Meanwhile, in the last week two links with the first generation of bluegrass music have been lost: a week ago (31 Mar. 2014) Gladys Lee Stacy Flatt, widow of Lester Flatt (d. 1979), died at the age of 98 in Sparta, TN, Lester's home town. A few days later (3 April) Arthur Smith died at the age of 93 in Charlotte, NC; entertainer and media personality as well as musician, he composed and recorded the enormously influential 'Guitar boogie' and (with the late Don Reno) 'Feudin' banjos', now widely known as 'Dueling banjos'. John Lawless's reports can be read on Bluegrass Today via the links shown above.

Update: John Lawless publishes the sad news that George Shuffler of Valdese, NC - singer, influential guitarist, and bassist with classic bands including the Stanley Brothers and Don Reno & Bill Harrell - died earlier today, just short of 89. He was inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame in 2011. A recent recording in his honour, 'The boy from Valdese', is available as a free download.

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06 April 2014

Dates wanted for the Hot Seats (USA), 1, 3 Aug. 2014

Loudon Temple of the Brookfield Knights agency in Britain writes:

... We have one of the best bands on the circuit, the Hot Seats from Virginia, arriving in Ireland at end of July/start of August, and they have two dates to fill - Friday 1 August and Sunday 3 August.

The Friday event would have to be within reasonable striking distance of point of arrival by ferry (Larne), and the Sunday event would have to be close enough to be reached within a two-hour max drive from Bangor as they are playing at the Bluegrass Picnic in the Park event there that afternoon.

I'd appreciate any steer you might be able to provide, or if you'd let the circuit know that this could be a great opportunity for someone.

We do so accordingly, right now. For more on the Hot Seats, see their website and the BIB for 2 Feb. this year. Contact the Brookfield Knights agency by e-mail.

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05 April 2014

The West's awake!

Thanks to Pete Lamb (above) in Kinvara, Co. Galway, for a link to his new website - still under development, but with lots of good things in it - and the news that in addition to his solo and duo work, his band Gone to Grass will be playing at the Crane Bar, Galway city's premier acoustic venue, on Friday 16 May.

Gone to Grass in its present configuration comprises Pete (guitar, vocals, songwriting), Tom Portman (dobro, vocals), and Paul Johnson (double bass), plus the formidable Bill Forster (5-string banjo, vocals), also of the Banjaxed Bluegrass Band. The Gone to Grass website says:

As well as finely crafted original material, the set list includes diverse numbers from the broader pop and rock genres, reinvented and delivered in a bluegrass style alongside regular country-blues, instrumental breakdowns and bluegrass classics, for a lively and uptempo show that's always dynamic, inventive, unpredictable... and fun!

... and we're convinced. For evidence, subscribe to Pete's mailing list and get a free download of Gone to Grass playing the Michael Jackson hit 'The way you make me feel' (all rights to the Michael Jackson estate).

As an example of the other good things on Pete's website, note the link for the Clarinbridge Banjo Gathering in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, the home of Tom Cussen's celebrated Clareen Banjos.

This event will take place this month, on the weekend 25-27 April, and will include sessions, workshops, concerts, an exhibition of rare and unusual banjos, a seminar on the development of the banjo in Ireland, and more. Bill Forster will be giving bluegrass banjo workshops for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players on Saturday, and leading the grand finale on Sunday. Full details are on the Gathering's website.

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04 April 2014

'Spring is the mischief in me'

That's the title that Vincent Cross, Ireland's bluegrass representative in New York, gives to his April e-newsletter, and he opens with some references to great literature on the subject of spring. To celebrate the season, he includes a free download of the song 'Walking on the outside' from his 2013 album A town called normal.

Vincent (who earlier this year bought a 1955 Martin O-18 guitar) also includes an interesting link to the blog Tools of the trade: songwriters and their guitars, where the latest feature is on Bob Wright of Staten Island, whom many here may remember for his visits to early Dunmore East festivals.

Dates are also given for Vincent's tour in California later this month. The image of him (top right) is by photographer Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

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03 April 2014

News galore

Derek Lockhart of Dangem Bluegrass announces in this e-newsletter to all pickers:

We have had a request to play some bluegrass this Saturday 5th April 11.00 a.m.–2.00 p.m. in the Castle Gardens, Lisburn (just across from our bluegrass sessions that take place last Saturday each month). See this link.

I would be grateful if you let me know if you could attend and help us out. Please e-mail me or text 07521 464125. Thank you kindly.

Tumbling Bones (USA) start their three-week tour a few days earlier than previously announced, with a 9.00 p.m. show in Tigh Neachtain, Galway, this coming Sunday (6 Apr.). All other dates are as previously announced on the BIB; Anne Marie Walsh has supplied times for the individual gigs, which have been added to the BIB calendar. Please note that booking is necessary for the show at the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, on 22 Apr.

The band are releasing their new album, Loving a fool, tomorrow (4 Apr.); two videos of numbers from the album can be seen on Ray O'Brien's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page.

Easter 2014 marks a thousand years since the battle of Clontarf, and the Dublin Bluegrass Collective are taking part in the celebrations on Sunday 20 Apr. More details on the Collective's Facebook page and on Ray's.


Della Mae (USA), who won the IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2013 and had their second album, This world oft can be (left), nominated for a Grammy award this year, are available for bookings in Ireland in October/November 2014. Again, more details on Ray's Facebook page.

And thanks to Ray for forwarding links to his posts on all these news items.

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Spells Spring Bluegrass Weekend at Ballaghadereen, 4-6 Apr. 2014

Well Enough Alone: (l-r) Martin McWhorter, Niall Hughes, Hugh Taggart, Luke Coffey

Thanks to Tom Lyons of Balla, Co. Mayo, for the news that the three successive days of bluegrass music at this year's Spells Spring Bluegrass Weekend will begin tomorrow night at Spells Bar, opposite the church in Pound St., Ballaghadereen, Co. Roscommon. The schedule and lineup is:

Fri. 4th: Well Enough Alone (Dublin), 9.00 p.m.

Sat. 5th: Acoustic bluegrass session, 6.00 p.m.
Down and out Bluegrass Band (Belfast), 9.00 p.m.

Sun. 6th: Acoustic bluegrass session, 5.00 p.m.
Rackhouse Pilfer (Sligo), 7.00 p.m.

Sounds like a recipe for a very enjoyable weekend!

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Prairie Dawgs at Vantastival, 2-4 May 2014

The Dublin-based Prairie Dawgs will be among the featured acts at Vantastival, the family-friendly festival which will take place over the May bank holiday weekend (2-4 May 2014) at Bellurgan Park, Co. Louth.

The Dawgs now have a full establishment strength of seven (Conor Farrell, Eileen Twomey, Mark Calvert, Eoin Galavan, Martin Clancy, Eimear Lynch, and George Guilfoyle). Visit and Like them on Facebook.

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