06 October 2022

Enda Scahill on Deering Live tonight (6 Oct.)

The Deering Banjo Company announces that Enda Scahill of Galway's We Banjo 3 is being interviewed tonight on Deering Live. The announcement naturally focuses on his Irish tenor banjo playing (a twelve-minute video by him on cross-picking for Irish tenor banjo has been on YouTube since May), but some attention will very likely be paid to his custom-built instrument and the band's popularity at bluegrass festivals in the USA. The interview can also be watched on YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , ,

Tommy Cordell, 2 Mar. 1057-30 Sept. 2022

The BIB editor writes:

Tommy Cordell, an outstanding bluegrass fiddler, died at the end of last week. Both his own music and the music of the bands in which he played exemplify the combination of toughness, power, and sensitivity that mark bluegrass at its best. Richard Thompson has posted an obituary-cum-discography on Bluegrass Today, with ample contributions from close friends and fellow musicians.

The images above are from the covers of his 1987 solo album and the 1981 Dave Evans album Goin round this world. It was on the latter that I first heard Tommy Cordell's fiddling, and Kevin Williamson's words, as quoted by Richard Thompson, sum up the album perfectly:

Nowadays when I listen to it, I’m struck by the raw energy and emotion of the project. We were all playing as though our lives depended on it, and in some ways they did. Tommy found such joy in playing music and it rubbed off on the rest of us.

Goin round the world was chosen by Daniel Mullins as Album of the Week #36 on Bluegrass Today in 2014. The 1985 album by Big Timber Bluegrass, Bluegrass on my mind, can be heard in full on the BT obituary and on YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels:

Looking for a jam session in Belgium?

If you're likely for any reason to be in Belgium, with leisure to look for a bluegrass jam session, monthly jams are held in the cities of Antwerp (Antwerpen) and Ghent (Gent). Our friends at Bluegrass in Belgium announce that in the rest of 2022 jams will be held at Den Hopsack, Grote Pieter Potstraat 24, 2000 Antwerpen, from 3.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. on 16 Oct., 20 Nov., and 18 Dec.; and at the Muzikantenhuis, Dampoortstraat 50, 9000 Gent, from 8.00 p.m. on 25 Oct. and 29 Nov. (The Muzikantenhuis also runs monthly sessions for other genres of national music, including an Irish session on the first Tuesday of the month.)

Chris Thile will also be playing in De Roma, Turnhoutsebaan 329, 2140 Borgerhout (Antwerp), in the course of a European tour of which the last concert will be on the main stage at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Tuesday 15 Movember, where tickets will be €30, €26, and €22.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

05 October 2022

Loretta Lynn, 1932-2022

Thanks to Des Butler for this sad news:

We have lost another legend of country music, namely Loretta Lynn who died today (4 Oct. 2022). A family statement published in US media today said the beloved songwriter died of natural causes.

Loretta Lynn was an American singer-songwriter. In a career which spanned six decades in country music, Lynn released multiple gold albums. She had hits such as 'You ain't woman enough', 'Don't come home a-drinkin'', 'One's on the way', 'Fist City', and 'Coal miner's daughter'.

Lynn saw a number of her edgy tracks banned by country music stations, but over the course of more than six decades in the business, she became a standard-bearer of the genre and its most decorated female artist ever.

Born Loretta Webb on 14 April 1932 in smalltown Kentucky, Lynn was the eldest daughter in an impoverished family of eight kids, a childhood she immortalised in her iconic track 'Coal miner's daughter' - a staple on lists of all-time best songs. She won virtually every arts honour available, including the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, given to her by Barack Obama in 2013.

Quote: 'When they lay me down six feet under, they can say, "Loretta's quit singing".'
'R.I.P.
Des. Butler

BIB editor's note: BIB readers who have a copy of Pressing on: the Roni Stoneman story will recall Roni's story of her friend 'Retta' and the boots (pp 186-9).

Labels: ,

Shane Hennessy in Germany - and Ireland

Carlow guitar maestro Shane Hennessy will be playing tonight the first of a series of dates in Germany - three in what remains of this week, and a further eight beginning on 15 Oct. In the interval, on Mon. 10 Oct. he will take part, together with Eimear and Inni-K, in an unusual collaborative performance: 'Live at the Local' in Gregory's Tavern, Kilcock, Co. Kildare, at 9.00 p.m. On 27 Nov. at 8.00 p.m. he will be playing in the Dean Crowe Sessions series (free admission) in the theatre of that name in Athlone, Co. Westmeath. See his e-newsletter for more details.
*
Now that Germany has been mentioned, Rainer Zellner's Music Contact agency has the Henry Girls from Co. Donegal on tour there from tomorrow (6 Oct.) up to 15 Oct. And from 16 Nov. to 14 Dec. Rainer's 'travelling festival' of bluegrass and Americana music, the Bluegrass Jamboree, will be on tour through Germany with three fine US acts: the Blue Ridge Girls from Virginia, the Stillhouse Junkies (veterans of this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival) from Colorado, and the Tennessee Bluegrass Band from...

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , , ,

Dale Ann Bradley in hospital

Dale Ann Bradley, who among her many accomplishments has made several memorable appearances at Omagh bluegrass festivals over the years, was admitted to the Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington, KY, at the weekend, after attending the IBMA World Of Bluegrass at Raleigh, NC. She was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack, and will need to undergo triple bypass surgery later this week.

Her bandmates Kim Fox and Matt Leadbetter have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to meet medical expenses and loss of income till she is back on her feet. At the time of writing this post, the appeal has been a great success, and the funds raised are only $25 short of the original target of $15,000. More details are on the Pinecastle Records press release and John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: ,

04 October 2022

Dom Flemons and 'Shultz's Dream' (update)

Last Saturday, as part of the events of the final day of IBMA's World Of Bluegrass 2022, Dom Flemons (right) presented a commemoration of Arnold Shultz (1996-1931), the black Kentucky musician whose playing strongly influenced the young Bill Monroe. Beforehand, Dom Flemons was interviewed by Stacy Chandler for No Depression; the edited interview can now be read as 'Dom Flemons to bring bluegrass history to life with "Shultz’s Dream" performance'. 'Shultz's Dream' is both the name of the group of musicians in the presentation, and the name of a song by Flemons, telling Shultz's story. Near the end of the interview, Flemons says:

There’s no reason for people to believe that the African American influences on bluegrass music are any way in conflict with the story everyone in this community already knows.

Update 5 Oct.: In Frank Baker's gallery of fifty-seven photos from Saturday's shows at World Of Bluegrass. images 11-19 are of the 'Shultz's Dream' set.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: ,

Keith Whitley commemorated in Oct. 2022 BU

In the October 2022 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, the cover story is about Keith Whitley (1954-89), in connection with his induction to the Country Music Hall Of Fame this year. In addition to Chris Smith"s six-page feature on the bluegrass part of Keith's career, Scott Napier contributes a further six pages on Keith's banjo-playing elder brother Dwight, and David Carroll reports on a concert tribute to Keith at the CAMFEST festival in Kentucky in August this year.

The many other features include Mike England's article on The Foreign Landers; Derek Halsey's article on Peter Rowan, Norman Blake, and Paul 'Moon' Mullins, all of whom were inducted this year into the International Bluegrass Music Hall Of Fame; an article on the new Mastertone™ 'Bluegrass Heart' Béla Fleck signature banjo by Ross Nickerson, who toured Ireland earlier this century; and the magazine's review section, which assesses new recordings, books, and guitar strings.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , , ,

03 October 2022

A night to remember

On Sunday 2 October the Dublin Bluegrass Collective welcomed Mark Epstein (USA), together with his wife Alison and a party of friends, to the weekly four-hour bluegrass jam session at Mother Reilly's, 32 Rathmines Rd Upper, Dublin 6. The BIB can emphatically report that the evening was highly satisfactory and enjoyable to all concerned.

The photo above shows the session in full swing. Back home, Mark (above, in red shirt) plays banjo and sings in the high-energy traditional bluegrass band The Badly Bent, based in Durango, CO.
The home team: Patrick, TJ, Simon, John M., Stephen, John D.

Patrick Simpson of the Bluestack Mountain Boys / Dublin Bluegrass Collective writes:

Great to have you drop in! Fabulous jam, thanks to Mark and Alison for bringing sixteen people to the vibe. We look forward to picking and a-grinnin' soon, again. Cheers to DBC @Mother Reilly's Bar & Restaurant for hosting. We're an open jam session, always looking for fresh talent. Keep it country, don't go changing!

Thanks to Patrick for these photos - more photos and a video of the ensemble powering through 'Salty dog' are on the Bluestack Mountain Boys Facebook. The photo below shows the BIB editor taking an intense interest (but not an active part) as Mark plays his Rich & Taylor banjo - a 'Terry Baucom' model - with John Denby on guitar.
© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

01 October 2022

Familiar voices from IBMA WOB

The BIB mentioned on 21 Sept. the coming issue of a second series of Banjo All Stars Trading Cards, with specially commissioned portraits by various artists of prominent bluegrass banjo players - and that the Bluegrass Trading Company Facebook has a nice picture of Greg Cahill, leader of the Special Consensus by Anna Magruder of Portland, OR. The portrait (right) is shown with three enlarged details.

Greg will be visible in the flesh in Ireland early in 2023; see the ample Special C. tour schedule on the BIB for 19 Sept. Meanwhile his voice can be heard in the eighth and latest (at the time of writing this post) of a series of Deering Live Shorts - interviews (generally ten to fifteen minutes long) with bluegrass banjo celebrities attending the IBMA World Of Bluegrass at Raleigh, NC. The full list is on the Deering Live Shorts page.

Among the many topics in Greg's interview, he stresses how good it is to see the growing numbers of talented young players now coming into bluegrass; and how good it is to work with Alison Brown when the Special C. records for her Compass label. Greg did a seventy-minute interview for Deering Live in June last year, which can be seen on YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

30 September 2022

IBMA awards for 2022 announced (update)

Last night (29 Sept.) the thirty-third annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards were presented at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC. The IBMA's press release gives the full list of recipients, including those inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall Of Fame. As usual, the list includes a sizeable proportion of artists who have played in Ireland: Rick Faris as New Artist of the Year, Jason Moore of Sideline as Bass Player of the Year, and Molly Tuttle as Female Vocalist of the Year, to name but three. Photos from the awards show and other WOB events yesterday can be seen on Bluegrass Today.

It's worth mentioning that on 9 December the IBMA's Entertainer of the Year, who also sang on the Song of the Year, is scheduled to perform at The Academy in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin.

NB: A Distinguished Achievement Award went to Dan Crary, who played at Tailors' Hall, Dublin, in the autumn of 1978 with the Sackville String Band opening for him - but no, that wasn't what won him the award.

Update 6 Oct.: The report by the staff of the Bluegrass Situation (BGS) lists the winners and includes three videos and links to BGS interviews with some of the artists.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

29 September 2022

Familiar faces in photos from IBMA WOB 2022

During the IBMA World Of Bluegrass, now in progress, innumerable photographs of the artists (and others) in Raleigh are being taken, and some of special interest to bluegrass fans in Ireland are appearing on Bluegrass Today (BT).

Frank Baker's twenty-two pics from Tuesday night includes shots of Rick Faris, Becky Buller, Missy Raines (with Ellie Hakanson and Tristan Scroggins in her band), and two photos of The Foreign Landers (David Benedict and Tabitha Benedict (née Agnew), well known to us all as banjo player with Cup O' Joe and Midnight Skyracer). Bill Warren's eighteen photos from the same evening include Rick Faris again and Kristy Cox.

Tabitha Benedict appears in more Frank Baker photos from the Momentum Awards show, which she hosted, being a previous Momentum Award winner. One of these photos shows her with George Jackson, who won an Instrumentalist award this year. She and David Benedict appear in two monochrome photos by Jeromie Stephens, among twenty posted on BT yesterday. More photos from the World Of Bluegrass will continue to appear on BT.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

Tradition and technology

Jake Blount (left), Aaron Jonah Lewis (right)

[...] we are not learning from long-dead musicians when we study recordings of them. We aren’t learning from musicians at all. We are learning from electromechanical reproductions of musicians — limitlessly replicable acoustic automata that repeat the same few minutes over and over again, for as long as they endure.

This is quoted from 'SPOTLIGHT: Jake Blount on traditional music’s built-in science fiction', published on No Depression on Monday (26 Sept.), and well worth reading in full for the several issues it raises. Jake Blount's points have much in common with what Aaron Jonah Lewis said at his fiddle workshop on 28 May this year at the Ulster American Folk Park about the limitations put on us - without our knowing it - by learning from recordings, especially older ones.

Perspectives do change with the passage of time. One of Jake Blount's first sentences - 'Our instrument [the banjo] is firmly entrenched in the American consciousness as a symbol of cultural and political conservatism' - might have puzzled a reader sixty years ago, when the banjo player best known to the public was Pete Seeger, and when the 'melodic' revolution was beginning to transform bluegrass banjo playing.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

28 September 2022

Professional development courses for musicians

In the coming three months, Music Network presents three new online series of 'Taking charge of your performance career', its professional development training programme for professional musicians in Ireland. The three series are:
  • Making music accessible for children with special educational needs (four Zoom workshops, 22 and 29 Oct.);
  • Taking charge of your performance career: Inside the creative process (six Zoom sessions, 14-29 Nov.); 
  • Taking charge of your performance career: Developing essential skills (three-part Zoom series on developing resilience, networking skills, and stage presence (12-14 Dec.),
Not many of us in bluegrass on this side of the Atlantic have a professional musical career, but similar sessions and seminars are being held this week in Raleigh, NC, during the IBMA's World Of Bluegrass, and annually in the IBMA's Leadership Bluegrass programme.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

'Old train' rolling out of Newmarket, Co. Cork


Thanks to César Benzoni for this memory of the 'Evening of Bluegrass Music' concert, held on Friday 9 Sept. in the McAuliffe Heritage Centre/ Cultúrlann MacAmhlaoibh, Church St., Newmarket, Co. Cork. The lineup included Owen Schinkel and Kylie Kay Anderson of Long Way Home, Kevin and Geraldine Gill of the Prairie Jaywalkers, and César himself. The video, shot with a stationary camera set up by César, shows them combining (l-r: Kevin, César, Kylie Kay, Geraldine, Owen) in a fine performance of 'Old train'.

César, based in Galway, operates the Yodel Studio for audio and video recording, mixing, and mastering, and plays in several combinations and musical genres. His YouTube channel has many videos of performance, instruction and advice, instrument reviews, and more.

The song 'Old train', written by Herb and Nikki Pedersen, was first recorded by the Seldom Scene (1974), and next by the Tony Rice Unit on the classic Manzanita album (1979).
© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

27 September 2022

Buddy Spurlock, 1941-2022

The Bluegrass Alliance c.1969: (l-r) Buddy Spurlock, Ebo Walker, Dan Crary, Danny Jones, Lonnie Peerce

The BIB learns with regret of the death last Wednesday (21 Sept.) of Buddy Spurlock of eastern Kentucky at the age of 81. The Bluegrass Alliance was a band that made a powerful impact on the US scene in the late '60s and '70s and provided a launch pad for the careers of Sam Bush, Tony Rice, and Vince Gill; and Buddy Spurlock was the banjo-player in the Alliance's lineup that recorded their influential 1969 LP (cover image above). His individual touch, tone, and licks were among the features that made the band influential. John Lawless's obituary on Bluegrass Today includes tributes from Doyle Lawson and Scott Napier, plus a recording of Buddy's composition 'Naugahyde', played by the Alliance. Scott Napier's memories - well worth reading in full - include these words:

Although he was not active on the music scene [after leaving the Alliance], he was very passionate about playing, and playing well. He influenced me in the fact that he was so good, but had a burning desire to improve, even though he had no interest in being heard.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: ,

Irish takeover of bluegrass continues

... as you can see from the appearance of We Banjo 3, kings of Celtgrass, on the cover of the October 2022 issue of the Bluegrass Standard magazine. The issue is now available but not yet online: this is IBMA World Of Bluegrass week, and the September issue is what appears on the magazine's website. However, you can see from the October cover image (with London's The Vanguards at the bottom of the page) that the contents include features on the British Bluegrass Music Association, as well as The Foreign Landers.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , ,

26 September 2022

Irish talent galore at 50th Féile Ghleann na Gallchnónna

The BIB post of 16 July reported on Irish pickers who would be playing in the USA in the coming months. A fine example of this phenomenon is now on Bluegrass Today, where John Lawless introduces forty photographs taken at the fiftieth Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. Lawless writes:

Many folks know of the prestige that attaches to the various instrumental competitions that occur at Walnut Valley, but may not understand that a full-fledged festival of bluegrass and other roots acoustic music is happening at the same time. Put this one on your bucket list.

Immediately following these words is a video showing JigJam leading the audience at a main stage evening concert in 'Will you go, lassie, go?' The video can also be seen on the band's Facebook, where there are other videos from their current USA tour.

Following this, the first of the forty photos shows Galway's We Banjo 3 on stage, seen from the audience. After this photo, the captions identifying the artists shown become few and far between, but we strongly suspect that two of them show Carlow's Shane Hennessy.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

A great night at the Dublin Sunday jam - and another on the way

Thanks to Patrick Simpson of the Bluestack Mountain Boys / Dublin Bluegrass Collective for this news and photo from another good time last night at the weekly Dublin bluegrass jam session in Mother Reilly's, 32 Rathmines Road Upper, Dublin 6:

We really enjoyed Hubert Murray and David Hawkins joining us last night from the Midlands, The jam was mighty! Thanks to all who make it so good.

Great to hear that we will be having Mark Epstein [see the BIB for 8 Sept.] join us for a pick on his banjo next Sun. (2 Oct.). Thank you for letting me know. It really is quite fun and we really appreciate Mother Reilly's Bar & Restaurant for hosting and all the regulars and those who came out especially to hear us. Keep it country! Don't go changing!

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

25 September 2022

Approaches to older music (update)

The BIB editor writes:

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released on Friday (23 Sept.) The new faith (SFW40247), the latest album from Jake Blount, whose website states that it 'answers the question, “What would black music sound like after climate change renders most of the world uninhabitable? What gods would this community praise, and what stories would they tell?”'. The album presents, as the music of this dark future, 'spirituals that are age-old even now' and 'songs, which have seen black Americans through countless struggles' - in other words, music which already has a proven record of sustaining in adversity, and which is given new treatments here.

Jake Blount is the September Spotlight artist of No Depression, and the magazine's coverage of him includes Jim Shahen's interview article 'Jake Blount takes folk into the future', with two videos; and Stacy Chandler' 'The intersection of past, present, and future on Jake Blount’s "The new faith"’, introducing a seven-minute video (also on YouTube) in which Blount explains the concept of the album and sings, with fiddle, 'Tangle Eye blues'. This derives from the unaccompanied singing of Walter 'Tangle Eye' Jackson, recorded by Alan Lomax in the Mississippi state penitentiary in 1947. I recommend hearing one of the YouTube copies, such as this, for comparison with Blount's version.

Update 30 Sept.: An interview with Jake Blount published in The Guardian on 27 Sept. can be read here.
*
Another approach to older music is taken by Squirrel Butter (also on Facebook), the husband-and-wife duo of Charlie Beck and Charmaine Slaven. Their fifth album, Hazelnut, came out in July this year, when a brief interview with them appeared on the Bluegrass Situation in its 'BGS 5+5' series. The album has since been reviewed, with samples of all eighteen tracks, by Braeden Paul on Bluegrass Today.

Like Jake Blount with the sources on which he draws, Squirrel Butter have merged themselves with old-time, early bluegrass, and early country to the point where their original tunes and songs come from the same place. Or the same place in a parallel universe? I'm thinking of Charlie Beck's banjo playing. In addition to clawhammer, he plays three-finger style with an unrestrained, fluent, and imaginative mastery that doesn't sound like newgrass playing. Instead, we're perhaps hearing how country players might have sounded in the 1930s, if they'd chosen to develop a technique comparable to what 'classical' 5-string players had at that time.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , ,

23 September 2022

Riley Baugus in Britain, 15-25 Nov. 2022

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog, organ of the UK's national association for American old-time music and dance, for the news that Riley Baugus, who last toured here (much too briefly) three years ago, will be playing nine shows in Britain in the second half of November. Unfortunately, neither on FOAOTMAD's news item nor on his own calendar is there any indication of dates in Ireland; but if you're likely to be in Britain at that time, the full schedule is given by FOAOTMAD.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

22 September 2022

Bil VornDick commemorated in Nashville

The BIB was fortunate to be able to publish on 14 July Richard Thompson's obituary of Bil VornDick (right), the legendary Grammy-award-winning producer, recording engineer, songwriter, and musician, who died on 5 July at the age of 72.

Sandy Hatley has now reported for Bluegrass Today on the ceremony celebrating Bil VornDick's life which was held at the Ocean Way Studio in Nashville, TN, two days ago (20 Seot.). Tributes in speech and music during the occasion included contributions from Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Craig Duncan, and Edgar Meyer, and clearly show why Bil VornDick was held in such high regard.

Jerry Douglas also makes a substantial contribution to the obituary of Bil VornDick that appears in the Sept. 2022 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: ,

21 September 2022

Banjo All Stars trading cards - second series to be voted for

Exactly eight months ago (21 Jan.) - it seems a lot longer, but much has happened in the world since then - the BIB relayed the news from Bluegrass Today of Colyn Brown, his Bluegrass Trading Company, and the first series of Banjo All Stars trading cards, showing forty prominent bluegrass banjo players as represented in newly commissioned artwork. A new series is now in preparation, to include over sixty players; nominations are flooding in, and the issue is planned for spring 2023. Full details are on the Bluegrass Trading Company website and John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

Dublin's Georgina Flood is contributing her artwork to the project, including the portrait above of a young Carl Jackson - see the notes on the Bluegrass Trading Company Facebook. The BIB is pleased to note a nice portrait of Greg Cahill, leader of the Special Consensus, painted by Anna Magruder of Portland, OR.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , ,

20 September 2022

Jim Pankey at Crawford Banjos, Ballynahinch, Co. Down

Prior to this evening, the BIB believed that Jim Pankey was last here as banjo-player for the Hamilton County Ramblers of Chattanooga, TN, in 2016 when they played at the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree, at the Ardara Bluegrass Festival, and as instructors at the first Bluegrass Camp Ireland. Now, we're not so sure: Jim has just added the video above to his YouTube channel, and began receiving comments from Ireland at once. So what other private visits may he have made in the last six years?

Be that as it may, the video introduces Crawford Banjos (also on Facebook), made by Robert Crawford in Ballynahinch, Co. Down, with the aid of machinery much of which dates from the nineteenth century; but the design and workmanship are clearly of a very high order, and the results look and sound beautiful. The video shows chiefly a slotted-head fretless with brass-plated fingerboard and many individual touches; Facebook shows instruments that include tack-head, gourd, and other old-time banjos, but bluegrass banjos are also made. Well worth checking out.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

A successful first Trafaria bluegrass festival (update)

Norwegian band Buster Sledge playing at Trafaria
(photo: Maria Lazaro)

Thanks to Andre Dal Lentilhas, the moving spirit of bluegrass in Portugal, for his report on the successful holding of Portugal's first ever international bluegrass festival - Trafaria Bluegrass - Festival by the River. The completely free event was held on 9-11 September in the small fishing village of Trafaria on the south bank of the Tagus, close to the river mouth and Lisbon.

As reported on the BIB on 26 July, the lineup comprised Rawhide (BE), the Often Herd (GB), the Original Five (SE), Buster Sledge (N), and the home team, Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti. Each band played twice on the weekend: once on the main stage in the village square, and again on one of the five side stages in other locations. Photos of the programme are shown on the festival Facebook. Five instrument workshops (guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, fiddle) were also held on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Andre writes: 'Jams were encouraged as a lively and vibrant part of the festival.'

A subsidiary programme was also developed to show Trafaria, its surroundings, and its people to vistors, including storytelling for children, walks around the village, archeological tours, active aging and intergenerational interaction encounters, and recycling workshops.
View from the main stage at an evening concert (photo: Felipe Lima)

Presentations and speeches were made by the president of the organising team, Recreios Desportivos da Trafaria, João Horta; the artistic director, André Dal; and the mayors of Almada city council (Inês de Medeiros) and Trafaria parish council (Sandra Chaíça). Andre writes:

Even though public transportation is sparse and needs to be improved, the festival was a huge success. The small village of Trafaria was crowded during the whole weekend and all stages were packed. The audience felt the vibrant performance of the bands and responded accordingly. Because this was the first ever bluegrass festival to be held in Portugal, the organization's team did not have an idea of the number of people who could join the event.

Nevertheless, local people from the village of Trafaria came in great numbers, as well as from other parts of Portugal and also from abroad, and more than 3,000 people attended enthusiastically to all the concerts. Portuguese and foreign musicians took part in the jams with the bands' musicians, and locals felt the village had a great atmosphere. The side activities were also packed with people trying to discover more about the village. Children and adults were eager to learn more about bluegrass music as well
.

It is safe to say that due to the success of this first event, the city council of Almada and the parish council of Trafaria will extend their support for next year's edition and hopefully, with the help of local companies, associations, institutions, EBMA, and private people as was this year.

BIB editor's note: Why does it not surprise us that Rawhide took part in forging a new musical genre, 'Fadograss', together with the Portuguese singer Ana Margarida?

Update 21 Sept.: The full text of Andre's report, together with two videos and more photographs from the Festival, can now be seen on Bluegrass Today.
Andre (banjo) with his band Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti
(photo: Maria Lazaro)

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

New season of Ken Perlman 'Clawhammer Clinics', Oct. 2022

Ken Perlman, master of 'melodic claw-hammer' banjo, announces that the first online live instructional workshops in the new season of his 'Clawhammer Clinics for old-time banjo' series will be '"Keith"-picking: adapting the principles of melodic bluegrass to clawhammer' (Mon. 3 Oct.) and 'Movable major & minor chord shapes in double-C / double-D tuning' (Mon. 24 Oct.). Each clinic lasts an hour and a half. All of Ken's twenty-four previous Clinics are available as videos from his website at $25 each, and he can also be contacted for private lessons by Zoom.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

19 September 2022

Special Consensus (USA) - a busy schedule for Jan.-Feb. 2023

The band's current lineup: (l-r) Dan Eubanks, Greg Cahill, Greg Blake, Michael Prewitt

Following on from the remark in our last post that Greg Blake would be here early in 2023 as a member of the award-winning Special Consensus, the BIB is delighted to see that the band now has a very full schedule for their tour in this island. The Special C., founded in 1975 and going from strength to strength, first came here for a brief tour of four or five shows in 1995, and - thanks to Nigel Martyn and his Old Flattop agency - have since played here more times than any other band from abroad, settling into a biennial schedule of coming over early in the year, and only missing 2021 because of the pandemic.

The schedule that the BIB published in May for their 2023 tour has since been much extended and amended, and now (according to the band's online tour schedule) gives a total of seventeen shows in this island, with an interval of four in Britain including the 2023 Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow:
  • Wed. 25th Jan.: Black Box, Belfast, 12.00 p.m. (part of Out to Lunch Arts Festival); American Bar, Belfast, 8.00 p.m.
  • Thurs. 26th: Court House, Bangor, Co. Down, 8.00 p.m.
  • Fri. 27th: Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady, Co. Londonderry, 8.00 p.m.
  • Sat. 28th: Marketplace Theatre, Armagh city, 8.00 p.m.
[interval in Britain]
  • Fri. 3rd Feb.: Colfers Pub, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford, 9.00 p.m.
  • Sat. 4th: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 9.00 p.m.
  • Sun. 5th: Campbell's Tavern, Headford, Co. Galway, 4.00 p.m.
  • Mon. 6th: Kilworth Community Hall, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.
  • Tues. 7th: Bob's Bar, Durrow, Co. Laois, 8.00 p.m.
  • Wed. 8th: Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo town, 8.00 p.m.
  • Thurs. 9th: Beehive Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
  • Fri. 10th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
  • Sat. 11th: Séamus Ennis Arts Centre & Café, Naul, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m.
  • Sun. 12th: Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m.
  • Mon. 13th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, 8.00 p.m.
  • Tues. 14th: Corner House, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, 8.00 p.m.
© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

More news of past visitors

'Greg Blake', writes John Lawless on Bluegrass Today, 'has certainly got to be in the running for busiest man in bluegrass for 2022.' Greg and his Kansas City band Hometown have just released their recording of the John Starling song 'Gardens and memories', which can be heard on Bluegrass Today and on YouTube.

The photo above shows Hometown - (l-r) Brian McCarty, Greg, Todd Davis, and Grant Cochran. We expect to see Greg (who has toured Ireland several times as solo artist, bandleader, and guitarist/ lead singer with Jeff Scroggins & Colorado) back here in four months' time with the Special Consensus.

Update 20 Sept.: Turnberry Records have just released Greg Blake's latest single, 'From me to we'. On the Turnberry press release Greg explains how he came to write this song about 'the importance of relationships and how precious, yet fragile, they can be'.
*
Some nice photos of Seth Mulder & Midnight Run are among those taken by Laura Tate at the recent Camp Springs Bluegrass Festival, featured by Sandy Hatley on Bluegrass Today; and many photos of Laurie Lewis, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, and the Gibson Brothers, taken by Frank Baker at the 2022 Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, are also on Bluegrass Today.
*
Jason Carter, who first played in Ireland not all that long after he became fiddle player for Del McCoury, has just released the single 'King of the Hill' from his coming album Lowdown hoedown, also featured on Bluegrass Today.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , ,

16 September 2022

Art we can appreciate

The BIB editor writes:

This is not a paid ad for No Depression, but I compliment the magazine and its artist on the design (right) for the cover of its Fall 2022 print issue. I have seen, but can't now locate, a picture of a nineteenth-century banjo with a soundhole in the centre of the head.* In the 1980s Mark Cox revived the idea, and (on the advice of Don Reno) put the hole in the 'ten o'clock' position, which might have been a problem for the tracklaying crew shown in the picture.

By the way, No Depression published on 14 Sept. a review by Andy Crump of If it all goes south, the new album by Amy Ray. The review includes two YouTube videos of numbers from the album. In addition to being an activist for social justice and environmental causes, Ray is not a characteristic bluegrass singer; the songs in the videos, however, lend themselves well to a bluegrass treatment, and the instrumentation includes impeccable, imaginative banjo-playing by Alison Brown.

* A c.1920 Fred Van Eps Recording banjo, with the soundhole forward of centre, can be seen here.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

The latest BU and BBN

The Sept. 2022 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine includes a five-page feature on Tom Mindte, leader of the Patuxent Partners (last here in 2015) and owner of Patuxent Records; and three pages on Canadian mandolinist Andrew Collins, who toured here with the Foggy Hogtown Boys in 2009. The rest of the issue is full of equally good stuff, including an inspiring story by Chuck Dunlop (with cartoon strips by Jim Scancarelli) of how his 1947 Martin D-18 was stolen in 1972, was recovered forty-nine years later in 2021, and (after restoration) continues to delight its owner.
*
The cover story of the summer 2022 issue of British Bluegrass News (magazine of the British Bluegrass Music Association (BBMA)) is Matt Hutchinson's interview with London's The Vanguards (above), who were headliners at the 2017 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, provided the music for the festival's launch party in 2019, and followed that with five other shows in Ireland. Their first studio album, South of the river, is reviewed in this issue by Hilary Gowen. Among other features are an interview with luthier Phil Davidson, a report on the Battlefield Bluegrass Festival (July), another on a band's trip to this year's EWOB Festival in the Netherlands, and an introduction to sources on old-time music.

The BIB, however, specially recommends 'The joy of singing - at last!', a brief article by Eris Kwiatkowski, who had written himself off as 'unable to sing' until a qualified singing teacher showed him correct breathing and voice production. Eric writes: 'Don't assume you can't sing, and don't listen to anyone who says you can't.' This advice is genuinely capable of changing one's life.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , ,

14 September 2022

Traveler: new biography of Tim O'Brien

This month the University of Oklahoma Press publishes Traveler: the musical odyssey of Tim O'Brien, by Bobbie Malone and Bill C. Malone, in its 'American Popular Music' series, as a book of 232 pages with twenty-two monochrome illustrations. It is available in hardcover at $26.95 and as an e-book at $21.95. More details and descriptions of the book are in Richard Thompson's feature on Bluegrass Today. Both authors are musicians as well as being respected biographers and historians; Bill C. Malone's works include Country music U.S.A. (1968; 3rd ed. 2010); Music from the true vine: Mike Seeger's life and musical journey (2011); and Working girl blues: the life and music of Hazel Dickens (with Hazel Dickens; 2008).

Tim O'Brien is prominent among a generation of musicians who have led a rapprochement between bluegrass and Irish music - two genres which in the 1940s and '50s did not seem particularly close. One of his own early visits to Ireland included playing with the Sackville String Band at Tailors' Hall, Dublin, in the late 1970s; later visits include tours with Hot Rize and leading his own Tim O'Brien Band; and his many musical connections with this island range from the 1999 album The crossing to 'Walking home to Wexford', his 2020 collaboration with Milan Miller.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , ,

13 September 2022

Bill Monroe, born 13 Sept. 1911

Richard D. Smith, author of Can't you hear me callin': the life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass (New York, 2000), writes:

We celebrate Bill as the 'Father of Bluegrass', probably the only individual yet to create a distinctive genre of popular music; as a powerfully innovative virtuoso mandolin player; and as a compelling vocalist whose melody lines and high harmonies still thrillingly define 'the high, lonesome sound'. But Bill Monroe is also arguably the first great autobiographical singer-songwriter in country music history [...]

... and goes on to substantiate his case on Bluegrass Today.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: ,

Recordings, releases, and related news

On 9 Sept. the BIB carried a recording from YouTube of Hazel Dickens singing 'Hills of Galilee'. By coincidence (if that's what it was), on the same day Smithsonian Folkways Recordings announced three coming reissues of classic recordings by Hazel Dickens and her musical partner Alice Gerrard. The two albums Who's that knocking? and Won't you come and sing for me?, completely remastered, are being rereleased on vinyl, and issued for the first time as downloads or on streaming. At the same time (21 Oct.) all the Folkways recordings by Alice and Hazel are being rereleased as Pioneering women of bluegrass: the definitive edition on streaming and CD, with extras including a previously unreleased cut of a Louvin Brothers song.
*
Richard Thompson reported yesterday on Bluegrass Today (BT) a new thirty-two-minute documentary film on Hazel Dickens's life: Don't put her down: the life and times of Hazel Dickens, produced and directed by Julia Golonka, who explains in the BT feature how the film was inspired and came to be made. It will be screened at several festivals in coming months.
*
The Dark Shadow Recording company announces that the Stillhouse Junkies (who made a big impression at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival) released their album Small towns on Friday (9 Sept.). On Bluegrass Today, Lee Zimmerman's review of the album includes a playlist with samples of all twelve tracks.
*
Kenny & Amanda Smith (above) have released their eighth album together, the twelve-track All I need, which is now available on all streaming platforms, and from their website in CD form. Kenny has appeared more than once at Omagh festivals, and Amanda once with her husband.
*
We Banjo 3, originators of Celtgrass, could be heard live last Friday on 'Bluegrass Junction', the premier bluegrass programme on the Sirius XM station. The band's Fergal Scahill had previously (23 Aug.) been interviewed on the Hops and Spirits Bar Conversations podcast series.
*
The Moving On Music agency announce that in their Belfast concert on Sun. 23 Oct. the Damien O'Kane and Ron Block Band will be joined by John Joe Kelly on bodhrán; that percussive dancer Nic Gareiss will be performing with fiddler, violist, and composer Ultan O’Brien at the Duncairn, Belfast, on Sun. 6 Nov.; and that in mid November Don Vappie, jazz tenor-banjo maestro, and his band will be playing four dates up North: dates and booking links are here - no connection with bluegrass, but potentially of great interest to mandolinists as well as jazz fans.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , , ,

12 September 2022

Nu-Blu - more from Ireland

On 6 Sept. the BIB reported on the US contemporary bluegrass band Nu-Blu and their 'Ireland along the way' tour, which began this past weekend. Nu-Blu now announce that this week's half-hour episode of 'Bluegrass Ridge', the weekly TV series which they host, will present more on-location features from Ireland, plus the second half of an interview with Ronnie Norton (right), host of 'Bluegrass and beyond' on Bluegrass Country Radio. Details of the band's tour schedule in Ireland, and locations of the venues where they may be playing, are apparently reserved for those who are on the tour.

Update 16 Sept.: Bluegrass Today carries a report by Tara Linhardt, with two dozen photos and a video, of a historic celebration last Saturday (10 Sept.) of the founders of what became Bluegrass Country. The first show in the lineage was broadcast on 2 July 1967 (the same day on which the BIB editor and his lovely wife Carol were married).

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,

10 September 2022

Herschel Sizemore, 6 Aug. 1935-9 Sept. 2022

Herschel Sizemore playing 'Rebecca' in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel, Nashville, TN, during IBMA's World of Bluegrass 2006 (photo: Carol Hawkins)

The BIB learns with regret of the death yesterday morning of master mandolinist Herschel Sizemore at the age of 87. Another veteran of the generation who played bluegrass music before it was given that name, he was inspired as a child by the playing of Bill Monroe, and as a professional served his time in many leading bands - Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys, Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass, Del McCoury & the Dixie Pals, among others. His compositions included the classic 'Rebecca'. (In 2011 Chris Stuart discussed on Bluegrass Today the processes that lead to the creation of such classics.) Richard Thompson's exemplary obituary on Bluegrass Today includes a discography and eight videos, with bluegrass music of a very high quality.

Update 12 Sept.: The funeral service for Herschel Sizemore will be held on Thursday afternoon (15 Sept.) in Roanoke, VA. Other details are in Richard Thompson's post of 11 Sept. on Bluegrass Today.

Update 16 Sept.: A 1993 Bluegrass Unlimited article on Herschel, written by Don Rigsby, can be read online.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels:

09 September 2022

Without comment

08 September 2022

The Solemn Old Judge

Thanks to Roger Green for sending a link to 'Meet the American who founded the Grand Ole Opry: "Remarkable visionary" George D. Hay', an article by Kerry J. Byrne, published last week on the Fox News website. It commemorates George Dewey Hay (right; 1895-1968), creator of the name 'Grand Ole Opry' rather than the show itself, but his enthusiasm for rural music and rural life did much to make the show a national institution. The article includes eleven photos and a brief video. One of the photos shows the Ben Watts statue of Loretta Lynn outside the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN; in the background is Watts's statue of Bill Monroe. The article can also be heard as an eight-minute audio recording.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , ,

Visiting US pickers, Sept. 2022-Jan. 2023

Mark Epstein (right) plays banjo and sings in the high-energy traditional bluegrass band Badly Bent, based in Durango, CO. Mark is visiting Ireland later this month, primarily for a golf trip; but being a picker, he is also hoping to find and join any open jams here. He arrives in Belfast on Sunday 25 September, and will be travelling around from there. If your jam has a spare chair for a banjo-player, Mark can be contacted by e-mail.
*
Hank Smith (left), whose videos of banjo advice and instruction on the Deering Live channel have often been mentioned on the BIB, is co-leader, with Pattie Hopkins, of the progressive bluegrass band Hank, Pattie & the Current, and since 2017 has been lecturer in banjo at the University of North Carolina. He is also a friend of Dublin's own Paddy Kiernan.

Thanks to Hank for the news that he and Billie Feather (the Current's guitarist, who is also an educator) will be travelling as a duo to Ireland at the end of this year, and will be in Dublin from 29 Dec. to 7 Jan. As the Current's YouTube channel and Spotify playlist show, they are masters of a variety of genres as well as bluegrass - folk, jazz, classical, etc. Hank and Billie hope to learn of any gig or workshop opportunities in the Dublin area in that time frame. Hank can be contacted by e-mail.

Update 10 Sept.: Hank demonstrates the Deering Goodtime Blackgrass banjo (and his impressive command of the instrument) in a two-minute video of 'Dear old Dixie' on the Deering YouTube channel.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , , , ,