07 February 2023

Mighty Poplar - new bluegrass supergroup

Hearth Music announce the formation of Mighty Poplar, a new bluegrass supergroup comprising five outstanding musicians from some of the leading acoustic music acts, who have come together to play solid bluegrass. Hearth Music writes: 'With their debut album, Mighty Poplar has captured the fierce and playful energy of an all-night jam between old friends who just happen to be grandmasters of the music.' Three of the band's members have previously played in Ireland, and the first video they have released is of a song written by another visiting artist.

Mighty Poplar is Andrew Marlin (mandolin) of Watchhouse, Noam Pikelny (banjo) and Chris Eldridge (guitar) of Punch Brothers, Greg Garrison (bass) of Leftover Salmon, and Alex Hargreaves (fiddle) of the Billy Strings Band. See John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today. The first album from Mighty Poplar (also on Facebook) is due for release on 31 Mar. 2023; and the video they have released is of 'Up on the Divide', written by cowboy poet Martha Scanlan, who played here in 2008 and 2009. It can be seen on Bluegrass Today or YouTube.

Update: The video also appears in Stacy Chandler's report on No Depression.

© Richard Hawkins

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06 February 2023

More detached notes

Little Roy Lewis (see the BIB for 24 Feb. 2022) will be 81 later this month, and he appears on the cover of the current issue of Bluegrass Unlimited (BU) magazine with a major article inside. BU editor Dan Miller writes (with links inserted by the BIB):

Additionally, this issue includes articles about fiddler John Hall [1933-2007], the New York City Unemployed Musicians Baseball League, Jaelee Roberts, The Onlies, Aleyas Mandolins, the story behind the song 'Oh, me of little faith', Lissa Schneckenburger's Ear Training Course, and Danny Stewart Productions, RBR Entertainment, a remembrance of Dudley Murphy. Also, our regular features, General Store, Notes and Queries, Record and Book Reviews, and the National Bluegrass Survey are included.

A 1980 BU article by Don Rhodes on the Lewis Family, with whom Little Roy played for many years, can be read here.
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The IBMA announces an update on Curly Strings, the exciting band from Estonia who in 2022 were the first ever winners of an IBMA International Band Performance Grant. For more on Curly Strings, see the BIB for 27 July 2022. The 2023 winners of the grant will be announced soon.
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Molly Tuttle's latest album Crooked tree was chosen Album of the Year at the 2023 International Folk Music Awards; see John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today and this article on the Bluegrass Situation. Yesterday (5 Feb.) Crooked tree also became Best Bluegrass Album in the 2023 Grammy Awards.
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Bluegrass Today reports that Ashby Frank's Leaving is believing album is to be released this coming Friday (10 Feb.), and that 'Paintball gun', a final single from the album, can be heard on Bluegrass Today or SoundCloud.
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Our Swiss friend Mala Oreen, who has toured Ireland several times leading her full band or a duo or trio, sends her latest e-newsletter announcing her new album, Awake, and including two live videos with a strong Swiss flavour.
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Missy Raines, seven times IBMA Bass Player of the Year, is the Spotlight interviewee on this week's Bluegrass Ridge TV episode; more details are here.
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The IBMA Foundation announces that Pisgah Banjos are once more donating a custom-made banjo valued at $2,500 (see image below) to be raffled at $20 a ticket in aid of the IBMA's Arnold Shulz Fund.
© Richard Hawkins

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03 February 2023

Mini Bluegrass Festival at Durrow, Co. Laois, 5-6 May 2023

While the live music scene here was still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, Tony O'Brien, his family, and friends presented a one-day Bluegrass Family Reunion at Bob's Bar, Durrow, Co. Laois, on 4 Sept. 2021, and a two-day Mini Bluegrass Festival at Bob's on 1-2 July 2022. Both of these were successful and enjoyable events with lively picking sessions, and the latter featured two evening concerts in the new indoor music venue, Bob's Hideout (photo above). Tony now sends this good news:

Just letting you know the 2023 Mini Bluegrass Festival in Bob's, Durrow, will take place on Fri. 5 May and Sat. 6 May. Full details shortly, but we will have a top headline band. Promises to be two great nights with jam session all day on the Saturday.
Bob's Bar (above), beside the River Erkina at the north end of Durrow, has for a long time been one of Woodbine's favourite places to play. It is also the focal point for rallies of the traditional 'High Nelly' upright bicycles, and anyone interested in local history should visit its unique museum.

© Richard Hawkins

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02 February 2023

John Nyhan presents the Special C. at Banteer, 6 Feb. 2023

Many thanks to the irreplaceable John Nyhan for the poster image above and this news:

50 Years of Folk and Roots
1973-2023

In 1973 I was co-founder of the Shandon Folk Club, within an earshot of the famed Shandon Bells.

The Club was initially held in the Easons Hill Youth Club. Later on it moved to the C.I.E. Social Club in Emmet Place, Cork. Acts booked included Mick Hanley, Sonny Condell, and Al O'Donnell. There were also singers and open mic nights, where local talent performed.

Now, fifty years on, I am so proud to be presenting the Special Consensus on Monday night next, in the Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork (P51 NX28). It will be a very special night for me, as I enter my second half-century promoting music.

Bookings are going very well, but there are still tickets available; telephone 087 792 1771.

Keeping Music Live,

John Nyhan

John is shown above in a 2015 photo from the Cork City Libraries Blog (see the BIB for 2 June 2015). To mark his second half-century, here's a link to a video of John Reischman (mandolin) and Eli West (guitar) playing the Reischman composition 'Uncle John Nyhan'.

© Richard Hawkins

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Valerie June and Marcela Avelar on Deering Live

Black History Month began yesterday, and singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Valerie June was featured on Deering Live on Tuesday this week, together with artist Marcela Avelar, who created the artwork for the children's book Somebody to love: the story of Valerie June's sweet little baby banjolele. The hour-long feature can also be seen on YouTube. The 5-string banjo is among the instruments Valerie June plays, and 'Drink up and go home'* is among the songs she performs.

*A recording by Jimmy Martin can be heard here.

© Richard Hawkins

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01 February 2023

An opening for pickers from the South? (South Co. Dublin, that is)

Music Network announce that applications are now open for this year's Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Arts Office Musicians-in-Residence Scheme :

Three residencies are available to musicians working in any genre of music, from rock to pop, classical to trad and everything in between.  Applicants must be able to demonstrate a strong connection to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown or propose a project that links with the area, for example taking inspiration from the location or by engaging with local communities or musicians.

As part of this year’s scheme two residencies are available to established musicians with a maximum funding award of €5000. An additional award of up to €3000 will support the work of an emerging musician or group.

More information on details of the scheme and on how to apply is on the Music Network website.

© Richard Hawkins

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IBMA: applications for official WOB showcases are open

The International Bluegrass Music Association announces that applications are now open for artists and bands who want to take part in the official showcase schedule at this year's World Of Bluegrass, the central annual bluegrass event on Planet Earth, which will be held on 26-30 Sept. in Raleigh, NC.

Official showcases are the premier platform for introducing talent and new music to the bluegrass community during IBMA World of Bluegrass. Each selected showcase act will perform at least twice during the week — typically once during the IBMA Business Conference and once at a venue in IBMA Bluegrass Ramble (the festival part of the event). More details and a link for making applications are on the latest IBMA e-newsletter.

Note: The symbol above is the logo for the IBMA's latest invitation to become a member, at any of the four subscription levels shown on the IBMA website.

© Richard Hawkins

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31 January 2023

Westport 2023 headliners score high in SPBGMA awards

The 2023 awards from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) were announced in Nashville, TN, on Saturday night (28 Jan.), and the full list is presented on Bluegrass Today. As usual, the list includes names that are already (or soon will be) well known to bluegrass fans in Ireland. Seth Mulder & Midnight Run won the Song of the Year award for their 'My, my, my' on Mountain Fever Records; and from the Kody Norris Show, who will be headliners at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Kody himself won the Entertainer of the Year and Guitar Performer of the Year awards, Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris won the Fiddle Performer of the Year award, and the band as a whole were Instrumental Group of the Year.

© Richard Hawkins

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Mile Twelve release 'Take me as I am' video (update)

Boston's Mile Twelve (60% of whose members are still the same as on the tours John Nyhan organised for them in Ireland) have a new album, Close enough to hear, coming out this Friday (3 Feb.), and have just released a video of one of the songs from it. 'Take me as I am', written by Evan Murphy (guitar, lead vocal), is inspired by an episode in Homer's Odyssey. More detail is provided by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today; the video can be watched there or on YouTube.

The bluegrass/ old-time world has certainly been happy with a full-length film based on the story of the Odyssey; a song based on part of the story seems a natural development.

Update 3 Feb.: Close enough to hear, released today, has been reviewed by Nancy Posey on No Depression. The review includes videos of two numbers from the album.

© Richard Hawkins

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30 January 2023

Bluegrass Tuesdays begin in Ringsend, Dublin, 7 Feb. 2023

Thanks again to Patrick Simpson of the Dublin Bluegrass Collective/ Bluestack Mountain Boys for the latest news of expanding bluegrass activity on the Dublin scene:

BREAKING NEWS! Starting 7 Feb. in The Oarsman, Ringsend, Dublin Bluegrass Collective aka The Bluestack Mountain Boys will be hosting a new mid-week open Bluegrass Jam from 8.00 p.m. We hope it's as great a success as our Sunday jam, which is great craic, and hope to bring some of the fun, atmosphere, and vibe to our new pickin' spot! #bluegrasstuesdays #musicianswelcome

The Oarsman is at 8-10 Bridge St., Dublin 4 (D04 N294), on the right bank of the Royal Canal. Its entry in the Dublin Publopedia blog is well worth reading. Congratulations to Patrick and the Collective for this new channel for the vitality of bluegrass in Dublin.

Update: Note the comments below.

© Richard Hawkins

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29 January 2023

New old-time banjos from Gold Tone

The Gold Tone Music Group announce the coming launch, within the next month, of the HM-100/HM-100A High Moon, a new open-back banjo optimised for the clawhammer player, and developed over some ten years by Chris Pariso, Gold Tone's in-house luthier.

The HM-100 has a regular scale length of 26.188 inches, while the HM-100A has an A-scale of 23.5 inches. Both models are otherwise identical, priced at $1,299.99, with features including a 12" pot, Renaissance head, fourteen brackets, ebony fingerboard, and Little Mountain maple armrest. The traditional-looking dowel stick incorporates a coordinator rod that can be easily adjusted by hand. More about the features, together with the sound of both models, is on a eleven-minute video.

Gold Tone recently introduced their AC-1FL (Acoustic Composite Fretless) open-back banjo, weighing only four pounds, and at a bargain price of $269.99 with gig bag. A resonator kit to fit the AC-1FL is also available.

© Richard Hawkins

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27 January 2023

More news of past visitors

A fortnight ago the BIB reported on the release of a single from Darkest hour, the new album by the Gibson Brothers. Their latest e-newsletter announces that the album is out today (27 Jan.), and the Brothers began last night a fourteen-show tour in its support, with the first half in Connecticut, Maine, and New York, and the second in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They are also making the CD version of their earlier album Mocking bird available at $10.00, via this link.

Compass Records announce that Living in a song, the new twelve-track album by Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, is due for release on 10 Feb. and can now be pre-ordered. The Compass press release includes this video of the duo (plus bass and drums) on stage, performing 'Moonshine run'.

Nickel Creek (Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins) have reunited to record Celebrants, their first album in nine years, which is due for release on 24 March. Three concerts by them on three successive nights in Nashville, TN, at the end of April, are already sold out. The Bluegrass Situation (BGS) has produced this short feature, focused on Nickel Creek's official video (also on YouTube) of the song 'Strangers', the first to be released from the new album.

Update: Stacey Chandler has a feature on Nickel Creek and the new album on No Depression.

Also on the BGS, Tristan Scroggins interviews flatpicking prodigy Jake Eddy, with several recorded examples of Eddy's masterful playing, in this feature.

© Richard Hawkins

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A video sample of the Special C.


The multi-award-winning Special Consensus began their current tour in Ireland on Wednesday with two performances in Belfast, and tonight (Fri. 27 Jan.) are playing in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady, Co. Londonderry, at 8.00 p.m. Full dates for the tour are shown in the BIB's sidebar and main calendar.

Near the end of the tour they will be in concert at the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, on Sun. 12 Feb. The Pavilion has chosen as an advertisement for the occasion this official video (see above) of the J.P. Cormier song 'Blackbird' being recorded by the Special C. - Greg Cahill (banjo), Greg Blake (guitar and lead vocals), Dan Eubanks (bass), and Michael Prewitt (mandolin) - aided by Dale Ann Bradley and Amanda Smith (backing vocals), Alison Brown (producer and second banjo), and Rob Ickes (dobro).

© Richard Hawkins

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26 January 2023

'BB' Bowness on Deering Live tonight (26 Jan.) (UPDATE)

The Deering Banjo Company announces that Catherine 'BB' Bowness, banjo-player for Boston's Mile Twelve, will be back for episode 81 of Deering Live tonight (Thurs. 26 Jan.) at 11.00 p.m. Irish time. The episode can also be seen live on YouTube, where it will be watchable after the live transmission. 'Thursday January 11', as shown on screen. is an error and should be disregarded. Deering announce that BB will

demonstrate and teach us about different chord and interval shapes you can use all the way up the neck of your banjo. Getting these under your fingers will really open up the entire fingerboard to you. Don't miss!

Update: The Bluegrass Situation presents a playlist of Mile Twelve's twelve favourite 'short story songs', together with links to recordings of the songs on YouTube and the reasons why the band members like them.

© Richard Hawkins

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Kristy Cox wins her sixth Golden Guitar

The BIB relayed on 17 Jan. the news that award-winning Australian country and bluegrass singer Kristy Cox (right), who toured here with her band in May 2019, thanks to the mygrassisblue.com team, was about to be inducted into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame 2023 class. She received the award last Saturday (21 Jan.) at Tamworth, New South Wales. This was topped off by receiving her sixth Golden Guitar Award from the Country Music Association of Australia for Best Bluegrass Song of the Year. More details are on Bluegrass Today, which has a video (also on YouTube) of the song, 'Good morning moon'.

© Richard Hawkins

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25 January 2023

In-depth old-time workshops at Gainsborough, 10-12 Feb. 2023

Thanks again to the FOAOTMAD news blog, organ of the UK's national association for old-time music and dance, for full details of the workshop programme at this year's Gainsborough old-time festival, which is now just over a fortnight away (Fri. 10 Feb.-Sun. 12 Feb.)

No fewer than twenty-three workshops are to be given during the weekend. The list (on both the news blog and the completely redesigned festival website) includes aspects of repertoire, rhythm, harmony, how to relate to other players and other instruments, body percussion, and much more. (The printed title of one of the workshops given by Rachel Eddy (USA) lends itself to a feeble joke, but BIB readers can discover that for themselves.) Gainsborough's position as 'Europe’s biggest and best American old-time music festival' is well reaffirmed.

© Richard Hawkins

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24 January 2023

Hank Smith shows how to play 'efficiency sweeps'

Banjo maestro Hank Smith (right) of North Carolina, who took part in the New Year's Day bluegrass jam in Dublin (see the BIB for 3 Jan. 2023), has contributed many videos of banjo instruction and advice to the Deering Banjos YouTube channel, some of which can be seen here.

Hank's latest is a seven-minute exposition (also on YouTube) of how to play 'efficiency sweeps'. The term may be more familiar to players of jazz, classical music, or rock than to bluegrassers, but the exposition is clear and may be helpful to many pickers. One important point for a smooth sound is that Hank's method avoids using any one finger for two successive notes; and, as he explains, this can be a useful warm-up exercise.

© Richard Hawkins

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23 January 2023

Ballincollig Winter Music Festival, 24-29 Jan. 2023 - Dirk & Amelia Powell and more

The BIB has announced for some time now the presence of Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius on the programme of the Ballincollig Winter Music Festival, centred on the White Horse at Ballincollig, Co. Cork, where they will be performing upstairs, with special guests Ultan O'Brien and dancer Nic Gareiss on Sun. 29 Jan. The show is already sold out. Our earlier post today has also drawn attention to the last show in the tour by The Yonder Boys, who will be playing downstairs at the White Horse in a free-admission bar session on the same evening.

We apologise, nonetheless, for not taking an earlier look at the full programme of the Ballincollig Winter Music Festival. The major news is that Dirk Powell and his daughter Amelia, having come to Glasgow for this year's Celtic Connections festival, will be playing at Shanley's Bar, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, on Wed. 25 Jan. and then coming on to Ballincollig, where on Thurs. 26 Jan. they will take part in a concert together with I Draw Slow. (The festival online programme says this concert is sold out; the concert web page says: 'Few tickets left'.) Dirk Powell's website shows no other performances in Ireland.

On Fri. 27 Jan. Cork city's own Brendan & Louis Butler will be playing a free-admission bar session at the White Horse from 5.30 p.m. And on Sat. 28 Jan. Dirk Powell will give a three-hour old-time music workshop, starting at 11.00 a.m. Admission is €20.00.
© Richard Hawkins

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The Yonder Boys in Ireland, 20-29 Jan. 2023

Thanks to St John's Theatre & Arts Centre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, for making us aware of the current tour in Ireland by The Yonder Boys (USA/AUS/CHL), who were on the bill at last year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival and clearly enjoyed themselves - they wrote on their Facebook a month ago:

We are heading back over to our true love, beautiful Ireland 🇮🇪 for 7 wonderful shows in January 2023 and we are just so happy about it and for ourselves, you cannot believe. Some new venues and some encore gigs in the mix! Get yourself to one and we will see you soon!

The Yonder Boys began their tour on Friday last and have already played at the Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth (Fri. 20th), The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim (Sat. 21st), and Shanley's Bar, Clonakilty, Co. Cork (Sun. 22nd). The second leg of the tour will be:
© Richard Hawkins

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21 January 2023

Assorted goodies

Compass Records announce that 'For your love', the third single to be issued from the forthcoming album Lovin' of the game by master fiddler Michael Cleveland, is now available for streaming. The album is due for release on 3 Mar. 2023 and can be pre-ordered. See also John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today; you can hear there the new single, which has Billy Strings on guitar and lead vocals.
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Michael Cleveland considers his new single 'a little bit of a departure' from his traditional bluegrass stance; on the other hand, the Kody Norris Show, who will be headliners at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, have just released on Rebel Records a new single and video, 'I call her sunshine', with a vigorously traditional sound. The video was premiered, and can be seen, on the Cowboys & Indians website, with banjo-player Josiah Tyree singing lead and fiddler Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris playing mandolin. More details are on the Rebel Records press release.
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The Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, will open on 7 Feb. 2023 a special new exhibition, 'The jagged path: the African diaspora in western North Carolina in craft, music, and dance', which will illuminate, among other things, the cultural exchange leading to Piedmont blues and bluegrass.
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To wind up, a pleasing story from John Lawless on Bluegrass Today of how Jaime Carter's upright bass was stolen and recovered.

© Richard Hawkins

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20 January 2023

Special Consensus tour in Ireland begins 25 Jan. 2023 (update)

The leaves have fallen since the photo above was taken, but the appealing prospect of a tour by the multi-award-winning Special Consensus (above) is evergreen. The next one will open on Wednesday next week (25 Jan.) with two shows in Belfast: at 1.00 p.m. in the Black Box, and again at 8.00 p.m. in the American Bar. After three further shows in Ulster, the band will be briefly in Britain till 3 Feb. when they will play the first of twelve shows completing their tour in this island. All dates in the tour are in the BIB calendar, and are displayed in the BIB's right sidebar.

As if it had been planned, Bluegrass Unlimited magazine presents in its weekly newsletter a Spotify playlist of fifty Special C. recordings, and (from its archives) a 1979 article by Kerry Wike, the first time the band was ever featured in BU. The quotations in that article from and about the Special C.'s leader Greg Cahill help to show why he has achieved since then an IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award and induction into the SPBGMA Hall of Greats.

In addition, this week's BU podcast (no. 118) features Chris Jones, an alumnus of the Special C. who has since toured Ireland twice with his own band, the Night Drivers. The Mountain Home Music Company announces the latest single from Chris & the Night Drivers, 'The price of falling', which follows on a string of chart successes for them.

Update: Eilís Boland of Lonesome Highway conducted earlier this month an excellent interview with Greg Cahill, which can be read here. Among masses of other information, it reveals Greg's Irish ancestry.

© Richard Hawkins

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19 January 2023

More detached notes

Neil Rosenberg, premier historian of bluegrass music, contributes articles to the Bluegrass Situation (BGS) online magazine under the series title 'Bluegrass memoirs'. Earlier this month, the latest in this series appeared, recounting his experiences at Bill Monroe's Second Annual Kentucky Bluegrass Festival at Jackson, KY, in the summer of 1972 - a pivotal time in the music's development, as documented in the recently reissued film Bluegrass country soul. The article includes two performance videos from YouTube and eleven fine, evocative photos, predominantly by Rosenberg's friend and research partner Carl Fleischauer. Well worth reading.
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Music Network, Ireland's national music development organisation, reports that Noriana Kennedy of The Whileaways will be touring Ireland next month as one of a select traditional music quartet: Noriana (vocals/banjo), Oisín MacDiarmada (fiddle), Mirella Murray (accordion), and Donogh Hennessy (guitar). Tour details and online booking links are here.
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The Malpass Brothers of North Carolina, who made a big hit at past Omagh festivals with their classic country sound, launched last year their Bluegrass & Country Music Festival at Denton FarmPark, NC, in succession to the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Bluegrass Festival (see the BIB for 3 Feb. 2022). Sandy Hatley reports on Bluegrass Today on the Brothers' new features and preparation for this year's event (11-13 May 2023).
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Bluegrass Today has presented two major interviews, both of them informative and stimulating, with musicians of different generations: Wyatt Ellis of Tennessee, who at 13 is already an outstanding mandolinist with a special love for the music of Bobby Osborne and Bill Monroe, was interviewed earlier this month by Mike Fiorito; and Dave Berry has interviewed Californian guitarist Jim Nunally in his 'California report' series, going into subjects such as playing with David Grisman and John Reischman, duet singing, practice regimes, instruments, and much more.
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For anyone who would like to play mountain music among (or on) bigger mountains, the FOAOTMAD news blog draws attention to the 5th Old Time in the Alps weekend, to be held on the weekend 29 Sept.-1 Oct. 2023 at Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. More details, in German and English, are on the website.
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John Lawless on Bluegrass Today gives a full listing of all the nominees for the coming 2023 awards of the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA, pronounced spig' ma), which will hold its Annual SPBGMA Bluegrass Music Awards & National Convention & Band Championship in Nashville, TN, a week from now (26-29 Jan.). Readers will see among the nominees many names of artists or bands who have played in Ireland - sometimes three or four out of a group of six. In fact, in the category 'Song of the Year', all six of the nominated writers have played here (if one counts Ron Spears as the whole of Fast Track).

© Richard Hawkins

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Adventurous clawhammer

Dan Walsh of Staffordshire, England, was featured on 'Deering Live' on the Deering Banjos YouTube channel on 10 Sept. 2020, illustrating his command of clawhammer technique and his wide musical tastes. Thanks to Richard Fryer for the news that Dan Walsh will soon release an album that he has long wanted to make - O’Neill’s tunes: a collection of jigs, reels, and hornpipes from the O’Neill’s collection of dance tunes, arranged for clawhammer banjo. The album (Rooksmere Records RRCD 120) is due for release on 24 Feb.

Meanwhile, the next two classes in Ken Perlman's third season of online 'clawhammer clinics' are 'Demystifying "crooked" tunes in old-time music' on Mon. 30 Jan. and 'Those happy-go-lucky Canadian jigs, clawhammer style' on Mon. 27 Feb. Ken gives a clarification (and a warning):

Playing jigs (and other 6/8 time tunes) in clawhammer offers some special challenges; and we'll start by focusing on how to overcome them with relative ease. Our focus, however, will be - not Irish jigs - but the sing-songy, happy-go-lucky jigs from Atlantic Canada. The melodies are usually so 'catchy' that you can't help singing along (and you'll have a hard time getting them out of your head).

Samuel Bayard's book Hill country tunes (1944) gave several examples of fiddle tunes in 6/8 from his collecting in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but such tunes seem to have become much rarer in American traditional fiddling.

© Richard Hawkins

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18 January 2023

Shane Hennessy at the Grand Ole Opry, 16 Mar. 2023

Carlow guitar maestro Shane Hennessy will be performing in the showcase programme at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, MO (1-5 Feb. 2023), following that with a tour in the USA including three consecutive shows in Nashville, TN, at this year's Music City Irish Fest beginning with the Grand Ole Opry on St Patrick's Eve. In September he will be back at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. Six performance and instructional videos are also linked to Shane's latest e-newsletter.

© Richard Hawkins

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Last chances to see We Banjo 3 in 2023

Galway's We Banjo 3, originators of Celtgrass, will begin their 2023 winter tour two weeks from now: six dates in the western states of the USA. These will be the last opportunities to see the band live this year, as no further shows will be added to the existing schedule. Fans are advised to book now, while tickets are still available.

© Richard Hawkins

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'Wayfaring Stranger' - and more - back on BBC4 TV, Fridays

Thanks again to Des Butler, who first drew our attention five years ago to the three-part TV series 'Wayfaring Stranger', presented on BBC2 by Phil Cunningham (right), on the passage of music from Scotland to Ireland and from Ireland to America. Des now writes:

You may be aware of it, but if not I just wanted to let you know that the series 'Wayfaring Stranger' with Phil Cunningham is being rerun on BBC4 on Friday nights at 21.00 hrs. starting last Friday, and is followed by two half-hour sessions of "Transatlantic Sessions". I think it is well worth watching again.

Next Friday also has a follow-up of Reginald D. Hunter's "Songs of the Border".

For those of us who missed the repeat of episode 1 of 'Wayfaring Stranger', it's available here.

© Richard Hawkins

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17 January 2023

Assorted news of visitors from 2019

Among the news of artists who toured Ireland in the twelve months before the pandemic, some news is good and some less welcome. Kristy Cox (right), award-winning Australian country and bluegrass singer, toured here with her band in May 2019, thanks to the mygrassisblue.com team. She is now based in Nashville, TN and records for Billy Blue Records; a month ago the BIB reported on her latest single, a duet with Marty Raybon. John Lawless now reports on Bluegrass Today that Kristy is receiving a further prestigious award: induction into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame 2023 class. The award was announced yesterday (16 Jan.) at the 51st Toyota Tamworth Country Music Festival, and certificates will be awarded to the recipients at Tamworth on this coming Saturday (21 Jan.).

Less welcome is the news that the powerful band Sideline, who toured Ireland in July 2019 (again, thanks to mygrassisblue.com), will cease touring in April 2023 after they play the Big Lick Bluegrass Festival in their home state of North Carolina. Their guitarist Skip Cherryholmes has decided that he needs to spend more time with his family than is possible for a musician on the road. The band's banjoist and leader Steve Dilling fully supports his decision; Sandy Hatley on Bluegrass Today quotes him as saying: 'I’m not going to be done. We’re not done playing, just done touring. Hit me up in two years...'

© Richard Hawkins

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16 January 2023

Spring 2023: High Plains Tradition back in ireland!

Thanks to Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music in Co. Kerry for good news to begin the week: the splendid High Plains Tradition from Colorado, USA, will be returning to Ireland for this year's Cahersiveen Mountain Roots Music event, to be held over the May bank holiday weekend (Fri. 28 Apr.-Mon. 1 May). Further details on what Cahersiveen justly calls 'this much requested band' are awaited; other artists named on the schedule are Freddie White on the 29th and Hank Wedel & Friends on the 30th.

At present no other dates in Ireland are shown on High Plains Tradition's online schedule, but we trust they won't be here for that weekend alone.
© Richard Hawkins

13 January 2023

JigJam represented on the Late Late tonight (13 Jan. 2023)

The organising team of this year's TradFest Temple Bar (25-29 Jan.) announce that TradFest will be featured tonight (Fri. 13 Jan.) on RTE One's 'Late Late Show' from 9.30 p.m., when some of the very best headline acts will be coming together to give a supergroup performance. Bluegrass will - as shown in the image - be represented by Jamie McKeogh of JigJam.

© Richard Hawkins

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12 January 2023

Detached notes (updated)

Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius, who will tour Ireland later this month

The many-talented Tim O'Brien is interviewed on Bluegrass Today by Lee Zimmerman, and talks about Colorado and its progressive bluegrass scene, Hot Rize (with whom he toured more than once in Ireland), moving to Nashville, his sister Mollie, and the present and future of bluegrass music.
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Two new singles from former Omagh festival headliners: the Gibson Brothers' official video for 'One minute of you', from their upcoming album Darkest hour, has been premiered on the Bluegrass Situation and is also on YouTube. More details and other news of the brothers are on their latest e-newsletter. (Update 21 Jan.: Nancy Posey reviews Darkest hour on No Depression; the review includes three YouTube cuts from the album.) And Darin & Brooke Aldridge have a new single from their current album This life we're livin: the Guy Clark song 'Die tryin''. It can be heard on Bluegrass Today or on YouTube.
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The Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, announces that a 'Remembering Earl' benefit concert and Encore After Party will be held in Shelby on Sat. 4 Mar. 2023, featuring the Dan Tyminski Band (Dan Tyminski has played here several times as a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station) and the Po' Ramblin' Boys (who we have been waiting to see and hear since 2017).
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For pickers who have hand problems, or are apprehensive about developing them, the Fretboard Journal recently shared a 45-minute video in which guitarist Tim Lerch and hand surgeon Dr Geoffrey Yule discuss different types of arthritis, tendonitis, prevention, the art of warming up, the importance of mental attitude, and more. Don't mind that Lerch's guitar is a Telecaster: the subject affects all fretted instrument players.
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A week ago Bluegrass Today carried two banjo-related news items: on Bill Evans and his winning the Steve Martin Banjo Prize this year (along with Enda Scahill); and the sale at auction of Sonny Osborne's custom Stelling Sonflower banjo to benefit the IBMA Trust Fund, which brought in $23,500.
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Since Tom Nechville retired from the factory and set up Nechville Banjos West, the team at Nechville Musical Products in Minnesota have continued to develop their range of instruments and luthiery processes. They proudly add that 'our tuners (Gotoh, Japan or Rickard, Canada) are the only parts not manufactured in the US or right in our shop. Besides the exotic wood and shell of course. Oh and our Atlas hardware comes from a small shop in Canada.' Their website is full of information and good advice on setting up and maintaining banjos. Musicians in Ireland with Nechville instruments include Enda Scahill, Paddy Kiernan, and Luke Coffey.

© Richard Hawkins

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11 January 2023

Michael Miles shows the versatility of clawhammer

The Deering Banjo Company announce that Michael J. Miles is the featured artist being interviewed (and playing music) tonight on Deering Live and YouTube, under the title 'Unlimited rhythms of clawhammer banjo'. Deering's blurb for the evening reads:

This week we welcome Michael Miles back to Deering Live to demonstrate and teach us about how rhythmically versatile the clawhammer style of playing the 5-string banjo can be and how this style can be utilized to play many different genres of music.

Deering also draw attention to some of their range of banjos specially suited to clawhammer playing, from the Goodtime Americana at $749.00 to the Vega Old Time Wonder at $2,299/2,349 and the Vega Vintage Star at $2,599.

© Richard Hawkins

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Well of souls: a special offer for BIB readers

The BIB editor writes:

The BIB first mentioned Kristina R. Gaddy's new book Well of souls: uncovering the banjo's hidden history on 26 Nov. 2022, after it had been the subject of an hour-long podcast interview with the author and a two-page feature in the latest issue of British Bluegrass News, both by Matt Hutchinson. It has since been briefly mentioned on 6 Dec. and 4 Jan.

These mentions were a hint that this is an important book for anyone interested in banjo history; but don't take my word for it. In the course of Jake Blount's appearance on Deering Live on 30 Nov., he said of Well of souls: '... it's the banjo book; it's incredible.' It also has a foreword by Rhiannon Giddens; a sample of the main text can be read on Amazon.co.uk.

We are therefore delighted to be able to extend - by courtesy of the publishers, W.W. Norton & Company - a special offer to BIB readers. To order Well of souls at a special member discount of 30%, please click here and add the code WN908 when prompted at the checkout. This link is effective till 31 Aug. 2023.
Kristina R. Gaddy (photo: Joanna Tillman)

Update 12 Jan.: Well of Souls also appears on the list of No Depression's '2022’s most memorable music books', along with (among others) Bob Black's Mandolin man: the bluegrass life of Roland White.

© Richard Hawkins

10 January 2023

Dunmore East festival prepares to go on the road

... and we mean literally, as far as the image above is concerned. Thanks to Mick Daly, director of the Dunmore East bluegrass festival (founded in 1995), for this view of the road sign which is due to be put up next week to advertise the 2023 event. More details will follow in due course. Mick, whose contact details are shown below, writes: 'Let the countdown begin.'
© Richard Hawkins

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Gainsborough old-time festival (GB): updates

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog for the poster image above and the latest information on this year's Gainsborough festival (10-12 Feb. 2023) in England, 'Europe's largest and best old-time festival'. Tim Rooke, the festival's organiser, announces:

Everything is in place for a great festival and tickets are selling well, so if you haven’t already got yours, now is the time to buy them.

There will be concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. Workshops will be run on Saturday and Sunday and will include Beginners Banjo with Rachel Eddy, Double Bass, with Graeme Parry and Old-Time Mandolin with Evan Davies, plus ones for voices and dance.

Food will be served all through the weekend with a varied menu including vegetarian options. There will also be a bar available over the weekend (cash only please).


FOAOTMAD's annual general meeting is to be held during the festival weekend, More details, together with a history of the festival, are on the festival website and the poster image - click on it to enlarge it.

© Richard Hawkins

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09 January 2023

Ken Perlman's two new online clawhammer courses begin tomorrow (10 Jan.)

Ken Perlman, master of 'melodic clawhammer' banjo, sends a reminder that his two new online instruction courses both begin tomorrow (Tues. 10 Jan.), and that registration is possible right up to the last minute.

Each course costs $165.00 and consists of six weekly classes. The 'Get started at clawhammer' course is (quote) 'for complete or near beginners to clawhammer style (it’s OK if you’ve never even touched a banjo before)' (unquote). The 'Intermediate clawhammer banjo' course is for players with at least six months' to a year's experience of playing clawhammer. Each class will be an hour and a quarter long; beginner classes run from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m. EST, and intermediate classes from 8.00 to 9.15 p.m. EST (EST is five hours behind Irish time).

Note: Each course will use exercises and pieces from Ken's Centerstream/ Hal Leonard publication Clawhammer style banjo (see image above), so access to a copy will be an asset for anyone taking either course. Ken's other instructional aids, recordings, and publications are fetailed on his website.

© Richard Hawkins

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06 January 2023

'Criffel Creek' and Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival

The FOAOTMAD news blog draws attention to the weekly radio programme 'Criffel Creek', presenting the best of bluegrass, Americana, Canadiana, folk, blues, gospel, and old-timey music, from new to old, on Alive 107.3FM every Sunday from 11.00 a.m. to noon, with Paul Lyttle (right). Discs from Paul's vinyl collection are often featured. Each show is repeated the following Monday at 11.00 p.m.-midnight. The playlist for 8/9 Jan. can be seen here.

Alive 107.3FM is a community radio station based in Dumfries, Scotland, but you can stream the show from the station's website. Paul Lyttle has been a regular visitor to Omagh bluegrass festivals, and is the founder and organiser of the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival, held every September in south-west Scotland. This year's event will be on 22-24 Sept. 2023.

© Richard Hawkins

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05 January 2023

JigJam gears up for 2023

JigJam (Jamie McKeogh, guitar; Daithi Melia, 5-string banjo; Gavin Strappe, mandolin, tenor banjo; and Danny Hunter, fiddle) send New Year greetings and are 'incredibly grateful to have such a loyal & supportive fan base'. In the near future they will be performing on ‘The Late Late Show’ on Friday 13 January, following that with their show on 26 January at the Grand Social, Dublin, as part of Temple Bar TradFest 2023.

They will also be on the official showcase programme at this year's Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, MO, and will shortly be announcing their schedule of tour dates in the USA and Canada. More details (and photos) are on their latest e-newsletter.

© Richard Hawkins

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The Local Honeys - coal and luthiery in Kentucky

The Local Honeys (Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs) from east Kentucky made a big impact at the 13th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival (2019) and other appearances in Ireland, so Jonny Therrien's recent Bluegrass Situation feature on them should be welcome to their fans here. It introduces their fifteen-minute video 'Dying to make a living', shot in a concert situation and posted on YouTube three months ago.

In the first five minutes the Honeys show how coal dominates the land and people of Appalachia, with the hardships that this continues to inflict. Doug Naselroad's Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Co. and its Appalachian School of Luthiery enable people to turn their lives around by producing fine acoustic guitars, mandolins, and dulcimers. The Company's website is well worth exploring throroughly, and it is also on Facebook. The video ends with the Honeys and their group performing the song that gives the video its name.
© Richard Hawkins

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04 January 2023

Detached notes

John Lawless reports on Bluegrass Today that next month's Midwinter Bluegrass Festival in Colorado will be the first to be held without the founder, Ken Seaman (right), who with his wife Mary had organised the festival from 1986. Ken's death in September 2021 was greatly regretted here; he was well known in Ireland from several visits as banjo-player of the Bluegrass Patriots, who headlined the first Dunmore East festival in 1995. Ken's memory will be honoured at this year's Midwinter Festival (17-19 Feb.).
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The latest newsletter from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, TN, announces a new special exhibit and travelling exhibition, 'I've endured: Women in old-time music', aimed at illustrating all aspects of women's contributions to old-time music and the society that produced it. The title phrase 'I've endured' comes from a song by Ola Belle Reed. Next week (10 Jan.) the Museum's visiting speaker will be Kristina Gaddy, on her recent book Well of souls: uncovering the banjo's hidden history (see the BIB for 26 Nov. 2022).
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The Mountain Home Music Company announces in a press release that Leaving is believing, the latest album by Ashby Frank (one of the many alumni of the Special Consensus) is scheduled for release on 20 Feb. 2023 and can be pre-ordered or bought in advance of that date; links for doing so are on the press release.
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A new book by Ron Block, who has played in Ireland as a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station and recently in a duo with Damien O'Kane, was published three months ago: Abiding dependence: living moment by moment in the love of God. It can be bought in paperback from the author at $15.00, or as an e-book from the publishers at $9.59. A brief TV interview with him about the book can be seen here or on YouTube.

© Richard Hawkins

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