05 June 2023

Catching up

Diverse items of news from the past two weeks about bands and artists from abroad who have previously visited Ireland or will be doing so: first, Mark Stoffel, long-time mandolinist with Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, had his latest solo album Curious times released by the Mountain Home Music Company on the same day that this year's Omagh festival began. More detail is on the Mountain Home press release. The four-and-a-half-minute title track can be heard on the Bluegrass Today feature by John Lawless, who comments: 'You really can hear the mix of Appalachian and Irish influences throughout this engaging three-part instrumental in fiddle tune form.'
The BIB learns with regret of the death on 18 May, at the age of 89, of Don Kissil, bluegrass promoter, photographer, writer, and publisher, whose Pickin' magazine was extremely influential in the mid 1970s. A detailed biography by Richard Thompson is on Bluegrass Today.
The Henhouse Prowlers, who headed the bill at the Saturday night concert of last year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, have released as a single the title track from their album Lead and iron. The band's mandolinist Jake Howard wrote the song from the point of view of a parent who has lost a child in a school shooting. More details are on the Dark Shadow Recording press release.
Missy Raines, who has been ten times IBMA's Bass Player of the Year, has released a video of the Loretta Lynn song 'These ole blues', accompanied by her touring bluegrass band Allegheny and by Danny Paisley, Darol Anger, Shad Cobb, and Ellie Hakanson. The video can be seen on the Bluegrass Situation and on YouTube. Missy writes: 'The project is about paying homage to the earliest sounds that inspired me, and this version of "These ole blues" feels both authentic and genuine to my very core.'
Finland's Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers haven't visited Ireland and (as far as we know) have no plans to do so, but they deserve attention as an example of a European band who have consistently won respect from bluegrass people in the US by the strength and integrity of their traditional style. Their thirteenth album Bluegrass voice is due for release this coming Friday (9 June). They have released a single, 'Echoes from another world', which can be heard on Bluegrass Today and on YouTube. It includes the fiddling of Michael Cleveland, whose new single 'The blues are close at hand' was released last Friday (2 June).
Alison Brown is interviewed at length by Lee Zimmerman on Bluegrass Today, focusing on what has gone into the making of her latest instrumental album, On banjo, and on the wider topics of being a musician, being involved in bluegrass, and producing records. 'At the end of the day,' she sums up, 'it really boils down to the fact that we create this music, because that’s what we’re driven to do.' The article includes four videos from YouTube of songs from the album.
The Kody Norris Show released their latest album Rhinestone revival on Friday last (2 June), and it's a fairly safe bet that at this weekend's Westport festival they will have copies on hand and will be doing songs from it. The track 'Gotta get my baby back' can be heard on Bluegrass Today and YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

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