01 December 2018

Forget Brexit - Think Bluegrass!

That's the advice from the inexhaustible John Nyhan - and he has a strong case, as shown in John's news of an action-packed New Year for the bluegrass enthusiast:

January 2019 gets the New Year off to a great start with a feast of bluegrass. The 20th Shannonside Winter Music Festival (17-21 January, Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare) will have a very strong bluegrass representation, with no less than three bluegrass bands: all-time favourites Special Consensus (USA), The Petersens Bluegrass Band from Branson, Missouri (USA), and the Munich String Band from Germany.

Special Consensus will headline the Festival Bluegrass Concert with support from the Petersens on Sunday 20 January in the GAA Hall, Sixmilebridge, at 3.00 p.m. Booking: tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail.

The Petersens and the Munich String Band will be performing over the whole weekend at various venues. Check the Festival Gig Guide.

Award winners Special Consensus are a Grammy-nominated band and IBMA award winners for Best Album, Rivers and roads (2018). The proof of their popularity is that the band in its various lineups has been together for over forty years and they have been packing out venues in Ireland for over twenty years. The band is led by founding member, the incomparable Greg Cahill (banjo, vocals).  It also features Rick Faris (guitar, vocals), Nick Dumas (mandolin, vocals) and Dan Eubanks (bass, vocals). You can definitely be guaranteed incredible bluegrass from Special Consensus.

The Petersens Bluegrass Band, on their third tour of Ireland, are a six-piece band from Branson, Missouri, with five members from the Petersen family and one non-family member, Emmet Franz. They are excellent instrumentally and are all great lead singers, but it is their sibling harmony that makes them a stand-out and not-to-be-missed band. They have great arrangements of classic bluegrass, gospel, and country, and their original material is also excellent.

The band features Ellen Petersen (banjo, vocals), Julianne Petersen (mandolin, vocals), Katie Petersen (fiddle, vocals), Matt Petersen (guitar, vocals), Karen Petersen (bass, vocals), and Emmet Franz (dobro, vocals).

The Petersens perform regularly in the Little Opry in Branson, Missouri. Branson is one of the main cities in America for country, tribute bands, and bluegrass music. Every May in Silver Dollar City on the outskirts of Branson there is a month-long Bluegrass Festival and the Petersens always perform at this Festival.

The schedule for their January 2019 tour in Ireland is:

  • Fri. 18th-Sun. 20th: Shannonside Winter Music Festival, Sixmilebridge & Bunratty, Co. Clare; various times and venues; 087 792 1771
  • Mon. 21st: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; 087 792 1771
  • Tues. 22nd: The Coachman, 13 Parnell St., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.; 085 850 2289 (a Clonmel Folk Club presentation)
  • Wed. 23rd: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.; 068 22 566
  • Thurs. 24th: Schoolyard Theatre, Charleville, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; 087 792 1771/ 087 180 4870 (double bill with Cup O' Joe)
  • Fri. 25th: private concert
  • Sat. 26th: Community Hall, Ballydehob, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m., with support: Cup O' Joe; 086 837 0518/ 028 37 118 ('Headline Concert' of the Heart & Home Bluegrass Festival, 25-27 Jan.)
  • Sun. 27th: Old Schoolhouse, Clashmore, Co. Waterford, 8.00 p.m.; 087 414 8651/ 087 277 2760
Further enquiries for any of the above: tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail

The Munich String Band are making their second trip to Ireland. On their previous visit they played some super bluegrass. Their material covers classic and contemporary, with great versions of pop and rock songs in bluegrass style. The band features two Americans who are resident in Munich, and three Germans: Philip Bradatsch (banjo, vocals), Gabriel McCaslin (fiddle, vocals), Phillipp Schöppe (mandolin, vocals), Paul Solecki (bass, vocals), and Rico Waldmann (guitar, vocals).

As always, I look forward to catching up with many bluegrass fans at the 20th Shannonside Winter Music Festival.

Enquiries: tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail


Heart & Home Bluegrass Festival
Ballydehob, Co. Cork
Fri. 25th-Sun. 27th Jan. 2019

The second Heart & Home Bluegrass Festival will take place in the lovely village of Ballydehob, West Cork, on the Wild Atlantic Way, the weekend after the Sixmilebridge/ Bunratty festival, from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th January 2019. The Petersens (USA; see above for bio), will top the bill at the Headline Concert on Saturday 26th in the Community Hall at 8.00 p.m. Support act on the night will be the excellent Cup O' Joe, featuring Reuben, Tabitha, and Benjamin Agnew. Between them they play guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, and fiddle. They cover not alone bluegrass but some swing, and have excellent vocals.

This concert will be a coming together of two bluegrass families from both sides of the Atlantic. Cup O' Joe are from Co. Armagh, from where many emigrated to the Appalachian region of America. The music and culture they brought with them played a major role in the creation of bluegrass music. The Petersen Family from Branson, Missouri, are a prime example of a family that are steeped in the Appalachian tradition. Like the Carters, the Stonemans, and recent visitors to this country the McLains, they continue the tradition of the family band that is so much a part of bluegrass music.

You will also hear the sounds of bluegrass from Hellfire Club (formerly Well Enough Alone), featuring Hugh Taggart (guitar, vocals), Patrick Cummins (mandolin, vocals), Léo Guillot (fiddle, vocals), and T.J. Screene (bass). There will be music on Friday night (25th) in Levis's pub and Rosie's with Cup O' Joe and Hellfire Club from 10.00 p.m., and also on Saturday 26th after the Headline Concert. There will also be a session at lunchtime on Sunday 27th.

For booking and enquiries, tel. 028 37118, 086 837 0518, or 087 792 1771.

Photo from the 'Gallery' section of Levis's

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