01 October 2014

Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival: an eye- and ear-witness report

Above: the Moron Brothers on stage in the Barn at Bunratty Folk Park. Thanks to Des Butler for these photos (many more of Des's photos can now be seen on Ray O'Brien's 'Bluegrass in Ireland') and for the following report:

I've been down to the fledgling Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival last weekend, and all plaudits and kudos to Brendan Walsh, John Nyhan, and their team for providing all attendees with a great weekend of bluegrass, folk ballads, and trad music. The atmosphere around the village of Bunratty, the Folk Park, and at most of the venues was fantastic. I can only comment on the bluegrass performers, as it was their venues I mostly attended.

We were treated to some hard-driven bluegrass from Jig Jam [above], a young trio from Tullamore in the style of the Punch Brothers, through to the bluegrass and folk ballads of Banjaxed Bluegrass Band,

Banjaxed Bluegrass Band in an informal setting; Evan Lyons on extreme left

... and also the dulcet tones of the Bog Standard String Band's old-timey music sessions [below].

We also had some excellent tight bluegrass music and harmonies from the father-and-son team from Cork, Pat and Ricky Kelleher [below].

And that was just the Irish bands. We also had two performances from the Moron Brothers from Kentucky, two excellent musicians who between very amusing anecdotes and sharp one-liners gave us their interpretation of some Bill Monroe and Doc Watson classics as well as a lot more.

Indoor jam: (r-l) Evan Lyons, Liam Wright, Bill Foster, John Nyhan

There was also some very enjoyable bluegrass and roots jamming sessions every evening, led by John Nyhan and his friends from Cork, with Liam Wright of Woodbine fame joining in on the Saturday and Sunday evening sessions.

The one thing this festival didn't have enough of was support. The concerts and some of the sessions were poorly supported, which was a shame. Brendan Walsh, the main organiser, intimated to me that he was considering having the festival a full-blown bluegrass one next year, so I would urge all bluegrass fans and festival goers to try and get to and support this very enjoyable festival.

Once again, many thanks to Brendan Walsh, John Nyhan, and their teams for a very enjoyable weekend of music.

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