18 August 2011

Tom Hanway reports from the USA

Stan Jay (president, Mandolin Brothers), Denise Hanway, Tom Hanway (with Stelling Tom Hanway SwallowTail) at Mandolin Brothers Ltd., Staten Island, New York

With my wife Denise I’ve been touring and picking banjo from the day we landed in JFK, first at my old Manhattan jam at Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, fifteen years old and the longest-running bluegrass session in New York City, which I founded back in the mid-nineties. This jam has spilled over to Monday nights with a beginner jam open to all.

On 9 August, two days after arriving, I picked banjo at Brooklyn Bowl alongside fiddle legend Kenny Kosek (Jerry Garcia Band/Country Cooking) with Jam Stampede (formerly Zen Tricksters/Donna Jean Godchaux Band). This marked the last day of 'Jerry Garcia Week', a tribute to the legendary rock guitarist and bluegrass picker. I rocked out on bluegrass banjo, and I didn’t plug in, keeping the banjo acoustic and natural sounding.

This weekend in Pennsylvania we’re celebrating my 50th birthday (one twentieth of a millennium) this Saturday, 20 August, at Hickory Fest, raising money for the American Cancer Society. My first wife Kathleen, whom I lost to cancer on 17 March 2002, was part of this wonderful bluegrass community centered in Wellsboro, PA. I’ll be playing with my old friend from Burnt Toast, Dan Shipe, joining some very hot pickers in Dan’s band, including multi-instrumentalist Billy Gilmore and possibly Sue Cunningham, who is currently battling cancer. We are praying for Sue and sending her our love.

It’s at one of the most beautiful places for a bluegrass festival, Stony Fork Creek Campground, home of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, just south of Wellsboro, PA. Ireland’s own Prison Love has played this festival and gained the admiration of American bluegrass fans.

On 8 and 15 August we joined up with Arcadia at Cosi, Rye, NY, playing bluegrass-jazz standards that Earl Scruggs (‘Farewell blues’) and Don Reno (‘Limehouse blues’) recorded back in the day. I built up my crossover repertoire this trip, adding ‘How high the moon’, ‘Ornithology’ and ‘Honeysuckle Rose’. Other tunes I play in this hybrid style include my original ‘Bucket of Bees’, ‘Avalon’, ‘Bye, bye blues’, ‘All of me’, ‘When you’re smiling’, ‘The world is waiting for the sunrise’, and ‘Chinatown, my Chinatown’.

On 16 August I played with Arcadia at the Watercolor Café to family and good friends in my hometown of Larchmont, NY, and was joined by flatpicking guitarist Dave Bahssin and blues harmonica ace Jay Gale, who recorded with me on The Badbelly project: Hesitation blues.

All this woodshedding paid off on 17 August at the American Yacht Club in Milton Point, Rye, New York, where Arcadia was asked to play a private jazz function for the Board of Trustees. We played acoustic jazz and bluegrass, and I also played some solo banjo, mainly hornpipes and the classic ‘Danny boy’ as a samba.

Next weekend we’re looking forward to seeing old friends at one of the nicest festivals in Ireland, Dunmore East, where I will be playing with Belfast tunesmith and guitarist Kieran Murray (Hanway & Murray).


At 3:04 pm, Blogger Crystal said...

What a whirlwind "vacation" you're having! Wish you'd been able to make it up to Maine for some of our summer bluegrass events. Maybe Rick and I will get over to Ireland sometime soon.


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