23 May 2022

Peggy Seeger and Calum MacColl: 'First Farewell Tour' in Ireland, 2-19 June

The Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, announced six months ago that the unique Peggy Seeger and her son Calum MacColl would be playing there in concert on Thursday 9 June. The full details of their 'First Farewell Tour' reveal that they will be playing fourteen events in this island, as follows:

Thurs. 2nd June: Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo, doors 7.30 p.m., onstage 8.00 p.m., €25/€12.50
Fri. 3rd: Townhall Theatre, Cavan, doors 7.30pm, onstage 8.00 p.m., €25
Sat. 4th: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co.. Kildare, doors 7.30 p.m., onstage 8.00 p.m., €25
Mon. 6th: St John's Arts Centre, Listowel, Co. Kerry (afternoon concert), doors 2.30 p.m., onstage 3.00 p.m., €30
Tues. 7th: St John's Arts Centre, Listowel, Co. Kerry (evening concert), doors 7.30 p.m., onstage 8.00 p.m., €30
Wed. 8th: Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick, doors 7.30 p.m., onstage 8.00 p.m., €30/€25
Thurs. 9th: Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, doors 7.30 p.m., onstage 8.00 p.m., €30
Sat. 11th: Roisin Dubh, Galway, 7.30 p.m., €32
Sun. 12th: Doolin Folk Festival, Doolin, Co. Clare
Wed. 15th: Seamus Heaney Homeplace, Bellaghy, Co. Londonderry, 7.30 p.m., £22.50
Thurs. 16th: Black Box, Belfast, 7.00 p.m., £23.50/£21
Fri. 17th: Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny, 8.00 p.m., €27
Sat. 18th: Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m., €27
Sun. 19th: The White Horse, Ballincollig, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m., €25

Online booking facilities are given in the link to each venue.

© Richard Hawkins

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Westport 2022 official launch, 21 May

The Festival Committee (Uri Kohen, Freda Hatton, Tim Rogers, Sarah MacEvilly) with Ann-Marie McGing and Desmond Downes (art designer)

Thanks to Uri Kohen for this news:

On Saturday, Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival was officially launched and entered the last furlong in preparations for the sixteenth instalment of the festival. On the night Ann-Marie McGing, Mayo County Council Arts Officer, did the honour of launching the event, and the new art work and programme of events was on display.

Music on the night was provided by Derek Mcloughlin and the much loved Hubie & Sarah MacEvilly (The Rocky Top String Band) backed by Tommy 'T-Bone' Lyons & Tim Rogers.

Artwork for the inside (left) and outside of the new Festival programme

The Band
Derek McLoughlin


© Richard Hawkins

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21 May 2022

Danny Paisley confronts throat cancer (Updates)

Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass at Omagh 2008 (photo: Norman and Heather Brown)

Danny Paisley, one of the most respected singers and bandleaders in traditional bluegrass, announced yesterday on his Facebook that he has been diagnosed with oropharyngeal (throat) cancer. Fortunately, the cancer is small and develops slowly, and the early diagnosis - coupled with Danny's highly positive attitude - gives a very good chance of successful treatment and full recovery. The course of treatment begins next month. More details are given by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today.

Danny Paisley first played in Ireland in the mid 1990s as a member of Southern Grass, led by his father Bob. Since Bob's death in 2004, Danny has led the band, who were headliners at the Omagh festival in 2008. Both occasions fully demonstrated how powerful and intense a traditional bluegrass band can be.

Update 23 May: A GoFundMe campaign to help with medical expenses has been set up by Danny's friends and fans in the California Bluegrass Association. The target is $47,000.

Update 24 May: See also Richard Thompson's article on Bluegrass Today.


© Richard Hawkins

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20 May 2022

Single 'Hummingbird' and upcoming album from We Banjo 3

Galway's We Banjo 3, kings of Celtgrass, announce that their new single 'Hummingbird' can now be heard on the streaming platforms, and that

Our upcoming album Open the road — out July 15th — meets on the corner of complex-but-nimble instrumentation. It’s a combination of which you, our fans, have been enjoying from studio to stage since we first landed on American shores ten years ago. Hear the new songs out on the road this summer.

Tickets can be bought here for the band's currently booked US tour dates from next month to February 2023. More dates will be added in due course.

© Richard Hawkins

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The latest BBN

The latest issue (no. 97, spring 2022) of British Bluegrass News (BBN), journal of the British Bluegrass Music Asociation, includes a good deal of immediate interest to bluegrass fans in Ireland. There are two three-page articles by Maria Wallace of the UK's True North Music agency: one warmly recommending Bluegrass Omagh (to which True North are sending this year the Slocan Ramblers and Vivian Levy & Riley Calcagno) and one on the Stillhouse Junkies (on the bill at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival next month). The four-page cover story by Philippa Ogden is on the Often Herd, whose two recent releases are also reviewed. (Their online tour schedule shows them as on the Omagh bill, though they're not at present on the festival's lineup page). Omagh and Westport are both listed in the BBN event calendar.

Other features include a retrospective by Richard Holland on this year's Sore Fingers Summer School, and the map of music teachers includes Hubert Murray in Tullamore. The production standards, as always, are high.
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The BIB learns with deep regret of the death on 25 January this year of John Leslie Pritchard, known far and wide as John Les, who with Gill Williams founded, directed, and upheld the North Wales Bluegrass Festival, which many musicians and fans from Ireland will have known during its twenty-eight years. Tony Franks's moving obituary in BBN is based on his report of John's death on the Festival's Facebook, which includes many photos of John, Gill, the Festival setting, and the artists who played there - among whom are Paul McEvoy, Barney Bowes, and Tom Hanway. The condolences of all who knew John go out to his family and Gill.

© Richard Hawkins

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19 May 2022

'The McConversations' at Bluegrass Omagh: midday, 28 May 2022


The photo above (credit: culturenorthernireland.org), used on 20 Apr. 2020 in the BIB post 'The democratic dungaree', shows Richard Hurst (for thirty-three years Visitor Services Manager of the Ulster American Folk Park, and head of the organising team of its annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival from 1992) and the irreplaceable Geordie McAdam (fiddle), who died early in 2021. Thanks now to Richard for this news of an important addition to the Bluegrass Omagh 2022 programme:

On Saturday 28th at around midday I will be delivering the 'McConversations' session in our Emigrants Gallery over an hour, during which time I will attempt to take people through the last thirty years (that’s two minutes per year!). Of course we will remember the Mcs we have lost, including Tony [McAuley], Rodney [McElrea], Geordie [McAdam], and also Aidan McGale of the Knotty Pine String Band. May they all Rest in Peace.

Richard aims to provide a behind-the-scenes insight into some of the special moments created over the past three decades, and visions of those yet to come. He writes:

The fact that we are continuing to deliver this wonderful event following the challenges of Covid is something we should all take the time to celebrate. Here’s hoping the fourth decade provides much joy and celebration, and introduces more people to the music we love.
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The Ulster American Folk Park has published on its Facebook the photo above and this advice to visitors to the Festival:

It's been a while since our last festival so here's a refresher on some weekend essentials...
  • Bring a camping chair or something comfy to sit on
  • Bring a raincoat (the sun is set to shine but best to be prepared!)
  • If you need cash, bring it with you (there won't be ATMs available, but card payments will be accepted)
  • Take the bus! (Shuttle buses to the festival will be available from Omagh Town and the campsite)
BBQ's, glass bottles and alcohol for personal use aren't permitted on site, however picnics are welcomed and our bars are fully stocked!
Read our FAQs here.


© Richard Hawkins

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18 May 2022

Slocan Ramblers: new album due out 10 June 2022

Canada's Slocan Ramblers, who first toured Ireland in October 2017 and returned two years later, are on the bill for this year's Bluegrass Omagh festival, taking place on the weekend 28-29 May.

Earlier this year (22 March) the BIB relayed news from a Hearth Music press release on the Ramblers' coming album Up the hill and through the fog, when a single from it was released - their version of the Tom Petty song 'A mind with a heart of its own'. The album is due for release on 10 June. The latest press release from Hearth Music includes a video (also on YouTube) of another song from the album, 'I don't know'.

There's also a video of the Ramblers' banjo-player Frank Evans in a clawhammer-banjo duet with Billy Strings. Earlier this week Billy Strings was nominated for the Americana Music Association Artist of the Year award; he and his band are scheduled to play in Dublin on 9 December 2022.

© Richard Hawkins

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Detached notes

Table for Two (right), who impressed many music-lovers in Ireland during their visit in January 2020, consists of Thierry Schoysman (Belgium) and Signe Borch (Denmark). Both are multi-instrumentalists, though they played their nine gigs here (five of them as support to Seth Mulder & Midnight Run) primarily as a mandolin duo. For more about them, see the BIB for 30 Dec. 2019.

Thanks to Bluegrass in Belgium for the news that Thierry and Signe played their most recent show on Sunday (15 May), a house concert in Schoten, near Antwerp.
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Ken Perlman, master of 'melodic clawhammer' banjo, announces that the last online live instructional banjo workshop in his current 'Clawhammer Clinic' series will be 'Up-the-neck "melodic" fingering forms that feature 5th-string fretting' on Mon. 23 May. All Ken's past Clinics are available as videos from his website at $25 each, and he can also be contacted for private lessons by Zoom.
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The Often Herd (Rupert Hughes, guitar, vocals; Evan Davies, mandolin, vocals; Niles Krieger, fiddle, vocals; Sam Quintana, bass) from Newcastle upon Tyne (UK), toured Ireland in June 2015 in their previous five-piece configuration as 'The Kentucky Cow Tippers', performing at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival and other venues.

Since their rebranding, they have won the Best European Bluegrass Band award at the 2018 La Roche Bluegrass Festival. Their new full-length album, Where the big lamp shines, has been featured by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today. The official video of a single from the album, 'Inner peace', can be seen on Bluegrass Today and on YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

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17 May 2022

Jens Kruger banjo masterclasses: series 2 from Deering

Deering Banjos announce a second series of free 5-string banjo masterclasses from the unique Jens Kruger, who today (Tues. 17 May) will be talking about the many different banjo tunings that can be used to add another layer to one's playing. The class can be watched here or on YouTube. Deering also draw attention to their Jens Kruger Signature string set (11, 12, 13, 22, 11) and the Jens Kruger banjo with Deering 06 tone ring.

© Richard Hawkins

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16 May 2022

Quote of the month

From an interview with Ry Cooder (RC) by Jason Verlinde, editor of the Fretboard Journal:

FJ: What are you playing these days when you’re just at home?

RC: Well, I play guitar... and banjo is good for your coordination. Banjo, especially what they call a Round Peak banjo, that frailing style. That’s really good for your brain when you get older, to keep your hand-to-eye coordination right. Keep your chops really up. I do that. That’s my physical exercise.

The full interview can be read here.

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Jake Blount and band in Britain, 19 May-5 June 2022

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog for the information that (thanks to the UK's True North music agency), the award-winning banjo- and fiddle-player and singer Jake Blount (right; also on Facebook) will begin in a few days' time a tour of England and Wales, accompanied by a powerful three-piece string band. The tour comprises twelve shows, ending with two sets at the Fire in the Mountain festival in west Wales. Bio details, a full itinerary, and links to venues are given on the True North tour page.

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Playing fiddle in the Jake Blount band touring Britain will be George Jackson, born in New Zealand and now based in Nashville, TN, who was featured on Oldtime Central two years ago and has released a striking album, Hair & hide. Introducing his review of the album on Bluegrass Today, Braeden Paul writes: 'The combination of the fiddle and the banjo is one of the world’s oldest musical traditions, dating back before the beginning of the Civil War.' In that sentence 'the world', of course, means 'the United States of America'.

Be that as it may, Hair & hide is not just an album by an outstanding fiddler; it's a milestone among recordings of fiddle-and-banjo duets, with seven different banjo-players taking part in the fourteen tracks. On two of the tracks, Jake Blount plays banjo; on another two, Jackson's fellow Kiwi B.B. Bowness, whom audiences here have seen as a member of Boston's Mile Twelve. And another of the tracks is Jackson's own composition, 'Neighbor Mike', with which he won the 2021 Mike Auldridge Instrumental Contest.

© Richard Hawkins

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Jerry Garcia in Ireland: the saga continues

The BIB has published several items over the years concerning Jerry Garcia's banjo-playing and/or a visit he made to Ireland. Readers can locate all these items by clicking on the label 'Jerry Garcia' at the end of this post. Research by Tim Rogers indicates that the visit was in 1994 (see the BIB for 15 Oct. 2019). In February 2022 a comment on the 2019 post was received from 'Charlie B', stating:

I visited a bar in Ramelton just north of Letterkenny Bridge Bar. There is a picture of Jerry in the bar of Jerry at that bar. Looks like 1993-94 pic of him. The owner told me he stopped in for a couple pints and he even played a few songs. I do have a picture of that photo. They did not know what he played.

At midnight last night, 'Anonymous' sent in a further comment in response to 'Charlie B':

What kind of guitar did he play in the Irish pub? Can you share a glimpse of the photo?

The BIB has no clue as to the identity of 'Charlie B' or 'Anonymous', and no way of contacting them, let alone putting them in touch with one another. Perhaps both of them will happen to look either at this post or the 2019 one...

© Richard Hawkins

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15 May 2022

Nu-Blu (USA) host tour of Ireland,10-18 Sept. 2022

The BIB reported on 28 Mar. that Nu-Blu, the dynamic bluegrass/ Americana band from Siler City, NC, are relaunching their Encounter Ireland Tours enterprise. On 5 May the band announced on their Facebook:

It's time to travel again! IRELAND is calling! JOIN US on a very special tour of IRELAND in September as we journey across the country, taking in the beautiful historical sites, dining in and staying in castles, meeting locals and enjoying some local Irish music. It's a trip of a lifetime, limited to just 20 people!

See the 'Destination tours' of the band's website for more details. Nu-Blu made their debut performance tour of Ireland in a trio configuration in the autumn of 2019. They also host the weekly half-hour TV programme 'Bluegrass Ridge', available on several networks.

© Richard Hawkins

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13 May 2022

Mama's Broke in Ireland, 22 June-2 July 2022 (updates)

Canadian neo-old-time duo Mama's Broke (right; photo: Ash Norman), who played in Dublin three years ago (see the BIB for 3 July 2019), when they were filmed by Dublin-based film-maker Myles O’Reilly (see the BIB for 3 Mar. 2022), will be back in Ireland on 22 June for a tour of seven shows, after playing eleven shows in Britain beginning on 2 June. All the shows in Ireland will be shared with the trio Rufous Nightjar.

Mama's Broke consists of Lisa Maria (vocals, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, feet) and Amy Lou Keeler (vocals, banjo, guitar, mandolin). Their latest album, Narrow line, is reviewed by Laura Stanley in No Depression, with two videos of songs from the album. Their schedule in Ireland, as shown on their website, is:
  • Wed. 22nd June: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, Manorhamilton Castle, Co. Leitrim, 7.30 p.m.
  • Thurs. 23rd: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, The Duncairn, Belfast, 7.00 p.m.
  • Fri. 24th: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, Coughlan's, Douglas St., Cork, 7.30 p.m.
  • Sun. 26th: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, Connolly's of Leap, Co. Cork, 7.00 p.m.
  • Thurs. 30th: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, Waterville, Co. Kerry, 7.30 p.m.
  • Fri. 1st July: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, The Attic, Hotel Doolin, Rivervale, Doolin, Co. Clare, 7.30 p.m.
  • Sat. 2nd: Mama’s Broke & Rufous Nightjar, Mountshannon, Co. Clare, 7.30 p.m.
Update 17 May: Rufous Nightjar will be performing on 18 June at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, as part of its 'Tradition Now' series.

Update 19 May: Mama's Broke are featured in an article by Lee Zimmerman on Bluegrass Today, which includes three videos.


© Richard Hawkins

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12 May 2022

Tray Wellington on Deering Live TONIGHT (update)

Trajan 'Tray' Wellington is featured on Deering Live on the eve of his greatly anticipated solo album Black banjo, which is available from tomorrow (Fri. 13 May) from the Mountain Home Music Company. In this episode, he talks about the inspiration behind Black banjo, and about his own experiences as a black banjo player in bluegrass music. The interview can also be watched on YouTube.

Updates 13 May: Much more information about both Tray Wellington and the new album (cover design, left) is on the Mountain Home Music Company press release.

Nancy Posey has also featured the album on No Depression in a review including videos of two tracks. 
 
© Richard Hawkins

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A taste of the NTB at Kilkenny


On 2 May the BIB reported on the success with which the Niall Toner Band (NTB) had met the demands of the Kilkenny Roots Festival weekend. Thanks now to Niall Toner for this footage (also on YouTube), which fully proves the point. Shot by Fiaz Farrelly, it shows the NTB in their Kilkenny configuration at one of the weekend's engagements, playing one of Niall's own compositions, 'Million dollar bill'.

© Richard Hawkins

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More news of past US visitors

The McLain Family Band (l-r): Daxson Lewis, Alice White,
Raymond W. McLain, Ruth McLain, Al White

On Monday Bluegrass Today published an article by Olyvia Neal on the retirement of Raymond W. McLain as director of the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University, KY. Sonny Osborne considered Raymond the most under-appreciated banjo-player of his time; audiences in Ireland had a chance to enjoy his musicianship as leader of the McLain Family Band from Berea, KY, whose two-week tour here in July 2018 was organised by John Nyhan. In addition, Neal's article admirably illustrates the importance of his twenty-plus-years work as an educator, and of his approach to the place of music in life.

As previously mentioned on Bluegrass Today by Sandy Hatley, the Malpass Brothers (right) - for whom three Omagh festivals were the first bluegrass festivals they played at - have taken over as hosts of the festival at Denton FarmPark, NC, after the retirement of Doyle Lawson. The first Malpass Brothers Bluegrass & Country Music Festival was held last weekend, with very positive responses as shown in Hatley's recent article.

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers are delighted by the advent of spring; by their busy May schedule; by the prospect of their next Inductrial Strength Bluegrass Festival in November, about which news will be anounced on 17 May; and by the time they had on the Grand Ole Opry on 5 April. Learn more from their e-newsletter and website.

Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters, who headlined the 2018 Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, recently had their new album The Devil and the deep blue sea featured in an article by Kim Ruehl in the Bluegrass Situation online magazine. They will be playing in concert at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, TN/VA, on 20 May in the Museum's 1927 Society concert series. Tickets can be bought here or here.


© Richard Hawkins

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11 May 2022

US bands in Europe (2)

Two months ago the BIB posted news of the 18th International Bühl Bluegrass Festival, to be held this coming weekend (13-14 May) in Bühl, Baden-Württemberg, south-west Germany, a bluegrass-friendly city. The bill includes three US bands who have played in Ireland in the past: Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, Chatham County Line, and the Hackensaw Boys, as well as Belgium-based Old Salt and Blue Side of Town (D). Chatham County Line played in Dublin a week ago, their only scheduled date in this island.

The organisers of the 10th Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival (24-26 June) announce that the lineup for this year's event is now complete with thirty-five acts, nine of which are from the USA and one (the Lonesome Ace Stringband) from Canada, twelve from the Netherlands (headed by our old friends the Blue Grass Boogiemen), and high-quality groups from the rest of Europe. In just over ten years (two of them lost to the pandemic), the festival has grown from a local party with 250 visitors to a major three-day event with over 16,000 attending.

Europe's oldest bluegrass festival, the Banjo Jamboree (held under the auspices of the Bluegrass Association of the Czech Republic), will take place this year on 17-18 June at Čáslav in the Czech Republic. The wealth of native talent provides twenty of the bands on the programme, but also taking part are our old Italian friends Red Wine and one US visitor: Casey Driessen, equally adventurous as fiddler, traveller, and teacher.

© Richard Hawkins

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10 May 2022

'Make this world my home' live video from Mules & Men

Dublin-based Mules & Men have just released on YouTube a four-minute video of their original song 'Make this world my home', with Lily Sheehan (right) singing lead and the whole band (plus Benjamin Burns guesting on keyboard) displaying their trademark intensity and daring. The song was recorded at the Ailfionn Recording Studio in Drumcondra, Dublin 3.

© Richard Hawkins

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09 May 2022

Exciting new show at Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival

Thanks to the team producing the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival for news of an exciting addition to this year's programme:

Footwork & Fiddles: An Irish/Appalachian Dance Exchange

In association with Appalshop, the festival organising committee are proud to present a uniquely commissioned show that will examine and showcase the similarities and differences between Irish and Appalachian dance styles.

Presented by Carla Gover (Kentucky, USA) and Bernadette Nic Gabhann (Ireland) - we will explore the journey that Irish fiddle tunes and dance styles made from all over Ireland to the heart of the Appalachian region and back.

The event will take place in Westport Town Hall Theatre on Saturday 11 June at 2.30 p.m. Tickets are €10 and can be got via the festival's website.

© Richard Hawkins

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07 May 2022

Obsessed with the West from Brennen Leigh

Brennen Leigh, who has toured Ireland several times with Noel McKay (the duo headlined the bluegrass section of the 2019 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival), has released a new album, Obsessed with the West, in which she is partnered with the premier Western Swing revival band Asleep at the Wheel, as well as Noel McKay and others. On her Facebook she writes: 'These are all new original Western swing songs. I hope they resonate with the joy infused in their making.'

She is also this month's Spotlight Artist for No Depression online magazine, which published a few days ago an interview article on the album by Maeri Ferguson. Three videos from YouTube are included: two of recordings from the album, and one specially filmed rendering of another track, 'In Texas with a band'. The album can be bought from Brennen Leigh's store.

© Richard Hawkins

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06 May 2022

Stillhouse Junkies release 'Colorado bound' (update)

Colorado's Stillhouse Junkies (Cody Tinnin, bass; Alissa Wolf, fiddle; and Fred Kosak, guitar), who are on the bill for the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival next month, are releasing today their new single 'Colorado bound' on Stephen Mougin's Dark Shadow Recording label. Written by Fred Kosak, the song tells the story of his grandfather Al Kosak, driving the family Ford station wagon from Duluth, Minnesota, out to the Pacific Ocean in the early 1950s at a steady 35 mph for fuel economy. The band's official video of the song can be seen and heard on YouTube. More details are on the Dark Shadow press release.

Update 14 May: On Bluegrass Today, John Lawless writes: 'The hands down favorites at the 2021 World of Bluegrass convention were Stillhouse Junkies, who won over every audience they appeared before...'

© Richard Hawkins

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Brazil, Galway, and Bluegrass Today

Wagner Creoruska and his band O Bardo e o Banjo, who are active in making bluegrass music and the 5-string banjo widely known in Brazil (see the BIB for 3 Apr. 2022) are featured on Bluegrass Today in an interview article by Lee Zimmerman. Their album O tempo e a memoria, mentioned by Zimmerman, was recorded and produced by Galway's own representative of Brazilian bluegrass, César Benzoni, who is a sound engineer, video maker, operator of the Yodel Recording Services studio, mandolin- and guitar-player in the Galway-based Rocky River Bluegrass Show, and also a friend of Wagner Creoruska. César's YouTube channel is well worth visiting for instruction, advice, instrument reviews, and much more.

© Richard Hawkins

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'Hummingbird' single from We Banjo 3

Galway's We Banjo 3, originators of Celtgrass, announce:

We're excited to share that our new single 'Hummingbird' will be released May 20th. This song was originally started in lockdown in Nashville in March 2020 before finally being finished in Maryland two years later. It's a feel-good song - we feel good when we play it, and we hope you'll feel good when you hear it. Pre-Save 'Hummingbird' now!

© Richard Hawkins

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05 May 2022

Bruce Molsky in Dublin next month

The latest Weekly Dispatch, issued by the Bluegrass Situation (BGS) online magazine, announces that the BGS's Artist of the Month for May 2022 is the epoch-making Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, headliners at Omagh some years in the past. The article by BGS staff on the band focuses on their latest album, Dirt does Dylan, comprising ten covers of Bob Dylan songs. There is also a playlist of thirty-two tracks from past Dirt Band recordings.

Of at least equal interest to BIB readers, perhaps, is the Lindsey Terrell article 'Bruce Molsky brings a masterful touch to fingerstyle guitar on new album', focused on Bruce Molsky's new album Everywhere you go. Molsky is most widely known as an outstanding fiddler and banjo-player in southern traditional style, though his first solo album, Lost boy (1996) showed that he was also a powerful, sensitive guitarist with wide-ranging tastes, proved by his playing of the Congolese masterpiece 'Masanga'. In Terrell's article, Molsky explains some of the factors that formed his tastes, and how the album was compiled and produced. Four YouTube videos are included.

Bruce Molsky is also a member of Andy Irvine's band Mozaik, and next month he will be one of many musicians coming together in Vicar Street, Dublin 8, on Monday 20 June for Andy's eightieth birthday concert. Tickets (€45) can be bought here.

© Richard Hawkins

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04 May 2022

Bluegrass banjo lessons in the Derry area?

Nearly five years ago Philippa Robinson in Derry city wanted to know of anyone teaching three-finger banjo style in the Derry area. Philippa sent her inquiry in by e-mail, so the BIB was able to suggest that anyone with the information could send it to her directly.

As a comment on the same post, an anonymous writer has now sent in the message 'anyone in derry giving banjo bluegrass lessons'. We can't send a direct reply or suggest, as in Philippa's case, that any information be sent direct to the writer. However, any news of banjo lessons in Derry will be published on the BIB as soon as we receive it.

© Richard Hawkins

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03 May 2022

Mark Hembree on Bill Monroe: book now published

Since last autumn, the BIB has mentioned a few times the coming publication of On the bus with Bill Monroe: my five-year ride with the Father of Blue Grass, the book on his personal experience of Bill Monroe by Mark Hembree, who played bass as a Blue Grass Boy from July 1979 to June 1984. The book has now been published (26 Apr.) by the University of Illinois Press at $110 in hardback, $19.95 in paperback, and $14.95 as an e-book. It is on Amazon.co.uk for £16.92 (plus postage) in paperback and £12.93 in Kindle; and from Book Depository at €17.81 (paperback; postage free).

Following Richard Thompson's recent feature on the book in Bluegrass Today, Henry Carrigan has contributed to the 'Reading Room' department of No Depression a useful review of it, including reflections from Hembree's own perspective on the factors affecting the writing of a memoir of this kind.

© Richard Hawkins

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Old-time sessions - mapped and listed

Thanks to the news blog of FOAOTMAD, the UK's national association for American old-time music and dance, for the news that the association's map of old-time sessions in Britain and Ireland has now been brought up to date, together with a corresponding list of the sessions, organised by counties.

As FOAOTMAD states that the information is up to date, the BIB notes that four sessions are shown in the island of Ireland:
  • Cork: Two sessions (Sunday and Monday night, both at 8.00 p.m.) at the Corner House, 7 Coburg St., Cork city T23 FW10
  • Dublin: Bill Whelan's nearly-quarter-century-established session (Saturday, 4.30-7.00 p.m.) at the Cobblestone, 77 North King St., Dublin city D07 TP22
  • Sligo: Friday from 8.30 p.m. at McLynn's, Old Market St., Abbeyquarter North, Sligo town
In all cases the map notes advise prospective visitors to contact the venues for confirmation that the sessions are taking place. The BIB hopes this information will come to the attention of matchbookholder, who will be in Dublin from today to 8 May (see the BIB for 20 April).

© Richard Hawkins

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Bluegrass in La Roche

Thanks to Christopher Howard-Williams, co-founder of the great bluegrass festival at La Roche-sur-Foron on the edge of the French Alps, and chair of its organising team, for the news that the festival has been rebranded and is now 'Bluegrass In La Roche', instead of the La Roche Bluegrass Festival. The website accordingly has a new address (but can still be reached from the old URL) and a new logo (right) designed by Philippe Boutet.

La Roche-sur-Foron hosts the largest bluegrass festival in Europe, and all concerts are free. Two introductory videos by Fred Glas - giving a choice between a one-minute and a nine-minute version - can be seen on the website or on the festival's YouTube channel.

© Richard Hawkins

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02 May 2022

Resourcefulness AND talent

Niall Toner, Godfather of bluegrass, 'roots', and related music in Ireland, triumphantly vanquished last weekend a challenge to his legendary resourcefulness. The Niall Toner Band (NTB) was scheduled to play two shows at the Kilkenny Roots Festival, and their rehearsals and performances were to be filmed for use in Niall's video contribution to this autumn's IBMA songwriter showcases (see the BIB for 24 Apr.). But - 60% of the band's regular members and most first-call replacements were either on holiday or already committed to play with other bands at that time...

Undaunted, Niall and Dick Gladney (NTB bassist) borrowed Lily Sheehan (guitar) and Paddy 'Paahto' Cummins (mandolin) from Mules & Men; and the photo above (l-r: Dick, Paddy, Niall, Lily), together with Niall's words on the NTB Facebook, show that all concerned were very happy with the results.
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Paddy Kiernan, whose outstandingly creative banjo work is usually heard with the NTB as well as several other bands, can be heard and seen in a succession of recent videos on his Facebook, which include his explorations of the contrapuntal possibilities of the fingerstyle banjo - the BIB can't say '5-string', because the videos show his custom-made Nechville 6-string (or '5+1', perhaps).

Update 4 May: Thanks to Niall for the information in his comment on this post, especially the photography credits.

© Richard Hawkins

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Naomi Judd, 1946-2022

Thanks to Des Butler for this sad news:

The death has occurred of Naomi Judd on Saturday 30 April. Born in Ashland, KY, in 1946 and named Diana Ellen Judd, she was 76.

Naomi Judd, American singer and actress, was part of the Grammy-award-winning country music duo The Judds, formed in 1983, performing with her daughter Wynonna. The pair had a string of hits, including 'Love can build a bridge', and were due to be inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday. But Naomi's death was announced a day earlier by Wynonna and her other daughter Ashley, an actor. In a statement, the sisters said they had lost their 'beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness' and were 'navigating profound grief'. No further details have been released about the cause of her death.

A diagnosis of hepatitis C, a potentially chronic and deadly viral illness, forced Naomi Judd to retire from performing in 1990. 'Love can build a bridge', released December 1990, was the duo's final single.

R. I. P.

A heartfelt message of regret by Ricky Skaggs appeared yesterday (1 May) on his Facebook. The photo above shows (l-r) Wynonna and Naomi Judd in Nashville on 11 Apr. (photo: John Amis/AP).

© Richard Hawkins

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29 April 2022

Duhallow Bluegrass Sessions off to a good start

Thanks to Owen Schinkel of the duo Long Way Home for this news of the first of the new series of bluegrass sessions in north Co. Cork (see the BIB for 20 Apr.). The featured artist was Pat Kelleher.

The first Duhallow Bluegrass Session went well this past Sunday! We had a nice first crowd attending the concert and a good few people stuck around for the session! Here's a little compilation video of Pat's gig, we joined in for a couple of songs towards the end of his set:

Attached are some pictures of the jam session afterwards. We're off to a good start and looking forward to the other planned events.

The next session is Saturday 7 May, starting at 19.00, see poster with details [at bottom, below]. We'll have the great Cork-city-based roots group Jawbone headline the evening.

© Richard Hawkins

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28 April 2022

A closer view

Thanks to Dave Byrne jr of mygrassisblue.com for this image of the poster showing all the dates for the coming European tour by Seth Mulder & Midnight Run. At this size, the details of the shows should be clearly legible. On the page of the mygrassisblue.com website dedicated to the tour, the brief video clips behind the main title are taken from the band's performances at the 2020 Shannonside Winter Music Festival.

© Richard Hawkins

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27 April 2022

Mygrassisblue.com bring Seth Mulder & Midnight Run to Europe

John Lawless on Bluegrass Today reports on the imminent European tour of Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, with explicit credit given to Dave Byrne and the team of the Wicklow-based mygrassisblue.com agency which is organising it. Full details of the tour (which begins on 12 May in Belgium and ends on 6 June in the Netherlands, with hundreds of miles covered in between) are on the tour page of the mygrassisblue.com website. This has all the details of the tour (including online ticket-booking links) and of the band that one could wish, with ample photographs, video and audio recordings, information on their earlier album releases, and approving comments from qualified admirers. Also, like everything else on the mygrassisblue.com website, it's a pleasure to view.

The band's part in the 2022 Bluegrass Omagh festival is the only show in the tour that will take place on this island. A 27-second teaser-trailer video, recorded for the tour by the band, can be seen on Bluegrass Today and on YouTube.
© Richard Hawkins

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Woodbine at Kilkenny with Gerry Madden

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for confirming that Woodbine's many fans can see and hear them on three occasions at the coming weekend's Kilkenny Roots Festival. They will be playing at 10.00 p.m. on Friday 29 Apr. at Lenehan's; at 10.00 p.m. on Saturday 30 Apr. at Bollards; and at 10.00 p.m. on Sunday 1 May at O'Gorman's. The lineup will be Tony (guitar, vocals), Liam Wright (guitar, vocals), Nicola O'Brien Kennedy (bass, vocals) and Gerry Madden (mandolin). The photo of Gerry above dates from the release of his 2016 album Baker's dozen.

© Richard Hawkins

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26 April 2022

Two Time Polka gigs, Apr.-May 2022

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka announces the band's gigs over the next few weeks:

Kilkenny Roots Festival
Sat. Apr. 30th: Left Bank, 4.00-6.00 p.m. Adm. free
Sun. May 1st: Langtons Hotel, 5.00-7.00 p.m. Adm. free
The Club House Hotel, 10.00 p.m-midnight. Adm. free

Sat, 14th: Coughlans - The Nest, Cork. Doors 7.30 p.m. Adm. free

Zydeco Village, the Netherlands
Sat. 21st: Kerkplein 5, Raamsdonksveer, NL, 11.30 p.m.
Sun. 22nd: Kerkplein 5, Raamsdonksveer, NL, 3.00-4.30 p.m.

Our next mail will give details of our gigs at BikeFest, Killarney, Strings 'n Things, Clashmore, and The Cork Summershow.

We'll be updating all our gigs on the website (www.twotimepolka.com) and also on our Facebook page.

Regards & thanks

Ray & TTP

© Richard Hawkins

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We Banjo 3 at MerleFest 2022

Galway's We Banjo 3, originators of Celtgrass, will perform this coming weekend at MerleFest, Wilkesboro, NC. In his No Depression article 'Through the lens: exciting roots artists not to miss at MerleFest 2022', Amos Perrine has a fine photo he took of We Banjo 3 on stage at the 2018 MerleFest, and writes:

You may think you know this Irish band, but their online performances during the pandemic have demonstrated a dramatic shift in their songwriting. Some call them a great Irish-Americana band, I say you will not see or hear a better band all weekend.

Update 28 Apr.: In the Bluegrass Today feature 'Photos from 2022 Old Settlers Music Festival', there are twenty-five fine photos by Amy Price, beginning with two of We Banjo 3, and also including - to mention only those who have played in Ireland - the Del McCoury Band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Peter Rowan. The Rangers include founder member and guitarist Woody Platt, who recently announced that he will be leaving the band (see here).

© Richard Hawkins

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25 April 2022

US news - mainly about past visitors

Fast Track have had a new single, 'Heartbreak and trouble', released by the Engelhardt Music Group (EMG). The song can be heard on John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today and on YouTube. More details are on the press releases from EMG and Wilson Pickins.

Two excellent on-stage sets by Fast Track, filmed early in 2020 when Jesse Brock was with them on mandolin, can be seen on YouTube: 1 and 2. In the BIB editor's view, this is pretty well exactly how a bluegrass band should act and sound.
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For admirers of the late Tom T. Hall and the music of Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, the band has recently had a video released by Pinecastle Records of the song 'Who’s gonna tell the story', written by Mark Brinkman and David Stewart. It can be watched on Bluegrass Today and YouTube.
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Bob Denton, co-organiser with Andy Lambert of the three Irish Old Time Gatherings held so far in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, announces on the FOAOTMAD news blog (23 Apr.) that he will be in London 10-18 May and keen to play both old-time and Irish music.
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Later this year Charlie Poole (1892-1931) will be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. He was one of the most popular among commercially-recorded rural musicians of the 1920s; his three-finger banjo style was influenced by 'classical'/ ragtime banjo-playing; and the controlled, tight-knit sound of his North Carolina Ramblers band contrasted with his haphazard lifestyle. John Lawless's news item on Bluegrass Today includes two recordings from YouTube.
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Ken Perlman, master of 'melodic clawhammer' banjo, announces that the last two online live instructional banjo workshops in his current 'Clawhammer Clinic' series will be 'Arranging a song or simple melody for performance, clawhammer style' on Mon. 2 May, and 'Up-the-neck "melodic" fingering forms that feature 5th-string fretting' on Mon. 23 May. Ken can also be seen on 1 May in a free online live-stream concert from the Greenwich Village Folk Festival.
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Kyle O'Brien of the state of Colorado announces that he and Chance McCoy (who toured Ireland in June 2019) recorded, mixed, and mastered ten original songs in two weeks at McCoy's West Virginia home studio and farm, to produce the new album Country pie, which can now be pre-ordered. McCoy was formerly a member of Old Crow Medicine Show, whose latest album, Paint this town, is reviewed on No Depression by Henry Carrigan.
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Chicago's Henhouse Prowlers, in their 'Bluegrass Ambassadors' role, will be introducing schoolchildren to the music of North Carolina masters this week at the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, and rounding off their stay with a concert at the Center on Thurs. 28 Apr.

© Richard Hawkins

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