11 December 2018

Welcome to the BIB

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) keeps its calendar updated, publishes news received, and adds new features whenever they come to mind. Send in news or queries by e-mail, please; we can't send a direct reply to a comment on a post. The BIB does not do reviews or accept posts with 'marketing messages'.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page (recently updated). Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background, purpose, and uses.


Pete Seeger celebrated

The BIB editor writes:

The centenary of Pete Seeger's birth will come just under five months from now (the fifth anniversary of his death comes earlier: 27 Jan. 2019). His disciple and friend John McCutcheon is marking the centenary by releasing To everyone in all the world, a celebratory album of fifteen of Pete Seeger's songs, together with guest artists including Hot Rize, Tim O'Brien, and Stuart Duncan.

John McCutcheon's qualifications for this undertaking are incontestable, and they're worth reading in the feature by Lee Zimmerman on Bluegrass Today. I think, however, that Pete Seeger himself would gently correct what is said about his place in banjo history.
The Bitter Southerner online magazine publishes today Chuck Reece's 'The 30 best Southern albums 2018', 'looking across every genre at music made by Southerners'. No bluegrass - the closest the list comes to bluegrass is John Prine, Rosanne Cash, and the Pistol Annies - but an illuminating guide to the music being made around bluegrass in a year that 'was, without question, the year of powerful Southern women'.

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08 December 2018

Special C. in the running for a Grammy award

Nominations for the 61st Grammy awards were published early yesterday (7 Dec.), and there's a good chance that a Grammy-award-winning band will be in Ireland on tour less than six weeks from now. What is certain is that our old friends the Special Consensus (USA) are among the five nominees for Best Bluegrass Album in the 2019 awards, with their latest Compass Records album Rivers and roads.

Rivers and roads already won the IBMA Album of the Year award for 2018, and the track 'Squirrel Hunters' from the album won the IBMA Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year award. Other nominees for the Grammy bluegrass album award are Portraits in fiddles by Mike Barnett (also on Compass), Sister Sadie II by Sister Sadie, The Travelin' McCourys by The Travelin' McCourys, and North of despair by Wood & Wire.

BIB editor's note: Playing mandolin for Wood & Wire is the highly regarded Billy Bright, who played in Ireland with the Two High String Band some years back.

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The Original Five (SE) to release fourth album

The Original Five from Malmö, Sweden, toured Ireland in June 2017, including the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. Thanks to Johan Malmberg, their banjo-player and fiddler, for the news that their fourth album, Wipe away those years, will be released on 1 February 2019 on their own label, Rootsy Records. It will be available as download or streaming on all major services, and also as physical CD and LP. A video and single will be released on 1 January. The Original Five write in their press release:

... We’re very proud of the faceted little diamond that will see the light of day in the beginning of 2019. Apart from the expected foundation of hard-driving bluegrass we offer exciting ventures into Nordic folk tradition, tejano music, a cappella, and we couldn’t help throwing in a country ballad for good measure.

Wipe away those years is our most uncompromising album to date. Every step in the process, from song writing and arranging to recording and mixing, has been allowed to take its time and has been made completely on our own premises. It is a bluegrass album no doubt, but the deeper we delve into the genre, the more confidence we get to let our own heritage and influences shine through. Our hope is that we’ve come up with something new, something we think could please both hard-core bluegrass fans and a wider audience.

The Original Five have been active, with some changes to the lineup, for eight years. During these years we’ve toured over most of Sweden and also played in Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, and USA. We offer genuine and well played bluegrass with some of Europe’s finest musicians in the genre. [...] The Original Five have one leg firmly rooted in traditional bluegrass and the other in modern European bluegrass. In the band's own songwriting you’ll find influences from country and pop, old and new, as well as folk music from both sides of the Atlantic.

If you would like to get in touch with us, or if you would like a copy of the album for review or airplay (CD or download) please let us know!

The Original Five (also on Facebook) consist of Dan Englund (bass, vocals), Johan Malmberg (banjo, fiddle, vocals), Daniel Olsson dobro), and Jonas Svahn (guitar/vocals). Live videos are on YouTube of them playing 'Big old machine' and 'The old mountaineer'.

A couple of teasers from the new album can be heard on Soundcloud, and their three previous albums are on Spotify. The band can be contacted by 'phone (+46 739088895), e-mail, or post:

The Original Five Ekonomiska Förening
C/O Johan Malmberg
Södra Parkgatan 33
214 22 Malmö

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For dobroists, and jammers in general

The Dec. 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine (no. 312) includes a feature shown on the website as 'Dobro ace Jerry Douglas on building musical conversations'. There's an interview, about half of which concerns Jerry Douglas's background in music, his start in dobro playing, and his meetings with Josh Graves; the rest is concentrated advice on how to play in jams, which is salutary for all instrumentalists.

This issue, like all earlier issues still in stock, is available at $2.45 from the magazine. The available back issues are shown here.

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07 December 2018

Tutors for 2019 Sore Fingers Week announced

John Wirtz, of the Sore Fingers Summer Schools (SFSS) in England, announces the list of tutors for next Easter's instruction courses in bluegrass and old-time music (22-26 Apr. 2019), as follows:

Autoharp: Karen Mueller
Bass: Greg Garrison
Banjo: Greg Cahill
Banjo: Jeff Scroggins
Dobro: Greg Booth
Fiddle: Alex Hargreaves
Guitar: John Lowell
Guitar: Grant Gordy
Mandolin: Joe Walsh
Mandolin: Andrew Collins
Old-time banjo: Travis Stuart
Old-time fiddle: Stephanie Coleman
Singing: Keith Little

Beginner/lower intermediate classes
Beginner/lower intermediate mandolin/guitar: Charlotte Carrivick
Beginner/lower intermediate fiddle/dobro: Laura Carrivick
Beginner/lower intermediate banjo/bass: John Breese

Twenty places are available for each class. The names of several tutors will be familiar to fans in Ireland from their visits as performers. Bios of all tutors can be seen here.

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Banjo Babes calendar + CD for 2019 now out

Thanks to John Lawless and Bluegrass Today for the news that the 6th annual international Banjo Babes calendar and its accompanying CD (not to mention downloads of the individual tracks, T-shirts, and logo stickers) are now available and can be bought online. Brief bios and photos of the artists taking part (they include Cera Impala from Scotland) are also on the website.

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06 December 2018

Opportunities: for bands - and for banjo teachers

Whelan's of Wexford St., Dublin 2, announce:

Now in its 9th year, Whelan’s Ones to Watch festival is back. We’re picking 60+ new & highly rated acts which showcase the wealth of talent that Ireland has to offer. The festival takes place over five days and three stages in Whelan’s from 16th to 20th Jan. 2019.

With a wide range of music covered - folk, indie, hiphop, electronic, experimental, rock, and more - we’re looking to showcase the best emerging talent in the country, whilst also showcasing artists that have taken the next step and are planning releases in 2019.

There’ll be a free pint of Hop House 13 with every ticket purchased. (#TopTip – Day tickets actually represent better value for money.)

More details are on the Whelan's website. Bands wishing to take part should apply here.
The Deering Banjos website now offers a Banjo Teacher Locator service. Players looking for a teacher within reach can check on the levels of lessons offered, what kind of music is taught, means of teaching (i.e., whether online and/or skype lessons are available), and more. Moreover, teachers can add themselves to the list or be recommended by pupils. There's a location map of teachers in these islands, which at present shows no one in Ireland.

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05 December 2018

Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi tour in Ireland, 5-16 Mar. 2019

Rhiannon Giddens was last performing here at a single concert in Sligo at the end of October. Now, good news of more chances to see and hear her comes from Music Network. There will be an eleven-show tour in March - taking in the east, west, north, and south of the island - by Rhiannon (vocals, fiddle, banjo) and the Italian early music and jazz maestro Francesco Turrisi (percussion, accordion). The schedule is:

Tues. 5th Mar.: Sugar Club, Leeson St., Dublin 2, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 6th: Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 7th: National Opera House, Wexford town, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 8th: Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, 8.30 p.m.
Sat. 9th: Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick city, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 10th: Siamsa Tíre, Tralee, Co. Kerry, 3.00 p.m.
Tues. 12th: Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 13th: glór, Ennis, Co. Clare, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 14th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 15th: The Black Box, Belfast, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 16th: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, 8.00 p.m.

Full details, including reviews, venue phone numbers, ticket prices, and online booking facilities, are given on the Music Network website. More details of Music Network's season-ticket spring 2019 programme are here.

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News of past visitors (UPDATE)

Darin and Brooke Aldridge (USA), after headlining at the 2018 Omagh bluegrass festival three months ago, went home to IBMA's World of Bluegrass, where Brooke won the Female Vocalist of the Year award. Three weeks ago they joined the roster of Rounder Records recording artists; and they are now scheduled to appear on 14 and 21 December on RFD-TV as part of a new 'Country's family reunion' DVD/TV series. More details on this e-newsletter from Laughing Penguin Publicity.
Chatham County Line from North Carolina, who've been welcome visitors here more than once in the past, have made a four-minute video of a seasonal song, 'O! Santa', which can be seen on YouTube or (with more details) in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.
Update: Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass (whose last Omagh appearance was far too long ago) have released That's why I'm lonesome, their third album for Tom Mindte's Patuxent Music label, with some special guests. Tom wrote the title track, which can be heard on Richard Thompson's feature on Bluegrass Today. Of interest to all our midland readers: one of the thirteen tracks is a Ryan Paisley composition, 'Mullingar quickstep'. Danny's mother was Vivian O'Connor, whose family came from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.
AND Tristan Scroggins, of Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, has an extensive guest feature on Bluegrass Today describing the experiences of playing all over Germany as part of Rainer Zellner's Bluegrass Jamboree 'travelling festival' (see the BIB for 3 Oct.).

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04 December 2018

Ron Block, Tony Furtado, and Midnight Skyracer on Crossover (GB) lineup

Thanks to the organisers of the Crossover Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival in Congleton, Cheshire, England, for news of the four-day 2019 event, which will be held on 3-6 May at the Clonter Opera Theatre. The ample lineup includes Ron Block (USA), Tony Furtado (USA), and Midnight Skyracer (UK; performers at the 2018 Omagh festival) with Tabitha Agnew of Co. Armagh on banjo.

Congleton is not inaccessible for Irish visitors; a location map and travel instructions are on the festival website.

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03 December 2018

Alecia Nugent (USA) to headline 4th Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the news (also on the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree Facebook) that the headline act at the 4th Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree (12-13 July 2019) will be Alecia Nugent (above) and band. This is a coup for the Jamboree: Alecia Nugent has won the Female Vocalist of the Year (Traditional) award several times from the Society for the Preservation of Blue Grass Music in America (SPBGMA), and John Lawless on Bluegrass Today has written about her:

Pure and powerful, Alecia has a wide range and a lovely voice. She brings passion and sincerity to every song she sings.

Tony's Facebook post includes a video (also on YouTube) of Alecia on stage in 2010, belting out 'Hillbilly goddess', the title track of her third Rounder album. Also prominent in the video: Ashby Frank, over here some years ago as mandolin player in Special Consensus.

Tony adds that Alecia and her band will also be topping the bill at next year's Ardara Bluegrass Festival in Co. Donegal, and that the full lineup for the 4th Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree will be released shortly. The Ardara festival will most likely be held a week after the Jamboree.

Update 4 Dec.: Thanks to Tony for the further news that a tour by Alecia Nugent and her band is being organised by Pat McGill of the Ardara festival. Details will appear on the BIB directly after we receive them.

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Omagh 2019 dates; headline act announcement SOON

The calendar for the 2019 festival season is filling up. Many thanks to Richard Hurst of the Ulster American Folk Park, Castletown, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, for the news that the 28th Annual Bluegrass Festival at the Folk Park will be held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 30-31 August and 1 September 2019. Richard also expects to announce the 2019 headline act this side of Christmas.

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02 December 2018

Tan & Sober Gentlemen (USA) release Veracity

Thanks to Ben Noblit of the 'Celtic punk-grass' band Tan & Sober Gentlemen (above), based in Chapel Hill, NC, for the news that the band - who had a successful tour in Ireland last summer and will be back in 2019 - released yesterday (1 Dec.) their new nine-track album Veracity. All tracks can be heard and bought on BandCamp; as a sample, their version of 'Follow me up to Carlow' can be heard here.

The Gentlemen (also on Facebook and Instagram) call what they play 'Scotch-Irish hillbilly insanity' and 'regressive folk music'. Ireland Calling calls it 'fast-paced, toe-tapping, fiddle-playing musical mayhem, certainly worth a look to any fans of Irish music', and The Irish Examiner considers their live show 'the best craic ever. Safe to say, next time they're around, we're bringing our dancing shoes.' Ben sends the following press release:

Building on their rapidly growing reputation as one of the Old North State's best live shows, the Tan and Sober Gentlemen have released their debut album, Veracity. Recorded in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, the album is a riotous, scorching take on what the band calls 'Scotch-Irish hillbilly music.'

Born and raised in the North Carolina back country, the seven-piece band explores the Celtic roots of their state's musical heritage. Though deeply rooted in traditional music, the band plays with a wide-open-throttle, no-holds-barred mentality that reflects their commitment to bring back the passion, energy, and ruggedness of the old-school hillbilly pickers. They like their folk music with the bark left on, and it shows.

Since their formation in the summer of 2016, Tan and Sober's raucous live show has quickly earned them a loyal following in the Appalachians, the East Coast, and Ireland. With sold-out shows across the South, and with international tours on the horizon,
Veracity promises to be the next rung on the ladder to success. Stream or buy the record on Spotify, Bandcamp, or wherever you get your music.

For more information, promo requests, or to arrange an interview, contact Ben Noblit by e-mail.

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01 December 2018

Bluegrass and more in Kilworth and Banteer, Co. Cork, Jan. 2019

Thanks again to John Nyhan for this news of bluegrass and related music presented in two important regional venues in the new year:

Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork (right; photo: Declan Howard)

Jan. 2019
Fri. 11th: Sean Keane, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 087 792 1771
Mon. 21st: The Petersens, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 087 792 1771
Mon. 28th: Special Consensus, 8.00 p.m. Tel. 087 792 1771

Even though Sean Keane is not bluegrass, he is a fine country singer. He does a wonderful version of the Keith Whitley hit 'I'm no stranger to the rain' which was covered by Special Consensus and sung by the great Josh Williams. He also covers the Joe Diffie hit 'Home'. This of course was a huge favourite when sung by Greg Blake, and is on his wonderful album Songs of heart & home. Sean is also great to announce at his own concerts in Kilworth any upcoming bluegrass shows at the Arts Centre.

Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork

Jan. 2019
Sun. 27th: Special Consensus, 8.30 p.m. Tel. 087 792 1771

Finally, I would like to thank all the loyal patrons and promoters who support bluegrass music. You are very much appreciated. Thanks also to Richard Hawkins for the great work he does by keeping us updated, by keeping the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) alive.

Happy Christmas and A BLUEGRASS NEW YEAR.

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Forget Brexit - Think Bluegrass!

That's the advice from the inexhaustible John Nyhan - and he has a strong case, as shown in John's news of an action-packed New Year for the bluegrass enthusiast:

January 2019 gets the New Year off to a great start with a feast of bluegrass. The 20th Shannonside Winter Music Festival (17-21 January, Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare) will have a very strong bluegrass representation, with no less than three bluegrass bands: all-time favourites Special Consensus (USA), The Petersens Bluegrass Band from Branson, Missouri (USA), and the Munich String Band from Germany.

Special Consensus will headline the Festival Bluegrass Concert with support from the Petersens on Sunday 20 January in the GAA Hall, Sixmilebridge, at 3.00 p.m. Booking: tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail.

The Petersens and the Munich String Band will be performing over the whole weekend at various venues. Check the Festival Gig Guide.

Award winners Special Consensus are a Grammy-nominated band and IBMA award winners for Best Album, Rivers and roads (2018). The proof of their popularity is that the band in its various lineups has been together for over forty years and they have been packing out venues in Ireland for over twenty years. The band is led by founding member, the incomparable Greg Cahill (banjo, vocals).  It also features Rick Faris (guitar, vocals), Nick Dumas (mandolin, vocals) and Dan Eubanks (bass, vocals). You can definitely be guaranteed incredible bluegrass from Special Consensus.

The Petersens Bluegrass Band, on their third tour of Ireland, are a six-piece band from Branson, Missouri, with five members from the Petersen family and one non-family member, Emmet Franz. They are excellent instrumentally and are all great lead singers, but it is their sibling harmony that makes them a stand-out and not-to-be-missed band. They have great arrangements of classic bluegrass, gospel, and country, and their original material is also excellent.

The band features Ellen Petersen (banjo, vocals), Julianne Petersen (mandolin, vocals), Katie Petersen (fiddle, vocals), Matt Petersen (guitar, vocals), Karen Petersen (bass, vocals), and Emmet Franz (dobro, vocals).

The Petersens perform regularly in the Little Opry in Branson, Missouri. Branson is one of the main cities in America for country, tribute bands, and bluegrass music. Every May in Silver Dollar City on the outskirts of Branson there is a month-long Bluegrass Festival and the Petersens always perform at this Festival.

The schedule for their January 2019 tour in Ireland is:

  • Fri. 18th-Sun. 20th: Shannonside Winter Music Festival, Sixmilebridge & Bunratty, Co. Clare; various times and venues; 087 792 1771
  • Mon. 21st: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; 087 792 1771
  • Tues. 22nd: The Coachman, 13 Parnell St., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.; 085 850 2289 (a Clonmel Folk Club presentation)
  • Wed. 23rd: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.; 068 22 566
  • Thurs. 24th: Schoolyard Theatre, Charleville, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; 087 792 1771/ 087 180 4870 (double bill with Cup O' Joe)
  • Fri. 25th: private concert
  • Sat. 26th: Community Hall, Ballydehob, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m., with support: Cup O' Joe; 086 837 0518/ 028 37 118 ('Headline Concert' of the Heart & Home Bluegrass Festival, 25-27 Jan.)
  • Sun. 27th: Old Schoolhouse, Clashmore, Co. Waterford, 8.00 p.m.; 087 414 8651/ 087 277 2760
Further enquiries for any of the above: tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail

The Munich String Band are making their second trip to Ireland. On their previous visit they played some super bluegrass. Their material covers classic and contemporary, with great versions of pop and rock songs in bluegrass style. The band features two Americans who are resident in Munich, and three Germans: Philip Bradatsch (banjo, vocals), Gabriel McCaslin (fiddle, vocals), Phillipp Schöppe (mandolin, vocals), Paul Solecki (bass, vocals), and Rico Waldmann (guitar, vocals).

As always, I look forward to catching up with many bluegrass fans at the 20th Shannonside Winter Music Festival.

Enquiries: tel. 087 792 1771; e-mail


Heart & Home Bluegrass Festival
Ballydehob, Co. Cork
Fri. 25th-Sun. 27th Jan. 2019

The second Heart & Home Bluegrass Festival will take place in the lovely village of Ballydehob, West Cork, on the Wild Atlantic Way, the weekend after the Sixmilebridge/ Bunratty festival, from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th January 2019. The Petersens (USA; see above for bio), will top the bill at the Headline Concert on Saturday 26th in the Community Hall at 8.00 p.m. Support act on the night will be the excellent Cup O' Joe, featuring Reuben, Tabitha, and Benjamin Agnew. Between them they play guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, and fiddle. They cover not alone bluegrass but some swing, and have excellent vocals.

This concert will be a coming together of two bluegrass families from both sides of the Atlantic. Cup O' Joe are from Co. Armagh, from where many emigrated to the Appalachian region of America. The music and culture they brought with them played a major role in the creation of bluegrass music. The Petersen Family from Branson, Missouri, are a prime example of a family that are steeped in the Appalachian tradition. Like the Carters, the Stonemans, and recent visitors to this country the McLains, they continue the tradition of the family band that is so much a part of bluegrass music.

You will also hear the sounds of bluegrass from Hellfire Club (formerly Well Enough Alone), featuring Hugh Taggart (guitar, vocals), Patrick Cummins (mandolin, vocals), Léo Guillot (fiddle, vocals), and T.J. Screene (bass). There will be music on Friday night (25th) in Levis's pub and Rosie's with Cup O' Joe and Hellfire Club from 10.00 p.m., and also on Saturday 26th after the Headline Concert. There will also be a session at lunchtime on Sunday 27th.

For booking and enquiries, tel. 028 37118, 086 837 0518, or 087 792 1771.

Photo from the 'Gallery' section of Levis's

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30 November 2018

Special Consensus tour, 16 Jan.-8 Feb. 2019

The sky's the limit: Special Consensus - (l-r) Dan Eubanks, Greg Cahill,
Rick Faris, Nick Dumas

Thanks to Nigel Martyn and his Old Flattop agency for the image above and the schedule for the Hew Year tour by the Special Consensus; their umpteenth visit to Ireland since 1995, and every bit as welcome as ever, with their latest double-IBMA-award-winning album. The tour comprises fifteen dates in this island, and seven in England and Wales. In addition to the venue website links shown below, links to online booking can be found on the band's website schedule for some of the venues. In the case of the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, booking is already open for the 17 Jan. show; tickets are €18 and the show starts at 8.00 p.m.

Wed. 16th: Colfers, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford (tickets)
Thurs. 17th: Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
Fri. 18th: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (Clonmel World Music)
Sat. 19th: Leap Castle, Co. Offaly (near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary)
Sun. 20th: GAA Hall, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 3.00 p.m., with The Petersens (USA) (part of 20th Shannonside Winter Music Festival)
Mon. 21st: Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo town
Tues. 22nd: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Wed. 23rd: Matt Molloy’s, Bridge St., Westport, Co. Mayo
Thurs. 24th: The Beehive Bar, Main St., Ardara, Co. Donegal
Fri. 25th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Sat. 26th: Market Place Theatre, Armagh city
Sun. 27th: Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork
Mon. 28th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork
Tues. 29th: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
(30 Jan.-7 Feb. in England and Wales)
Sat. 8th: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin

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Sandy Harsch: funeral service at Bray, Sat. 1 Dec. 2018

Thanks to Ronnie Norton for informing us of this link:

Sandy Harsch (née Sturges) of Bray, Co. Wicklow, passed away peacefully on 20th November, 2018, dearly loved Mum of Caitriona and Rebecca, incredibly devoted Granny of Jessica, Max, and Benjamin, dear sister of Rush Sturges (San Francisco) and Dorothy Sturges (Arizona), fondly remembered by her sons-in-law Paul and Jonathan, extended family, friends, and colleagues in the music industry.

A service to Celebrate Sandy’s Life will take place in Colliers Funeral Home, Old Connaught Avenue, Bray, on Saturday (1st December) at 11.00 a.m. followed by private burial. Family flowers only please. Donations, if desired, to the DSPCA can be made at the funeral home or online at dspca.ie.


29 November 2018

Track Dogs in Ireland, 8-10 Feb. 2019

L-r: Robbie K. Jones, Garrett Wall, Howard Brown, Dave Mooney

Devotees of the much-missed Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals will remember Robbie K. Jones, who played cajon with Lluís Gómez's Barcelona Bluegrass Band, sat in with Jerry Douglas and Tony Trischka in 2006, and was back every year that the festival lasted.

Thanks to Robbie for the news that his own group, the Americana band Track Dogs (IRL/GB/USA), who toured in Ireland earlier this year (see the BIB for 11 Mar. 2018), will be back for a flying visit in early February next year as the start of an extensive tour in these islands. The band has just released a track featuring the up-and-coming bluegrass band The Barefoot Movement, whom they met at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. 'The trip', Robbie writes, 'was so influential that we named the subsequent album Kansas City out groove.'

Robbie includes this link to the track, his original song 'Gonna get my way'. And the Johnny Keenan festivals have left a mark on it - Robbie writes: 'As a result of so many banjo-infested visits, I ended up playing one myself, and it’s in this track as well.'

Based in Madrid, the Track Dogs are Garrett Wall (guitars, piano, uke, vocals) of Dublin, Robbie K. Jones (cajón, banjo, vocals) of Vermilion, Ohio, Howard Brown (trumpet, piano, percussion, vocals) of Sheffield, and Dave Mooney (electric & double bass, uke, vocals) of Wicklow. Their dates in Ireland will be:

Fri. 8th Feb.: Tea Room Sessions, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary
Sat. 9th: Odd Mollies, Drogheda, Co. Louth
Sun. 10th: Tally Ho, Longford town

Plenty of the Track Dogs' music is on YouTube. The following links are to (in varying degrees) bluegrass-influenced tracks by the band on Spotify: 'Raise your head', 'Bon Scott, he rocked', 'All roads lead me to roam', 'The wrong man', and 'Orion sees'.

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28 November 2018

Mygrassisblue.com and the open road ahead

Following the BIB post of 22 Nov. announcing the new enterprise Mygrassisblue.com, dedicated to bringing top bluegrass to Ireland, thanks again to Dave Byrne (son of the great Dave Byrne of East Coast Radio and Midlands Radio 3) for explaining where Mygrassisblue.com comes from, and where he and his father mean to take it. The BIB added the bold type:

I guess it was all born out of a deep-rooted passion for the music – suffice it to say, Dad always had country and bluegrass on in the house when growing up (and still does), and when you throw enough mud some of it is bound to stick!

Dad and I have spent the last three summers travelling Stateside for bluegrass gigs and festivals. A combination of the welcoming and inclusive nature of the bluegrass family and artists expressing a lifelong desire to play over here is what has us were we are – 'we’d love to, we just don’t know who to contact or how to go about it' or 'we’d love to, but we’ve never been approached by anyone about it' sums up what we’re hearing over and over from willing-to-travel artists.

Of course there are well-established proponents of the genre over here who already do a great job facilitating visiting artists. We’re looking to add to that by putting in place our own (very hands-on) service, everything from the planning and management of a gig or tour to its promotion/ marketing and exposure online (hence the Social Media channels and domain name) - an all-inclusive one-stop service, if you will, for visiting bands and artists (just get on the flight and we’ll take it from there).

It’s early days, of course. We’re busy networking (especially with venues who, understandably, are wary of the unknown quantity that is Mygrassisblue.com) and finding our way, but we’re excited… and have some equally exciting prospects lined up. At the very least we’ll have fun trying to make this a success, trying to get some of the best in the world at what they do in front of what we know is an appreciative Irish audience.

In the BIB's view, this venture deserves the support of bluegrass fans throughout Ireland. The BIB is also happy to draw attention to Dave senior's broadcasts every Monday (7.00-9.00 p.m.) on www.PhoenixCountryRadio.com for the best in real country and bluegrass. All past shows are archived on Mixcloud at www.mixcloud.com/byrnescountry.

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Wrapping up BAG for Christmas! - the Niall Toner Band, Mon. 3 Dec. 2018

The Niall Toner Band: (l-r) Dick Gladney, Richie Foley, Niall Toner, Paddy Kiernan, Johnny Gleeson

Ballymore Acoustic Gigs (BAG) announce:

The Niall Toner Band play BAG at Mick Murphy's Bar, Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, on Monday, Dec 3rd. This is the last BAG gig of 2018, and it'll be a special one! Doors open at 8.30 p.m. Admission is €15.

The Niall Toner Band is perhaps the foremost band on the Irish bluegrass scene, and Niall Toner has been performing American traditional music, old-time songs and bluegrass since the very early 1970s. With various bands and collaborations to his credit - Lee Valley String Band, Sackville String Band, Hank Halfhead & the Rambling Turkeys - he formed the Niall Toner Band in the early 2000s. A hard-working outfit, with several lineup changes over the years, the current five-piece outfit have recently signed to Pinecastle Records in the US, making Niall, in his own words, 'an overnight sensation, after 40-plus years!'

Those of us familiar with his impact on the roots/ country scene in Ireland, consider it his just reward for a lifetime dedicated to the truth and honesty of the music.

Full five piece band!
Niall Toner (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Richie Foley (mandolin), Dick Gladney (upright bass (bull fiddle!), Paddy Kiernan (banjo), Johnny Gleeson (dobro, guitar, vocals)

Press quotes:

'Toner writes bluegrass and country songs that ring true, and would not be out of place on any bluegrass master's albums. This Irishman knows his stuff.' 5-star review, Maverick magazine

'I admire the way Niall's deep affinity for bluegrass and American country music blends seamlessly with his Irish sensibilities. It makes him a uniquely appealing artist, and Pinecastle Records are lucky to have him.' Pete Wernick (Doctor Banjo)

'Great original bluegrass songs and instrumentals. We are delighted to play Niall Toner anytime.' Brian McNeal, Prescription Bluegrass

'Niall makes great open-hearted music and his tributes to Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers are just superb. His "Ocean of teardrops", composed in the style of the Blue Sky Boys and the Monroe Brothers, is a duet song that just kills me.' Paul Williams, songwriter and president of ASCAP

BIB editor's note: The blurb above sells Niall slightly short - his founding of the Lee Valley String Band took place, we believe, in the late 1960s.

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20th Shannonside Winter Music Festival, 17-21 Jan. 2019

The organising team of the Shannonside Winter Music Festival announce:

Planning on hibernating this winter? Set your alarm for January 17th and the twentieth Shannonside Winter Music Festival in Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare. From 17th to 22nd, a hectic schedule of over 80 events across 17 locations brings an eclectic mix of music styles worth waking up for!

While much of the roster is filled with Festival alumni, 2019 sees the debut visit from the legendary Matt Molloy, playing the Saturday night concert with multi-instrumentalist John Carty and Arty McGlynn on guitar. Mick Hanly, legendary singer/songwriter, opens the concert.

From the US, the Cintron Brothers bring flamenco sounds, and a cappella group Purely Vocals are back after a successful visit in 2012, while award-winning bluegrass bands the Special Consensus and the Petersens, both from the US, make return visits to Sixmilebridge.

The Golden Star Morris dancers from the UK make their fourth trip to Clare, and the Munich String Band bring bluegrass from Germany. Perennial favourite Frankie Lane is back, while the Spancil Hillbillies, Ukealadies, and Jazzlite swing by to keep toes tapping.

Local boy Brendan Walsh returns from Switzerland with two bands - the Led Farmers to trad-rock the place, and the Diversus Guitar Quartet to sooth the soul! Folk and trad acts include Kate Purcell, the Doyle Family (UK), Randal’s Folly, Ger O’Donnell, and Kate Theasby, MegaTrad, and many more visiting and local names.

A full Saturday of concerts on five stages at Bunratty Folk Park is a serious musical treat. The set dancing in Bunratty Castle Hotel with Johnny Reidy is always well-supported, and the gigs, sessions, and concerts throughout both villages will feature the best of music and song!

Check out the Facebook page or wmw.ie.

The Festival lineup, with artist photos, can be seen here, and the complete schedule of events and locations for the whole six days is here. A guide to accommodation in the area, with photos and links to hotel and B&B websites, is here. Tickets will go on sale online this coming weekend

Look out for more on the BIB about the bluegrass content of the Festival in the next few days!

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27 November 2018

Red Wine's 10th Bluegrass Party

Red Wine's tenth annual Bluegrass Party was held on 17 November in their home town of Genoa (Genova), celebrating forty years of the band's existence. The richly varied programme, with many guests, included a new song about the disastrous bridge collapse in the city in August this year.

A full report by mandolinist and lead singer Martino Coppo appears on Bluegrass Today, with many photos. An approving comment by Robbie Chanders of Athy, Co. Kildare, appears on the band's Facebook.

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26 November 2018

Bill Hicks - who knows the Irish connections?

Bill Hicks c.1971 (photo: Tom Carter)

The BIB reported last week the death of North Carolina fiddler Bill Hicks, a major figure in the revival of old-time music in the last fifty years. We learn today that information is sought on his connections with old-time musicians on this side of the Atlantic - specifically in these islands, and even more particularly concerning musicians from Ireland.

The FOAOTMAD news blog carries a letter of today's date from Lew Stern in Virginia, banjo player, banjo teacher, and author of the admirable 2016 biography of Dwight Diller, who had told him, 'if any one of those North Carolinian musicians deserved a book, it was Bill Hicks.' The whole letter is well worth reading, but note this part:

One thing that I've not been able to discern is whether Bill's fiddling had an audience with Friends of American Old Time Music and Dance.

Bill traveled to Europe several times with the Red Clay Ramblers in U.S. State Department organized tours. He reached out and built friendships with Irish musicians who found their way to Chapel Hill. For example, the Red Clay Ramblers had a musical link with Trionna N'Domnhil
[sic; i.e. Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill], an Irish musician who lived in Chapel Hill for a good part of the 1980s and fronted a band called Touchstone, along with Zan McLeod. Her late brother played professionally with John Burke.

I'd like to ask FOAOTMAD friends whether Bill Hicks ever achieved traction on your side of the world, whether old time - or new time - musicians in the UK listened to Fuzzy Mountain recordings, or followed the music of the Red Clay Ramblers, and whether Bill's fiddling did anything for old time musicians or old time music fans in your universe.

Having played old-time music in Ireland since the 1970s, the BIB editor can certainly confirm that the Fuzzy Mountain String Band's recordings on Rounder were extremely influential; the Sackville String Band might not have been founded without their impetus. Anyone who can help with Lew Stern's questions should contact him by e-mail.

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Gold Tone Cyber Monday Special

The Gold Tone Music Group announce their Cyber Monday Special sale with 10% off and free shipping over the entire range. This offer applies only in the continental US, but if you're likely to be able to collect an instrument in the States or have a friend bring it over, there may be a bargain to be had. More details are available through the Gold Tone e-newsletter.

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24 November 2018

Jesse Brock journeys on

Regular attenders at the Ulster American Folk Park's annual bluegrass festivals have often seen and heard Jesse Brock (IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year, 2009, 2015); he's appeared there over the years with Dale Ann Bradley, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, and the Gibson Brothers. After five years with the Gibson Brothers, an experience he describes as 'one of the best jobs in my 37 years in this business', Jesse is now leaving the band to explore further avenues in playing and singing. Read more in John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today.

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23 November 2018

25th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, 22-25 Aug. 2019

Thanks to Mick Daly, organiser of the Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival in Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, for the news that the dates for next year's event, the 25th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival, will be the four days from Thursday 22 August to Sunday 25 August 2019. Booking for 2019 is in progress, with some acts to be announced over the coming weeks.

Artists interested in being a part of the Festival should contact Mick by 'phone (+353 (051) 878832; mobile: +353 (087) 2562899) or e-mail. His postal address is Creadan, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.


22 November 2018

Mygrassisblue.com to bring Kristy Cox to Ireland, May 2019

Thanks to Dave Byrne (son of the great Dave Byrne of East Coast Radio and Midlands Radio 3) for this announcement of a new enterprise, Mygrassisblue.com, dedicated to bringing bluegrass to Ireland:

We are an Irish-based team with a fervour for all things bluegrass. We aim to promote the best of the genre & to specialise in bringing it home to Ireland, back to its roots.

If you’re an artist, band, or representative agent with a client who is interested in touring Ireland, get in touch & we’ll work to make it happen. Pinky promise.

Oh, and our new online presence is coming soon. We’re working on the arrangement.

The first step by Mygrassisblue.com in making the project a reality is a tour in Ireland by the highly successful Australian bluegrass and country singer Kristy Cox. Australia's bluegrass performers, like its luthiers, are at international standard, and Kristy Cox is frequently featured on Bluegrass Today; so the tour, scheduled for 11-19 May 2019, is really something to look forward to. More details will be coming in the near future.

How serious Mygrassisblue.com are about 'bringing bluegrass back to its roots' is shown on their website: in the following quote from the notes to the 2003 album The Three Pickers, Ricky Skaggs gives the origins of his instrumental 'The road to Spencer':

I wrote this next instrumental… I thought so long and hard about the roots of bluegrass music & where it came from, emm, in my studies of Bill Monroe’s music, Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, people like that… and eh, my first trip to Ireland… felt like I’d died and went home. It felt so wonderful to be there and play music with the neighbours in the hood over there… and eh, they sure know how to play… it wasn’t no strain at all for me to jump right in & play the tunes I knew and they mixed right with tunes they knew and many of them were the same tunes just with different names… and eh, I kinda thought of that when I wrote this tune… kinda started out the Celtic way and kick into a little bluegrass.

The BIB wishes Mygrassisblue.com success!

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Vincent Cross: latest project and Ireland tour 2019

Thanks to Vincent Cross (left), singer, songwriter, and Ireland's bluegrass representative in New York, who sends greetings and news of the new musical project which he is planning to bring to Ireland next summer. Vincent writes:

The new project still involves Americana roots music with the usual banjo tunes, but with the addition of recently composed and discovered traditional songs about the infamous nineteenth-century, Irish-American gang leader (my distant relative), James 'The Rooster' Corcoran. Known for his 'caustic tongue and ready wit', he was often stereotyped tabloid fodder for the newspapers of the 1800s. If you've ever seen the movie Gangs of New York, then this would be a musical accompaniment to the rogues, pimps, murderers, and thieves that inhabited New York City in the nineteenth century.

Vincent also sends this link to a short promotional video on the project, filmed in the area of New York where James Corcoran was a dominant figure up to his death in 1900 and is still commemorated in stone.

Details of Vincent's touring experience, distinctions and awards, recorded work, select reviews, recent blurbs, and more, can be found on the bio page of his website. His blog 'Tools of the trade: songwriters and their guitars' is good reading for anyone interested in the relationship between musicians and instruments. Videos of live performances include Abner Browns (Dublin; with clawhammer banjo), the 2016 North East Regional Folk Alliance (Stamford, CT), and The Song TV (USA).

Vincent welcomes performance opportunities for next summer. For more information and bookings, he can be contacted through his website.

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Black Friday offer from Tradfest 2019

Following our post of 29 Oct. on Tradfest 2019 (23-27 Jan.), the organisers now offer a 'two for one' Black Friday deal on tickets for selected concerts. One of these is the Kathy Mattea show in St Patrick's cathedral, on 25 Jan. Check here for what's included in the offer, which runs from midnight tonight (Thurs. 22 Nov.) to midnight tomorrow, both times being GMT.

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20 November 2018

Sandy Harsch: updates

The BIB learns with deep regret from Ronnie Norton of the death of Sandy Harsch. Sandy, Ronnie, and Stephen Rapid were the founders of Lonesome Highway, Ireland's respected online music portal for hard-core country, folk, bluegrass, roots, and Americana music, and Sandy served as its content editor and copy editor in addition to her career as a broadcaster. She presented the regular Saturday-night radio show 'Country time' on RTÉ Radio 1, and received an International Broadcaster of the Year award from the Country Music Association. She will be sorely missed. We hope to have more details before long.

Update 22 Nov.: An obituary, with three portrait photographs of Sandy, is now on the RTÉ website.

Update 30 Nov.: Details of Sandy's funeral service (1 Dec.) are here.

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News of past visitors

During this month several bands or individual musicians, familiar to audiences here from past appearances at festivals, have figured in bluegrass news items. On Bluegrass Today Dave Berry's series of reports from California includes a long interview with Larry Cohea, banjo-player with High Country at the first Athy Bluegrass Festival back in 1991 and on the band's subsequent visits. Larry keeps busy with several other bands as well as High Country, together with his work on instruments.

At the time of writing, the latest post on Bluegrass Today is a feature on Cedar Hill, Frank Ray's band from the Ozarks, and their latest album, By request, volume 1: a 50 year tradition. Frank and the band have played more than once at Omagh festivals, and the new album (twelve songs, 45 minutes playing time) can be heard on iTunes.

Also on a past Omagh lineup, Love Canon from North Carolina have just released a six-minute video of a live performance of the Paul Simon song 'Graceland', which was recorded on their Cover story album earlier this year on Organic Records. It follows their formula of applying a solid bluegrass treatment to pop and rock material. The video can be seen on YouTube or through a link on the Organic Records press release.

A regular favourite on the much-missed Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals was Catalan banjo maestro Lluís Gómez with his Barcelona Bluegrass Band. Bluegrass Today has carried features on the 17th Al Ras festival of bluegrass and old-time music, which was held in Barcelona on the second weekend of this month; and on a video from Lluís showing his creative response to requests to play 'Oh, Susanna'.

Finally, the sad news that Bill Hicks, fiddler, songwriter, and stonemason, died on Remembrance Day at the age of 75. As a member of the Fuzzy Mountain String Band, the Red Clay Ramblers, Craver, Hicks, Watson, & Newberry (see image above), with whom he appeared at Omagh some years back, and other string bands, he was a strong force in the reinvigoration of old-time music over the past fifty years. A long interview with him by Sarah Bryan appeared in the Old Time Herald, xiv, no. 1, pp 20-33. Our sympathies and condolences go out to his wife and musical partner Libby Hicks.

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19 November 2018

Mules & Men: two shows coming up this week

Mules & Men announce on Facebook that they will be playing a midnight show in the Crane Lane Theatre, Cork, tomorrow night (Tuesday 20 Nov.), and will follow that on Saturday (24 Nov.) with a show at 'our new second home', the Horseman Inn, Main St., Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan.

Mules & Men thank everyone who came to the successful launch of their debut album Thinking sideways at Stoutman's in James's St., Dublin, last Friday: an evocative twenty-second video from the evening is on their Facebook. The album is available on Bandcamp.

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4th Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree, 12-13 July 2019

The Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree announces on its Facebook (shared on Woodbine's own Facebook) that the dates for next year's event will be Friday 12 July and Saturday 13 July 2019. The BIB looks forward to receiving details whenever they are ready.

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We Banjo 3 announce Irish tour, 4-7 Sept. 2019

It says a great deal for We Banjo 3's popularity abroad that they can now announce (in their own words) 'in many ways our biggest Irish tour to date', and it consists of four dates, ten months from now. The dates consist of two consecutive shows at Whelan's in Dublin (4, 5 Sept. 2019), one at St Luke's, Summerhill North, Cork city (6 Sept.), and one at Roisin Dubh, Leisureland, Galway city (7 Sept.). Tickets for these are now on sale.

After a year in which they have been stunned by becoming the first Irish band to reach #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart, winning RTE's Folk Album of the Year award, and playing live to a total of over 400,000 people, the band are now making plans for next year. These include new tours (the USA in the first quarter of 2019), new merchandise, and a live album recording. We Banjo 3 add:

Please let your friends and family know about these concerts, we'd love to sell them all out (by Christmas!!!) [...] Keep an eye on social media in early December as we are running a ticket promotion for our Jan.-March US tour.

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18 November 2018

Two Time Polka at Nenagh, 23 Nov. 2018

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka announces:

Here are the details of our next gig:

Fri. 23rd: Nenagh Arts Centre, Banba Square, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Doors 8.00 p.m. Adm. €15 / €12.50 concessions. Tel. 06734400

Ray & TTP

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17 November 2018

Roy Clark, 1933-2018

The BIB learns with regret from Bluegrass Today of the death of Roy Linwood Clark, multi-instrumentalist and entertainer. With his extrovert musicianship in country, jazz, and mainstream fields, he brought bluegrass picking on guitar, banjo, and fiddle to wider audiences, especially through the influential TV series 'Hee Haw'. Several YouTube examples of his playing can be seen on the Rolling Stone magazine website.

As a boy in Washington, DC, he used to hang around outside the Stoneman family house, listening to the playing of Roni Stoneman's elder brothers. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame in 2017.

Update 20 Nov.: Bluegrass Today reports that a ceremony celebrating the life of Roy Clark was held today. More details are in John Lawless's feature.