19 January 2020

Welcome to the BIB

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. The BIB does not do reviews or accept posts with 'marketing messages'.

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


Tickets now on sale for 14th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, 5-7 June 2020

The organising team of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival at Westport, Co. Mayo, announce:

Tickets for the 14th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival are now on sale via the festival's website.

As in the past, all pub gigs and sessions are free to the public, and at the end of every night there will be one ticketed event, each valued at €20. There is an option to buy a Friday & Saturday concerts combo ticket for €35.

This year, we added an option to buy tickets for the workshops and square dance in advance via the same link.

In the past number of years, the festival's main events were sold out, so it is highly recommended to buy them well in advance. Looking forward to see all bluegrass fans in Westport, 5-7 June.

BIB editor's note: Tickets went on sale since this morning at 10.00 a.m.

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18 January 2020

Two Time Polka: gigs for end of January 2020

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka announces:

Here are details of our next January gigs.

Ballydehob Heart and Home Bluegrass Festival
Fri. 24th: The Irish Whip Bar, Main St., Ballydehob, Co. Cork. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 028 37191

Sat. 25th: The Irish Whip Bar, Main St., Ballydehob, Co. Cork. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 028 37191

Regards & thanks,
Ray & TTP

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17 January 2020

'Man of constant sorrow' to Grammy Hall of Fame

The 1951 Columbia recording by the Stanley Brothers of 'I'm a man of constant sorrow' has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Richard Thompson has a very informative feature on Bluegrass Today about the induction, with a historical note on the song and its origins. The recording can be heard on the Bluegrass Today article and also on YouTube.

This was the Stanleys' first recording of the song, which they first heard sung by their father. They recorded the song again in 1959 with an added vocal refrain, and this version is now widely known through being sung by the 'Soggy Bottom Boys' in the film O brother where art thou?

BIB editor's note: I'm still attached to the somewhat different version of the tune as sung by the New Lost City Ramblers (which I probably first heard sung live by Terry and Gay Woods in Dublin). This is based on the 1928 recording by Emry Arthur. A striking and uncommon instrumental version can be heard on a home recording by the legendary West Virginia fiddler Ed Haley.

PS: In what appears to be a coincidence, the Stanley Brothers have now also been commemorated in a special edition of a bourbon whiskey. See John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

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16 January 2020

You gave me a song available for screenings

Following on from the BIB post of 17 November, thanks to Kenny Dalsheimer of the organising team of You gave me a song for this news.

You gave me a song is the documentary film on the life and achievements of Alice Gerrard, who was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2017 together with Hazel Dickens for their ground-breaking work as women in bluegrass. Friend of Bill Monroe and Tommy Jarrell, founder-editor of Old Time Herald magazine, and much more, Alice Gerrard has inspired a film that is, as the website says, '... one woman's story of being traditional, never conventional. This is a film about getting older, but never giving up.'

You gave me a song has been winning awards at film festivals, and the makers would love to have it shown in Ireland. Bluegrass festivals and other events and organisations that would be interested in hosting a special screening in 2020 should contact the team through the website.

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15 January 2020

New year and new features on Oldtime Central

The editors of Oldtime Central (OTC) announce:

We're hard at work here at Oldtime Central, and wanted to share a few things that we are working on RIGHT NOW to further our mission of supporting the Oldtime Community. We are:
  • Overhauling our festival guide, which means adding an interactive map, reaching out to even more festivals, and making the search function more user-friendly
  • communicating with state folklorists to bring you more articles about the history and evolution of oldtime music
  • planning cross-country interview trips to continue painting a picture of what oldtime music is today
  • recording more lessons with more teachers to help beginners learn how to play
  • Retooling our resource pages to be more comprehensive and useful
And that's all just the first half of this year! Thanks to everyone on this newsletter for your ongoing support and faith in us. We hope to keep delivering for the oldtime community, and are sure that our site is only going to keep getting better. Stay tuned!

New items published on OTC over the holiday period are:

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Westport 2020 headliners signed up by Rebel Records

Following the BIB's post of 7 Jan., we learn from a feature by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today that the Kody Norris Show from Tennessee, who will be headlining the bluegrass contingent of this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, have been signed to a record contract by Rebel Records (est. 1960), one of the most respected record companies dedicated to bluegrass music. Mark Freeman of Rebel is quoted as saying:

We have been keeping an eye on the Kody Norris Show for some time now. From their high-octane stage show, to Kody’s delightfully engaging emcee work, to their dazzling vintage Nudie suits, this group is ‘entertainment’ personified. Plus, they are fantastic musicians to boot!

More details are on Bluegrass Today.

PS: ... and on this Rebel e-newsletter (still with the 4-string banjo image at the head).

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14 January 2020

Fleck & Washburn at the NCH, 21 Jan. 2020

The National Concert Hall in Dublin sends a reminder that Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, 'the king and queen of the banjo', will be playing there at 8.00 p.m. a week from today (21 Jan.). Tickets, starting at €27.50, can be booked online.

The NCH reminds us that 'their debut album Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (2014) reached number one on the Billboard Bluegrass charts and earned them a Grammy for Best Folk Album, and its follow-up Echo in the valley (2017) garnered similarly glowing acclaim.'

You can also read here the NCH's interview with Béla, who talks about their musical and life partnership, their evolving craft, their love for Celtic music, and what fans can expect from the show.

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Two historic old-time digital albums from FOAOTMAD

The UK's Friends Of American Old Time Music And Dance (FOAOTMAD) announce that two CDs issued by FOAOTMAD are now available as digital downloads from Bandcamp, where all the tracks can be heard.

Ripples across the Pond (2000), comprising twenty-five tracks by musicians 'from Britain and beyond', is available at £4. Friends across the Pond (2004), nineteen tracks by a very distinguished list of Americans who have played at UK festivals, is £5. Of special significance for BIB readers is the fact that Ireland's premier old-timers, the much-missed Rough Deal String Band, appear on both albums.

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Seth Mulder & Midnight Run (USA) tour begins TOMORROW

A reminder that thanks to John Nyhan, Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, from Gatlinburg, TN, will begin their second tour of Ireland tomorrow (15 January). The full schedule is on the poster image above and on the BIB calendar. More details are on the BIB for 20 December.

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13 January 2020

An end to bluegrass at Voorthuizen?

Voorthuizen, in the central Netherlands, was the home of the annual European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festivals from 1999 to 2017, and since then the enthusiasm of the local organising team, European Bluegrass Voorthuizen, has ensured that bluegrassers from all around Europe have continued to flock there in springtime. Many bands from Ireland have played there over the years.

Last month, however, the board of European Bluegrass Voorthuizen announced with great regret that a bluegrass event will no longer be possible, owing to increasingly tight administrative regulations and the loss not only of the traditional venue but of camping and parking areas.

The board will continue to exist and support and promote bluegrass music. A new location in Voorthuizen is under development, and may prove to be a suitable venue; but at present no predictions are possible. The announcement, on website and Facebook, concludes:

We would like to thank all artists, visitors and volunteers who have helped make the festival be the success that it was in the past two decades or so. Without all of you it would not have been possible.

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12 January 2020

JigJam: tours in Germany and the USA

Tullamore's JigJam, founders of I-Grass, are now several gigs into a tour in Germany that will last till Sunday 19 January - shortly after that, they will be touring in the USA till the middle of April. Full details of the tours are on their website, and their dates in the USA are shown on the poster image (right), designed by Eric Larson.

JigJam write: 'Germany is going to be a place that we want to tour every year. We're already planning our follow-up tour for January 2021. Any suggestions?!' On this and many other matters, the band invite input from their fans and friends. Their next trip, immediately after the tour in Germany, will be to the 32nd Folk Alliance International Conference in New Orleans (22-26 Jan. 2020).

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10 January 2020

Essential reading every Friday

The BIB editor writes:

In the spring of last year Terry Herd and John Lawless engaged a new contributor to Bluegrass Today - the great Sonny Osborne, 'one of the most talented artists and enduring personalities our music has ever produced', as they wrote when the column first appeared on 31 May 2019 under the title 'Ask Sonny anything'.

Since then Sonny has written every Friday (and often at length) his replies to all kinds of questions about his life, his career, and the people and places he has known; bluegrass music, banjos, and how both should be played - you name it. He has often remarked how much he enjoys doing this, and it shows in everything he writes.

I look forward to every Friday because of 'Ask Sonny anything', and I'm never disappointed. It's worth your while to read every instalment. You might also begin with 'Thanks, Chief: a Sonny Osborne appreciation' - tributes by his fellow banjo players, compiled by Bill Evans for Sonny when he reached 70.

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09 January 2020

Cup O' Joe at Out to Lunch Festival, Belfast, 23 Jan. 2020 - and more

The 20th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival will be held in Belfast from 2 May to 12 May; some of the shows are already sold out. Meanwhile its January equivalent, the 15th Out to Lunch Festival, began last Friday and continues till 26 January.

Sold-out shows on the Out to Lunch programme include this coming Saturday (11 Jan.) when The sound of my voice, a documentary film of the career of Linda Ronstadt (a good friend of the Seldom Scene) will be given its Irish premiere at the Black Box. Also sold out is the Cajun Roosters show at the Black Box on Friday 17 Jan.

The good news is that Cup O' Joe will be in concert at the Black Box on Thursday 23 Jan. at 1.00 p.m. Tickets (£8.00) can be booked here. Cup O' Joe officially launched their new album In the parting last Friday at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast, and they will be touring Britain from today till 21 Jan. (see their Facebook). The photo below is the work of Katie Loughrin of the celebrated Cookstown family.

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13th Ardara Bluegrass Festival, 17-19 July 2020

The 13th Ardara Bluegrass Festival will be held in Ardara, Co. Donegal, on the weekend Friday 17 July-Sunday 19 July 2020. This year's programme of events will be announced soon.

The Festival is also on Facebook, where bluegrass-related events in Ardara during the rest of the year are publicised. For further information, call Pat McGill at 087 6900714.

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The Local Honeys (USA): Ireland dates from 'Sing the Gospel' tour

The Local Honeys made a lot of fans and friends in Ireland last year with tours in February and June, including the 13th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. The BIB received in October advance news that they would be back early in 2020; and thanks to their Facebook we're now able to show their full schedule for Ireland.

The shows in Ireland begin and end their 'Sing the Gospel' tour, which also includes dates in Britain, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands (see the poster image).

January 2020
  • Fri. 17th: The Grand Social, 35 Lower Liffey St., Dublin 1, 8.00 p.m. (suppoting Tyler Childers)
February 2020
  • Tues. 4th: Whelan's, Wexford St., Dublin 2, €15
  • Wed. 5th: Matt Molloy's, Bridge St., Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Fri. 7th: Imbolc International Arts Festival, Derry city, with Rioghnach Connolly and band
  • Sat. 8th: Draiocht, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 (supporting Sharon Shannon)

08 January 2020

First Red Hat Club meeting of 2020 at Naas, 10 Jan.

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for the news that the Club's first meeting of 2020 will be held this coming Friday (10 January). Paul and Anne look forward to seeing everyone on Friday.

The Red Hat meets on the second Friday of every month at the Harbour Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. Music starts around 8.30 p.m.; a donation of €3.00 covers coffee/ tea and sandwiches at the interval.

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A return favour to Pete Seeger

In his latest e-newsletter, Michael J. Miles - the man who showed that Bach could be beautifully played on the clawhammer banjo - describes how Pete Seeger played many benefit concerts for the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Michael invites Chicagoans and others to return the favour by donating to Pete's Clearwater Foundation, for which he is giving a benefit concert in New York later this month. As Michael writes, 'If you're even reading this, it's likely that Pete touched your life somehow.' More concert details, videos, and links to free banjo and guitar tablatures are here.

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07 January 2020

Bluegrass Today on Seth Mulder & Midnight Run (USA) tour

L-r: Colton Powers, Ben Watlington, Seth Mulder,
Max Etling, Cody Bauer

The forthcoming tour by Seth Mulder & Midnight Run from Gatlinburg, TN (see the BIB for 20 Dec. 2019), is the subject of a feature by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today. The article includes information about the band's background and experience, together with a video of them on a live show, playing a Seth Mulder original. John Lawless writes: 'Fans of hard-driving old time bluegrass are encouraged to seek them out during this trip.'

The article doesn't, however, mention that the basic foursome of Midnight Run will be augmented by Cody Bauer on fiddle. The tour (the band's second visit to Ireland, both organised by the redoubtable John Nyhan) begins eight days from now at Headford, Co. Galway, followed immediately by their headlining the bluegrass part of the Shannonside Winter Music Festival programme. All their dates are on the BIB calendar.

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More news of past and coming visitors

John Lawless announces on Bluegrass Today that the Kody Norris Show (above) has added 'Cousin' Charlie Lowman to the band on upright bass. The Show embodies the vitality and showmanship of 1950s bluegrass, especially Jimmy Martin's style; and Charlie's energy and enthusiasm - he plays in several bands, including his own - is expected to fit perfectly with this. The Kody Norris Show will be headliners at this year's 14th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival.
Also on Bluegrass Today, David Morris gives his choice of the twelve best bluegrass albums of 2019, stressing that 'this is a very subjective list that reflects my opinions alone', and that the outstanding quality of this year's crop made choices exceptionally difficult. The list includes as #2 Inner journey by Darin & Brooke Aldridge; #4, For the record by Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers; and #6, Breaking in lonesome, the debut solo album by Rick Faris of the Special Consensus.

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06 January 2020

Lisdoonvarna 2020 - THE hub for old-time music!

From Andrew Lambert and Bob Denton, organisers of the Annual Irish Old-Time Appalachian Music Gathering, to all lovers of old-time music:

Greetings, and Happy New Year,

We hope you’ll be coming to the 3rd (and only) All-Ireland Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering. It should be a cracker!

We are continuing with our quest to get the old-time music enthusiasts of Ireland to meet once a year, and thus emulate in a small way what the Trad Irish music community has been doing for decades at the Fleadh and the Willie Clancy week.

We meet on 21-23 February in Lisdoonvarna. This year we are sticking our neck out and paying air fares, etc., for both a top musician to lead our sessions – Clay Buckner, fiddler with the mighty Red Clay Ramblers – and for a caller to lead the barndance on Saturday night (Jeremy Child).

Responding to demand, we have also included an added dimension of Appalachian musical culture, by inviting Shape-Note singers to join the weekend. Some of them have already attended as musicians.

As in year 1, we will offer some instrumental and dance workshops, plus a Shape-Note singing workshop for those who are interested. We will post an outline programme on the website shortly, including listing of workshops.

As you know, we only ask that attendees put €10 a head into the pot (€15 if registering after 31 Jan.) so that we can hopefully cover at least some of our costs. A good turnout of locals on Saturday night (concert/ barndance) will help.

PLEASE REGISTER YOUR ATTENDANCE ON THE WEBSITE – otherwise we can’t plan. Do so before 31 Jan. and it’s only €10.

While this year the Sleepzone Hostel will not be open*, the Ritz and Ravine are offering B&B at only €35 per head; and the Boghill Centre just outside Lisdoonvarna offers hostel-style accommodation for those who want it. Also check local Air BNBs and see our accommodation page on the website for a few more tips.

So we are really looking forward to re-creating the great buzz of the last two years, and having a great weekend of music and more.

See you in Lisdoonvarna!

Andy & Bob
*A few folks felt that the Sleepzone Hostel was a bit damp last year. Sleepzone have decided it is just not economic to prepare properly just for one weekend (out-of-season) and then close down again.

Web links and bold type above have been added by the BIB.

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Greenshine at the Asgard Theatre, Arklow, 24 Jan. 2020

Thanks to Brendan O'Regan for this good news:

I'm back running roots concerts in Arklow - my first in Arklow's new Asgard Theatre, which is opening up the cultural scene in Arklow big time!

As shown in the poster, Brendan is presenting Cork's Greenshine in the Asgard Theatre, 34/35 Lower Main St., Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on Friday 24 January at 8.00 p.m. Tickets (€15) can be booked online at gr8events.ie. The ample information there includes Christy Moore's description of Greenshine as 'the sound of a family immersed in music, tight in harmony, in love with song'.

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Celtic Connections in Glasgow, 16 Jan.-2 Feb. 2020

The organising team of Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival send New Year greetings and their latest e-newsletter as an aid to mapping out what to attend during the eighteen days (16 Jan.-2 Feb.) of concentrated and assorted music.

The programme, organised into different (but overlapping) genres can be seen here; most of what's likely to interest BIB readers - and it's a lot - comes under Americana. A calendar of day-by-day events is here. A location map is provided for every event.

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05 January 2020

Cox's Army (USA) issue new album

Exactly two months ago the BIB carried news of Jeff Burke, well known in Ireland from his many tours as half of Jeff & Vida as well as being an instructor at Bluegrass Camp Ireland. Since moving from Nashville to Chicago, Jeff has been prominent in setting up the Bluegrass Chicago website as a hub for the bluegrass and old-time communities in the metropolitan area.

Jeff is also now mandolinist and baritone singer in Cox's Army, led by Chuck Cox (guitar, lead vocals) with Laird Patten (banjo), and Jack Campbell (bass, tenor vocals). The band, founded in 2016, perform classic and original material in the traditional style, usually round a single Ear Trumpet Labs microphone. Their debut album Green eyed train came out in 2018, and the second, New Richmond Town, was released on 8 Nov. 2019. The title song - a Chuck Cox original - is on YouTube, and the album is streamed on SoundCloud and Spotify.

On both of Cox's Army's albums, the producer was Chris Walz, whom many will remember as guitarist with the Special Consensus on one of their early tours of Ireland, and the mixing was done by Ricky Wasson, longtime guitarist and lead singer with J.D. Crowe & the New South. Cox's Army is also on Facebook.

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04 January 2020

Greg Cahill to be inducted into SPBGMA Hall of Greats

Greg Cahill of Chicago founded the Special Consensus in 1975 and has been bringing the band to Ireland on tours since 1995. In the intervals, he has been one of the most hard-working and respected members of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), active in spreading bluegrass through education, and serving as IBMA president and chairperson. Yesterday the Special Consensus posted on their Facebook (links added below by the BIB):

Greg is feeling extremely honored and humbled as the New Year begins. The Bluegrass Stories podcast will feature his interview for a week, beginning today, and he is nominated for the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) Banjo Player of the Year award and he will be inducted into the SPBGMA Hall of Greats on Feb. 2 at their annual winter festival in Nashville.

The BIB sends Greg heartfelt congratulations, which bluegrass supporters in Ireland are sure to endorse.

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03 January 2020

BU, Jan. 2020

The BIB editor writes:

The January 2020 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine includes the annual Festival guide, and we're glad to report that once again Ireland shows up with more events on the calendar - three - than anywhere else outside North America. Of course, this understates our own festival scene as well as those of other countries.

Among other good things in this issue, Nancy Cardwell Webster gives a Highlight Review to the CD Bluegrass headquarters by Finland's Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers, one of the few bands from outside the USA that gets frequent favourable mentions in BU - this is the third Highlight Review they've had. The review ends: 'Fans of Red Allen, Jimmy Martin, Jim Eanes, the Lilly Brothers, Don Stover, and the Stanley Brothers will enjoy the music of Jussi Syren & The Groundbreakers.'

While waiting for the annual BU instrument issue in March, instrument nerds may wish to follow up the ads for Mitch banjos (also to be heard on YouTube) and for the Fiddolin, an instrument combining fiddle and mandolin, invented by Wayne Jerrolds, a former fiddler for Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys. This is also to be seen and heard on YouTube.

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01 January 2020

'Rozene' first #1 for McKay & Leigh (update)

Friends and admirers of Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay (who have toured Ireland several times and headlined the bluegrass concert at last year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival) will be glad at the news that in the week before Christmas their current single 'Rozene' was #7 on the Bluegrass Today weekly chart, and #1 on the Grassicana chart - their first #1, though earlier in 2019 their 'New cut road' reached #2.

The song was written by Brennen Leigh and Erin Enderlin. Musicians on the record were Brennen Leigh (lead vocal, mandolin), Noel McKay (harmony vocal, guitar), Jenee Fleenor (fiddle, BGV), Simon Flory (upright bass), and Aaron McDaris (banjo). It was recorded and mixed by John Nicholson at Hilltop Studios, Nashville, TN, and produced by Jimmy Metts for Voxhall Records.

Update 2 Jan.: 'New cut road' by McKay & Leigh is #27 on Bluegrass Today's 'Top 30 grassicana songs of 2019' list. Recordings by Della Mae, who will be playing in Dublin three weeks from now as part of Tradfest 2020, are at #6 and #13; and 'Great big sea', recorded by Danny Burns, currently on tour in Ireland, is at #25.

Meanwhile, recent visitors to Ireland with recordings on Bluegrass Today's 'Top 30 bluegrass songs for 2019' include Chris Jones & the Night Drivers (#5), Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers (#19), Sideline (#23), Rick Faris (#24), and Gena Britt (#30).

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31 December 2019

Grass doesn't make the cut

The Bitter Southerner (BS) online magazine sends this greeting:

To learn a culture, three actions are required: 1) Listen to its music. 2) Read its writers. 3) Listen to the stories of its everyday people. Our end-of-year roundups let you do all three. Southern culture broadened and deepened this year, and we want to keep you informed.

We also wanted to wish you a happy New Year.

The BS assists action 1) with its seventh annual list of 'our region’s best records' - that is, the thirty best Southern albums of 2019 - and the BIB notes with regret that no bluegrass album qualifies for inclusion. The nearest is #22, Allison Moorer's Blood. #4, though, is Songs of our native daughters (Smithsonian Folkways SFW40232), 'made by four black women with accordions and banjos' - Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell, with production, engineering, and mixing by Dirk Powell.

PS: Bluegrass Today has just published its 'Top 30 bluegrass songs for 2019'.

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30 December 2019

The Sons of Navarone and Table for Two in Ireland, Jan. 2020

L-r: Yves Aerts, Thierry Schoysman, Guido Bos, Paul van Vlodrop

Belgium's The Sons of Navarone have already won awards in Europe and established a place among festival favourites in Britain, and it's about time they were known over here. Like the premier Belgian band Rawhide (who played at Omagh a few years back), their live shows are marked by instrumental brilliance, strong vocal harmonies, and wit. US mandolin maestro Mike Marshall calls their album Nobody's business 'a wonderful CD'; his liner notes (which can be read on the Sons' website) say everything necessary about their sound on record.

The Sons will be performing here very soon at the 21st Shannonside Winter Music Festival in Bunratty and Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare. The Festival is their sole scheduled appearance in Ireland; but there will be five opportunities to see and hear them, as they'll be playing the following gigs:

Sat. 18th Jan.
1.00 p.m. Castle Main Guard, Bunratty castle
4.00 p.m. McGregor's, Sixmilebridge
11.00 p.m. Bunratty Manor Hotel

Sun. 19th:
3.00 p.m. Sixmilebridge GAA Hall, concert with Seth Mulder & Midnight Run (USA)
5.00 p.m. O Gliasain's (Gleeson's) music venue, Sixmilebridge
Table for Two (below) is a fine bluegrass duo composed of two multi-instrumentalists and singers: Thierry Schoysman (who plays banjo with Rawhide and mandolin with the Sons of Navarone) and Signe Borch from Denmark. (Thierry and Signe have visited Ireland in the past two Januaries and were guests of honour at a memorable jam in 2019; see the BIB for 20 Jan.) They have an engaging video teaser on YouTube; a video of their 'I'm blue and lonesome too' was shot at the 2019 La Roche festival in France. A sample of what they can do with two mandolins can be seen here.

Table for Two are playing support to Seth Mulder & Midnight Run at the following shows after the Shannonside festival:

Mon. 20th Jan.: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 25th: Heart and Home Bluegrass Festival, Ballydehob, Co. Cork; Festival Headline Concert, Community Hall, 7.00 p.m.
Sun. 26th: Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork, 8.30 p.m.

For the full Irish tour schedule for Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, see the BIB for 20 Dec. 2019.

Signe Borch, Thierry Schoysman

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29 December 2019

An appeal from Oldtime Central

The editors of Oldtime Central (OTC) announce:

We hope you've been enjoying the holiday season! We're taking the week off, and will have weekly articles and videos again starting in January.

We need your help! An anonymous donor has pledged $5000 for a dollar-for-dollar donation-matching campaign until the end of the year, and we only have 5 days
[now 3] before it's over! We'd love to make the most of this opportunity, and this money could go a long way towards helping to support our work. Lots of you have given so far, and we really appreciate it. However, to date we're only at 32% of what we need to reach our goal, and at this rate we won't make it. Would you consider giving to Oldtime Central and helping us give back to the Oldtime community?

As you know, Oldtime Central is now a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. That means that all of your donations are tax-deductible, so more of your money can go to supporting Oldtime Central's mission and programming.

Links for donations are on the OTC newsletter.

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28 December 2019

Woodbine open a new year at Rathdowney, 1 Jan. 2020

Thanks to Tony O'Brien of Woodbine for this news:

Woodbine start their nineteenth year as a band with their now Annual New Year's night (1 Jan.) gig in Touhy's Bar, Rathdowney, Co. Laois, at 9.30 p.m. We will be playing as a three-piece (Nicola, Liam, and myself) with possibly a couple of guest artists.

27 December 2019

Holiday greetings from Walnut Valley, KS

Thanks to Rex Flottman and the Walnut Valley Association in Winfield, Kansas, home of the Walnut Valley National Guitar Flat-Picking Championships Festival since 1972, for this holiday greeting. The BIB particularly likes the central wreath decoration, evoking the ties worn by Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, and other classic bluegrass artists.

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26 December 2019

Nu-Blu (USA) added to Encounter Ireland Tours

BIB readers who saw Nu-Blu (left) from Siler City, NC, when they were on tour here in October in a trio configuration (see the BIB for 1 Oct.) will be glad to know that they will be back in autumn 2020 - this time as hosts, guides, and entertainers for visitors to Ireland as part of the Encounter Ireland Tours programme, in which the Deering Banjo Company are involved.

Nu-Blu (also on Facebook) will be giving concerts and workshops to Encounter Ireland tourists during 14-23 September. Booking by 1 Jan. 2020, under an Early Bird offer, means a reduced deposit of only $300. Full details are here.

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25 December 2019

Curly Seckler

Today is the centenary of the birth of John Ray 'Curly' Seckler of China Grove, NC, who died two days after his 98th birthday (see the BIB for 28 Dec. 2017). Curly was one of the earliest members of the first generation of bluegrass musicians, playing professionally before the music had been given its present name.

In his long career he was the quintessential bluegrass sideman, a prolific songwriter, and (for years after the death of Lester Flatt) leader of the Nashville Grass. His ancestors, like those of many others in the Appalachian region, were of German origin; his great-great-great-grandfather reached North Carolina from Pennsylvania in the late eighteenth century.

Because of the length, breadth, and depth of his experience, Penny Parsons' biography of him, Foggy Mountain troubadour: the life and music of Curly Seckler (2016) is packed with information about the innumerable musicians and others with whom he came in contact. In the space of just three pages, for instance, you can learn what grew in the woodwork of Lester Flatt's station wagon; how close Lester came to pulling a gun on Charlie Monroe; and how Curly was the first person to get Jim & Jesse McReynolds to wear neckties. On the final page, Marty Stuart is quoted as considering Curly 'the greatest tenor singer of all time, and one of the greatest men that ever walked. An honourable man. A just and good man.'

Update 27 Dec.: See also a remarkable analytical study of Curly's career by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today.

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24 December 2019

Christmas greetings from the BIB

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog sends good wishes for a joyful and peaceful Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year to all its readers, to all lovers of bluegrass and kindred musics, and to all people of goodwill everywhere.

The BIB's most seasonal offering is this link to the 27 Mar. 1963 recording by Bill Monroe's band of 'Santa Claus', led by Bill Keith (see the BIB for 20 Dec.) on banjo.


23 December 2019

Christmas greetings from Brookfield Knights

The UK's Brookfield Knights agency team send Christmas greetings, 'wishing one and all a joy-filled Christmas and a New Year filled with eager anticipation and delights'.

Brookfield Knights also send a note of the bands on their artists' roster who have earned the position of 'festival favourites' and are available for 2020 bookings. Among the familiar names of US acts are Belfast's Wookalily.

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Greetings (and other things) for banjo players

The Deering Banjo Company send Christmas greetings including a personal video message from Greg, Janet, and Jamie Deering (also on YouTube), with Greg playing Christmas carols.

Thanks also to the Gold Tone Music Group for the above image, which comes with the announcement that to allow everyone to spend time with family at Christmas, they will be closed for business from 24 December till 1 January. The message includes a video of 'Santa never brings me a banjo' (also on YouTube).
Ome Banjos of Colorado announce reductions of 10 to 50 per cent off select items in their online store; and Nechville Instruments offer $100 off their Warpdrive banjo pickup system till 31 Dec.

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22 December 2019

'My Grass Is Blue' streaming on The Bluegrass Jamboree from 2 Jan. 2020

Thanks to Dave Byrne Jr of mygrassisblue.com for this welcome news for the new year:

Listen up y’all! Starting 2 January, we’ll have our very own show - 'My Grass Is Blue' - on The Bluegrass Jamboree, our favourite online streaming bluegrass service.

Hosted by Dad - Dave Sr, the brains if not the brawn behind mygrassisblue.com - and broadcasting every Thursday from 10.00 p.m. to midnight (starting 2 January 2020), the show will be our mix of the very best in bluegrass with a sprinkling of traditional country, the good kind of country. As the show matures we hope to have plenty of artist interviews, soundbites, and insights from the touring road.

Initially the show will be recorded but there’s an option to broadcast live in the near future. Outside of the studio, we’ll also have a 'listen back' feature on the website with an archive of all 'My Grass Is Blue' show broadcasts, while we’ll also be previewing and highlighting show contents via our social media channels either side of the official broadcast.

From his first DJ shift in 1981 through to today, Dad has broadcast on a selection of independent regional, local, and internet-based radio stations in Ireland, all the while showcasing his passion, not to mention his enviable record collection and encyclopaedic knowledge of the country and bluegrass genre. He’s delighted to be bringing his personal mix of bluegrass, traditional country, and insights to the Bluegrass Jamboree audience.

So yes, do listen up y’all! From 10.00 p.m. every Thursday starting 2 January, only on The Bluegrass Jamboree, or via their iOs App Store or Android Google Play apps, an awesome listen-anywhere feature provided by the Bluegrass Jamboree.

The BIB unreservedly wishes to be associated with the tribute to Dave Byrne Sr for his four decades (so far) of work for bluegrass and traditional country over the airwaves.

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20 December 2019

Seth Mulder & Midnight Run (USA) in Ireland, 15 Jan.-2 Feb. 2020

Thanks to the indispensable John Nyhan for this news and his comments:

Seth Mulder & Midnight Run from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA, are making their second visit to Ireland. On their previous visit they proved extremely popular with their high energy and passion for classic bluegrass and country. Anyone who wants to hear traditional bluegrass and country should not miss this band. They reminded me of the Johnson Mountain Boys. The band features:
  • Seth Mulder (mandolin, vocals) - He sounds like a young Dudley Connell.
  • Colton Powers (banjo, vocals) - A great Scruggs-style player with a fantastic stage presence.
  • Ben Watlington (guitar, vocals) - A fine flatpicker, with a great voice for bluegrass and country.
  • Cody Bauer (fiddle) - He has been described as more like Michael Cleveland than Bobby Hicks. That's some praise.
  • Max Etling (bass, vocals) - A rock-steady bass player who performs with great enthusiasm.
John has also organised the following tour schedule:

January 2020

Wed. 15th: Campbell's Tavern, Headford, Co. Galway, 9.00 p.m. Tel. 093 35454

Fri. 17th-Sun. 19th: Shannonside Winter Music Festival, Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare, various times. The Sons of Navarone (bluegrass band from Belgium) will also be playing at the Festival.

Mon. 20th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m. Supported by Table for Two (Belgium/ Denmark). Tel. 087 792 1771

Tues. 21st: Merry's Bar and Restaurant, Lower Main St., Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 087 064 0542

Wed. 22nd: The Coachman, Parnell St., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 085 850 2289

Thurs. 23rd: St John's Theatre, The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 068 22566

Fri. 24th: Coastguard Cultural Centre, Love Lane, Tramore, Co. Waterford, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 051 391 656

Sat. 25th: Heart and Home Bluegrass Festival, Ballydehob, Co. Cork; Festival Headline Concert, Community Hall, 7.00 p.m. Supported by Table for Two (Belgium/ Denmark).

The Festival takes place from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th and will include the Grove Band (UK) and Long Way Home (NL/US)

Sun. 26th: Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork, 8.30 p.m. Supported by Table for Two (Belgium/ Denmark). Tel. 087 792 1771

Mon. 27th: Rory Gallagher Music Library, Grand Parade, Cork city, 1.00 p.m. Tel. 021 492 4907

Tues. 28th: Mallow Library, Thomas Davis St., Mallow, Co. Cork, 1.00 p.m. Tel. 022 21821

Tuohy's Bar, Pound St., Rathdowney, Co. Laois, 9.00 p.m. Tel. 087 967 5752

Wed. 29th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, 8.30 p.m. Tel. 0044 7736 837 779

Thurs. 30th: Dorney Bridge, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, 8.15 p.m. Tel. 0044 7716 267 625

February 2020

Sat. !st: St Senan's Church of Ireland, Ardrum, Inniscarra, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 087 792 1771

Sun. 2nd: Horan's Bar & Restaurant, Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, 4.00 p.m. Tel. 059 648 1733
For further information on any of the above, tel. 087 792 1771 or e-mail.

BIB editor's note: Seth Mulder & Midnight Run will be playing nine dates in Britain after their tour here. More info on the Sons of Navarone and Table for Two will follow in another post.

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Chatham County Line (USA) at Kilkenny Roots Festival 2020

Smithwicks Kilkenny Roots Festival announce their selection of 'Christmas stocking fillers' - tickets can be booked for three of the acts taking part in the coming year's event (Fri. 1 May-Mon. 4 May 2020), of which the one most likely to attract BIB readers is North Carolina's Chatham County Line, who have toured here several times in the past with a more traditional format than their present one.

Since banjoist Chandler Hall retired from the band, Chatham County Line has consisted of a core trio (Dave Wilson, guitar, harmonica, vocals; John Teer, mandolin, fiddle, vocals; Greg Reading, bass, pedal steel, piano, vocals) plus a drummer. At Kilkenny they are scheduled to play on Sunday 3 May from 3.00 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. at the Set Theatre, John St., and on Monday 4 May from 4.00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. at Cleeres Bar & Theatre, Parliament St. Tickets for both these gigs can now be booked online. It is not yet known whether CCL will be playing other shows in Ireland.

Chatham County Line: the core trio

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Bill Keith (update)

Today would have been the eightieth birthday of William Bradford 'Bill' Keith - second only to Earl Scruggs as most influential 5-string bluegrass banjo player of the late twentieth century - who died on 23 October 2015.

Accounts of his life can be found in John Lawless's assessment on Bluegrass Today; the BIB's own post of 25 Oct. 2015; two major features on Bluegrass Today by Richard Thompson, appearing almost exactly four years ago (21 and 22 Dec. 2015); and Gary Reid's biographical article on Keith for the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Neil Rosenberg's book Blue grass generation (2018) describes (among many other things) the electrifying impact of Bill Keith's playing on hearers while he was a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. Frank Robinson reports that Keith's playing of consecutive notes across different strings is said to have influenced Chet Atkins. A forthcoming biography of Bill Keith by Bob Carlin is eagerly awaited.

Update 21 Dec.: A valuable memoir by Bill's longtime friend Jim Rooney, incorporating a reminiscence by Bill Evans, can be read here.

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19 December 2019

A Christmas greeting from mygrassisblue.com

Well, we made it through year one. Our inaugural year of 2019 will always be special. It was a busy and ofttimes challenging year as we sought to find our feet, something made easier by establishing valued relationships via collaborations with established members of the bluegrass community here in Ireland. So we’d like to take this opportunity to offer up a heartfelt 'thank you' to all of those who worked with us in 2019 for the benefit of bluegrass promotion in Ireland, and we’d like to extend to you all best wishes for festive and fun Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

We look forward to more of the same in 2020 and beyond.

Keep your grass blue. Always.

Dave Jnr. and all the crew at mygrassisblue.com

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The latest BBN

The winter 2019 issue (no. 88) of British Bluegrass News, the magazine of the British Bluegrass Music Association (BBMA), is now out; as always, it's designed and produced to high standards, profusely illustrated with excellent photos, and full of solid content; and as usual, there are items relevant to events on the scene here.

This issue's cover story is on Lunch Special, who toured here briefly during October and will be back for this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. The records reviewed include Space guitars, the debut album by Pet Yeti, who will also be at Westport. The festival is mentioned in passing in an article by Maria Wallace of True North Music, who took the IBMA's Leadership Bluegrass (LBG) course partly on the advice of LBG alumnus Uri Kohen. And a map of music teachers in these islands shows Hubert Murray (guitar) in Tullamore.

On a more sombre note, two separate articles lament the disappearance of long-established festivals (Britain has lost five in the last three years) and the consequent loss of opportunities for bands.

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18 December 2019

Christmas greetings from Woodbine

Tony O'Brien and Woodbine send this seasonal message:

Woodbine wish all their friends a very Happy Christmas and Bright New Year. Thanks for the continued support during 2019, and we hope to see you all in 2020 with a changed programme of Bluegrass, Acoustic Country, Americana, and Folk.

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Bluegrass Omagh 2020, 22-4 May: tickets on sale online (update)

National Museums of Northern Ireland have clearly given up sending information to people who ask for it, but if you happen to look every now and again at the Ulster American Folk Park pages, you'll already be aware that tickets are on sale online for this year's bluegrass festival at the Park, on the new springtime dates of Friday 22 May to Sunday 24 May.

The price of a weekend pass appears as £12.75 - which seems a real bargain*, as a Friday ticket is shown as £17.00, a Saturday ticket is £21.25, and a Sunday ticket £17.00. A child's ticket on each day is £5.10. No price is shown at present for the 'Spirit of Bluegrass' gospel concert on Sunday evening. Artists taking part include Appalachian Roadshow, A.J. Lee & Blue Summit, Jonathan Byrd & the Pick Up Cowboys, the Honey Dewdrops, Zoe & Cloyd (all USA), Kristy Cox (AUS), the Niall Toner Band, and the Jaywalkers (GB).

All these prices include an Earlybird discount of 15% 'if you buy before 31st December 2019', although the website also says 'Earlybird tickets are currently on sale until the 31 January.' The best course is clearly to book as soon as possible.

*Update 9 Jan. 2020: It was too good to be true. When one comes to book it, a weekend pass is £42.50, or £85.00 for a family.


17 December 2019

3rd Annual Irish Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering, 21-23 Feb. 2020

Thanks to Andrew Lambert, co-organiser (with Bob Denton) of 'Irish Old Time', for this poster image and news of the 3rd Annual Irish Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering, to be held again in Lisdoonvarna on 21-23 Feb. 2020. Active preparations are in progress, and Andrew reports (with bold type added by the BIB):

It’ll be more like the first year in terms of things going on.

We are bringing over Clay Buckner, fiddler with the famed Red Clay Ramblers – he’ll lead sessions and do a workshop or two.. We also plan to bring in an experienced caller (from the UK) who will do a dance workshop. We are also planning to feature some shape-note singing, and a workshop on that.

More details are to come. Andrew adds:

PS: played last night down in Cork with Ian & Sheena Knepper and the crew – at a fine pub called Fionnbarra. Great time had by all!

Update 18 Dec.: In place of the poster image that first appeared on this post, Bob Denton sends a revise (above) showing some of the Gathering's activities.

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Deering Banjos news

The Deering Banjo Company announces on its blog that Jamie Deering (above, centre), daughter of the co-founders Greg and Janet Deering, has been appointed to the position of CEO of the company. Jamie is uniquely well qualified, having been involved since childhood at every level of the processes of making, developing, and promoting Deering instruments. Her father comments:

While Janet and I have accomplished a lot in 44 years, Jamie, if anything, has more horsepower and is smarter than we are. [...] Deering Banjo Company will see a wonderful and expanded banjo world with Jamie as our CEO.

Many congratulations to Jamie have been posted on the Deering blog; one of the earliest is from Pat Kelleher of Dripsey, Co. Cork. As well as contributing to the BIB a tribute to Pete Seeger on the centenary of his birth (3 May), Pat has taken part in the previous annual Banjo Events at the Eagle Music Shop in England, and will no doubt be at the 2020 Event on 7 March. The photo below shows him with a Deering John Hartford banjo and Jens Kruger.

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