22 November 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. The BIB does not do reviews.

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


21 November 2017

Beer & Bluegrass visitors to Dublin this weekend

The BIB editor writes:

Thanks to Martin Hickman of the annual International Beer & Bluegrass Festival at Poole in Dorset, England, for the news that he will be in Dublin this coming weekend and will be glad to catch any local bluegrass or folk events.

There will of course be the weekly old-time session hosted by Bill Whelan, Ben Keogh, and friends at the Cobblestone in Smithfield from 4.30 to 7.00 p.m. on Saturday, as it has been for many years now; and Rhiannon Giddens (USA) will be performing in concert at Vicar Street, 59 Thomas St., later that evening.

Carol, Tim, and I will be down the country to catch the show by Molsky's Mountain Drifters (USA) at Leap Castle, the first in their tour. So if any bluegrass (or folk) session in Dublin during the weekend would welcome visitors, please contact Martin by e-mail.

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I Draw Slow: concerts between now and Christmas

Dublin's I Draw Slow announce two forthcoming gigs on their Facebook: on Thursday 30 November they play the Cinema on Main St., Naas, Co. Kildare - a charity show in aid of the Naas food bank. Tickets are available from Downda Road Productions.

The band will also be playing their Christmas gig in the Grand Social, Dublin 1, on Sunday 17 Dec.: doors open at 8.00 p.m. and the show starts at 8.30. Tickets (€15.00 incl. booking fee) can be booked here.

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New music coming from the NTB

Niall Toner sends this welcome news:

I am currently working on a new batch of songs and tunes for the next NTB album. 'Last wolf on the mountain' is about the last wolf in Ireland that was hunted down on the Blackstairs, near where we live. 'Myles Walter Keogh' is a song about a man from Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, who fought in the American civil war, then joined General Custer's 7th Cavalry, and died at the battle of the Little Big Horn. 'Blues for Larry' is an instrumental dedicated to the late Larry Roddy who was a wonderful small-time promoter, and a great acoustic blues fan. So this next project will have a very local theme throughout.

Friends and fans will learn with great regret that Niall's wife Moira has been in hospital for the past two weeks, in intensive care after a major operation. Her condition is showing signs of improvement, but full recovery may be a long process. Niall himself was in hospital recently, but as he says, 'my issues were small, my time was short, and my recovery was rapid.' The BIB sends both of them every good wish for future health.

Larry Roddy's legacy is now continued by Ballymore Acoustic Gigs at Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, with a regular programme of artists.

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19 November 2017

The Flying Column - in the round

L-r: Gerry Madden, Niall Toner, Johnny Gleeson, Dick Gladney

Thanks to Niall Toner for this ‘fisheye’ shot (by photographer Karl Hughes) of the Niall Toner Band (NTB) performing at this August's Doolin Craft Beer and Roots Festival at Doolin, Co. Clare. Niall points out that this is a 'Flying Column' configuration of the NTB (see the BIB for 25 July), 'with Gerry Madden deputising for Richie Foley, and doing a great job!'

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17 November 2017

'Grassicana' - a useful new word

Bluegrass Today, leading online bluegrass news medium, has formed an alliance with AirPlay Direct, the leading online radio distribution service for labels and independent artists. Details are on the websites of both Bluegrass Today and Airplay Direct. One fruit of their cooperation is a new chart for recordings of 'Grassicana', defined by them as follows:

... music that lies between the progressive sounds of bluegrass and the vast genre of Americana. While possessing a connection with bluegrass, it is defined as the 'branches', as opposed to the 'roots' of bluegrass. Typically played with acoustic instruments traditional to bluegrass, it may also include drums and other instrumentation not always associated with bluegrass. More than instrumentation however, it is the style in which the music is played that ultimately defines the new genre of Grassicana.

This unique new chart has been set up in response to requests from radio programmers, artists, and labels alike, so it clearly fills a long-felt want. It would, for instance, fit groups such as Avenhart, mentioned on the BIB on 22 Sept.

PS (18 Nov.): See Denis McCarthy's comment, below.

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16 November 2017

IBMA news - and changes

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) website is offline for a few days, undergoing maintenance. The IBMA Facebook is unaffected. If you need to join or renew membership, contact Amy Beth Hale at the IBMA office by 'phone (001-615-256-3222l toll-free 888-438-4262) or e-mail.

The December 2017 issue will be the last of the IBMA's monthly online newsletter International Bluegrass, due to changing patterns of reader use. From 1 Jan. 2018 IBMA will be sharing news exclusively through e-blasts (e-mails sent out to all members), social media channels, and the website. The IBMA says:

This new approach means we can get you the news while it’s timely, and still provide all the content our membership relies on. We know some of you will miss the newsletter in its current form. We ask you to bear with us, and see if you don’t experience some of the benefits this new approach will bring.

The Bluegrass Trust Fund, 'a safety net for bluegrass pros when emergencies strike', is one of the IBMA's fundamental projects. 28 November will be Giving Tuesday, a worldwide fundraising event to start the end-of-year giving season, and the Trust Fund can be helped not only by donations but by the publicity given by a 'Facebook frame'. Details are here.

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First aid wanted at old-time festival in England

If you're an old-time music enthusiast and also a first-aider trained to St John Ambulance standards, there could be a free place for you at FOAOTMAD's old-time music festival at Gainsborough in England early next year (8-11 Feb.). The FOAOTMAD news blog reports that in return for working at the festival there will be some remuneration plus free tickets for the weekend.

Details of the Gainsborough festival are here. Tickets went on sale to FOAOTMAD members from 1 Oct., and will be open to non-members from 1 Jan. 2018.

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15 November 2017

Bluegrass Jamboree 2017 ready to go

Rainer Zellner and his Music Contact agency in Germany send the news that the 'Banjo Bus' is all ready for this year's 9th Bluegrass Jamboree! 'touring bluegrass festival' package, which will play twenty-four venues in twenty-five days, ranging all over Germany and with one show in Austria, and beginning next week (21 Nov.-16 Dec.)

Full details of the schedule are on the Music Contact website. This year's powerful lineup comprises the Lonely Heartstring Band (USA), Lula Wiles (USA), and the Lonesome Ace Stringband (CAN). A seven-minute video preview is here.

The BIB announced last week that Rainer is putting together a tour in Germany for Midnight Skyracer (UK; Tabitha Agnew of Co. Armagh on banjo). Since then the schedule has grown...

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14 November 2017

Molsky's Mountain Drifters tour, 25-7 Nov. 2017: an extra show announced

Following on the BIB post of 24 Oct., thanks to Audrey Molsky for this poster image for the coming tour by Molsky's Mountain Drifters (Bruce Molsky, fiddle, banjo, guitar; Allison de Groot, banjo; Stash Wyslouch, guitar), who represent the pinnacle of old-time ensemble playing today. Highly recommended. All too brief though the tour is, it's longer than at first announced, with a total now of three scheduled dates:

Sat. 25th Nov.: Leap Castle, Co. Offaly (near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary), 9.00 p.m.
Sun. 26th: Coughlan's Live, 7 Douglas St., Cork city, 9.00 p.m.
Mon. 27th: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.

The tour has its own Facebook page. Plenty of the Drifters' music is on YouTube: here is a two-minute sampler from a concert.

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MerleFest 2018: dates and lineup announced

Thanks to Maria Ivey for the news that the thirty-first MerleFest will be held at Wilkesboro, NC, from Thursday 26 April to Monday 30 April 2018. The lineup comprises over 75 artists, including five who have played at every MerleFest since the beginning: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Joe Smothers, and Jack Lawrence. Among those familiar to Irish audiences are Cardboard Fox (UK), who played at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Co. Mayo, and Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley (USA), headliners at last year's Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.

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13 November 2017

Past visitors from the Mother Country

Early in October 2015, bluegrass singer/ songwriter Milan Miller (left) was in Ireland, playing informally in the Cork area with Kay & Patrick Crouch (below) of Strictly Clean and Decent from Lenoir, NC. His album Poison Cove (2013) is now being followed by an EP, Timepiece, due for release in January 2018. The title track, co-written with Beth Husband and played by top-class pickers, tells the true story of a 1922 gang of bank robbers who made a bad career decision. A snippet can be heard on Bluegrass Today.
Dobroist 'Uncle' Phil Leadbetter (right) was here in 1999 with J.D. Crowe & the New South. Since then he has had a protracted battle with cancer; undaunted by that, he initiated the formation of Flashback, a reincarnation of J.D.'s band that had made the 1994 album of that name.

On Bluegrass Today he announces that he will be retiring from Flashback but will continue to perform (including a show in Knoxville, TN, this coming Friday), as well as working at his part-time career in real estate.


10 November 2017

Short scale banjos - what's new?

Thanks to Alec Somerville in Co. Donegal for these reflections, born of a lifetime's experience with banjos:

I have been reading lately about a 'revolution' in the five-string banjo industry, attributed to various well known performers, players, and makers... the bent seems to be (a) banjos in which the 'skin' sits directly on the wood rim instead of the usual metal tone-ring (however made or contrived) and (b) banjos which can be tuned DOWN into 'E' or even 'D' using the age-old tuning for open 'G'. They are described as 'traditional', 'low banjos', etc., etc...

Well, I have news for the uninitiated... in a room of my home there are several banjos which fit these parameters; they are are stacked up there... Some of them you play right on the wood, usually maple. Others have a spun overcladding on the wood rim which makes a 'tone ring'. The cladding is either nickel-plated brass or 'German silver', a type of nickel compound much used for watch cases, jewellery, etc. at the turn of the century. The scale is usually around 25 inches, and marked at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12. The pegs will be either ivory; celluloid, known as 'ivoroid'; or original Champion pegs with either amber, black, or white buttons, and which may have patent dates stamped on the metal parts ('1883' etc.).

These banjos were made to be used with gut strings. Some of them have bone or ivory tailpieces which will not stand the pull of steel strings. They are best strung with medium to light nylon strings. If the head is split, then Fiberskyn or similar are good - or go ahead and wrap a goat/ calf/ whatever skin on the existing flesh-hoop - an adventure, to be sure. I can do it, but I had to learn...

One of mine has an original Rogers signed 5 Star, the others were either damaged or lost and have had to be replaced. These banjos tune in G, if that's what you want. But do try open D, f# D F# A D, and in a 'Mountain C' tuning, capo 2 for D.

Good Luck and lotsa oldtime pickin'!

BIB editor's note: Alec's comments on modern banjos apply particularly to Deering's new Julia Belle model and White Oak range. Plenty of photos of older generations of banjos can be seen at the Vintage Banjo Makers website, and especially glorious photos are in Bob Carlin's recent book Banjo: an illustrated history.

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09 November 2017

The Roots Revival

The BIB editor writes:

Thank heaven we have Bluegrass Today for information of exciting new developments on the scene in Ireland. The Roots Revival, formed this summer, consists of the three original members of Cup O' Joe, plus fiddler Niall Murphy (making up the four-piece configuration of COJ at this year's IBMA World of Bluegrass) and Eamonn Rooney on bodhran.

More details and two videos can be seen on Bluegrass Today. By the time you read this, the members of COJ will probably have formed at least two further bands...

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08 November 2017

Midnight Skyracer - gaining altitude fast

Eight months ago the BIB carried the news that the members of Cup O' Joe (Co. Armagh) were also playing in two new UK bands: Reuben and Benjamin Agnew in the Propane Brothers (who recently featured in the 2017 Bunratty Bluegrass Festival), and Tabitha Agnew in Midnight Skyracer (left). The other members of Midnight Skyracer include the Carrivick Sisters, who played at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival.

Now Bluegrass Today has a feature on Midnight Skyracer, outlining the lively demand which the band is generating and mentioning the Kickstarter campaign for their debut album Fire, support for which has already hit its target well before the deadline. The band prepared a video for the campaign, which can be seen on Bluegrass Today and also on YouTube.

The BIB mentioned in September that Rainer Zellner's Music Contact agency is booking a tour in Germany for Midnight Skyracer for next May. Three dates are already on the Music Contact website, which (following the band's own Facebook) lists them as 'Girl power bluegrass'. From what we've heard, the operative word there is 'power'. This is a hard-driving, multi-talented, and entertaining band.

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06 November 2017

For dobroists

Radio presenter Katy Daley has another of her major interviews on Bluegrass Today. This time it's with Paul Beard of Beard Guitars, and it's essential reading for anyone interested in how Beard's career evolved in bluegrass and luthiery, the immense influence that the late Mike Auldridge had on him, the characteristics of the different models of resonator guitar he has developed, his Legend Cone, and more. Read it here, where you can also see a video of Mike Auldridge testing a batch of new instruments.

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03 November 2017

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers (USA) for Ireland, 28 Feb.-10 Mar. 2018

The BIB editor writes:

The BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page remarks of Chris Jones that 'Chris has toured a lot in Europe (though not yet, unfortunately, in Ireland).' That hole is about to be filled. Thanks to Nigel Martyn and his Old Flattop agency for the news that Chris Jones & the Night Drivers will tour Ireland from 28 February till 10 March 2018.

The band is Chris Jones (guitar, lead vocals) with Mark Stoffel (mandolin), Gina Clowes (banjo), and the legendary Jon Weisberger (bass). Their command of traditional and contemporary bluegrass is underlined by the reputation they've earned for very strong original material.

Nigel has arranged an eleven-day tour with the band playing every night - in Cookstown, Westport, Armagh, Naul, Banteer, Kilworth, Sixmilebridge, Belfast, Dun Laoghaire, Carrig-on-Bannow, and Roscrea. Full details will be announced in due course.

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02 November 2017

Michael Miles (USA) in Clarinbridge, 4 Nov. 2017

As the BIB reported on 19 Oct., the great clawhammer banjo maestro Michael J. Miles of Chicago (left) will be performing in concert at Paddy Burke’s in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, on this coming Saturday (4 Nov.), having received a standing ovation there in spring 2013.

Tom Cussen of Clareen Banjos in Clarinbridge, who is sponsoring the concert in association with the Clarinbridge Arts Group, sends the news that doors will open at 8.15 p.m. The show will start about 8.45 with an introductory set of 15-20 minutes by tenor-banjo player Brian McGrath. Michael Miles's set will begin at about 9.10 / 9.15 p.m.

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New tab book from Jim Pankey

Many will remember Jim Pankey's appearances in Ireland, most recently last year as a member of the Hamilton County Ramblers (USA) at the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree and elsewhere, and as an instructor at the first Bluegrass Camp Ireland. As well as his performance and instructional videos on YouTube, he also produces tablatures for sale, both for bluegrass and for clawhammer banjo.

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for the news that Jim now has a new tab book, 32 arrangements and ideas for bluegrass banjo. The list of tunes and other details are on Bluegrass Today; the book can be bought online here.

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31 October 2017

Wookalily: 'The Devil is a woman' video release

Just in time to post before Halloween passes - the news that Wookalily have released their official video of 'The Devil is a woman' as a Halloween gift to the world. They send this spiritual health warning:

The footage, after disappearing in an old haunted mill for years, has just been uncovered. The contents have never before been seen. Scary happenings have haunted this video as two crew members mysteriously disappeared without any trace. Some of the scenes were filmed at said mill in a room that many staff still refuse to enter.

Strangely the theme of the video and the odd occurences surrounding it seem to be in direct correlation. The only way to fully grasp this is to watch it.

And you can do this on YouTube.

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Your festival - in BU

The deadline for getting details of your bluegrass festival published in the January 2018 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine is almost upon us. Festival organisers are requested to submit completed entry forms as soon as possible and send them in by post (P.O. Box 771, Warrenton, VA 20188), e-mail, or fax (001-800-258-4727). Here's what should be entered about your event:

  • CITY of Event
  • STATE of Event
  • DATES in 2018
  • Name of Event
  • Location (name of park, brief directions)
  • CITY.................STATE.................ZIP....
  • Phone (1 only)
  • E-mail (1 only)
  • Web (1 only)

These categories are devised for the USA, of course, but giving equivalent information for here shouldn't be hard. If you run more than one event, a separate entry should be made out for each of them. If you can't complete a form in the next few days, it's not the end of the world: a supplementary list will appear in the following BU issue. Please let the BIB know your 2018 dates too!

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The 9th Balla Bluegrass Festival

Woodbine with Roger Green (USA) on mandolin (far right);
video from Roger's YouTube channel

Thanks again to Uri Kohen for this report:

For the last nine years, the Balla Bluegrass Festival marks the end of the Irish bluegrass festival season. This year was no different and a great weekend was had by all. From the crowd's perspective, it was wonderful to see some of the very familiar faces alongside newcomers enjoying the music, alongside the local people of Balla and the resounding area.

As for the music, we were lucky enough to have the Munich String Band who played two fantastic concerts as well as taking part in the daily sessions. Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay (Texas, USA) were special guests to the festival and played one of the best gigs in their tour to a crowd who just couldn't get enough of them.

Dublin band The Big Muddy brought some louder country and folk sounds to the event, only to be followed by the festival's favourite - Woodbine, who always fill the house and play one of their best shows here. The festival was wrapped up by Tommy Lyons (Festival founder) and his band Colonel Bullshot Rides Again in what was an amazing session.

As next year will be the festival's tenth anniversary, we are already planning a special event. Thanks for all who came along and took part. See you again in October Bank Holiday 2018!

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Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay (USA): looking back on their Irish tour

Brennen Leigh, Uri, Noel McKay

Thanks to Uri Kohen, the moving spirit of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, who writes:

Last March, I was lucky enough to take part in the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass programme in Nashville. Over there, I met Brennen Leigh who participated in the programme too. After hearing her music, and falling in love with it, I invited her to perform in Ireland.

In the number of months that followed, we planned the first ever Irish tour for herself and her music and life partner Noel McKay. Under the umbrella of the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, and with the great help of some of the good people of Ireland, we got ten tour dates together.

The tour started with six gigs over one weekend in Bunratty Bluegrass Festival. From there they travelled to Limerick and then to a brilliant gig in Tipperary, which was organised by Michael Lyons (father of Evan Lyons). Before the gig, they played a live session in Tipp Fm, and the show was followed by a late-night session with Evan and Brennen's brother, who flew specially from the US. The duo then went to Sligo and then to Castlebar (Mayo), where they played one of the tour's outstanding gigs in a wonderful new music venue - Bridge St.

The Mayo leg of the tour continued with a small gig in Westport and then to the Balla Bluegrass Festival. At the festival they played at The Olde Woods, and for the first time (probably ever) the pub was silent for the full length of the show as the duo mesmerised the crowd with their unique songs, harmonies, and superb guitar playing. They finished the tour with an early gig in Headford (Galway).

The tour was held as a huge success and they were showered with love by the people who came to see them. I am already looking forward to bring them back to our shores in 2018. Thanks again for everyone who helped make this tour a success, and I am looking forward to bring more amazing talents from overseas to our island.

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You gave me a song: progress update

Following on the BIB report of Monday last week, the production team of the film You gave me a song: the life and music of Alice Gerrard send a progress report on all things connected with the project. This includes the induction of Alice Gerrard and the late Hazel Dickens into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame - Alice is shown above being photographed during the recent IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC.

More details, news, and photos are in the progress report, which also includes an appeal for further support to reach the Crowdfunder campaign's target.

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30 October 2017

The Lowest Pair available for dates in Ireland, 28 Mar.-1 Apr. 2018

Following on from the BIB post of 6 October, Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency sends further news of the proposed tour in Ireland next spring by The Lowest Pair (USA), the duo of Kendi Winter and Palmer T. Lee. Loudon writes:

Hi, folks - following their successful month-long UK tour earlier this year, we will be sending The Lowest Pair to Ireland for a run of dates at the end of March in 2018 when they return to this side of the Atlantic, and have one or two slots still to fill. Please let us know if you would like to grab them on any of the following nights (an afternoon show might be a possibility on the Sunday): Wed. 28 March, Sat. 31 March, and Sun. 1 April.

This year, they were one of the main visiting attractions at Shetland Folk Festival bookers and Edinburgh's TradFest. The duo were signed to hip and happening New York label Team Love, who have a strong roster of artists including acts of the stature of the Felice Brothers.

When the label embarked on a big European push, it paid dividends with rave reviews flowing in after they released TWO albums in the UK last year. [...] We strongly recommemnd them. Find out more at their Our Artistes page at the www.Brookfield-Knights.com website, where there are also sample tracks and video clips.

Contact Loudon by e-mail or through the Brookfield Knights website.

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29 October 2017

A tonic

The BIB editor writes:

Those of us who didn't manage to get to IBMA's World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC, last month can take comfort from the marvellous YouTube channel 946459, with literally scores of videos made there at workshops, jams, meetings, and performances on and off stage ranging from single numbers to full sets of twenty minutes or more. These include a tribute to the late James King in eight parts.

As a sample of the channel, see the video above of the set by David Davis and the Warrior River Boys, crackling with energy, at the Bluegrass Country Radio showcase. It was good to hear the second song dedicated to the memory of Judith McCulloh, former editor of the Illinois University Press (see the BIB for 8 Dec. 2014).

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26 October 2017

Woodbine at 9th Balla Bluegrass Festival THIS WEEKEND

Tony O'Brien announces on Woodbine's Facebook:

Heading to Mayo this weekend to play the 9th Balla Bluegrass Festival. We play Mannion's Bar Sunday night at 10.00 p.m. - always one of our favourite gigs of the year. We hope to have a special guest, Roger Green from the US, join us on mandolin for the gig.

BIB editor's note: Roger (right), who brought his Annapolis Bluegrass Coalition to Ireland several times some years ago, was a featured artist at last weekend's Bunratty Bluegrass Festival.

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An unrivalled opportunity...

... to have one of the world's supreme banjo players perform in your house. The BIB a week ago announced that banjo maestro Michael J. Miles (USA) will be playing in concert at Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, on Saturday 4 Nov., as part of a tour that will take him to Spain a week later. Two other dates in Ireland were announced, the last being at Athy, Co. Kildare, on 8 Nov.

The arrangements previously planned for Monday 6 Nov. have unfortunately been cancelled, leaving a gap in Michael's calendar. Anyone who can offer a booking, or a house concert, for this or the other free dates in his week here - that is, Friday 3 Nov., Monday 6 Nov., or Tuesday 7 Nov. - should ring 087 3877409.

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Gerry Madigan and George Kaye: pioneers return to Ireland

Tonight (26 Oct.) the dynamic duo of Gerry Madigan and George Kaye - who, playing in leading showbands, brought the sounds of bluegrass fiddle and 5-string banjo to audiences throughout Ireland - can be seen and heard as very special guests at the Cabin Sessions in Dundrum, Dublin 14.

On Saturday 28 Oct. they will be playing a full concert at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin (where the Slocan Ramblers played last Friday). Doors open at 8.00 p.m., the show starts at 8.30, and tickets are €16 / €13 (booked in advance) or €18 / €15 at the door. Next week they have two dates in Cork and another in Dublin; all details are on the BIB calendar.

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25 October 2017

Celtic Connections 2018 programme now online

The 25th Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow will run from 18 January to 4 February 2018. The programme and list of artists were announced this evening at 8.00 p.m. and can now be seen on the festival website. Among those taking part are Molsky's Mountain Drifters (USA), who will be playing two dates in Ireland a month from now (see our recent post).

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Bunratty Bluegrass Festival 2017: report and photos

Thanks to Des Butler for this report and photos:

Well for those who braved the rigours and risks and the portents of disaster that we were told were associated with 'Storm Brian' and travelled to the South West to the Bunratty Bluegrass Festival - last weekend they were duly rewarded with a great weekend of bluegrass and Americana.

The Friday night opening concert saw Roger Green (USA) delivering some early bluegrass classics, who was then joined by Bill Forster on banjo in what made a great combo [above].

This performance was followed by the Garret Family Trio comprising of the father and son members of the Grove Band from Leeds and Bill Forster - what a performance of straight, no-nonsense bluegrass.

The Propane Brothers, which include the two male members of Cup 0' Joe, despite their return from an exhaustive tour in the US and UK, delivered a superb performance to conclude the event.

Saturday night concert was highlighted by the Slocan Ramblers from Canada, a young band who play and deliver a performance way beyond their years.

Sunday evening concert was opened by Brennnen Leigh & Noel McKay from Texas. The warm, dulcet tones this duo can manufacture need to be heard to be believed. From their twin guitar instrumentals to their soft vocal tones and tight harmonies, which included some of their own fine compositions, would melt the heart. All thanks to Uri Kohen of Westport Festival fame for providing us with this duo's superb performance.

The evening concert finale was provided by the Munich String Band, a five-man outfit of American and Bavarian musicians who delivered some fine bluegrass interspersed with a tribute to Tom Petty and some powerful renditions of classics by Levon Helm & The Band.

Between concerts, organised sessions were taking place before and after these events in all the local hostelries and throughout the Bunratty Folk Park with some excellent and very enjoyable sessions both organised and impromptu. The music was continuous throughout the entire weekend with some fine performances given by John Nyhan & friends, the Kellehers, et al. The only impact the bad weather reports had was to deter a lot of people from travelling, given the low attendance at some performances. But the weather had no impact on the festival other than a strong wind on Saturday and some intermittent showers, the rain only lasting for short periods, and all venues are within a short walking distance.

Of all the great performances over the weekend my personal most enjoyable performances was from the Garret Family Band, with a lot of hard-driving, in-your-face bluegrass, performed with close harmonies and great musicianship with the ex-Grove Band father and son on guitar and mandolin, interspersed with dobro and the great bluegrass banjo playing of Bill Forster.

All thanks to Brendan Walsh and his team, and John Nyhan (who gave some excellent performances himself throughout the festival), for making this festival a most enjoyable and pleasurable event.

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Banjo Babes Calendar for 2018 now available

Bluegrass Today reports that the fifth annual Banjo Babes Calendar (BBC) and compilation CD is ready for ordering. The BBC website says:

The Banjo Babes Calendar & Album (and Tour!) is a collective, grassroots celebration of professional women banjo players. Each year, we produce a lighthearted thematic calendar, professional compilation album, and exciting annual tour!

The range of merchandise now includes T-shirts. Order by 22 November 2017, and you could win a Deering Good Time banjo! Full details on the BBC website and Bluegrass Today.

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24 October 2017

IBMA WOB 2017 breaks records

The International Bluegrass Music Association announces that this year's World of Bluegrass convention in Raleigh, NC (26-30 Sept.) was the most successful to date, with over 220,000 people attending the week's events, over 200 bands taking part, and a direct economic impact on the area of nearly $12 million in revenue from visitors. Read the full details in the IBMA's press release.


Molsky's Mountain Drifters (USA) in Ireland, 25-6 Nov. 2017: UPDATE

Thanks to Tim Hawkins for the news that Molsky's Mountain Drifters will be playing two dates in Ireland a month from now, as part of a tour of these islands.

The Drifters, consisting of Bruce Molsky (fiddle, banjo, guitar), Allison de Groot (banjo), and Stash Wyslouch (guitar), represent the pinnacle of old-time ensemble playing today. The dates they are scheduled to play in Ireland are:

Sat. 25th Nov.: Leap Castle, Co. Offaly (near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary), 9.00 p.m.
Sun. 26th: Coughlan's, 7 Douglas St., Cork city, 9.00 p.m.

Location maps and (in the case of Coughlan's) an online booking link are on the Drifters' online calendar.

Update 14 Nov.: See the BIB post of this date for more info, including this additional show:

Mon. 27th: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.

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Often Herd Kickstarter campaign: progress report

The Often Herd (formerly the Kentucky Cow Tippers), based in Newcastle (UK), report that the support from subscribers to their Kickstarter campaign (see the BIB for 10 Oct.) has enabled them to enlist the help of Josh Clark of Get Real Audio and illustrator Phoebe Stephenson in producing their six-track debut EP. The campaign has reached its target with five days still to go.

Update 25 Oct.: The band, celebrating the successful campaign, point out:

If you haven't donated yet, there is still time! You can still pre-order the CD and help us make the CD packaging and mastering the best it can be. Any extra money raised from this point onward will also enable us to invest more into our PR campaign, allowing us to reach more people with our music and expand our fan base. We hope that this could lead to more tour dates around the UK and further afield- hopefully we'll be performing soon at a venue near you!

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23 October 2017

Front Country - for Ireland in 2018-19?

In the latest e-bulletin from the UK's Brookfield Knights agency, Loudon Temple writes:

Hi, folks - we are delighted to confirm that Front Country [above], one of our most highly-regarded acts, just wrapped up their latest visit to these shores and it has been a totally triumphant tour with glowing reviews from the media and much praise from music promoters, venues and their fans. It is rewarding to watch the band's steady rise in popularity and we wish to let you know that there will be plans to bring them back again either in the last few months of 2018 or early in 2019. Please let us know if you'd like to express interest in grabbing the band for a show when they return.

Loudon also gives this link to a review of the band's show last night in Aberdeen.

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CMP focuses on bluegrass

Thanks to Richard Thompson for the news that the current issue of the UK magazine Country Music People is devoted to bluegrass music. The contents include interviews with Rhonda Vincent and Doyle Lawson, Tom Travis's overview of bluegrass developments through the decades, with a selection of milestone recordings, and much more. More details are supplied by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today.


Old Time Crowdfunder update

Three weeks ago the BIB drew attention to the Old Time Crowdfunder campaign set up to support the making of Kenny Dalsheimer's documentary film You gave me a song: the life and music of Alice Gerrard. At that time, the campaign had raised 10% of the $20,000 target: it's good to learn that very nearly 75% of the total is now pledged (see the 'Banjometer' above), with forty days to go. So success is a great deal nearer, but contributions are still needed. You can see at this link (and on Vimeo) an enjoyable three-minute 'teaser' of the film.

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