30 April 2017

A work in progress

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.

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


29 April 2017

New tour for masters of 'Celtgrass' begins at Whelan's. 17 May 2017

Now a quartet and looking more like a bluegrass band than ever, We Banjo 3 are back from touring the USA and preparing for a tour in Ireland in the second half of May. The tour begins on Wednesday 17 May with a show in Whelan's, 25 Wexford St., Dublin 2, together with special guests JigJam from Tullamore, who have also been touring in the US. The two groups are acknowledged masters of what is becoming known as 'Celtgrass', a fusion of Irish traditional styles with American tunes and ensemble work. Samples are on We Banjo 3's own YouTube channel; here's their 'Soldier's joy'.

We Banjo 3 (also on Facebook and Twitter) have reached the level of recording with Ricky Skaggs and the Chieftains, and sharing stages with Bela Fleck, Los Lobos, Jerry Douglas, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the Punch Brothers. The band comprises brothers Enda Scahill (tenor banjo, vocals) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, viola, dobro, percussion, guitar, mandolin, vocals) plus brothers Martin Howley (tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals) and David Howley (lead vocals, guitar).

Doors open for the show in Whelan's at 8.00 p.m. on 17 May; tickets are €15, available online from WAV Tickets or Lo-Call 1890 200 078 (1.00-7.00 p.m. Mon.-Fri.). A 50c per ticket service charge applies on phone, internet, or credit-card bookings. Entry is strictly for over-18s; ID may be required. The show will be followed by Whelan’s Silent Disco plus Late Bar. We Banjo 3's complete tour schedule is:

Wed. 17th: Whelan's, 25 Wexford St., Dublin 2, with JigJam
Thurs. 18th: Set Theatre, Kilkenny city
Fri. 19th: St Luke's, Cork city
Sat. 20th: National Opera House, Wexford town
Sun. 21st: Birr Arts Centre, Birr, Co. Offaly
Wed. 24th: Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo town
Thurs. 25th: Dolan's, Limerick city
Fri. 26th: Black Box, Galway city

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28 April 2017

Cup O' Joe on IBMA WOB 2017 showcase schedule

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for the news that the International Bluegrass Music Association has released the names of the artists on the 'Bluegrass Ramble' showcase schedule at this September's World of Bluegrass convention-cum-festival in Raleigh, NC - and the list includes the multi-talented Cup O' Joe (above) from Co. Armagh. As Bluegrass Today says, this

... offers them an opportunity to perform multiple times in front of agents, record label reps, talent buyers, and other influential members of the industry who assemble at the annual get-together.

Congratulations from the BIB to Cup O' Joe on this well deserved step in their career. Other artists on the list include Flats & Sharps (GB), who played the 2015 Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival; Mr Sun, the 'other band' of Darol Anger (USA), who will be here shortly with Republic of Strings; and the Po' Ramblin' Boys (USA), whom we hope to see over here next year.

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AVB European tour schedule - and more

The latest e-newsletter from the April Verch Band (CAN) shows the complete schedule for their forthcoming European tour, with eight dates in this island and six in the rest of Europe. Full details with links to venue websites are shown here; all dates in Ireland are on the BIB calendar. The newsletter also gives a link for online buying or listening to The April Verch anthology.

PS: A video demonstration of Canadian fiddle styles, made by April eight years ago, can be seen here.

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27 April 2017

Simon Humphries on Sore Fingers 2017

Thanks to Simon Humphries (who with T.J. Screen organises the annual Bluegrass Camp Ireland) for his perspective on this year's Sore Fingers Summer School. Simon's original text is on the Bluegrass Camp Ireland Facebook.

Roughly eleven-hour trip for us travelling via Rosslare ferry. Finally rock up to Kingham Hill School situated in the very lovely Cotswolds area of England. Fabulous campus set on beautiful, mature grounds [right]. There was a quick registration process and we were directed to our house where we shared a dorm-style room with maybe ten others. Individual beds with modern furniture. Showers and toilets bang up to date. Terrific accommodation. Ear plugs at the ready - but never required at night (could have been excessive alcohol in the system at bedtime).

All the music activities based were held over several separate buildings with a couple of minutes walking. The grounds of the school were rather large. The English Public School system is alive and kicking. (Wouldn't be quite the same at Grange Hill methinks).

Every person I meet seems to have been here before - many have been several times. They have certainly built an incredibly loyal following. All age groups are represented, but generally the largest cohort were in the 60-plus age group. First impressions: this is incredibly well organised.

After early breakfast (often a little too early), the structure of the day is mapped out by the organisers at an assembly meeting thereafter. Classes 9.00-lunch, 2.00-3.30 practice, 3.30-dinner more class, After dinner: tutorial electives, 7.30 show. 10.00 and on, bar and jamming. It's incredibly well organised, everything starts on time, and there's tons of stuff to keep you interested and busy all day.

Sore Fingers has rightly build a reputation for top-level instructors. There were twenty-one in total.

Ned Luberecki [left] is my tutor (banjo) for the week. Twenty banjo players of all ages and nationalities in my class. He's a terrific player and teacher. He's a radio host, has a ton of experience teaching banjo, and is highly entertaining. His approach is to deliver a lot of 'fake it till you make it' tips and strategies. I picked up a lot of simple stuff that I will definitely incorporate into my playing. I've great material for a couple of months - so, job done, I valued it a lot. The classes were snappy, he played us through everything he brought up, and covered topics such as tips on practising, setting goals, how to improve tone, Scruggs, melodic, and single-string styles. Intros, endings, unusual licks, backup, blues style, role of the banjo in a band, care of the instrument, and good tips on stringing the thing. In short, course content was terrific.

Food is grand, with plenty of it. Two choices followed by dessert (those English sure like their custard). Vegetarian option available. It was a help-yourself school-dinner vibe. In short, functional - but not a place to linger with fine wine (in fact no one drinking anything alcoholic at dinner). Meal times are strict and maybe a little early for my liking (5.30 dinners). Breakfasts were steadily becoming harder and harder to attend (mea culpa).

After dinner, there were a number of extra elective tutorials: Stagecraft and making a band work, music theory, improvisation, using swing chords, harmony singing, and one other. Again, these were professional, informative, and a lot of fun. In short, I would have gone to them all if I had the time. Really top notch.

In the evening, there were professional concerts featuring the tutors doing their stuff. The stage setup was top notch. Everything miked up, professional-grade sound system and lighting, with an entrance fee of £6 for one show and £10 for two. In short, these were great. Ron Block, Becky Buller, Mark Schatz, Bill Forster, Billy Cardine, Tyler Grant, John Reischman. Joe Newberry, Val Mindel, Percy Copley etc. Loved them.

A unique feature of the week were the scratch bands, consisting of students put together in a band format. I got to play with Jamie on bass, Holly on fiddle, Bob on mando, Jackie on banjo, and Frank Manigrasso on vocals/ guitar. We were allocated a practice room for three days for one-and-a-half hours. We had to agree a small set of two songs, come up with a name, and try to make it sound OK. On the Thursday, we were allowed to play on stage in a concert with fifteen other bands in front of 250 people. This was a great experience and, like everything else, very professionally managed. We got exposure to fine sound engineers, and were tutored along the journey. After initially tense band negotiations, it was a blast. Great to get through it all.

Evenings after the concerts was a chance to find others to get playing. There were a number of bluegrass jams around and about. Every night, there was the chance to play with other attendees. Maybe three hours every evening. In the bar area, there were some amazing jams going - mostly old-time. All the top players were chipping in. Great, trippy music. On the bluegrass side, the top tutors and players were less accessible, I would have relished the opportunity to play with some of the top guys, but very little chance. There seemed to be a bit of a cliquey thing happening with the tutors. They seemed to have been corralled and segregated by a number of the volunteers who tended to be pretty good and were not letting the unwashed anywhere near their heroes. Even Luke Coffey struggled to play with these guys (however, that didn't stop him, 'cause he's such a talent and a lot pushier than the writer). A bit of a shame. Further, seemed to be a lot of jamming with the top guys in the staff room - civilians not allowed. This is something they should look at.

So overall:

  • Top-notch instructors. Must be the best selection outside of the US.
  • Classes informative, fun, and professional.
  • Great selection of extra electives.
  • Terrific stage shows.
  • Opportunity to play in a concert - great fun, and well run.
  • Accommodation and facilities very impressive.
  • Extremely well run, organised, and professional. John and Moira, the husband-and-wife team who put it all together, manage to stamp some personality on the week too.
  • Food efficient, again well run.
  • A lot of fun, committed and interested/ interesting punters there. Everyone delightful. We met a lot of new friends.
  • It cost me over €1,300 euros with travel, entrance, and spending money. (Don't tell the missus).
  • The bluegrass side maybe a little too cliquey. I'd like to have had the opportunity to jam with some of the top guys. Not really possible. An 'us and them' sort of situation unfolding here. Not necessary at such an event.
  • Some of the areas of main action around the bar are pretty harsh late at night - full-on fluorescent lighting steals a little romance and sense of occasion.
  • Sleep deprivation (OK that one's totally on me).


It's great. Try and make it at least once. Almost everyone I talked to is going back next year. (Almost everyone, Luke!)

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American epic screening at SEAC, 4 May 2017

Thanks to the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre (SEAC) in Naul, Co. Dublin, for this announcement:

As part of this year’s Séamus Ennis commemorations, we invite you to an exclusive preview screening of American epic: the Big Bang.

At the height of the Roaring Twenties, music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology set out across America to capture the breadth of American music and discover the artists that would shape our world. The recordings they made of all the ethnic groups of America democratised the nation and gave a voice to everyone. From the hills of Appalachia and the streets of Memphis, from the sanctified shout of the gospel church, to the coal mines of West Virginia and the cotton fields of Mississippi, music provided relief from tough lives and hard times. New rhythms were born in the echoes of stomping feet, the bite of pickaxes, and the ambling gait of tired mules. For the first time, a woman picking cotton in Mississippi, a coal miner in Virginia, or a tobacco farmer in Tennessee could have their thoughts and feelings heard on records played in living rooms across the country. It was the first time America heard itself.

As told by music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses, American epic travels back in time to the 'Big Bang' of modern popular music.

American epic (110 minutes) is directed by Bernard MacMahon and presented by T-Bone Burnett, Jack White, and Robert Redford, who is also the narrator and has called it 'America’s greatest untold story'.

It will be shown at SEAC on Thursday 4 May. Doors open at 8.00 p.m. and the film starts at 8.30. Admission is free to SEAC Friends and Members; concessions and guests of SEAC Friends/Members pay €4 in advance, €6 at the door; non-members pay €5 in advance, €7 at the door. In all cases, advance booking is essential. Online booking facilities, as well as a video preview and trailer, are at the event website.

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26 April 2017

New release by the Po' Ramblin' Boys

The BIB mentioned last week that The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys from Tennessee will be touring Ireland next year, coming with a strong recommendation from Jan Michielsen, guitarist with 4 Wheel Drive (NL/D/BE).

Bluegrass Today announces that the Boys have just released, as a tribute to the late James King, a single - 'Just as the sun went down' - from their forthcoming gospel CD. A video of them performing the song on stage earlier this year can be seen on Bluegrass Today and also on YouTube. Their arrangement follows that of the James King Band (see here).

Longtime supporters of bluegrass in Ireland may remember the song as performed and recorded by the Bluegrass Patriots from Colorado, headliners of the very first Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival in 1995, with the magnificent lead singing of Glenn Zankey. Among other memorable performances in Ireland, the Patriots played the first gospel set to be featured in an Athy Bluegrass Festival - an eye- and ear-opener, as they provided a programme of over an hour, drawn entirely from the gospel repertoire of bluegrass and older country music, without the slightest hint of monotony.

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25 April 2017

Two Time Polka: April and May gigs

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka sends this news:

Here are details of our next few gigs:

Fri. 28th April: The South County Bar, West Village, Douglas, Cork. Start 10.30 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 021 4891574

Sun. 30th: Fertha Bar, Main St., Caherciveen, Co. Kerry. 4.00-6.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 066 9472023

Sat. 6th May: Sarah Walker Gallery, The Pier, Castletownbere, Co. Cork. Doors open 8.00 p.m. Adm. E15. Tel. 027 70387

Sun. 21st: The Brewery Tap, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Start 6.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 057 9321131

Regards & thanks,
Ray & TTP

Two Time Polka's latest CD, New road, is available at their gigs and from Music Zone, Douglas, Cork, and Custys Music, Ennis, Co. Clare; or on line from both outlets, www.musiczone.ie and www.custysmusic.com. You can also contact Ray directly.

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Madison Violet (CAN) in Ireland, 4-7 May 2017

Geraint and Deb Jones of G Promo PR announce that Canadian folk-pop duo Madison Violet (right) will tour in these islands next month in support of their new album The Knight sessions, due for release on 5 May by Big Lake Music.

Madison Violet - Brenley MacEachern (vocals, electric, tenor and acoustic guitars, Omnichord, harmonica) and Lisa MacIsaac (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, violin, mandolin) - have been a duo since 1999. The current tour is said to involve 'No backing band. No big light show. No rock star after-show dance parties.'

All right, but should news about them be on the BIB? Well, among their many favourable reviews, the blend of their harmonies has been described as combining 'a kind of bluegrass-old-time sensibility with rock 'n' roll attitude that packs power as well as disarming honesty' (The Herald), and some of their material would lend itself well to bluegrass treatment. Performances can be heard on YouTube and SoundCloud. Their shows in Ireland are:

Thurs. 4th: Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, Co. Tyrone
Fri. 5th: Colfers Pub, Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford
Sat. 6th: Bronte Music Club, Rathfriland, Co. Down
Sun. 7th: Black Box, Belfast

For further information, interview, session or guest list requests, contact Geraint and Deb Jones, G Promo PR. Contact: 'phone +44 (0) 1584 873211; e-mail.

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24 April 2017

Tammy Sullivan, 2 Oct. 1964-20 Apr. 2017

On 3 June 2014 the BIB carried the news of the death on 31 May of Jerry Sullivan of Alabama and of the renowned bluegrass gospel group, the Sullivan Family. Jerry is shown above with his daughter Tammy; they performed and recorded as a duo, and were twice (2003, 2008) on the programme of the annual Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park, Co. Tyrone. Richard Hurst, head of the Festival organising team, wrote a tribute to Jerry on the occasion of his death.

Today Bluegrass Today carries the sad news that Tammy Sullivan died last Thursday (20 April) of cancer, at the age of 52. The funeral was yesterday. Richard Thompson, who published an account of Jerry's life and career in music on Bluegrass Today in 2014, has written a piece on Tammy today, including a video in which she sings the lead on 'Working on a building'.

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Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters in Ireland, c.20 June 2017

(Standing, l-r) Roger Daschle, Gary Nieves, Sandra Stram, Bob Pruitt; (seated) Billy Lee Corwin

Thanks to Billy Lee Corwin of Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters - a 'Cajun/ Zydeco/ Western Swing/ New Orleans Mardi Gras' band from Texas and Louisiana, currently based in San Diego - for contacting us with the news that the Swamp Critters will be touring the UK this summer. There's a brief window of opportunity (19-22 June) in which they would love to visit Ireland AND if possible perform before getting back to play in Camden, London, on 24 June.

The Swamp Critters comprise Billy Lee Corwin (accordion, vocals), Bob Pruitt (guitar, vocals), Roger Daschle (bass, vocals), Sandra Stram (fiddle, vocals), and Gary Nieves (percussion, vocals). The UK tour comes out of their performances at the Glastonbury and Americana International festivals in England two years ago. The photo above was on the cover of the Dec. 2015 San Diego Troubadour magazine, with Jon Kanis's major article on the band, the last paragraph of which begins:

The Swamp Critters are a sterling example of what happens when you freely share your passion with the world at large.

Billy Lee says: 'Our forte is music to DANCE to. If there might be a venue with a dance floor that’s ideal for us. [...] We like harmonies and our main strengths are feeling out an audience and gravitating to what seems to working on a particular night or venue. And we put on a “show”... it’s more than just playing our instruments!'

Billy Lee is a member of the organising board of San Diego's Gator by the Bay festival; this year's event will be on 11-14 May. He and Sandra Stram (fiddle) also give dance lessons and/or demos. Venue owners and event organisers can contact him through the band's website or by e-mail.

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23 April 2017

Darol Anger & Republic of Strings (USA) in Ireland, 3-13 May 2017

Thanks to Cathal Cusack for the news that fiddle maestro Darol Anger & Republic of Strings will be touring Ireland early next month, including a concert set and workshops at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair. The ensemble comprises Darol Anger (5-string fiddle), Tristan Clarridge (cello, fiddle), Emy Phelps (guitar, voice), and John Mailander (octave mandolin, fiddle). Bio details on all members are here. The schedule is:

Wed. 3rd: Sugar Club, Dublin 2, 8.00 p.m., €20/ €15/ €10 (students) (online booking fees apply); 01 6787188
Thurs. 4th: Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, 7.30 p.m., €14/ €12; 0402 38529
Fri. 5th: National Opera House (Jerome Hynes Theatre), Wexford town, 8.00 p.m., €16/€14; 053 9122144
Sat. 6th: Fiddle Fair Marquee, Baltimore, Co. Cork, 9.00 p.m., €35/ €30/ €25; 086 3753380
Tues. 9th: Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow, 8.00 p.m., €16/ €14; 01 2724030
Wed. 10th: glór, Ennis, Co. Clare, 8.00 p.m., €18/ €16; 065 6843103
Thurs. 11th: Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, 8.00 p.m., €17/ €14; 094 9023733
Fri. 12th: McGrory's Hotel (The Back Room), Culdaff, Co. Donegal, 9.00 p.m., €10; 074 9379104
Sat. 13th: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, 8.00 p.m., €15/ €12; 045 448327

Most of these concerts are under the auspices of Music Network, and full details (including online booking links) are on the Music Network website.

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22 April 2017

April Verch Band: new albums, new video, new tour date

The April Verch Band (CAN), who will be in Ireland next month as part of a three-week tour of Europe, send reminders of recent and coming record releases: the April Verch anthology (see the BIB for 25 Nov. 2016), which came out in February, and Going home, April's collaboration with Joe Newberry (see the BIB for 31 March 2017), which will be released on 12 May.

The April Verch Band have also released a video of their live performance of Mark Schatz's new old-time tune 'Jump cricket, jump'. This can be seen on their website, on YouTube, and on the website of Moving on Music, which is presenting the Northern Ireland part of their tour.

Please note that one of the dates originally listed in the schedule has been changed: the show on Thursday 11 May will be at the Portico, Portaferry, Co. Down, not in Bangor Castle as formerly announced. Finally, the band request:

If you use Spotify, would you take a quick moment to 'follow' April in your user profile, and add one of her tracks or albums to your music library? In the ever-growing streaming industry, this is an extremely important action you can take to help an independent artist like April. It's easy and quick for you and means so much... Thanks!

You can 'follow' by way of this link.

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White oak Vegas now available from Deering

Two of the new white oak banjos introduced by the Deering company and mentioned on the BIB a month ago can now be seen on the Deering website. Both are in the company's Vega series, with a gryphon inlay on the peghead in the tradition of Incilio Consalvi. The 12" pot model is shown on the left, at $2,199.00; the 11" model is $100 less. Prices include hard-shell case; both instruments weigh under 6 lb.

A video review of the 12" by Rik Barron is on the website and YouTube; he lays particular stress on the tone quality and responsiveness. The words of Dwight Diller come again to mind: 'I have had white oak and it is outstanding for a banjo.'

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21 April 2017

Tom Mindte interviewed

The Patuxent Partners: (l-r) Tom Mindte, Bryan Deere,
Vicki McMullen, John Brunschwyler

Everyone who has enjoyed the tours by Tom Mindte and his Patuxent Partners Bluegrass Band (last here in 2015) should read the major interview with him by Katy Daley on Bluegrass Today. Indeed, even those who haven't been lucky enough to hear Tom and the band will learn a lot from it about bluegrass past, present, and future, including Tom's own life in music, playing with and learning from Buzz Busby and Frank Wakefield, the Baltimore and DC bluegrass scenes, becoming a recording engineer, running a record company, playing jazz, coming to Ireland, the younger generation, and much more.

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More familiar faces in 'Wayfaring Stranger'

Phil Cunningham at the Ulster American Folk Park

The third and final hour-long episode of 'Wayfaring Stranger with Phil Cunningham' was broadcast on BBC2 Northern Ireland at 7.00 p.m. last night (20 Apr.), and as the early part of it was shot at last September's bluegrass festival in the Ulster American Folk Park, more familiar faces (in addition to those shown last week) could be seen. Those on stage included the Band of Ruhks, the Corn Potato String Band, and Betse & Clarke.

Later, the Hot Club of Cowtown were shown in full swing; and the return of American music to Ulster was illustrated by the Thompson Brothers of Co. Down, talking about the music and playing 'Shall we gather at the river' on mandolin and guitar in the People's Hall in Portavogie (the Hall was shown two years ago on their blog).

It was a stimulating series, bringing in more about the music than we can expect to see in three hours' TV for a long time to come. Perhaps someone will make a corresponding film about - say - the German contribution to Appalachian culture?

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20 April 2017

The Henry Girls at Naul, 22 Apr. 2017

Further on the subject of the Henry Girls (see the BIB post below): the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, announces that they will be playing at the Centre this coming Saturday (22 April). As usual at the Centre, doors open at 8.00 p.m. and the show starts at 8.30. Admission is €16 / €13 (in advance) and €18 / €15 (on the door). The event web page includes a performance video and online booking link.

The Centre's annual record fair begins at 11.00 a.m. the same day; admission is free.

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News from Germany

Rainer Zellner and his Music Contact agency in Germany send the news that plans for the 9th Bluegrass Jamboree! 'touring bluegrass festival' package are already well advanced, with seventeen shows in Germany and Austria so far confirmed between 21 November and 16 December 2017 inclusive.

Full details of the schedule are on the Music Contact website. This year's powerful lineup comprises the Lonely Heartstring Band (USA), Lula Wiles (USA), and the Lonesome Ace Stringband (CAN).

Music Contact's wide-ranging programme for the rest of the year includes a further tour by the Henry Girls of Donegal, who were in Germany last month and will return there in October.

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19 April 2017

Woody Pines tour planned for May 2018

Nashville-based roots band Woody Pines (right), specialising in 'down home swing', are playing today the first of five shows in Scotland, having just played thirteen in England.

Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency reports that this has been the band's most successful UK tour, with over half the shows sold out. Consequently, a tour next year for the period 4-31 May 2018 is being planned. Event organisers and venue owners who would like to be in on this can contact Loudon via the Brookfield Knights website.

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18 April 2017

To the Bitter Sunny South take me home

Many fans of bluegrass and old-time music have a wider interest in the culture and society of the Southern States; so thanks to Maria Ivey of the Press House in Nashville, TN, for drawing our attention to the online magazine The Bitter Southerner. It is dedicated to combatting both the negative preconceptions that persist outside the South and the negative realities that persist within it - and making a lot of good things known at the same time.

The BS's list of best Southern records of 2016 unfortunately includes no bluegrass, but there's an article by Chuck Reece on the making of the landmark Will the circle be unbroken album in 1971. Read the Bitter Southerner's manifesto as a starter.


17 April 2017

The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys for Ireland in 2018

Thanks to our good friend Jan Michielsen - guitarist with 4 Wheel Drive (NL/D/BE) and mandolinist with Blue Maxx (BE) - for this news:

Happy Easter to y’all! Just a short note to tell you guys that The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys [above] are scheduled to play a two-week tour in May 2018, and that John Nyhan will do the bookings.

They will not play on the Continent then, only Ireland and maybe UK. I plan on coming over to Ireland for a couple of their gigs.

For much more on The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys (from East Tennessee), see the BIB for 4 Feb. They have already made two European tours, are working on their second CD, and have impeccable credentials in hard-core bluegrass - including Jan's strong recommendation.

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The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, 27 Apr. 2017

Gerry Fitzpatrick, organiser of the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', announces the Session for this month:

Hey Y'all!

We're back on Thursday 27 April with special guests Ross Kelly (contemporary), Pat Killalea plays The Shadows, and the fabulous Dublin City Rounders (vintage Americana)! Hope you can make it down.

The Sessions are held on the last Thursday of every month at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dundrum, south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station, in the city direction). Shows run from 9.30 to 11.30 p.m. and admission is FREE. If you or someone you know would like to perform at the Cabin Sessions, let Gerry know by e-mail. The Sessions are particularly interested in featuring local musicians and singers.

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16 April 2017

Bluegrass banjo styles since 1945 explained in five minutes

An Easter egg for BIB readers, especially banjo-players:

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for drawing attention to this video made for the Reverb.com channel by Noam Pikelny, who demonstrates and explains the styles of Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith, and Don Reno, and how players today combine elements of all these - a handy introduction in just five minutes.

The video can also be seen on the Bluegrass Today feature, which leads with a twenty-minute solo concert-cum-interview with Noam Pikelny on video for Paste magazine, playing pieces from his new album Universal favourite ('a gem, required in every library of serious banjo music' - Bluegrass Today) and talking about his own banjo and its history.

A bonus for banjo players and bluegrass historians: looking up the first video on YouTube led to discovering this fifty-minute audio home recording of Bill Keith and Bobby Thompson at their first meeting in 1964, a historic occasion described in an appendix to Tony Trischka's book Melodic banjo.

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14 April 2017

Familiar faces among wayfaring strangers

The second hour-long episode of 'Wayfaring Stranger with Phil Cunningham' was shown last night (Thurs. 13 Apr.) on BBC2 Northern Ireland. BIB readers who caught it will have found a lot to enjoy: the part dealing with Fiddlin' John Carson and his 'Little old log cabin in the lane' included footage shot at one of the log cabins in the Ulster American Folk Park at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, with the song being played in fine style by celebrated figures from the Irish bluegrass community.

The complete episode, as well as six clips from the first two episodes, is available (to UK viewers) on BBC iPlayer. The next and final episode should be on the screen at 7.00 p.m. next Thursday (20 Apr.).

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Gerry Barry: funeral arrangements

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the following details of arrangements for the funeral of Gerry Barry, taken from Tony's Facebook.

Reposing at his home, Allendale Lawn, Baltinglass, on Monday 17 April from 2.00 p.m. with prayers at 8.00 p.m. Removal on Tuesday for 11.00 a.m. requiem mass in St Joseph's church, Baltinglass, followed by burial in Baltinglass cemetery. Family flowers only. Donations, if desired, to the Irish Cancer Society, donation box in church. House private on Tuesday morning.


13 April 2017

Peter Rowan and Red Wine to tour Europe, spring 2018

Red Wine with Peter Rowan at the 4th Red Wine Bluegrass
Party, 2012 (photo: Stefano Goldberg

Thanks to Martino Coppo, lead singer and mandolinist of Red Wine (I), who writes:

Dear friends and music lovers,

just a quick note to let you know that Red Wine & Peter Rowan are joining forces again and look forward to touring Europe together in spring 2018 (May-June).

If you are interested in booking any gig, or if you know someone who is, please let me know as soon as possible so that we can plan ahead and save the dates.

Thanks a lot and Happy Easter to y'all!

Martino also sends a link to a YouTube video of Red Wine backing Rowan on 'Midnite Moonlite' in 2012.

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12 April 2017

Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius in Ireland, early May 2017

More in connection with some of the information given in the new EBMA newsletter: the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, announces that coming events at the Centre include a concert by Tim O'Brien & Jan Fabricius on Saturday 13 May. Doors open at 8.00 p.m. and the show starts at 8.30; tickets are €20 / €16 (booked in advance) and €22 / €18 (on the door). The event web page includes a performance video and online booking link.

Other dates on their Ireland schedule include the Baltimore Fiddle Fair on Sunday 7 May and the Hawk's Well Theatre in Sligo town on Friday 12 May.

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First issue of the new EBMA newsletter


The first issue of the new European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) monthly newsletter is now out. The organising team write:

EBMA aims to provide you with regular updates on what is happening in the European bluegrass scene: upcoming concerts, festivals, and tours as well as news, reviews, articles, and more items of interest.

We want to build the Newsletter to serve you, so we will add to its contents in the coming issues with your input.
Is there something you would like to say?
Do you have an instrument for sale or wanted, or a musician or band wanted?
Maybe you would like to contribute an article?

News of Irish interest that has not previously appeared on the BIB includes dates for Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius at Sligo and Naul in early May; and three dates by Sweden's Original Five in Connacht before and after the Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival.

A major feature by Richard Thompson on new developments in the EBMA (including the newsletter) appeared on Bluegrass Today on Monday last, incorporating input from Eugene O'Brien, EBMA chairperson.

You can sign up to receive the EBMA newsletter via the EBMA website. For anything concerned with the newsletter, contact the EBMA by e-mail.

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11 April 2017

Gerry Barry

The BIB editor writes:

I'm forwarding, with great regret, this news from Tony O'Brien on Facebook:

Just heard this evening of the sad passing of Gerry Barry who died suddenly yesterday. A great friend and supporter of Athy Bluegrass for the last 26 years. Deepest sympathy to his wife Helen and all extended family & friends.

Gerry's passing will be regretted by everyone who knew him. He was a dedicated mandolin player and a member of Mandolin Cafe, and a moving tribute to him has been posted on the Cafe's forum by his friend John Reinhardt.


10 April 2017

Donna Stoneman interviewed

The Stoneman Family in the 1960s: Roni and Donna stand each side of their father, Ernest V. 'Pop' Stoneman

Stoneman women wear well. Audiences here are already familiar with the vitality of Roni Stoneman, First Lady of the 5-string Banjo; now an interview with her elder sister Donna, conducted on video by Tara Linhardt, can be seen on Bluegrass Today. Donna's vivacious personality and masterful mandolin playing were a focal point of the family band, and are on display here as well, intercut with some fine photos from her early career and further back in the family's history.

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09 April 2017

Band news

For the last two weeks the Blue Light Smugglers have welcomed US session musician Travis Lyon, sitting in on their regular Monday session at the Blue Light pub, high in the Dublin mountains.
Congratulations to Lily Sheehan (left) of the Breadwinners on becoming the proud owner of a D-28.
On Thursday 25 May Cup O' Joe will be performing at the 20th EWOB Festival at Voorthuizen, the Netherlands. (Mandolin enthusiasts should note that on Saturday 27 the duo of Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg will be headlining the evening concert.) Later this summer Cup O' Joe will be playing shows in England: see their online tour schedule.
Anyone wanting to take part in the Dublin Bluegrass Collective's weekly bluegrass jam in central Dublin should brush up the Richard Underwood tune 'Newton Grove', recently added to the jam repertoire by popular demand.
Another busy month for Rackhouse Pilfer: this weekend they were playing in Spells Bar, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, and McLoughlin's, Mulranny, Co. Sligo; in the rest of the month they'll be playing the following dates, as shown on the poster image:

Sat. 15th: The Furniture Shop, Grange, Co. Sligo
Sun. 16th: 5th on Teeling, Sligo town
Mon. 17th: McGarrigle's, Sligo town
Fri. 21st: Gilroy's, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo
Sat. 22nd: The Strand, Strandhill, Co. Sligo
Sun. 23rd: Voodoo, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Fri. 28th: Kyteler's Inn, Kilkenny city
Sat. 29th: Percy Whelan's, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
Sun. 30th: The Limelight, Glenties, Co. Donegal

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