12 December 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. The BIB does not do reviews.

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


North Carolina pickers in Dublin this weekend

A reminder that fiddler Julie Chiles (right) and guitar/ mandolin player Zeb Gambill from Wilkesboro, NC (home of MerleFest), are visiting Dublin this coming weekend, arriving on 15 December, staying in an AirB&B, and leaving on 19 December.

As announced on the BIB on 1 Dec., they are hoping to meet and play with pickers on the Dublin scene. For nearly ten years, Julie has been a professional musician and music teacher in the North Carolina mountains. She and Zeb often perform in a string band as The Grit Lickers. Julie can be contacted by e-mail.


11 December 2017

The Roots Revival again on Bluegrass Today

As mentioned on the BIB on 9 Nov.Bluegrass Today is alert to exciting new developments on the scene here in Ireland, and today the focus is again on the Roots Revival, comprising the three members of Cup O' Joe, plus fiddler Niall Murphy and Eamonn Rooney on bodhran. BT's John Lawless calls them 'surely one of the most interesting new groups to emerge this year'.

At the weekend the Roots Revival released a new, handsomely made video: their arrangement of the Gillian Welch song 'Orphan girl', with Tabitha Agnew singing lead. It can be seen on Bluegrass Today as well as on YouTube.

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La Fuente Old Time Music Week, 19-26 May 2018

Kate Lissauer sends an announcement of the coming spring's Old Time Music Week (19-26 May 2018) in La Fuente, Andalusia, in southern Spain. Instrumental classes for fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and ukulele - as well as group and individual singing classes - will be taught by a faculty headed by Dave Bing (of the Bing Brothers of West Virginia), with Alan Green, Johnny Whelan, Lucy Ray, Kate Lissauer, and other tutors. More details are here.

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More on the Gathering!

The organisers of the First Irish Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering (also on Facebook), taking place in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, on 16-18 Feb, 2018, have sent to the FOAOTMAD news blog the poster image above and this explanation:

The idea is to bring together the various OT musicians and enthusiasts scattered across Ireland – just as happens at Gainsborough and Clifftop. We also expect some musicians from the US and UK, including the celebrated Dan Levenson. (Note that we have chosen the weekend after Gainsborough in case any overseas visitors fancy a trip to one of the most scenic areas of Ireland, near the iconic Cliffs of Moher.)

It takes place at a great venue – winning awards for its food and craft ales – with excellent low-price accommodation nearby, good transport links, and of course wonderful people getting together for tunes, song and dance. All for less than the price of 2 Dublin pints! Come and join us at this historic occasion.

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10 December 2017

'Old time music' - a broad church and a big tent

The BIB editor writes:

An important point needs to be made about the First Annual Irish Old Time Appal-achian Music Gathering (to be held in Lisdoon-varna, Co. Clare, on 16-18 Feb. 2018) - a point that was omitted in the BIB feature of 4 December. The word 'Appalachian' should not be taken in any narrow or excluding sense. The organisers' first contact with the BIB explicitly stated:

We want to be inclusive in how we go about this event and how it develops.

This is just what the two main magazines of the old-time music community, Old Time Music (RIP) and The Old Time Herald (still with us), have always done, because 'old-time music' is a much more inclusive, wide-ranging, and (yes) vague label than 'bluegrass'. Both magazines are as serious about traditional Appalachian music as anyone could wish; but from the outset OTM went well beyond that to take in the whole range of commercially recorded 'hillbilly' music, western swing, cajun, country blues, and early bluegrass. OTH, with a similarly broad view, gives a lot of attention to dance and brings into the big tent the old-time music of other immigrant communities and other regions.

So if your fiddle tunes come from Texas, the Mid-West, or New England rather than Appalachia, or your banjo picking is up- rather than down-, don't hang back; the Gathering is meant to bring people together, not to separate them.

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07 December 2017

The Greg Blake Bluegrass Band (USA): 'Songs of heart & home' Irish tour, 20 Jan.-4 Feb. 2018

Thanks to John Nyhan for this tour schedule for the star-studded Greg Blake Bluegrass Band (Greg Blake, guitar, lead vocals; John Reischman, mandolin; Mark Schatz, bass; Sally Van Meter, dobro; Blaine Sprouse, fiddle; Keith Reed, banjo) six weeks from now. More details of the 'Celebration' weekend at Ballydehob will be coming soon.

January 2018:
19th Shannonside Winter Music Festival (18-22 Jan.), Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare; tel. 086 870 7739
Sat. 20th: Bunratty Folk Park: Castle (Main Guard), 12.00 noon; Barn, 4.00 p.m.

Sun. 21st: Ó Gliasáin's Concert Room (new venue), Sixmilebridge, 3.00 p.m.

Mon. 22nd: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m.
Tues. 23rd: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m.; tel. 087 792 1771

Thurs. 25th: Rossmore Theatre, Rossmore, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 086 448 1086

Fri. 26th: Glen Theatre, Banteer, Co. Cork, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 029 56239

Sat. 27th: St Matthias Church, Church Rd, Ballydehob, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.: part of a celebration, 'Heart & Home: a celebration of Old Times, Good Times & Bluegrass', 26-28 Jan. Also performing: Propane Brothers, Hubert Murray Bluegrass Band. Tel. 086 837 0518; e-mail

Sun. 28th: Old Schoolhouse, Clashmore, Co. Waterford, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 087 414 8651

Tues. 30th: Clonmel Folk Club, Town Hall, Parnell St., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 085 850 2289

Wed. 31st: St Johns Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 068 22566

February 2018:
Thurs. 1st: Mannion's Pub, Balla, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.; tel. 087 229 6018

Fri. 2nd: Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 0044 7736 837779

Sat. 3rd: Nesbitt Arms, Ardara, Co. Donegal, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 087 690 0714

Sun. 4th: Finn's Ale House, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 087 977 8347

For further enquiries on any of the above, tel. 087 792 1771 or e-mail.

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Rhythm guitar instruction from Stephen Mougin

The important role of rhythm instruments in playing bluegrass is often understated, so it's good news that Stephen 'Mojo' Mougin, 'one of the most respected jack-of-all-trades in acoustic music', has produced a new instruction video: 'Bluegrass rhythm evolution: rhythm approaches and techniques for bluegrass guitar'.

Chris Jones (who will be on tour in Ireland with his band in Feb.-Mar. 2018) produced a very helpful video on rhythm guitar some years ago, but this seems to be no longer available. Mougin's new guide also shows how bluegrass rhythm styles have been developed from the 1940s by leading musicians, and how a particular rhythm pattern will fit a particular song. An introductory video can be seen on YouTube, on the news section of Stephen Mougin's website, and on Bluegrass Today, where more details are given.

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06 December 2017

Honeycutters to headline Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival 2018

Thanks to Mick Daly, head of the organising team at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, who sends the season's greetings to the BIB and its readers, and announces that the 24th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival will be held on 23-24-25-26 August 2018, with Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters (USA; photo above) as the headline act.

The band has five albums out, the latest two of which were produced by Tim Surrett of the multi-award-winning North Carolina bluegrass band Balsam Range. As an introduction to the Honeycutters and their music, see Frank Gutch jr, 'An open letter to Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters' in No Depression, 7 July 2017, which includes nine audio tracks.

Less welcome news from Mick: 'We have lost Guinness as our main sponsor and are on the search for another company to brand the festival. If somebody can help, it would be appreciated.'

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Whelan's Ones to Watch festival, 18-21 Jan. 2018

Whelan's of Wexford At., Dublin 2, are currently celebrating a quarter-century of presenting live music in central Dublin, and announce that their Ones To Watch festival will be held from Thursday 18 to Sunday 21 January 2018, with over fifty acts appearing on three stages.

The festival, now in its eighth year, aims at finding the best emerging talent in the country, together with showcasing artists that have taken the next step and are planning releases in 2018. The whole spectrum of music is embraced; bands and solo performers that would like to take part can apply through the website. Whelan's say: 'If you’ve got an address in the thirty-two counties then why not apply, all you need is a thirty-minute set and the ambition to take it to the next level.' There is no closing date on applications.

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05 December 2017

Red Hat Acoustic Music Club at Naas, Fri. 8 Dec. 2017: CANCELLED

Thanks to Paul and Anne McEvoy, organisers of the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club, for the news that the Club's next meeting will be held this coming Friday (8 December).

Update 8 Dec.: Paul and Anne have since announced that the meeting has been cancelled because of weather conditions.

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

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News from Brookfield Knights

The Brookfield Knights agency in Scotland announce that a tour in these islands for one of their most popular bands, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters (based in Asheville, NC), is being planned for late August/ September 2018, with the first dates in Ireland (23-30 August). Their successful UK tour earlier this year had good reviews from UK roots and country media. YouTube samples ('Me oh my' and 'All you ever') are supplied, and the band's main asset is clearly Platt's lead singing and songwriting - on some of which a bluegrass treatment might work. To book them during 23-30 August, contact the agency.

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04 December 2017

Belfast Bluegrass celebrates seven years of sessions

Richard Leeman writes on the Belfast Bluegrass Facebook:

Hey folks, our next session is this Tuesday 5th December upstairs in the Errigle Inn at 9 p.m. It’s our seventh birthday as well - our first session was way back in December 2010. So that’s seven years of arguing and giving off at each other, interspersed with occasional outbreaks of bluegrass, where does the time go? And of course it’s our last get together before Christmas. Here’s a bit of Jimmy Martin to get you in the festive mood...

[Richard's post includes from YouTube a recording of Jimmy Martin's 'Daddy will Santa Claus ever have to die']

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First Annual Irish Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering, 16-18 Feb. 2018

Many people here enjoy American old-time music (witness the kind of reception that Uncle Earl, the Foghorn Stringband, and Molsky's Mountain Drifters get), and there are bands, solo performers, and circles of devotees throughout the island. Up to now, though, there has been no event dedicated to old-time music, and aimed at drawing together the various communities in Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Westport, Drogheda, etc.

So it is great news that Andrew Lambert in Clare and Bob Denton (award-winning US-based old-time musician, with long experience of Irish trad) are working to create the First Annual Irish Old Time Appalachian Music Gathering, scheduled for the weekend Friday 16-Sunday 18 February 2018, and centred on the Roadside Tavern and the adjoining Burren Storehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. This makes it ideal for old-time fans who can't get to England for FOAOTMAD's Gainsborough festival, and a very welcome addition to the calendar.

Andrew reports: 'It’s intended as a "Gathering", not a festival, as the website explains [...] The venue is great and we have really good low-cost accommodation nearby. The cost is minimal.' Registration for the weekend costs just €15 per person - or €10, if you register by 15 January 2018. There will be workshops for fiddle, banjo, and dancing (fee TBA), and a barn-dance with caller on Saturday evening. Non-participants may attend the barn-dance and listen to jam sessions for €10 on Saturday night from 8.00 p.m.

Dan Levenson
Workshops will be given by Dan Levenson (USA), performing and recording artist, teacher, and author of instructional books and recordings. Dan is coming over specially for the Gathering, so it will be a great help to the organisers if gigs and/or house concerts can be arranged for him over here as well. If you can offer or suggest a booking or house concert for Dan, contact Andrew by e-mail.

The photo at top (which is also the cover photo of the Irish Old Time Facebook) shows (l-r) 'Mr Keith', Gid Tanner, A.A. Gray, and Henry West on Lookout Mountain, TN.

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01 December 2017

North Carolina musicians in Dublin, 15-19 Dec. 2017

Thanks to fiddler Julie Chiles (left) from Wilkesboro, North Carolina (home of MerleFest), for the news that she and her boyfriend, both players of old-time and bluegrass music, are visiting Dublin on 15 December and leaving on 19 December. Julie adds:

We are really hoping to meet and play with some of the local musicians in Dublin, but I also wanted to ask if you might know someone in the community who would be willing to put us up during our time there. If not, no worries, but I wanted to put out some feelers in case there is someone who might have some extra room for us.

If you have some extra room, please let the BIB editor know, or e-mail Julie direct.

For nearly ten years, Julie has made her living as a professional musician in the North Carolina mountains, teaching fiddle/violin, banjo, and guitar for after-school music programmes and private lessons, and regularly performing at weddings, music venues, restaurants, private parties, square dances, and festivals. She and Wilkesboro native Zeb Gambill often perform in a string band as The Grit Lickers. Zeb has won or placed in many guitar and mandolin contests across the south-eastern USA.

BIB editor's note: This post was first published with the date in the title wrongly shown as 2018; it should of course be 2017.

County Sales due to close, 17 Jan. 2018 (update)

Richard Thompson sends the staggering news that County Sales of Floyd, VA, distributors of 'the world's largest selection of bluegrass & old-time music' in CD, DVD, and book form, is due to close on 17 January 2018, according to its latest newsletter. At present the reasons for the decision are unknown to the BIB.

David Freeman (right) founded the County Records label in 1963, which ever since has played a unique role in making recorded old-time and bluegrass available worldwide. In 1965 he founded County Sales as a mail-order outlet for County Records. The late Rodney McElrea of Omagh, Co. Tyrone - Ireland's premier collector of books, recordings, documents, and memorabilia of country music - was active in encouraging this step. As David Freeman's Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame biography says, 'His first customers were in the British Isles, readers of the magazine Country News and Views' - of which Rodney was the co-editor. In recent years the business of County Records and Rebel Records has been conducted by Mark Freeman, David's son.

Update 2 Dec.: For more details, see John Lawless's 'County Sales going out of business' on Bluegrass Today. Quote (from near the end): 'there is no question that Dave Freeman deserves a great deal of the credit for keeping the music alive through some difficult early days.'

Update 5 Dec.: Thanks to Alec Somerville for these memories of County Sales:

What a place! I was there several times while playing festivals and 'conventions' in the Mountains... they had super stuff, last time I got a load of Mountain fiddler 'Snake' Chapman on cassette for Donegal master Martin McGinley, plus lots of Buddy Thomas and Ralph Blizard CDs. And even cassette recordings of champion Texas fiddler Bob Walters done in his living room. Martin, of course, immediately started to play it, including Owen 'Snake' Chapman's wild Kentucky crooked fiddlin'.

County Records has provided many people with recordings which were almost impossible to get anywhere else; of little-known musicians who helped to establish what we now call 'Old Time'... cassettes recorded in the parlour, from early US radio, and elsewhere. It is sad to see them go. I do believe that they coined the phrase 'Old Time Music - Better than it Sounds!' Which you would see on baseball caps and bumper stickers in the mountains...

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Sore Fingers news for next Easter's courses

Thanks to John Wirtz of the Sore Fingers Summer Schools (SFSS) in England, who draws attention to their latest news bulletin on the tutors for next Easter's instruction courses in bluegrass and old-time music (2-7 Apr. 2018). Here is the present list of tutors, as shown in the bulletin:


John reports that Matt Flinner's bluegrass mandolin course, Courtney Hartmann's bluegrass guitar course, and Chris Coole's old-time banjo course are almost fully booked, but he has engaged Allison de Groot (in Ireland recently with Molsky's Mountain Drifters) and is on the lookout for additional mandolin and guitar tutors. More details are in the bulletin, and booking forms are here.

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30 November 2017

Orrin Star and Thornton Spencer

The BIB learns with regret of the deaths of two noted American musicians, Orrin Star (62) and Thornton Lee Spencer (82). Orrin Star, from New Jersey, was a multi-instrumentalist who won the 1976 National Flatpicking Championship at Winfield, KS, and was also a talented music teacher and entertainer. BIB readers with long memories may recall his touring Ireland over ten years ago.

Thornton Spencer, from Grayson County, Virginia, was best known as an old-time fiddler, mentored by the celebrated fiddler and fiddle-maker Albert Hash, founder of the Whitetop Mountain Band, which Thornton and his wife Emily kept going after Albert Hash died in 1983. Among other tours abroad, the Whitetop Mountain Band toured Ireland in the autumn of 2014; though Thornton did not come over on that occasion, their shows were great fun and highly memorable. More details and performance videos are on Bluegrass Today, in John Lawless's feature on Orrin Star, and Richard Thompson's on Thornton Spencer.

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29 November 2017

The Greg Blake Band in Ireland, 20 Jan.-4 Feb. 2018

Two days ago the Shannonside Winter Music Festival announced that its lineup for 18-22 Jan. 2018 would include 'the return of Greg Blake who has formed a special band from an elite collection of top-notch American bluegrass artistes'.

And that was, if anything, an understatement. Thanks to the inexhaustible John Nyhan for the news that Greg Blake is coming to Ireland on his 'Songs of heart & home' tour, named after the title of his solo album. Greg himself is already known here from previous tours as the powerful lead singer and guitarist of the dynamic band Jeff Scroggins & Colorado.

Of the five musicians coming with him this time, those who played on Songs of heart & home are John Reischman (mandolin), Mark Schatz (bass), Blaine Sprouse (fiddle), and Sally Van Meter (dobro). All of them are among the most admired, respected, and experienced performing and recording artists in bluegrass today, and much in demand both on their own account and as guest musicians on other artists' recordings.

Keith Reed (banjo) - from the traditional Colorado band Open Road, and the only player coming who was not on the album - has been added both for his great Scruggs-style playing and for his excellent singing. John sums up:

What can be said about that lineup? Probably the best (or certainly equal to the best) bluegrass musicians that ever toured Ireland. What a treat for us all to have such a band coming. Of course, Greg Blake is one of the finest singers I have ever heard in any genre.

John will be sending a full schedule for the Greg Blake Bluegrass Band tour in a few days. It will begin on 20 January 2018 at the Shannonside Winter Music Festival and continue to Sunday 4 February. No one should miss any opportunity of seeing and hearing the band during that time.

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The Cabin Session, Dundrum, 30 Nov. 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 tomorrow night with special guests Ciaran Moran, Just Dandy, and the fabulous Remedy Club whose new album has been getting rave reviews on national radio!

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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28 November 2017

'Roots Freeway' back on the air from Sat. 2 Dec.

The RTÉ Guide for the week 2-8 December 2018 announces that a new series of Niall Toner's 'Roots Freeway' show will begin on RTÉ Radio 1 this coming Saturday, 2 December, taking over the 11.00-12.00 p.m. slot from  Sandy Harsch's 'Country Time'.


27 November 2017

19th Shannonside Winter Music Festival, 18-22 Jan. 2018

Congratulations to Brendan Walsh and his team for once again presenting their triumphant mix of many musical genres in the 19th Shannonside Winter Music Festival, as shown in their press release:

Sure as broken resolutions, the Shannonside Winter Music Festival is back this January in Sixmilebridge and Bunratty, Co. Clare. From 18th to 22nd, a hectic schedule of eighty events across fifteen locations brings an eclectic mix of music styles to brighten the gloomiest winter.

Greg Blake
The 2018 trad. highlight is the Saturday concert with fiddle legend Frankie Gavin and concertina master Noel Hill, joined by pianist Brian McGrath, while bluegrass fans look forward to the return of Greg Blake* who has formed a special band from an elite collection of top-notch American bluegrass artistes.

Jimmy Bozeman & the Lazy Pigs bring honky-tonk / country-bluegrass sounds from the Czech Republic, and from France Sarah Savoy is back playing wild Cajun tunes.

On the home front, Luka Bloom makes his first festival appearance. From Mayo, Flat Out bring trad and original folk while Coda bring sweet mellow harmonies. The Polyphonics Barbershop Chorus join in from Cork, and DD and the Delta Blues band will rock down from Donegal. The Banner is represented by the swingin jazzy ska sound of Skazz. Cork poetry group O’Bheal, headed by Paul Casey, will give you a break from all the music on Saturday at 5.00 p.m. Swiss country band Maple Tree Circus are back, as are the Athenry Youth Orchestra who partner with an exciting young band from Dublin, ReGroovanation. Classic bluegrass will be provided by the group Woodbine, while festival favourites the Fake McCoys will entertain us with ragtime country blues.

A full day of concerts at Bunratty Folk Park gives the day tripper a chance to experience a variety of songs and tunes. Singers sessions featuring Brian O’Rourke and Grainne Hunt, along with representatives from many of the other bands, will fill the pubs with atmosphere. As always, the set dancing featuring Johnny Reidy in Bunratty Castle Hotel is always well supported, and sessions throughout both villages will feature the best of local and visiting talent. Ruaile Buaile will close the festival on Sunday at one of the great new stages available to the festival this year.

Check out the Facebook page or wmw.ie.

*Greg Blake's powerful lead singing and guitar work are known here from his appearances as a member of Jeff Scroggins & Colorado. More details on the lineup, with photos of all artists, are on the Festival website. The full programme is expected to be published by 1 December. Book your accommodation now to avoid disappointment; the website gives contact data for seven hotels in the area and an inquiry number for B&B information.

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Woody Pines (USA) back in Ireland, 15-19 May 2018

The trio of Woody Blues (USA), specialising in 'down home swing', old-time country blues, hillbilly, and jugband music, will be back in Ireland next May as part of a tour in these islands that begins on 26 Apr. and ends on 29 May. Their Irish schedule, as shown on the Brookfield Knights agency's website, is:

Tues. 15th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
Wed. 16th: Crusoe’s, Castlerock, Co. Londonderry
Thurs. 17th: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (Clonmel World Music)
Fri. 18th: Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow
Sat. 19th: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin

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25 November 2017

Hot Rock Pilgrims on video

'The young bluegrass scene in England and Ireland has been rightly praised of late, with strong new acts emerging monthly it seems.'

That's the first sentence of John Lawless's feature yesterday on Bluegrass Today about the Hot Rock Pilgrims, with Hubert Murray of Galway on guitar and lead vocals. The feature includes the Pilgrims' video of their version of the old-time tune 'Garfield's Blackberry Blossom'. The other tunes on their latest album, Squirrel hunting, can be heard on Bluegrass Today and heard (and bought) on Bandcamp.

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24 November 2017

BBN, autumn 2017

The BIB editor reports:

The autumn 2017 issue of British Bluegrass News, the magazine of the British Bluegrass Music Association (BBMA), is out and (as always) it's pretty impressive. The cover feature is on Peter Rowan; other contents include a busy calendar of bluegrass events in Britain during 2018; a report on the autumn 2017 Sore Fingers, in which Paddy Kiernan was one of the tutors; CD and festival reviews; instalment 7 of a comprehensive history of bluegrass, by Jack Baker (mandolinist of the Vanguards, who played at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival); a memoir of the late Tom Paley, by Paul Brewer; attractive ads by luthiers and instrument suppliers; and the first instalment of a journal of a trip to the USA.

Travel to the USA is also covered in a report on visa entry problems for musicians; and the BBMA chairman's report, later in the issue, recommends flying via Dublin, where the screening system facilitates entry at the US end. Eugene O'Brien's 'European report' (Eugene is the current EBMA chairman) mentions that Brexit is likely to make things less easy for bands travelling to and from Europe. This is aggravated by the fact that the EU does not have a universal permit system, so each state has a different set of requirements.

However, the real bonus for reading this issue of BBN is 'Heaven in Headfort!', William Duddy's joyful report on this year's Bluegrass Camp Ireland (photo above). William concludes with a strong recommendation to BBN readers to come to Bluegrass Camp Ireland, having already shown in his substantial piece the many good reasons for doing so.

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22 November 2017

Berklee's broad branches

The guitarist in an old-time trio is not usually expected to base solos on the twelve-tone theory of music, but Stash Wyslouch, who will be playing three dates here very soon as a member of Molsky's Mountain Drifters, learned twelve-tone theory at Boston's Berklee College of Music. See him apply it to 'Turkey in the straw' in a video on Bluegrass Today.
More Berklee College alumni: Mile Twelve - who have become a five-piece band since they were last over here, and may be back in 2018 - can be seen on video playing the Allman Brothers song 'Ramblin' man', also on Bluegrass Today.

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21 November 2017

Beer & Bluegrass visitors to Dublin this weekend

The BIB editor writes:

Thanks to Martin Hickman of the annual International Beer & Bluegrass Festival at Poole in Dorset, England, for the news that he will be in Dublin this coming weekend and will be glad to catch any local bluegrass or folk events.

There will of course be the weekly old-time session hosted by Bill Whelan, Ben Keogh, and friends at the Cobblestone in Smithfield from 4.30 to 7.00 p.m. on Saturday, as it has been for many years now; and Rhiannon Giddens (USA) will be performing in concert at Vicar Street, 59 Thomas St., later that evening.

Carol, Tim, and I will be down the country to catch the show by Molsky's Mountain Drifters (USA) at Leap Castle, the first in their tour. So if any bluegrass (or folk) session in Dublin during the weekend would welcome visitors, please contact Martin by e-mail.

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I Draw Slow: concerts between now and Christmas

Dublin's I Draw Slow announce two forthcoming gigs on their Facebook: on Thursday 30 November they play the Cinema on Main St., Naas, Co. Kildare - a charity show in aid of the Naas food bank. Tickets are available from Downda Road Productions.

The band will also be playing their Christmas gig in the Grand Social, Dublin 1, on Sunday 17 Dec.: doors open at 8.00 p.m. and the show starts at 8.30. Tickets (€15.00 incl. booking fee) can be booked here.

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New music coming from the NTB (update)

Niall Toner sends this welcome news:

I am currently working on a new batch of songs and tunes for the next NTB album. 'Last wolf on the mountain' is about the last wolf in Ireland that was hunted down on the Blackstairs, near where we live. 'Myles Walter Keogh' is a song about a man from Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, who fought in the American civil war, then joined General Custer's 7th Cavalry, and died at the battle of the Little Big Horn. 'Blues for Larry' is an instrumental dedicated to the late Larry Roddy who was a wonderful small-time promoter, and a great acoustic blues fan. So this next project will have a very local theme throughout.

Friends and fans will learn with great regret that Niall's wife Moira has been in hospital for the past two weeks, in intensive care after a major operation. Her condition is showing signs of improvement, but full recovery may be a long process. Niall himself was in hospital recently, but as he says, 'my issues were small, my time was short, and my recovery was rapid.' The BIB sends both of them every good wish for future health.

Larry Roddy's legacy is now continued by Ballymore Acoustic Gigs (BAG) at Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, with a regular programme of artists.

Update 23 Nov.: The BAG's 7th annual 'Vibe for Larry' will be held on Friday 8 Dec. from 8.00 p.m.

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19 November 2017

The Flying Column - in the round

L-r: Gerry Madden, Niall Toner, Johnny Gleeson, Dick Gladney

Thanks to Niall Toner for this ‘fisheye’ shot (by photographer Karl Hughes) of the Niall Toner Band (NTB) performing at this August's Doolin Craft Beer and Roots Festival at Doolin, Co. Clare. Niall points out that this is a 'Flying Column' configuration of the NTB (see the BIB for 25 July), 'with Gerry Madden deputising for Richie Foley, and doing a great job!'

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17 November 2017

'Grassicana' - a useful new word

Bluegrass Today, leading online bluegrass news medium, has formed an alliance with AirPlay Direct, the leading online radio distribution service for labels and independent artists. Details are on the websites of both Bluegrass Today and Airplay Direct. One fruit of their cooperation is a new chart for recordings of 'Grassicana', defined by them as follows:

... music that lies between the progressive sounds of bluegrass and the vast genre of Americana. While possessing a connection with bluegrass, it is defined as the 'branches', as opposed to the 'roots' of bluegrass. Typically played with acoustic instruments traditional to bluegrass, it may also include drums and other instrumentation not always associated with bluegrass. More than instrumentation however, it is the style in which the music is played that ultimately defines the new genre of Grassicana.

This unique new chart has been set up in response to requests from radio programmers, artists, and labels alike, so it clearly fills a long-felt want. It would, for instance, fit groups such as Avenhart, mentioned on the BIB on 22 Sept.

PS (18 Nov.): See Denis McCarthy's comment, below.

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16 November 2017

IBMA news - and changes

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) website is offline for a few days, undergoing maintenance. The IBMA Facebook is unaffected. If you need to join or renew membership, contact Amy Beth Hale at the IBMA office by 'phone (001-615-256-3222l toll-free 888-438-4262) or e-mail.

The December 2017 issue will be the last of the IBMA's monthly online newsletter International Bluegrass, due to changing patterns of reader use. From 1 Jan. 2018 IBMA will be sharing news exclusively through e-blasts (e-mails sent out to all members), social media channels, and the website. The IBMA says:

This new approach means we can get you the news while it’s timely, and still provide all the content our membership relies on. We know some of you will miss the newsletter in its current form. We ask you to bear with us, and see if you don’t experience some of the benefits this new approach will bring.

The Bluegrass Trust Fund, 'a safety net for bluegrass pros when emergencies strike', is one of the IBMA's fundamental projects. 28 November will be Giving Tuesday, a worldwide fundraising event to start the end-of-year giving season, and the Trust Fund can be helped not only by donations but by the publicity given by a 'Facebook frame'. Details are here.

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First aid wanted at old-time festival in England

If you're an old-time music enthusiast and also a first-aider trained to St John Ambulance standards, there could be a free place for you at FOAOTMAD's old-time music festival at Gainsborough in England early next year (8-11 Feb.). The FOAOTMAD news blog reports that in return for working at the festival there will be some remuneration plus free tickets for the weekend.

Details of the Gainsborough festival are here. Tickets went on sale to FOAOTMAD members from 1 Oct., and will be open to non-members from 1 Jan. 2018.

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15 November 2017

Bluegrass Jamboree 2017 ready to go

Rainer Zellner and his Music Contact agency in Germany send the news that the 'Banjo Bus' is all ready for this year's 9th Bluegrass Jamboree! 'touring bluegrass festival' package, which will play twenty-four venues in twenty-five days, ranging all over Germany and with one show in Austria, and beginning next week (21 Nov.-16 Dec.)

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). A seven-minute video preview is here.

The BIB announced last week that Rainer is putting together a tour in Germany for Midnight Skyracer (UK; Tabitha Agnew of Co. Armagh on banjo). Since then the schedule has grown...

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14 November 2017

Molsky's Mountain Drifters tour, 25-7 Nov. 2017: an extra show announced

Following on the BIB post of 24 Oct., thanks to Audrey Molsky for this poster image for the coming tour by Molsky's Mountain Drifters (Bruce Molsky, fiddle, banjo, guitar; Allison de Groot, banjo; Stash Wyslouch, guitar), who represent the pinnacle of old-time ensemble playing today. Highly recommended. All too brief though the tour is, it's longer than at first announced, with a total now of three scheduled dates:

Sat. 25th Nov.: Leap Castle, Co. Offaly (near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary), 9.00 p.m.
Sun. 26th: Coughlan's Live, 7 Douglas St., Cork city, 9.00 p.m.
Mon. 27th: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.

The tour has its own Facebook page. Plenty of the Drifters' music is on YouTube: here is a two-minute sampler from a concert.

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MerleFest 2018: dates and lineup announced

Thanks to Maria Ivey for the news that the thirty-first MerleFest will be held at Wilkesboro, NC, from Thursday 26 April to Monday 30 April 2018. The lineup comprises over 75 artists, including five who have played at every MerleFest since the beginning: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Joe Smothers, and Jack Lawrence. Among those familiar to Irish audiences are Cardboard Fox (UK), who played at this year's Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Co. Mayo, and Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley (USA), headliners at last year's Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.

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