07 December 2015

For banjo players (and others)

The BIB editor writes:

Nearly three weeks ago now, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn (see the BIB for 4 Nov. 2015) played in Dublin, and - quite apart from the guest appearances by Paul Brady and Maura O'Connell - it was a heady night for banjo freaks, who saw and heard not only the Missing Link but the TB-75 conversion. After seeing what can be done with a banjo-ukulele, I knew it had been a mistake to trade-in mine in 1958. 'Banjo-picking girl' was the closest to a straight bluegrass number, but more bluegrass feeling (and licks) than I'd expected could be heard in Béla's playing throughout the show. A night of amazing musicianship by all parties.

Not long afterwards Bluegrass Today announced The song of the banjo, a new album by Alison Brown on her Compass Records label, designed to appeal to listeners who might not otherwise think of buying a banjo album. As a sample, a video of 'Feels so good', with ukulele ace Jake Shimabukuro, can be seen on the Compass website, on the Bluegrass Today post, and on YouTube.

Getting even further from bluegrass, but into a very satisfying genre of banjo music: thanks to Frank Coyne for passing on news from the Classic Banjo website (to which Jody Stecher contributes). The site has a section devoted to the great English player and composer Joe Morley (1867-1937), where you can find scores of audio files and copies of corresponding sheet music, and this section is being further developed and expanded. Frank himself was a pupil of the distinguished Dublin 5-string performer Eddie Tobin.

Anyone who feels uneasy at coming so far from bluegrass can be comforted by two releases from Tom Mindte's Patuxent Music record label. Tom Neal's album Banjoland has an introduction by Mike Munford, IBMA Banjo Player of the Year 2013, beginning 'I've been waiting for this album for a very long time.' Neal's playing is solidly based on Scruggs style, tastefully and effortlessly embellished with melodic and single-string work, and is very good listening. There's one fine fiddle-and-banjo duet; the other thirteen tracks (four of them vocals) are full-band numbers, including such musicians as Michael Cleveland, Marshall Wilborn, and Frank Solivan, all sounding as if they'd played together for years. Highly recommended.

Banjoland has been out for some time, but due to appear this week is another Patuxent production that needs no recommendation from me to lovers of solid traditional bluegrass: the new album Weary river by Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass. Expect to see a fuller report by Richard Thompson on this release on Bluegrass Today.* (Just to bring things full circle, you can see a photo of Béla Fleck in a quartet led by Danny Paisley on the latter's website.)

Update: Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn are among those nominated for Best Folk Album, and are also nominated for Best American Roots Performance (for 'And am I born to die'), in the coming Grammy awards.

*Additional update, 10 Dec.: This can now be read here.

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At 4:26 pm, Blogger C.Mulligan said...

On the subject of Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, they'll be appearing on "Hup" on TG4 on christmas day, performing in Tom Cussens banjo workshop in Galway.

At 10:55 pm, Blogger Pete Sergeant said...

Yes saw Béla Fleck in London. Does anyone know a bluegrass banjo player near Berehaven, Bantry Bay?

At 10:28 pm, Blogger C.Mulligan said...

The player one i know of around cork is Mick Daly. Might be a few more hiding under the rocks!


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