22 January 2021

And now - for mandolinists

The BIB has carried news about online instruction for banjo and guitar this week, so it's opportune that Bluegrass Today now reports on the new Mandolin skill builder workshops from Tristan Scroggins (right), who has many admirers in Ireland already from his performances as a member of his father's band, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, and filling in with Chris Jones & the Night Drivers. He also teaches in festival workshops and music camps during the year.

The new online workshops are aimed at players at intermediate level who want to consolidate and develop their skills. Charges and further details are given on the Bluegrass Today feature, which includes a three-minute introductory video that can also be seen on YouTube.
Also for mandolinists: Bluegrass Today reports that Pinecastle Records are celebrating the success on the charts of the song 'Bill Monroe's old mandolin' with a contest to win a new Loar LM-310F Honey Creek mandolin. The contest will run to 13 February this year, and the four ways of qualifying to enter are detailed here and on Bluegrass Today. John Lawless's feature there has the added bonus of showing again the video of the song, recorded by Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road. Ardara festival attenders will remember Lorraine appearing there in 2017 with the Garrett Newton Band.

PS: Those specifically interested in Bill Monroe's mandolin style might take a look at the video 'Monroe style mandolin - introduction to the lineage' which Chris Henry put on YouTube a year ago.

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21 January 2021

Learn fast, clean flatpicking from Trey Hensley (USA)

Admirers of the guitar mastery of Trey Hensley (who first played in Ireland in 2016 at the 22nd Dunmore East International Bluegrass Festival, in his well established duo with Rob Ickes) can now kearn from him in an online flatpicking instruction course, Trey Hensley's road map to playing fast and clean, costing $30.00. Further details are on John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today, which contains a one-minute promotional trailer for the course (also on YouTube).

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20 January 2021

Larry Sparks on live-stream video, 24 Jan. 2021

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for news of a treat this coming weekend for fans of traditional bluegrass: Larry Sparks will be interviewed on live-stream video for an hour by Brian Eyster on Sunday 24 Jan. at 8.00 p.m. (EST). The interview is presented by the Signature Sounds record company as part of their Home Sessions series.

The event is free, but viewers should register for it here, where more details are given about Larry - the 'King of Bluegrass Soul' - and Brian Eyster, and there are links for making donations.

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19 January 2021

New resources for banjo beginners from Joff Lowson

Thanks to Joff Lowson (right) of Bristol, England, for news of additional resources for his banjo instruction website, which was already impressive when the BIB first mentioned it in August 2015. Joff now reports:

I’ve recently updated several of the free pages to make a great resource for complete beginners. In particular the beginners page has a lot of new material on it, as does the easy song page.

As the BIB made clear in 2015, Joff's website is packed with material and good advice, well organised and well presented, especially with a view to making learning easier for the beginner, whether they're familiar with bluegrass and old-time or not. With thirty years' teaching experience, he is an accredited Wernick Method teacher, a member of the Buffalo Gals (UK) old-time band, and one of the organisers of the old-time music workshop weeks in Spain. He has also recently made some new recordings: a fine example is his composition ‘Penny’, in old-time style. The video was shot in the Andalusian mountains.

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Ten Hens at Westport, 2018

Thanks to Des Butler for a further photo featuring the irreplaceable Mel Corry. This shot shows the Tennessee Hennessees playing in - we believe - McGing's bar on High St.*, Westport, Co. Mayo, during the 2018 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. The lineup is (l-r) Bill Johnston, Sean McKerr, Laurence Hill, Mel (taking a lead break), and Colin Henry.

*This should have read 'the Cobbler's Bar at the Wyatt Hotel'. Thanks again to Des for the correction.

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18 January 2021

We Banjo 3 cover of 'Wildflowers' coming 29 Jan. 2021

Further extending their musical range, Galway's We Banjo 3, originators of Celtgrass, announce that their recording of ‘Wildflowers’ (the title track from Tom Petty’s 1994 album) is due for release on 29 January. It will feature Steve Ferrone, who played on the original recording, which was also his first recording with Petty; and (on fiddle and vocals) Martin Howley’s wife Kiana June Weber. More details and links are on the We Banjo 3 e-newsletter.

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A photographic record of Mel Corry in bluegrass

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for this fine series of photos showing bands in which Mel played. Would any BIB reader have a photo from the 2006 tour of Ireland by Buddy Merriam & Backroads (USA), throughout which Mel was their banjo-player?
The Seldom Herd with US guitar maestro Dan Crary: (l-r) Pete Toman,
Charlie McGorran, Dan Crary, Mel Corry, Sean McKerr
Seldom Herd on stage
The Dusty Millers: Sean (mnd), Ger Thompson (bs),
Charlie Cooper (gtr), Mel (bjo)
High Lonesome: (l-r) Mel, Paul Hull, Sean
King Blue: (l-r) Mel, Caolan 'Chief' Derby, Clem O'Brien, Sean
The Tennessee Hennessees: (l-r) Bill Johnston, Sean, Mel,
Laurence Hill, Colin Henry
Woodbine, original lineup: (l-r) Tony O'Brien, Mel,
Paddy Chanders, Liam Wright
Woodbine, late lineup with Nicola O'Brien Kennedy (bs),
plus Dessie Crerand (fdl)

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17 January 2021

Tabitha Benedict: video introduction to bluegrass banjo

Thanks to the European Bluegrass Music Association Facebook for the news that today (17 Jan.) Tabitha Benedict (above) of Co. Armagh launched on YouTube a twenty-minute video 'Introduction to the bluegrass banjo' on the Midnight Skyracer YouTube channel. Starting from a basic description of the banjo, this video forms part of a series of introductions to the bluegrass instruments by the members of Midnight Skyracer, and can also be seen on the band's Facebook.

Tabitha also gives online banjo lessons via Zoom/Skype or FaceTime; total beginners to more advanced players are all welcome. Details are available through her website.

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16 January 2021

Tributes to Mel continue

The funeral of Mel Corry, who died on Wednesday 13 January, took place yesterday. John Nyhan, another central figure of the bluegrass scene in this island, sends the following tribute:

When I think of Mel Corry, I especially think of two things. Firstly as a great bluegrass musician, and secondly as a political activist who cared greatly for his fellow human beings. Mel's passing leaves a huge void in both of the above.

Of course I can never forget Mel's help when the legendary J.D. Crowe and the New South played the Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, on 2 and 3 August 1999 (their only shows in Ireland). Unfortunately J.D.'s banjo was damaged on the flight to Ireland, making it unplayable. Mel came to the rescue. Without a second thought he gave J.D. the use of his banjo. One bluegrass legend helping another.

Finally, I knew Mel for over twenty-five years, and we had many a great bluegrass session together. Also some great conversations on many aspects of music and politics.

I can honestly say - Mel Corry; you enhanced my life.

Deepest sympathy to his wife Fiona, sons Seán and Michael, granddaughter Nancy, and extended families.

Love and Peace
John and Gearoid Nyhan

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14 January 2021

Ricky Skaggs to receive National Medal of Arts

As reported by the BIB fourteen months ago, Alison Krauss received the National Medal of Arts (left), the US government's supreme award for outstanding achievements in the arts fields, presented to her by President Donald Trump at the White House. It was reported yesterday on Bluegrass Today that the medal is being (or has been?) conferred on Ricky Skaggs in recognition of his long, distinguished career in bluegrass and traditional country music. The article includes the video of Skaggs's 'Country boy', in which Bill Monroe plays a conspicuous part.

While the BT writes that the 'Presidential Medal' has been awarded by the current president, it appears from Wikipedia that recommendations from an advisory committee of the National Endowment for the Arts have to be approved by a president, who then hands over the National Medals at the award ceremony, but does not necessarily 'award' them as a personal choice.


Tributes to Mel

The first tributes to Mel were made very shortly after his death yesterday. Tony O'Brien wrote:

Today I lost a friend of thirty years with the death of Mel Corry. Mel passed away at 5.30 p.m. and has left a great void in the Irish bluegrass family. I met Mel at the first Athy Bluegrass Festival in 1991 and we were firm friends ever since. Mel was a member of the first Woodbine lineup in 2002, and even though he was only in for one year he filled in with the band on many occasions.

Mel shaped a lot of bands in Ireland this past thirty years - the Seldom Herd, the Dusty Millers, the Tennessee Hennessees, and King Blue. Mel was at the end of my phone any time I needed him to play or for some advice. A great banjo player and vocalist, he was at the heart of everything bluegrass in Ireland over that past thirty years. To me, Mel and a small core of bluegrass musicians were the leaders of Bluegrass Ireland, and everyone else were the supporting cast. He was a great friend to the Athy Bluegrass Festival and I’ll miss him so much. I was so looking forward to an end to this Covid so we could all meet up for a big session, but it has robbed us of that; so if and when it happens now, there will be a huge hole in the session with the loss of Mel.

As much as I and every bluegrass musician and fan will miss Mel, it is nothing to the loss his wife Fiona, sons Sean and Michael, and grand-daughter Nancy will feel. My heart is with them at this, the saddest time in their lives.

RIP Mel, old friend.

Many messages of sympathy and tributes to Mel, from friends all over Ireland and abroad, are on Tony's Facebook.
Des Butler of Co. Meath wrote:

The death has occurred of Mel Corry from Covid, a true gentleman and a bluegrass banjo player of exceptional talent. Having heard Mel play at many festivals and many more jamming sessions, I can say his great loss to bluegrass music cannot be estimated. His laid-back style of playing and his great harmonies were something to experience and always a treat to be present for.

I have no doubt that he will be missed greatly by the many musicians that have played with him, both in his bands and at many jamming sessions, and his many fans that enjoyed his exceptional musicianship. I have no doubt that his close friends and the fine musicians who always accompanied him will feel a great loss, likewise his wife and family.

Mel Corry RIP

Parking lot picking
King Blue at Athy, 2015: (l-r) Clem O'Brien, Sean McKerr,
Mel, Caolan 'Chief' Derby
Jamming at Ardara, 2019: Sean, Mel, Dessie Crerand (fiddle)

King Blue at Ardara, 2019: (l-r) Colin Henry, Sean, 
Mel, Charlie, Caolan

Thanks to Tony for the first two photos above, and to Des for the three following. Many more photos of Mel are on his Facebook page. Two photos and tributes to Mel have been added to Trademark's Facebook page.

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13 January 2021

Mel Corry

This is a far too brief notice of the sad news which many will already have learned from Facebook: the death at 5.30 p.m. today, from COVID-related causes, of Mel Corry of Lurgan, Co. Armagh, a pillar of the bluegrass community in this island for a generation, at the same time as deserving - as much as ever anyone did - the title of 'activist' on a wider stage.

Mel described himself on Twitter both as 'retired hell raiser, banjo player and Communist!' and as 'musician, campaigner, retired hell raiser'. We prefer the second, because he was so much more than just 'banjo player' or 'communist'. As for 'hell raiser' - the words would never have occurred to anyone who knew Mel through bluegrass music.

The two photos above show Mel in two aspects of his life: on the left, as a member (since 2008) of Trademark, and on the right, delivering his hard-driving picking on stage at one of the Athy Blugrass Festivals. The BIB will publish tomorrow tributes and photos of Mel as the bluegrass community of Ireland knew him. Meanwhile, our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.


IBMA awards show 2020 to be rebroadcast on Mon. 18 Jan.

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) announces in its latest e-newsletter that the 31st Annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards, will be re-broadcast by Count On Me NC on Circle TV and affiliated platforms, on 18 January at 8.00 p.m. (ET), repeated at 12.00 a.m. (ET). This is the first-ever virtual format for the awards show; it was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, with additional performances and presentations from across the US, and was originally broadcast during IBMA Virtual World of Bluegrass 2020. It was met with critical acclaim, and has been viewed by a record number of bluegrass fans.

The BIB is not sure how accessible Circle TV is to viewers in Ireland, but guidance is on the Circle TV website. Details of the show are on Bluegrass Today.

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12 January 2021

Bill Runkle, 7 Jan. 1939-7 Jan.2021

Thanks to Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today for the sad news that William G. 'Bill' Runkle, Pennsylvania banjo-player, died last Thursday (7 Jan.) on his 82nd birthday. In addition to the many details of his career on the BT feature, a major interview with Bill Runkle for Banjo News Letter was conducted by Tom Mindte

The image above comes from the cover of the Lonely tonight album by Bill and his band Smith Hollow, released on Tom's Patuxent Records label. More recordings are listed at the end of Richard Thompson's feature.

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11 January 2021

22nd Portland Old-Time Music Gathering online, 14-17 Jan. 2021

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD blog, news medium of the UK's national old-time music and dance association, for the news that the vibrant and influential old-time scene in Portland, Oregon, will be holding the 22nd Portland Old-Time Music Gathering as a free online event ('Quarantine Edition') this coming Thursday-to-Sunday, 14-17 Jan. The full programme is given here.

There's a very impressive lineup, of whom a few acts have performed in Ireland: the Foghorn Stringband, the Horsenecks, Evie Ladin, Annie Staninec and John Kael. The website announces:

There will be concerts, jams, hangouts, song swaps, workshops, a Crankie show, a square dance for 2 or more people, a kids’ open mic and kids’ show, and a panel discussion titled: 'An introduction to race and racism in old time music' featuring Jake Blount and Tatiana Hargreaves.

The panel discussion will be dealing with issues similar to those touched on by the BIB in various posts during the past autumn.

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Essential advice from master musicians

As noted in the update added earlier today to the BIB item of 7 Jan., tomorrow (Tues. 12 Jan.) at 6.00 p.m. ET/ 3.00 p.m. PT, Deering Live will be repeating the 48-minute video masterclass given last week by Jens Kruger. This will be followed by a question-and-answer session, designed to serve as a follow-up lesson, in which Jens will respond to queries submitted by viewers.

Last week's video was the first in Jens's 2021 series of banjo masterclasses, and can now be watched on the Deering website and also on YouTube. It falls into two equal halves, of which the first deals with learning how to play what you hear - this can be seen as fundamental for any player. The second - on the construction of melodies - seems at first more narrowly technical, but viewers should not neglect the 'trick' that Jens describes in the last quarter of the video.
Deering also released on Friday a further video lesson in Hank Smith's banjo instruction series, 'Active listening' (also on YouTube. Far from being just for banjo players, this is a vital skill for any instrumentalist, any band member, any would-be record producer or music critic, or indeed anyone who listens to music.

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08 January 2021

News of recent visitors

L-r: James Field, Terry Wittenberg, Wally Hughes,
Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes, Joe Hannabach

It's becoming harder all the time to speak of our past US visitors as 'recent', but news of them from the States is always welcome. Level Best (above) from the Virginia/ Maryland region around DC, who were touring here fifteen months ago, have brought out 'Just when I needed you most', the first single from their second album, Happy together. A 55-second clip from it can be heard on Bluegrass Today, where John Lawless gives more details of the song, the band, and the recording.

Sideline, who toured Ireland in July 2019, have also brought out a new single, with an acoustic-country feel instead of their regular hard-driving North Carolina sound. The song, 'Just a guy in a bar', released on the Mountain Home Music label, can be heard in full as an audio track on Bluegrass Today, and a 47-second video 'sneak peek' can be seen on YouTube. More details are on the Mountain Home press release.

Fans of Sideline should note that the band will give a live-stream concert tomorrow (Sat. 9 Jan.) at 7.00 p.m. EST, on their Facebook page. It will be shown free of charge; donations can be made by PayPal and other channels.

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Celtic Connections 2021: 'Transatlantic Sessions' concert, 29 Jan.

The Celtic Connections festival team in Glasgow announce on their latest e-newsletter that this year's festival is now only a week away from starting (15 Jan.-2 Feb.), and that the programme will include a Transatlantic Sessions online concert beginning at 7.30 p.m. on Fri. 29 Jan., in the form of a 70-minute video. This performance will be available to watch for one week after 29 Jan. to accommodate different time zones.

No details are given of artists taking part, but the website says: 'We couldn't have a Celtic Connections without Transatlantic Sessions, which welcomes the regular all-star lineup from here in Scotland and across the pond for 2021.' Tickets are £10, which includes booking fee; and the concert is included in the Celtic Connections 2021 festival pass, so no ticket is needed for this event if you've already bought a pass.

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07 January 2021

Jens Kruger masterclass programme: in progress (Update)

The first in the new 2021 series of banjo masterclasses by Jens Kruger on Deering Live was given on Tuesday 5 January, and can now be seen as a forty-eight-minute video on the Deering website and also on YouTube. The subject is 'Intuitive playing & melody'.

Four further masterclasses will be given in the series, following at three-week intervals into March. The full schedule, with topics of each class, is shown on the Deering website. Jens's introductory talk about his masterclass series, with musical demonstrations, was first shown in live stream on 17 Dec. 2020 and is now on YouTube. One revelation in the course of that video is that he will be inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame in 2021.

Update 11 Jan.: Deering announce that episode 1 can be watched ahead of a live Q&A Session tomorrow (Tues. 12 Jan.) at 6.00 p.m. ET/ 3.00 p.m. PT. A form is also supplied for viewers to submit questions to Jens.

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Red Hat Acoustic Music Club: 10th virtual meeting, 8 Jan. 2021

Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, announce:

Hi all Red Hatters. Our 10th virtual session tomorrow. Onwards and upwards, keep the music going. Looking forward to hearing you. Paul & Anne.

In normal times the Red Hat meets on the second Friday of every month at the Harbour Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. Music starts around 8.30 p.m.; a donation of €3.00 covers coffee/ tea and sandwiches at the interval.

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The Sackville String Band, forty-five years back

In the distractions of the past months, the BIB overlooked an anniversary of the founding, just over forty-five years ago, of what soon became known (thanks to Niall Toner) as the Sackville String Band. Thanks again to Niall for this photo, which has previously appeared on the BIB. It was almost certainly taken by his wife Moira, and shows the band at its second public (if that's the word) performance, in the basement of Hartigan's in Leeson Street, Dublin, early in Dec. 1975.

In the foreground are your editor and his Jedson 6006 'Symphonic' with tunnel 5th string, and Niall with his recently acquired 'The Gibson' A-model mandolin. The banjo just visible behind them is almost certainly being played by Mick 'Black Dog' Daly of Cork, a core member during the band's first year. Hairstyles are moderate by the standards of that time.

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06 January 2021

Historical markers from the Bluegrass Situation

The latest Weekly Dispatch issued by the Bluegrass Situation online magazine celebrates twenty years since the US release of 'O brother where art thou?' in December 2000. 

Among other contributions are 'Ricky Skaggs remembers Tony Rice' and a reissue from September 2016 of 'Tony Rice on the legacy and impact of Clarence White', a major interview by Desiré Moses in which, among other things, the story of how Tony came to acquire Clarence's now-legendary D-28 is told in his own words.

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IBMA Women in Bluegrass Summit, 7 Jan. 2021

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Women’s Council will hold an interactive Women in Bluegrass Summit tomorrow (Thurs. 7 Jan.) at noon ET (11.00 a.m. CT), to include panel discussions and presentations on gender equity from renowned artists and women in the bluegrass business. Zoom capacity is already full, but the event can be watched on Facebook. Details of the programme (subject to change) are outlined in the IBMA e-newsletter. The photo above looks back to a time before social distancing.
Looking forward to a return to normality in performing and recording music, the IBMA has also issued a special event safety message, emphasising in detail the need for full cooperation, communication, and transparency among all persons and parties involved. The message comes with links to resources applicable to the USA, Canada, and the UK, and the following caution is given twice:

This information is provided as a starting point for your own research and consideration of federal, state, and local health and safety regulatory requirements and other practices that may support a safe return to in-person creation and sharing of music. It does not constitute legal advice. 


05 January 2021

Tributes to Tony Rice

For any who still need to know what made the late Tony Rice special, a unique symposium is on the ArtistWorks YouTube channel: 'Me and his guitar', a three-hour video of a live-stream event in which Bryan Sutton and a pantheon of today's guitar players talk about their experiences with Tony and his impact on their lives and music.

Those taking part include Josh Williams, Tim Stafford, Chris Eldridge, Molly Tuttle, Billy Strings, David Grier, Tommy Emmanuel, Michael Daves, Jake Workman, Andy Falco, Dan Crary, Norman Blake, Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, Jon Stickley, Dave Bruzza, Jim Hurst, Kenny Smith, Cody Kilby, Trey Hensley, and more. John Lawless writes on Bluegrass Today:

Even if you don’t have time for the whole thing in one chunk, be sure to bookmark this page and contemplate this tribute if you have even a passing interest in bluegrass guitar, and the one and only Tony Rice.
No Depression magazine publishes online Amos Perrine's 'Through the lens: remembering roots musicians we lost in 2020', with a gallery of photos; and Sierra Hull's fine article on Tony Rice: 'How lucky we have been'.

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04 January 2021

Wayfaring stranger now in paperback

The BIB editor writes:

On 18 Dec. 2020 John Lawless on Bluegrass Today welcomed the appearance in paperback of Wayfaring stranger: a musical journey in the American South, by the English writer Emma John, who in earlier life trained under a hard teacher to be a classical violinist. In the book, she goes to the USA to find bluegrass, meets innumerable bluegrass people, becomes a fiddler, and discovers that playing music can be enjoyable and transformative (all her national false modesty and self-deprecation vanishes in the process).

Thanks to the late Frank Robinson of Derry, I read this book in hardback in 2019. I enjoyed it immensely, and it should do as much for any bluegrass lover, just for the sheer number of familiar figures that appear. Emma John had instruction and/ or good advice from (among many more) Pete Wernick, Matt Glaser, Michael Cleveland, and the Kruger Brothers; met (among many more) Wayne Henderson, Tim O'Brien, Alison Brown, Bobby Osborne, Roland White, and Carl Jackson; and saw many others perform in different settings and places. Her impressions were overwhelmingly favourable.

The book is very often very funny, but not faultless; she had to pick up a lot of bluegrass history in a hurry, and (despite help from impeccable bluegrass scholars) a journalistic desire for a neat effect led her astray at times. Is it true that after breaking with Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt 'faded from view'? Or that Scotty Stoneman only played hokum fiddle? Also (in view of John Lawless's phrase 'the traditional music community', this is a necessary warning) she claims to have been immune or averse to old-time music and flatfooting.

Nevertheless, the core of the book is the experience of playing bluegrass music, and I find her descriptions of that experience completely convincing and often deeply moving. Over ten years ago Frank lent me another book which purported to describe a search for the moving spirit of flamenco, and at the time I wondered what the bluegrass equivalent would be. As a Daily Telegraph reader, I hate to admit that a Guardian writer can get anything right, but all in all I think that in Wayfaring stranger Emma John has nailed it. The book can be ordered from her website, from the Guardian online bookshop, and from other usual channels.


02 January 2021

The IBMA's Tony Rice tribute reader

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has issued a special e-newsletter, 'Recollections of Tony Rice', compiling tributes, memories, and other contributions by a wide range of distinguished musicians in bluegrass and country music, in memory of Tony Rice, supreme master of bluegrass guitar, who died on Christmas day.

The IBMA release has an appendix of links to ten other obituaries or appreciations published in newspapers, journals, or online media. These, like the newsletter itself, include photos and videos from Tony Rice's long career as soloist and member of a string of musical combinations.

BIB editor's note: Geoffrey Himes writes in Paste magazine that when Tony Rice joined J.D. Crowe & the New South, '[h]ere, for the first time, was a traditional bluegrass line-up where the guitarist was taking solos that held their own with those of the banjo, mandolin and dobro.' This is not quite fair to Dan Crary, Tony Rice's predecessor as guitarist of Bluegrass Alliance. No one who heard Crary's powerful solos on the first Bluegrass Alliance album (1969) is likely to have forgotten them. NB: the sound of this LP on YouTube is not great.

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30 December 2020

Instruction and more from across the Water

Ken Perlman (USA), master of 'melodic clawhammer' banjo (not to mention fingerstyle guitar) continues his programme of online live instructional banjo workshops on Zoom in the new year, with a workshop on 'A "crooked" tunes survival kit' on Sat. 9 Jan. at *5.00-6.15 p.m. EST*; one on creating variations and breaks in clawhammer style on Mon. 25 Jan. at 7.30-9.00 p.m. EST; and four in February (one every Monday) on fiddle tunes from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. Details of times and prices are given on the booking pages. Ken also announces that the Suwanee Banjo Camp (of which he is a director) will be held in 2021 on 13-14 March as an online event. Full details of programme and instructors are on the SBC website.

*Please note that the time for the 9 Jan. class was originally given in Pacific Time instead of Eastern Time; this has now been corrected.
April Verch (CAN) sends her thanks and appreciation for everyone's support during the past twenty years, in a video that can be reached through her latest e-newsletter and also on YouTube.
Deering Banjos send a reminder that Jens Kruger's new free series of masterclasses begins on Tuesday 5 Jan., devoted to musical concepts that can be applied to develop one's playing. While the series is aimed at players in intermediate and advanced levels, players at any level can benefit from the classes. Anyone interested in taking part should send an e-mail RSVP. Jens's video introduction to the series can now be seen on Deering Live or YouTube.
Steve Kaufman (USA) announces that his schedule of new live flatpicking classes will begin on Monday next week (4 Jan.). Full details of all his instructional programmes are on Steve's website.

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News from the Ulster American Folk Park

The BIB editor reports:

The Ulster American Folk Park at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, posted on Christmas day this early-20th-century greetings card on its Facebook.

On visiting the Park's website, what you'll hear first is the genial voice of Richard Hurst, director of customer services (and leader of the organising team of the Bluegrass Music Festival which the Park has held annually since 1992), announcing on a YouTube video: 'The Ulster American Folk Park is open again!' What you'll see first is an official statement that under the latest government guidance, the National Museums of Northern Ireland will remain closed for six weeks from 23 December. So if plans remain unchanged, Richard's welcome (recorded in August 2020) will be effective once more from 3 February 2021.

Since September the Park has a new online facility, Folk Park Live! Songs of the settlers. This now comprises eleven videos by Irish artists singing and/ or playing songs and tunes from both sides of the Atlantic, linked in one way or another to the emigration experience. The videos were each recorded in a different location in the Park and released in sequence on the Park's Facebook; all can now be accessed on the Park Music Tour page. Song texts shown on the website are not always the same as what is sung in the videos.

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29 December 2020

'2020 In Memoriam' from mygrassisblue.com

Thanks to Dave Byrne jr of mygrassisblue.com for this verdict on the year, combined with a fitting tribute to the bluegrass and country music artists who have died during it: 

The countdown is on to the end of this annus horribilis.

We put together a short video, an ‘In Memoriam’ to some of those we sadly lost in 2020.

2020 In Memoriam | https://youtu.be/plrBW3XBNbo

2020 has been a tough year for all, but we’re looking forward to 2021 and, of course, to getting back to some semblance of normality, whenever that happens to be.

Wishing all members of the bluegrass community in Ireland (and beyond) a very happy and prosperous new year.

'2020 In Memoriam' can also be seen on the mygrassisblue.com Facebook. It has been warmly welcomed by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today.

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28 December 2020

XII Red Wine Bluegrass Party now on YouTube

Following on from the BIB post of 15 December, thanks to the EBMA Facebook for the news that our friends in Italy's premier bluegrass band Red Wine have now put their 'XII Red Wine Bluegrass Party' online in a 32-minute video on YouTube. The Party consists of live numbers by the band, interspersed with Stefano Goldberg's outstanding photos from previous Bluegrass Parties. It ends with a moving musical tribute to Stefano - the Hazel Dickens song 'Won't you come and sing for me'.

Near the beginning, the Party also includes an affectionate tribute to Ireland and the good times the band have had here.

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27 December 2020

Tony Rice, 8 June 1951-25 December 2020 (updates)

Thanks to Tim Rogers of Westport for sending the sad news of the death on Christmas day of David Anthony 'Tony' Rice. His music dominates modern bluegrass guitar, with an influence felt throughout acoustic string playing.

A biographical article up to his 2013 induction into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame can be read here. More details are given by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today, together with three videos showing Tony with J.D. Crowe & the New South in 1975; leading an array of superpickers in the '80s; and playing and singing solo one of his trademark pieces, the Norman Blake composition 'Chirch Street blues'.

His authorised biography Still inside: the Tony Rice story, written by Tim Stafford and Caroline Wright, was published in 2010 by Word of Mouth Press.

Update 28 Dec.: David Morris's own appreciation of Tony Rice, together with a compilation of tributes from his peers in bluegrass and country music, can be read here. And Jason Verlinde, editor of the Fretboard Journal, writes a major retrospective memoir of Tony Rice, with several videos, which can be read here. It complements Art Dudley's 2005 FJ article on Tony's unique D-28. Verlinde concludes with:

As long as acoustic music is played, Rice will continue to pull us forward. I don’t think we’ll ever catch up to him.

Update 29 Dec.: Stacy Chandler's article 'Iconic bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice dies at age 69' appeared on No Depression on St Stephen's day. It includes an account of Tony Rice's induction into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, together with a video of his full acceptance speech, during which the 'Miracle of Raleigh' took place. Important statements about Tony and his legacy continue to appear on Bluegrass Today.

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25 December 2020

'Holly jolly Christmas' from Cup O' Joe

Bluegrass Today added several posts yesterday of Christmassy contributions by various artists, and at the time of writing the leading post on Bluegrass Today is John Lawless's Holly Jolly Christmas from Cup O’ Joe. This features a socially distanced video from Co. Armagh and South Carolina, with all the members of Cup O' Joe - including member-by-marriage David Benedict - suitably rigged out in seasonal jumpers to play and sing the 1962 pop song in string-swing mode. The video can also be watched on Facebook, where there are more seasonal songs from the Cup O' Joe circle.

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Christmas greetings from the BIB

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog sends best wishes for a joyful, peaceful, and healthy Christmas and a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year to all its readers, to all lovers of bluegrass and kindred musics, and to all people of goodwill everywhere.


24 December 2020

'Merry Christmas everyone' from Mules & Men

Special thanks to Mules & Men for this Christmas greeting:

Nollaig Shona Dhuit!

We made a Christmas video for the Shakin' Stevens classic 'Merry Christmas everyone' - hopefully it will give you a laugh.

We had the privilege of being joined by Benjamin Burns for this one. Ben is from Geevagh, Co. Sligo, and makes lovely music with synths and recordings of bats, sparrows, and frogs! https://soundcloud.com/benjamin-burns-2

See ye in 2021. All the best from Luke, Paddy, Lily, & Niall

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JigJam send a reminder of 27 Dec. concert

JigJam, with an important guest (see photo), send their good wishes for a wonderful and safe Christmas, and a reminder of their online concert on Sunday 27 December - see the BIB for last Monday. Some tickets are still available as a gift to someone, or indeed to yourself.

Date: December 27th
Time: 10.00 p.m. (Irish time), 4.00 p.m. (Central US time)
Ticket Link: StageIt

JigJam add: 'We can’t wait to get together and play some festive tunes for you all! Spread the word!'

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European bluegrass on Bluegrass Today

Successive news items on Bluegrass Today yesterday have drawn attention to respected European traditional bluegrass bands: John Curtis Goad's review of Travelin', the latest album from Bluedust (Italy); and John Lawless's report that Bluegrass Christmas, the latest album from Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers, has just won the 2020 Christmas Album of the Year award in their native Finland.

The songs on Bluegrass Christmas can be sampled on Bluegrass Today and Apple Music, and the Bluedust feature includes two videos - one of which shows the band playing 'Kentucky Lincoln breakdown', composed by Colton Powers, who was touring in Ireland in January this year as banjo player with Seth Mulder & Midnight Run.

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