25 June 2019

Cairncastle Ulster Scots Bluegrass Musical Evening, 26 July 2019

Thanks to Adrian Rolston of the Cairncastle Ulster Scots for copies (above) of the flyer for this year's Cairncastle Ulster Scots Bluegrass & Folk Cross Community Festival, to be held on 23-28 July at Ballygally, near Larne, Co. Antrim. In particular, Adrian sends the press release for the Festival's Bluegrass Musical Evening on Friday 26 July, starting at 7.30 p.m. and held (like most of the Festival's events) in the Halfway House Hotel, Ballygally. Admission is £10 p.p.

The BIB reproduces the release almost in full, because we're glad to see this wealth of information on bluegrass musicians in Ireland in print in one place. This applies especially to the legendary Geordie McAdam, whose talents have made their mark in many fields. The NVTV interview is worth half-an-hour of anyone's time, and Geordie's own account of his early career should be noted in conjunction with the text below.

The Watery Hill Boys hail from Drogheda, Co. Louth. Although they were formed in late 2010, the group’s individual members bring a wealth of experience in old-timey and bluegrass together to play their dynamic and tuneful version of a music which sprang from many different traditions in the United States in the 1920s to the 1960s.

Their live shows recreate the feel and sound of ‘old-timey’ music by the use of the single microphone, bringing to life the sounds of such legendary groups as the Carter Family, the Blue Sky Boys, and Bill Monroe, with sweet harmonies and great instrumental virtuosity.

They play regularly at many prestigious Irish and international bluegrass festivals, including La Roche-sur-Foron (France), Athy, Cairncastle, Ardara, and Moniaive (Scotland). Their appearances have not been confined to the annual bluegrass festival circuit. They have played the prestigious Electric Picnic (Ireland's largest rock festival) and have toured annually in Catalonia over the last few years, playing venues such as the Harlem Jazz Club in Barcelona to the Chê Beach Bar in St Pere Pescador. In June of this year they play their first German tour, based mostly in the Munich area, and are currently preparing for numerous dates all over Ireland and a number of regular dates in and around their home town of Drogheda, particularly Clarke’s Bar in Peter St. and Carberry’s of the North Strand. They are also regular visitors to the famed Red Room in Cookstown.

Their first self-titled CD was issued in 2011, and their second CD, titled Somebody’s been usin’ that thing, was issued on July 2013.

Multi-instrumentalist Donal Óg Black features on banjo, mandolin, guitar and vocals, Jim MacArdle on guitar, autoharp, and vocals, and Seán Óg Collins on bass and vocals.

‘Their music hails from and is inspired by bygone times. By rejuvenating the music of these prolific periods the happy go lucky trio shine a light of objectivity on the current zeitgeist and the contrast between the experiences of our forefathers and our own’ – The Athy Bluegrass Festival


The Bluestack Mountain Boys / Dublin Bluegrass Collective

Luke Coffey is from Boyle, Co. Roscommon, and has been playing the banjo for the past ten years. A multi-talented musician, his playing is influenced by Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, and the Grateful Dead. He is a member of several bands including Well Enough Alone, the New Breadwinners, the Dublin Bluegrass Collective, Out and Outer, and the Blue Light Smugglers. He has played festivals such as Electric Picnic, Balla Bluegrass Festival, Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, Dunmore East, the Battle of Clontarf Festival, and the European World of Bluegrass Festival & Tradeshow (EWOB), in Voorthuizen, the Netherlands, has extensively toured France playing in auditoriums, churches, and stages to crowds of 1000 people, and has performed with David McSavage at the Vodafone Comedy Festival 2014 and two of Dublin’s best music venues, the Olympia and Vicar Street.

Aran Sheehan is a bluegrass mandolin playing hedonist, brought up in festivals and the music since a baby. Given his first guitar at 6 years old, by a stepdad who is a well renowned UK bluegrass musician, he has been immersed in the bluegrass world all his life. Inspired by all the newgrass greats, he is strongly into the edgy improvisational approach to mandolin. An attendee of Sore Fingers week-long bluegrass camp in the UK, he had the honour of being guided by IBMA mandolin player of the year Jesse Brock. The list of festivals and concerts is too long to list but includes a tour of Texas, USA in 2013 with the Boxcar Preachers (US), a highlight being the Austin String Band Festival, where the amazing mandolin luthier Tom Ellis played with him and gave his personal instrument to use. A tour of France in 2012 with Tom Hanway (US) and Hugh Taggart (IRL), where the main event was to headline the 'Yes Weekend' festival to a full-house audience of 2000 in Le Vieux-Marche concert theatre. In 2014 the band of which Aran is the manager, the Dublin Bluegrass Collective, headlined the US Ambassador's residence in Phoenix Park for the US embassy's 4th of July Independence Day Festival.

Over many years, Aran has played at almost every Irish bluegrass festival. Also, for example, in 2015 the Dublin Bluegrass Collective played Knockanstockan Festival for the second time and also the Secret Garden Party Festival in Co. Wicklow, which shows that his band, and the bluegrass genre, are appealing to a wider audience in recent years. Aran started the famous weekly (Tuesday 9.00 p.m.) bluegrass session in Siné Pub, Ormond Quay, Dublin 1, which - now in its fourth year - has welcomed musicians from North Carolina to Australia and beyond, as it is truly on the bluegrass map of Ireland, with both listeners and players who love the genre of bluegrass, having found it through word of mouth, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog run by Richard Hawkins, or by searching online and finding his www.facebook.com/DublinBluegrass page. Aran also teaches bluegrass style on the mandolin to a number of students and has run a mandolin workshop for the Jack of Diamonds Festival in Dublin, where he has performed every year since it was started. An approachable gentleman that lives and breathes bluegrass mandolin, most likely found at a festival jam session.

Patrick Simpson is from Toronto, Canada, and has sang and played guitar for thirty years. His high tenor vocals and mountain-style guitar make him a true bluegrass artist. He is a passionate bluegrass music fan and has performed at many of the bluegrass music festivals here in Ireland and abroad, including the Athy Bluegrass Festival, Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, the Battle of Clontarf Festival, and the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, Dunmore East, to an auditorium-size crowd as well as hundreds of festival attendees. He sings in the Dublin Bluegrass Collective and has also played with other Irish and Canadian bluegrass bands such as the Wakami Wranglers, the Acoustic Rockets, and the Simpson Bluegrass Band. In 2014 he joined Well Enough Alone to compete for Ireland in the European World of Bluegrass Festival & Tradeshow (EWOB) in Voorthuizen, the Netherlands, to a crowd of 400 bluegrass fans and musicians. He occasionally joins Well Enough Alone in the Kilkenny Shop, Dublin, on Sunday afternoons.

Niall Hughes, from Hollymount, Co. Mayo, has been playing guitar for thirteen years and is hugely talented. He is highly influenced by jazz and bluegrass music and is a leading double bass player in Ireland. He has performed in numerous bands including Well Enough Alone, the New Breadwinners, Feather, the Dublin Bluegrass Collective, and Pine Marten. He has played festivals such as Electric Picnic, Balla Bluegrass Festival, Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, the Battle of Clontarf Festival, the European World of Bluegrass Festival & Tradeshow (EWOB) in Voorthuizen, the Netherlands, and has extensively toured France playing in auditoriums, churches, and stages to crowds of 1000 people.

TJ Screene is from London, England, and is the newest member of the Bluestack Mountain Boys. He has been playing double bass for.four years. He is a bluegrass music fan, performed in the 2015 Knockanstockan Festival to hundreds of people, and is a band member of Well Enough Alone, the Dublin Bluegrass Collective, Davina and the Messengers, and with Suzanne Rhatigan. He has played to an international crowd of 300 people at the Sore Fingers Summer School in Oxfordshire, UK.


Internationally acclaimed duet comprising Geordie McAdam and Wilson Davis

Geordie has been on the music scene for more than seventy years; his introduction to music came when he joined Duncairn Marching Flute band at age nine. Through a series of circumstances, he got involved in the traditional music scene and, inspired by the Dubliners and the Chieftains, formed a traditional folk group, the Decent Folk, along with two fellow members from the band – Geordie himself played tin whistle.

But, with a desire to play the fiddle, he took the bold step of frequenting a pub on the Falls Road to listen and learn from some of Ireland's best fiddlers - Seán McGuire and Seán McAloon. They were the crème de la crème of Irish music, and he is very grateful for everything they taught him. They played gigs in a wide range of pubs and halls.

His career took a different direction in the mid 70s after the purchase of the record Wild rose of the mountain by Kentucky fiddle player J.P. Fraley, introducing him to bluegrass music. Geordie toured mid-west America a few times with the Appalachian Strings and played with the Black Mountain String Band, Ragged and Rough, and the Lagan Valley Boys.

While playing with the Appalachian Strings, they were joined by Wilson playing guitar and bass fiddle. In 2003 the Broken String Band was formed out of the amalgamation of Appalachian Strings and the Black Mountain String Band. The band played extensively throughout Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, and Scotland (e.g. Dunkeld) festivals for a decade until Geordie left in late 2013, followed by Wilson the following year. Both musicians now play a wide genre of music at many musical events, in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland (e.g. Fleadh Cheoil, Dunfanaghy festival), Germany, and Scotland (e.g. Monaive), giving demonstrations on crossover music and encouraging other musicians to play with them.

Geordie’s love of music led him to making and repairing fiddles, initially in his garden shed and for the past fifteen years in his shop 'The Music Box' on Gray's Hill in Bangor, where he has many visitors and bluegrass bands from around the world (e.g. Hong Kong) to see him making fiddles from a range of materials - including sweet-tin and jigsaw puzzle - and hear him play his music.

Geordie’s expertise includes making matchstick violins and Norwegian Hardanger fiddles. He loves showing and playing them for people. The Hardanger fiddles have eight strings (rather than four as on a standard violin) and are made of thinner wood. Four of the strings are strung and played like a violin, while the rest, aptly named sympathetic strings, resonate under the influence of the other four.

Geordie McAdam interviewed on NVTV by Ciarán Ó Brolcháin in the 'Our generation' series (28-min. video)
Irish News feature, 'Bluegrass Music Festival back at Ulster American Folk Park', 25 Aug. 2016
Information from Geordie McAdam and Wilson Davis

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