01 April 2015

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is still alive. Its calendar is kept updated, and news received is posted. Send in news for the calendar by e-mail; and please also send it by e-mail to Wendy Connolly for publication on the 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page, which is the interactive medium in Ireland for bluegrass news.

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.


New Facebook links

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the news that Woodbine, the Athy Bluegrass Festival, and Tony himself, now have new addresses on Facebook. The new links are:

Athy Bluegrass Festival
Tony O'Brien

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Bob Wright celebrates fifty years of performing

Bob Wright (photo) of Staten Island, NY, who was at more than one of the early Dunmore East bluegrass festivals, sends word that on 4 April he will be celebrating fifty years 'of insanity and mayhem' as a performer of bluegrass, folk, Americana, and other acoustic music, by playing from 8.00 to 10.00 p.m. at the ETG Cafe on Staten Island - 'with my buddy Bill Doerge helping to try and make some sense of it, to offer homage to the players, songs, and songwriters who inspired and continue to inspire me'.

Read Bob's full manifesto here; there's also a link to it on his Facebook page, and a live feed from the cafe's website.

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Artists coming to Ireland

Near North Music is a Canadian agency for roots musicians, and the artists on their roster include fiddler/ dancer/ singer/ songwriter April Verch (left), who will be touring in Ireland next month (dates are on the BIB calendar). April and her band impressed a lot of people at last year's Omagh festival, and she'll be back here between 6 and 22 May with her trio and her new album The Newpart, due for release next week.

Other Near North artists likely to interest BIB readers are Annie Lou (Anne Louise Genest), who leads a string band; her album Grandma's rules for drinking was reviewed on Bluegrass Today a couple of years ago. The band's fiddler is the astounding John Showman, founder member of the Creaking Tree String Quartet, who was at Omagh with the Foggy Hogtown Boys a few years back and now leads his own group, New Country Rehab.

Pharis & Jason Romero have not yet toured in Ireland, but have got as close as Britain. So near, and yet so far...
The BIB, a blog for bluegrass and old-time music, occasionally mentions folk and country artists. Give country music an inch, and it'll take a country mile - but we're happy to pass on the news from Nigel Martyn and his Old Flattop agency that singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier will be touring in Ireland next month with special guest Ben Glover. The dates are:

Sun. 10th May: Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast; 028 90 232403
Mon. 11th: Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart, Co. Londonderry; 028 70 831400
Wed. 13th: Coughlan's, Cork city; 021 496 1751
Thurs. 14th: The Button Factory, Dublin; 01 670 9105
Fri. 15th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal; 074 912 0777

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31 March 2015

Niall Toner receives Songwriter of the Year award

The NTB in the Round Room at Killashee (l-r): Dick Gladney, bass; Johnny Gleeson, dobro, vocals; Niall Toner, guitar, vocals; Richie Foley, mandolin; Paddy Kiernan, 5-string banjo (photo: Kyle O'Neill)

Congratulations to Niall Toner on winning fresh laurels: last night (30 Mar.) at the Killashee House Hotel in Naas, Co. Kildare, Niall was presented with the award for Songwriter of the Year 2015 by Kildare FM radio station and the Leinster Entertainment Awards. Nine hundred people attended the event, which was a great success as a fundraiser for local charities.

The new five-piece Niall Toner Band (above) played songs and tunes from Niall's latest album, Working on love, which was released on St Valentine's day this year (see the BIB for 9 Feb. 2015). A photo of Niall receiving the award can be found on the Leinster Entertainment Awards Facebook.

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Roger Ryan's 'Country Cuts', Apr. 2015

Thanks to Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland for the April 2015 issue of his e-mail newsletter 'Country Cuts', which can be seen here or through the other links on the BIB - in the headnote to the BIB calendar, and near the end of the 'Links' section in our right-hand column. This issue includes details of the Martin Gilmore Trio tour in May, the 25th Athy Bluegrass Festival in July, and other news of interest to BIB readers.

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Coming to the Red Room this spring

Thanks, as always, to Arnie and Sharon Loughrin for creating and running the premier house-concert venue in this island - the Red Room at Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The Red Room already has seven shows lined up into the autumn of 2015, with more awaiting final confirmation. In the near future, east Ulster's Down and Out Bluegrass Band will be at the Red Room on Saturday 25 April, while the show by the Foghorn Stringband (USA) on Saturday 16 May is already fully booked out: a waiting list is in operation.

At the very end of that month (Sunday 31 May) the Red Room will present J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices from Nashville, playing (as Sharon says) 'proper country and honky-tonk' - that is, tough music of a kind that many bluegrass fans enjoy. With steel guitar and fiddle to the fore (and the photo at the head of his website includes an open-back 5-string with what looks like at least a 12" pot), J.P. Harris's world is one in which the 'Murder on Music Row' of Larry Cordle's song has not been committed. Several videos from live shows are on his website.

The show at the Red Room is the last in a European tour that begins on 22 April in Barcelona, and continues with four further dates in Spain, two in Switzerland, three in Germany, five in the Netherlands, one in Belgium, two in Denmark, five in Sweden, one in Norway, and four in Britain. The band's schedule in Ireland is:

Mon. 25th: Ubangi Stomp Club, Dublin
Tues. 26th: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry
Wed. 27th: Crane Lane Theatre, Cork city
Thurs. 28th: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (Clonmel World Music)
Fri. 29th: High Tide Club, Castletown Bearhaven, Co. Cork
Sat. 30th: Balor Arts Centre, Main St., Ballybofey, Co. Donegal
Sun. 31st: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone (not in Bray, Co. Wicklow, as the internet will tell you...)

NB: Sharon also reports having seen the Friday night show of last weekend's 'Spring into bluegrass' by the Harpers Hollow Bluegrass Band at Moira, Co. Down: 'they're sounding great, really enjoyed the night.'

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30 March 2015

The wicked path of sin from Blue Maxx

Bluegrass fans in Ireland already know Jan Michielsen well as guitarist and singer with 4 Wheel Drive (NL/D/B), who were last in Ireland at the 2014 Omagh festival and will be back this July as headliners at the Athy Bluegrass Festival.

Jan, who has been a mainstay of the bluegrass scene in Belgium for decades, also plays mandolin and sings with Blue Maxx, whose other members are Luc Van Peteghem (bass, vocals), Marc Holsteyn (guitar, vocals), Dieter Van Peteghem (banjo, vocals), and Stefaan van Laethem (fiddle, vocals).

They now have a new CD, The wicked path of sin - twelve tracks of high-class contemporary bluegrass with a solid base in the classics (as shown in the two Bill Monroe compositions); an inspired choice of material by other songwriters including Bruce Springsteen and J.C. Fogerty; good, tight harmony singing; and good picking throughout, notably on Holsteyn's fine original instrumental, 'Can't remember'. Sound quality and visual design are both very pleasing.

On St Valentine's day Blue Maxx launched the CD in Jan's home town of Hoogstraten, near the Dutch border. Images from the event, taken by Cheap Aldi Camera Productions, can be seen on their Facebook, with audio clips from the album.

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Another kind of video altogether

Thanks to Adele Ingram of Wookalily for the news that the band have just uploaded the official video of 'Black Magic doll', a bluesy number from their debut album All the waiting while, on their YouTube channel. It's an animated video, made by the band using MomentCam and Windows Movie Maker. The BIB enjoyed it - but be prepared for some disturbing images...

Wookalily is already the only band on the Irish scene to have taken part in the Mother Country's 'Daughters of Bluegrass' project, and this latest achievement gives them a head start in the race for Animation Films by Irish Bluegrass Bands.

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KingBlue with Mons Wheeler and Colin Henry at the Red Room: videos

On Saturday 21 March KingBlue played at the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The show was sold out long in advance; fortunately for the rest of us, John Watson took some videos during the evening. 'The day they drove the nails', sung by Clem O'Brien with Colin Henry on dobro, can be watched both on the band's Facebook and on the Red Room's. On the latter, you can also see further videos: KingBlue doing 'Rank stranger', and Mons Wheeler's moving 'Streets of Laredo', sung during his guest spot.

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Woody Pines to tour again in March 2016

The last show in Ireland by Woody Pines (USA) was a week ago. Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency writes:

This has been the band's most successful UK & Ireland tour to date, with half the shows of this month-long run being sold-out events. All helped of course, by the band's high-profile appearance at the massive Country 2 Country event at the O2 in London as special guests of Bob Harris.

Bob has featured tracks from the brand new album twice in the space of a week. When he gave them another spin on his BBC Radio 2 Country Show on Thursday, he told listeners: 'Go and see them because they generate such great energy on stage. It's great music and great fun - I thoroughly recommend them - they rip the whole place up!'

A video of them 'live' at the O2 can be seen here. Loudon also confirms that they will be touring in these islands again a year from now, from 4 March to 31 March, and asks promoters and event organisers to let Brookfield Knights know if they are interested in booking the band.

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27 March 2015

Woodbine at Wolfhill on Easter Sunday

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the news that Woodbine (above) will be playing at Leech's Bar, Wolfhill, Co. Laois (off the N78 between Athy and Kilkenny, not far south-west of Ballylinan), on Easter Sunday from about 9.00 p.m.

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Bluegrass in Baltimore to appear in May: pre-order now!

The BIB mentioned early last month that a new book by Tim Newby, Bluegrass in Baltimore: the hard drivin' sound and its legacy, is nearing publication. The publishers, McFarland Books, have just announced that it will be published in May 2015 and can be pre-ordered on their website for $35.00.

The city of Baltimore, together with the Washington DC area and the adjacent parts of the state of Virginia, has historically been a location for some of the most uncompromising bluegrass music and many important pickers. Read more on the Bluegrass in Baltimore Facebook page, where you can see an introductory video (also on YouTube).

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26 March 2015

Harp and feet at Naul, 10 Apr. 2015 (and elsewhere from 1 Apr.)

Thanks to the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre (SEAC) at Naul, Co. Dublin, for its schedule of events up to Friday 10 April. On that day, percussive dancer Nic Gareiss (USA) and Edinburgh harpist Maeve Gilchrist will present a 'Dance the tune' workshop (3.00 p.m.) and a concert (8.30 p.m.). Doors open in both cases half-an-hour before show time; admission for the workshop is €10 in advance, and for the concert €13 / €10 in advance and €15 / €12 at the door.

Nic Gareiss has danced over here several times, recently with This Is How We Fly. Your editor has enjoyed his duet with Bruce Molsky on 'Jeff Sturgeon' pretty well as much as anything on YouTube (see it here). From the video on the SEAC website, Maeve Gilchrist is an outstanding harpist for traditional dance tunes. The Naul night is in fact the last chance to see them on a ten-day tour in Ireland; the full schedule is:

Wed. April 1st: Kaleidoscope Night, Odessa Club, Dublin 2
Thurs. 2nd: The Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Sat. 4th: 'The House Presents', Annesley House, 70 North Strand, Dublin
Sun. 5th: The White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork
Tues. 7th-Wed. 8th: Teaching residency, Irish World Academy, University of Limerick
Thurs. 9th: Cultúrlann Sweeney, Kilkee, Co. Clare
Fri. 10th: Workshop and concert at Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin

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25 March 2015

Harpers Hollow 'Spring into Bluegrass' this weekend - update

Following on from the news on the BIB on St Patrick's day - thanks to William Duddy of Harpers Hollow Bluegrass Band for the poster image and news of a change in this weekend's gigs for the band:

Stop Press!
Please note the venue change for the Saturday night gig in Harpers Hollow's 'Spring into Bluegrass' Weekend this coming Friday/Saturday (27/28 March). Friday night's performance will be in the Four Trees, Moira (as previously advertised), and Saturday evening will now be in the Edenmore Golf and Country Club just outside Moira.

Both evenings start at 8.30, free entry, and Harpers Hollow will be joined by a couple of special guests. A weekend of real bluegrass music and harmony (with maybe a wee bit of old-timey slipped in!!).

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Dublin-born chairman for new EBMA board

EBMA board members: (l-r) Richard Cifersky, Susie Bowe, Stu Vincent, Eugene O'Brien

The European Bluegrass Blog announced yesterday the composition of the new board of directors of the European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) and an outline of plans for the EBMA's future progress. The new chairman of the board is Eugene O'Brien (shown above), born in Dublin and resident in Brussels, where he is the banjo-player for the highly regarded Sons of Navarone band, who tour frequently in Britain. Eugene is also a member of the BBMA and is its new international representative, which fits in with the EBMA's plans for closer links with national bluegrass associations in Europe.

Susie Bowe (also shown above) was mentioned in the BIB's recent 'Westport connection' post. More about the new board and the EBMA's plans is on the European Bluegrass Blog, the EBMA Facebook, and Bluegrass Today.

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Belfast Bluegrass - next session 7 Apr. 2015

Richard Leeman, organiser of the monthly Belfast Bluegrass sessions (and also guitar player and lead singer of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band), announces that the next meeting Belfast Bluegrass session will be on Tuesday 7 April. The BIB reprints below, at its own discretion, the following introduction that Richard put on the Belfast Bluegrass Facebook page last month:

It's over four years now since our first session in December 2010 and since then our number of 'likes' on Facebook has grown steadily to over 300 of you! I think however that there might be some people out there who are interested in coming along but haven't made it yet, and this post is for you.

The session always takes place on the first Tuesday of the month, upstairs in the Errigle Inn, Belfast, starting around 9.00 p.m. If you play a 'bluegrass' instrument - acoustic guitar, 5-string banjo, fiddle, mandolin, double bass, dobro - if you sing, or if you just want to listen and enjoy the music, the session is for you. It is not a closed group of musicians. The atmosphere is always friendly and you will be made to feel very welcome.

Maybe you've been playing music for years. Maybe you got a new instrument for Christmas and are taking your first steps. Whatever your level of ability, the session is for you. There is always something to be learned from other musicians, not to mention the fun and enjoyment of playing music together.

Some people might be nervous of playing in front of others. Well, we all were once. Everyone progresses at their own speed and no-one is ever put under pressure to perform if they're not comfortable. But maybe after a couple of sessions that will start to change. And who knows where that journey could take you?

So maybe this post is making sense to you, if you've been thinking of getting out of the house and playing some music. Or maybe it's not you, maybe it's your husband or wife, son or daughter, friend - whoever. Please share this post and tell them about the session. You will all be very welcome and I hope to see you there soon.

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Dangem Bluegrass Get-Together at Lisburn, 28 Mar. 2015

Thanks to DanGem Bluegrass in Craigavon, Co. Armagh, for a reminder that their next monthly Bluegrass Get-Together will be held this coming Saturday (28 Mar.) at the usual place and time (the Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim BT27 4RL, from 10.00 a.m. to noon); and with the usual schedule:

10.00-10.30 Warm-up
10.30-11.00(ish) Breakout time for beginners; rest of players, jam time
11.00(ish) to 12.00(ish) All back together

DanGem add: 'So let everyone know. Bring along your banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dobros, and bass, or just come along and enjoy us make music. Look forward to seeing as many of you who can attend.'

The DanGem Get-Together combines a jam session for those who are already active pickers, with the opportunity to learn for those who are beginners or just want to listen. DanGem's e-newsletter includes a reminder that they have the largest range of banjos for sale in this island - not to mention the other bluegrass instruments.

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24 March 2015

Martin Gilmore Trio in Ireland, 1-11 May 2015

Thanks to John Nyhan for this tour schedule for the Martin Gilmore Trio from Colorado (above, l-r: Ian Haegele, bass, vocals; Martin Gilmore, guitar, banjo, vocals; Nick Amodeo, mandolin, guitar, vocals). Information on the three highly qualified band members can be found here. Martin can be contacted by e-mail.

Fri. 1st May: Keane's Bar, Carrigaholt, Co. Clare, 10.00 p.m.; tel. 087 8886820
Sat. 2nd: Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music Festival, Co. Kerry; tel. 087 7069935
Sun. 3rd: Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music Festival, Co. Kerry; tel. 087 7069935; full details here
Mon. 4th: Mannion's Bar, Balla, Co. Mayo, 7.00 p.m.; tel. 087 2296018
Tues. 5th: Mill Bar, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 9.00 p.m.; tel. 086 8464509 (Sixmilebridge Folk Club Concert)
Wed. 6th: O'Donovan's Hotel, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, 9.30 p.m.; tel. 087 4153285
Thurs. 7th: Blackrock GAA Club, Church Rd, Cork City, 9.30 p.m.; tel. 087 2944821
Fri. 8th: Copper Mine Museum, Allihies, Beara, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 027 73218
Sat. 9th: Tigh an Cheoil, Baile na nGall, Ring, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, 9.30 p.m.; tel. 087 9898560
Sun. 10th: Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 087 7921771
with support act Jacob's Ladder (harmony singers)
Mon. 11th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m.; tel. 087 7921771
with support act New Breadwinners (bluegrass)

Enquiries for all of the above: tel. 087 7921771

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'I'm With Her': new single, new video, new Belfast show

On 16 December the BIB carried the news that Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O'Donovan will be playing in Ireland at the beginning of May as part of their 'I'm With Her' tour. The tour schedule at present opens in Sweden on 18 April, with seven dates in Britain before they come to Ireland.

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for this feature on the trio's latest record release - a vinyl single, combining the John Hiatt song 'Crossing muddy waters' with the Andy Stroud song 'Be my husband'. There's a video of them recording the Hiatt song (also on Vevo) with a very pleasant old-time treatment. The Stroud song is sung a cappella.

There is also a new date on the schedule - on Friday 1 May, the trio will be playing in St George's church, Belfast, as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (30 Apr.-10 May) in association with the Real Music Club. Doors open at 7.45 p.m. for an 8.00 p.m. start, and tickets are £12.00; seating is unreserved. The full blurb on the Festival's online booking page ends with:

Three exquisite talents in one room, there may not be a better gig in Belfast this year.

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23 March 2015

A special new album from Cedar Hill

The many friends and fans that Cedar Hill (USA) have made in this island, from their appearances at several Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festivals at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, and other venues, will be grateful to Richard Thompson for his latest article on Bluegrass Today: 'Cedar Hill - Miss Dixie, Tom T, and me'.

In the article Frank Ray (photo), who fronts Cedar Hill, describes in detail the experience of working with Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie (who died earlier this year) in preparing an album of their songs to be recorded by Cedar Hill. Frank explains:

I did not contribute to the writing other than a couple changed lines here and there. The exciting contribution for me and Cedar Hill was bringing these wonderful songs to life through the arrangements and production.

The album Miss Dixie, Tom T & me (BCR 042) is released today (23 March 2015) on the Halls' label, Blue Circle Records. The ten songs include 'I'll not stand in your way', which is probably Miss Dixie's last solo composition. Richard remarks:

I have never been disappointed by a Cedar Hill album and this new one promises much.

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Fish & Bird available for 23-6 Oct. 2015

Thanks to Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency for drawing attention to this feature by Barry Egan in yesterday's Sunday Independent about the Canadian neo-old-time string-plus-percussion band Fish & Bird. The feature includes a ten-minute interview on video, together with two performance videos.

As announced on the BIB on 24 Jan., Fish & Bird played just one show in Ireland - at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre at Naul, Co. Dublin - while in Europe for this year's Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. Brookfield Knights are now planning a tour in these islands for the band in the coming autumn, and are inviting contact from event organisers and venue owners who may be interested in bookings. Loudon adds:

We have just extended the tour period by a week and have Oct. 23, 24, 25,  and 26 available as potential Irish dates. 

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A budget DIY lighting system for small venues and events

Ted Lehmann's perennially interesting blog (there's a permanent link to it in the right-hand column of the BIB) gives today details of an inexpensive lighting system that has worked well at the Newell Lodge bluegrass festival in Georgia. Incorporating top, side, and footlights, using components available at the local hardware or DIY store, it can easily be installed and worked, with minimal adjustments, by someone with basic electrics knowhow and common sense.

Ted also prints a photo he shot without flash one evening at the Newell Lodge stage, as an example of what this system can do, and adds a link to an inexpensive dimmer box as a possible extra, available from Amazon.


22 March 2015

The Black Bottle String Band at Dunmore East, Sat. 28 Mar. 2015

Thanks to Mick Daly, organiser of the annual Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, for the news that Dublin's Black Bottle String Band (above) will be playing at the Ocean Hotel, Dock Rd, Dunmore East, on Saturday 28 March.

The Ocean is traditionally one of the main venues for the Dunmore East festival. Mick adds that the lineup for this year's festival (27-30 Aug.) will be announced over the Easter weekend.

The Black Bottle String Band were playing last night at their favourite pub, the Blue Light in the foothills of Dublin 18, overlooking Dublin Bay.

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21 March 2015

Bluegrass workshops at Moniaive, 13 June 2015 - with Cup O' Joe

Thanks to C. Paul 'Dobroman' Lyttle, organiser of the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival in south-west Scotland and regular attender at Omagh festivals, for the news that summer bluegrass instrument workshops will be held in Moniaive on Saturday 13 June 2015.

Instrumental tuition will be offered on beginner and intermediate guitar, mixed-ability bluegrass banjo, dobro, double bass, mandolin, and fiddle from 11.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., when there will be a free pot-luck hot meal. Total cost is £25 for the day; places can be booked by 'phoning Paul or Anja (numbers on the MMBF website). The workshops will be held at the Glencairn Memorial Institute, Chapel St., Moniaive.

And yes, there is a more direct Irish connection: Cup O' Joe (Benjamin, Reuben, and Tabitha Agnew) will be teaching at the workshops and will also play a two-set concert in the Craigdarroch Arms Hotel that evening (8.00-10.00 p.m.).

Cup O'Joe announce on their Facebook page that they will be performing at 8.00 p.m. on Friday 15 May at this year's European World of Bluegrass Festival in the Netherlands, with guest fiddler Max Silverstein (USA). JigJam from Tullamore will be on the EWOB stage at 5.00 p.m. the following day.

And finally: Paul's record show 'Criffel Creek' is now broadcasting on Alive Radio every Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon, with the best of bluegrass, Americana, roots, and gospel music. A link to the current playlist is on the Moniaive festival website.

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20 March 2015

Sammy Shelor on life, music, and banjos

Sammy Shelor (photo: Ted Lehmann)

Just over a month ago the BIB was delighted to learn of the video series 'Butch Robins presents - Blue Grass music, its origin and development as a unique and creative art form'. We're now delighted to learn from Bluegrass Today that Bud Bennett of Radford University, VA, has made available nearly two further hours of talk and music by another banjo-player from the Old Dominion, under the title 'Sammy Shelor talks about life, music, and banjos'.

Sammy Shelor (Facebook) has received the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year award five times and (2011) the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. The videos were shot early last year, and it would have been great to see them before Shelor and his award-winning Lonesome River Band topped the bill at the 2014 Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh.

These videos are completely different from the earlier series. Butch Robins presented an analysis of the character and development of bluegrass, based on his deep knowledge of Bill Monroe and his music. Shelor, on the other hand, recounts his career as a professional performing and recording artist in contemporary bluegrass who also has very strong roots in the rich musical traditions of his home region and a great love of old-time music - for instance, Fred Cockerham's clawhammer playing. And for instrument freaks, he talks about his banjos and his own-brand fingerpicks.

A few quotations, picked at random out of many memorable sentences:

'Your mind grows musically every day. If you let it.'
'My style of banjo playing kind of came from not being able to play like anybody else.'
'After fifteen minutes of playing this banjo [Sonny Osborne's Granada] I became a different player.'
'If it's not fun, don't do it.'

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19 March 2015

Chasing Quicksilver round Europe

Thanks to our good friend Walter Fuchs, director and MC of the International Bühl Bluegrass Festival at Bühl/Baden, Germany, for the above image of the flyer cover for this year's 13th Bühl Festival (15-16 May). The BIB confidently recommends Bühl (on the edge of the Black Forest) as a delightful place to visit, especially during Festival time. Walter points out that George Baehr & Baehr Tracks (D) will not be appearing as shown, owing to George's illness; their place will be taken instead by Growling Old Men (USA). Anyone who recalls George as fiddler with Andy Glandt's Fox Tower Bluegrass Band, who toured in Ireland in the late '90s, will wish him a speedy recovery.

May 2015 will in fact be one of the busiest months we can remember for tours in Ireland by visiting artists in bluegrass, old-time, and related music, not to mention home-grown talent. But if you're going to be on the Continent in May, the Bühl Festival is one of the possible places to catch Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Another is the Gulpener Bluegrass Festival in Utrecht (NL), run by Joost van Es of 4 Wheel Drive - though while there you might be tempted to stay in the Netherlands for the European World of Bluegrass Festival (14-16 May). The complete DL&Q tour schedule is:

Wed. 13th: Der Club, Hülsbecker Straße 16, Heiligenhaus, Germany, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 14th: Gulpener Bluegrass Festival, De Parel van Zuilen, Mayor Norbruislaan 17, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Fri. 15th: Seelax Festival, Bregenz, Austria
Sat. 16th: International Bühl Bluegrass Festival, Bühl/Baden, Germany
Sun. 17th: Haus der Kultur, Braunauer Straße 10, Waldkraiburg, Germany, 8.00 p.m.
Mon. 18th: Pyramida Hotel, Bělohorská 24, Prague, Czrch Republic, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 20th: Burgerhaus Sprendlingen, Fichtestraße 50, Dreieich, Germany, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 21st: Burger-und Kulturhaus Klosterhof, Tübinger Str. 5-7, Kusterdingen, Germany, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 22nd: Zehntscheuer, Green Tower-Straße 30, Ravensburg, Germany, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 23rd: Spring Bluegrass Festival, Willisau, Switzerland
Sun. 24th: Spring Bluegrass Festival, Willisau, Switzerland (morning gospel show)

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18 March 2015

A Westport connection at EBMA awards show

L-r: Richard Weize, Angelika Torrie, Susie Bowe (photo: Robert Bowe)

On 3 July 2012 the BIB reported meeting Robert and Susie Bowe, American musicians resident in Italy, at that year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. The BIB paid particular attention to Robert's little Ashbory bass, as small as a big ukulele; it was the first instrument of this type we'd seen, though since then Gold Tone and other companies have put micro-basses on the market.

Since then, also, Susie has joined the board of the European Bluegrass Music Association, and last weekend took part in presenting the third EBMA European Bluegrass Pioneers and Personality Awards. In the photo above, taken by Robert, she is seen with Angelika Torrie, the outgoing EBMA chairperson, presenting a Pioneer award to Richard Weize of Germany, founder of Bear Family Records. Another of the Pioneer awards went to French banjo maestro Jean-Marie Redon, who played at the Dunmore East and Omagh festivals in 2006 with Blue Railroad Train (F). The award for European Bluegrass Personality of 2014 went to Rainer Zellner (see the BIB for 22 Dec. 2014); BIB readers will remember that the first Personality award, two years ago, went to Niall Toner.

More of Robert's photos of the occasion are on Bluegrass Today, and others are on the EBMA Facebook page.

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17 March 2015

Appropriate for St Patrick's day

The European Bluegrass Music Association Facebook printed today a post from US musician and songwriter Steve Spurgin with a photo of his copyright certificate as composer of the words and music of 'A walk in the Irish rain'. He adds:

OK, here's the copyright. Forget (not really) all the multiple thousands of $$$ in royalties I've lost. Can I PLEASE just have credit for writing my own song? 'Composer unknown'?... NOT.

This coincides with an intense correspondence in the past week among alumni of the IBMA's Leadership Bluegrass (LBG) course, on the need for performers, DJs, broadcasters, record companies, writers of sleeve notes, posters of YouTube videos and other fans - everyone involved with music - to give proper recognition to songwriters and composers. That song didn't just come out of the air or from whomever you happened to hear performing it.

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Coastline Bluegrass Music Event, North Wales, 29-31 May 2015

Thanks to the Coastline Bluegrass Music Event for news of the 2015 Event (29-31 May) to be held at the Royal International Pavilion in Llangollen, North Wales - very accessible from Ireland.

The Event is known for booking outstanding bands from the Continent, and this year the headliners are Ruben & Matt and the Truffle Valley Boys (above) from Italy. The band comprises Ruben Minuto (guitar, vocals), Matt Ringressi (mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Germano Ciavone (banjo, vocals), Denny Rocchio (dobro, vocals), and Ignazio Sanfilippo (double bass, vocals). Their Facebook lists their influences as Buzz Busby, Red Allen, Lilly Brothers, Larry Richardson, Reno & Smiley, Jimmie Williams & Red Ellis, Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Al Jones, Vern Williams, and Flatt & Scruggs - all of which should attract the attention of all hard-core bluegrass fans, and substantiates the Event's claim that:

They’ll take you back to the way bluegrass music sounded in the early 50s - unadulterated, raw and authentic.

British outfits on the bill include Baker's Fabulous Boys, Blossom Hill, Grass Snakes, Kentucky Cow Tippers, the Whitefern Mountain String Band, and the Appalachian dance troupe Leap To Your Feet. More details are on the website, where the Event has an impressive list of UK newspaper accolades for best festival, and a statement: 'Our aim is to encourage the playing of acoustic instruments by all ages and abilities through workshops and concerts.'

Update 18 Mar.: Thanks again to the Coastline for this link to a video montage of the bands on stage at the 2014 Event, including the New Essex Bluegrass Band and the Jaywalkers (of whom there will be vivid memories of their work at festivals in this island last year), Nos Sadwrn Fach from Wales, a red-hot number from the Bluegrass Playboys (Norway), and Belgium's award-winning Sons of Navarone.

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Shows in the North in the very near future

Thanks again to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for news of:

... a couple of good gigs that have appeared on my Facebook newsfeed this evening. Janet Dowd [left] will be playing in Scarva Tearooms this coming Sunday afternoon [22 Mar.] from 2.00 p.m. I've never been there but I have walked the canal path from Poyntzpass to Scarva; it's a lovely spot and would be all the nicer for some music from Janet and her band while tucking into coffee and scones! It would be a lovely afternoon out for anyone in that area.

Harpers Hollow Bluegrass Band [below] are playing in the Four Trees bar in Moira, Co. Down. They will be in the upstairs bar from 8.30 on Fri. 27 March, and on Sat. 28 March they begin upstairs at 8.30 before moving to the downstairs bar from 10.00 to late. Harpers Hollow are a bluegrass/old-time outfit comprising Derek Norwood, Derek Lockhart, William Duddy, and Colin Allen. Having heard all these musicians play separately at various sessions over the past few years, I would certainly recomend a trip out to hear them in their present formation.

Good to see plenty happening out there, hopefully they'll get the support,

Sharon doesn't mention that the majestic KingBlue will be playing in the Red Room on Sat. 21 Mar., as the show is already sold out.

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