21 November 2014

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor officially retired from bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is still alive. Its calendar is kept updated, and news received is posted. Send in news for the calendar by e-mail, and please add a copy to Ray O'Brien, whose 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page is now the most interactive medium on bluegrass in Ireland.

The resources already on the BIB, including archives and links, remain accessible and may be improved for the convenience of readers. The BIB's background and purpose are explained here, and tips on using it are here. To reach both, click on the 'Welcome' label below.

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Rye River Band at DC Music Club TONIGHT

Thanks to Paul Lee of Musiclee.ie for the news that the eclectic and electric Rye River Band will be playing in the DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2, tonight (21 Nov.), starting at 9.00 p.m. Tickets are €15 (€12 if reserved in advance). Paul's release announces:

Rye River Band play a blend of Americana and Roots standards and original material. The mix of predominantly electric guitar and fiddle provide a sound that travels across the American Roots spectrum. You will be regaled with old-time country ballads all the way to 'high charged' rhythm and blues.

The band consists of Pat Burgess (vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin), Patsy Tracey (lead electric guitar), Don Knox (fiddle, harmonica, vocals), Smithy (bass, vocals), and Eugene Burns (drums).

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18 November 2014

Ernie Evans - recovering from surgery

Just over five years ago (21 October 2009) the BIB carried news of Ernie and Debi Evans (photo), who were then about to launch a new radio show, 'Good morning Europe', over the internet. This followed their discovery at IBMA's World of Bluegrass how numerous, dedicated, and talented European bluegrass enthusiasts can be. Ernie and Debi are stalwarts of the bluegrass scene in Florida, playing in the Florida State Bluegrass Band, active in the North Florida Bluegrass Association, organising festivals, and running the Evans Bluegrass Journal blog.

Bluegrass Today reports that Ernie underwent major surgery yesterday for a potentially life-threatening condition. The good news is that the surgery was successful, and Ernie - though in pain - is recovering, waiting for the next medical steps, and appreciating the messages that he and Debi have received. Debi writes on Bluegrass Today:

Ernie wants everyone to know that regardless of what the lab results say on Friday, he is full steam ahead and intends to get back on track recording, producing shows, touring, and radio. I may need help holding him down this week so he gets the rest he needs to allow himself to heal.

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17 November 2014

Niall Toner: lyrics and more from Working on love

Niall Toner's complete sleeve notes for his forthcoming album Working on love, including accounts of how each of the compositions came about and full lyrics to all songs, are now on his blog. More about the album, which was recorded in Nashville earlier this year, is on the BIB for 13 and 14 Oct.

Seen above are pickers who took part in the project: (l-r) Samson Grisman (bass), Scott Vestal (banjo), Niall (vocals, mandolin, guitar), Keith Sewell (fiddle, guitar, mandolin, vocals, production), Justin Weaver (mandolin, guitar, slide guitar), and John Mock (harmonium, percussion, whistle). Wendy Buckner (not shown) contributed harmony vocals.

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Deadline for EWOB 2015 is 1 Dec. 2014

The European World of Bluegrass Festival Official EWOB Page on Facebook reminds bands and artists who want to take part in the next EWOB festival in the Netherlands in May 2015 that there are now only two weeks left to the deadline for applications.

Forms can be downloaded from the EWOB website (now being rebuilt, but the application page is fully operational), and applications must be in by 1 December 2014.

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16 November 2014

Old-time music at the Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, Dublin, 27 Nov. 2014

Gerry Fitzpatrick announces the next show in the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', at Uncle Tom's Cabin in south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station in the city direction):

We're back again on Thursday 27 November. We'll have the usual Cabin Crew, hopefully including Dave Hardy (clt/sax). Special guests are Stomptown Brass (brass band), the Hat Trick String Band (Bill Whelan, Sheila Sullivan, Nora Artola), and all the way from California singer/ guitarist Caitlin Jemma. 9.30-11.30 p.m. as usual, and admission 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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John Edward Dopyera, 1929-2014

The European Bluegrass Music Association Facebook page passes on the sad news that Dr John Edward Dopyera, retired research social psychologist, died last Wednesday (12 November 2014). He was born in California on 16 August 1929. His father and uncle, the brothers John and Rudolph Dopyera, were born in Slovakia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and emigrated with their parents and siblings in 1908 to the USA, where they later developed the resonator guitar, now known under the generic title of 'dobro', derived from Dopyera Brothers.

Dr Dopyera (whose outline of the history of his family can be found here) made several trips to Slovakia from 1990 onwards to support the development of the celebrated Dobrofest at Trnava. In 2005 he received, on behalf of his father and uncle, a Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. An obituary can be seen here or via a link on the EBMA Facebook page.

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15 November 2014

Old-time at the Glenside resumes, 19 Nov. 2014

Cathal Cusack (guitar), Tim Hawkins (fiddle), and Richard Hawkins (banjo) are glad to announce that their plan to play old-time music on the third Wednesday of every month, upstairs at the Glenside, Landscape Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14, will resume on 19 November 2014.

October's session was prevented by the pressure of other commitments on Cathal, who now says he intends to 'be there hell or high water'. Well, the nearby Dodder river had plenty of high water in the past week, but it didn't rise to the Glenside; and few old-time musicians seem to be bothered by hell... However, suitable libations will be made to Helen Highwater, revered by the US band of that name as 'the tough, whimsical goddess of string band music'.

For the format of the session, see the BIB of 20 Aug., where a list of tunes is given.

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14 November 2014

Wookalily - All the waiting while release, 29 Nov. 2014

Thanks to Wookalily for their latest newsletter, announcing the long awaited launch of their first album:

We will be performing one very special show at Yard 401, Little Donegal St., Belfast, on Saturday 29 November 2014 to launch the physical and digital release of our debut album All the waiting while. The aim was to record a debut album with past and present members of the band. It’s therefore a snapshot of the life and times of Wookalily and now the waiting is over! We had lots of fun making the album and we hope you can join us at the launch to celebrate its release.

The launch in Belfast will be our last concert in the city this year. It will showcase various guitars, banjos, percussion instruments, djembe, mandolin, and much more. There will also be special guest performances from well known singers Elaine McConaghie, Nina Armstrong, Rowena Cairns, Catherine Grehan and much-sought-after musicians Suzanne Savage on fiddle, Rohan Armstrong on double bass, and Colin Henry on dobro, all who have contributed their talents to the album.

Read more in the newsletter, where you can also pre-order the album, read a track list, see the official video of 'Banjo blues' (also on YouTube), and read many of the very positive reviews of the music of Wookalily (also on Facebook).

That particular Saturday will also be a lively night for bluegrass in Cork and Athy (see the BIB for 5 Nov.). Has anyone organised anything for Connacht?

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13 November 2014

Greenshine at the DMC, 14 Nov. 2014

Thanks to Paul Lee of Musiclee.ie for the news that the acclaimed duo Greenshine (Mary Greene and Noel Shine, left) will be playing at the DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2, tomorrow night (Fri. 14 Nov.). Tickets are €15 at the door, €13 reserved in advance.

The music sample given on the YouTube link in Paul's newsletter is to their recording of 'Slow lane' by US singer/songwriter Gary Ferguson, who this year completed his tenth consecutive annual tour of Ireland. The DC Music Club is at no. 20 (black door) on the corner directly opposite the entrance to the Meath Hospital.

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11 November 2014

The New Breadwinners hit the scene

Thanks to John Denby, who announces a new three-piece Dublin-based bluegrass band - the New Breadwinners, consisting of John (mandolin), Luke Coffey (banjo), and Niall Hughes (guitar). John writes:

Following our appearances at the Cruthú Arts Festival in Longford and the Balla Bluegrass Festival, we are pleased to announce the new band and have launched our Facebook page and YouTube channel and are now available for bookings.

There are two live videos from Longford on our Facebook page, which can also be viewed at our YouTube channel.

The videos show the trio on stage at Longford, making a big impression with their deft arrangement of 'Beaumont Rag' and the original song 'John Keavney'. Full details of the band, including contact data, can be found here. NB: John is still a member of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band, and Luke and Niall are still members of Well Enough Alone.

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Bluegrass Weekend in Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, 14-16 Nov. 2014

Thanks to Ray O'Brien and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' for sharing this news from Peter Larkin:

Bluegrass Weekend in Rafterys Rest, Kilcolgan, Co, Galway, starting Friday night (14 Nov.), ending Sunday afternoon (16th): Co. Louth-based Della Belle [photo] will be the resident band for the weekend, along with the House Band, P.J. Power, and other players from Dublin and the midlands. If you like bluegrass, it's the place to be.

All welcome and it's free, so come on out - the winter will be long enough.

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Niall Toner on stage, on disc, on the air, Nov.-Dec. 2014 - and on T-shirts

On the Niall Toner Band blog, Niall writes:

Tickets for the New Niall Toner Band show at Killoughternane [Co. Carlow; in the Schoolhouse] on Friday 21 November are going like hot cakes, I'm delighted to say. I met a man in Bunclody yesterday who had just booked six seats, so don't leave it till the last moment. I also hope to have a limited number of special copies of my new album, Working on love, available on the night.

I'm also delighted to say that the Niall Toner Band gig which was recorded live at the Milford Room in Carlow [see the BIB for 4 Sept. 2014] will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 in the 'In concert' series on Sunday 30 November. Produced by Aidan Butler.

I'll be back on RTÉ Radio 1 myself with 'Roots Freeway' on 6 December for another three-month run. Expect to hear lots of great new roots music from the USA and from the home front, and if you're a performer/singer-songwriter/band in this genre, please send your CDs and/or links to me at Roots Freeway, RTÉ Radio 1, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

For some details of the new album, see the BIB for 13 and 14 Oct. The T-shirts (shown above) were featured on Niall's blog on 29 Sept.

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10 November 2014

Prison Love at Bray, 14 Nov. 2014: update

The Mermaid Arts Centre, Main St., Bray, Co. Wicklow, sends a reminder that Ireland's favourite Americana misdemeanants, Prison Love, are playing at the Mermaid this coming Friday (14 November) at 8.00 p.m. The Centre adds: 'This is a seated gig.' Tickets (€12/10) are available online or by calling the Mermaid's box office (01 2724030).

Thanks also to Mark 'Marko' O'Mahony (second from left in the photo) for his own message:

... We haven't togged out in north Wicklow since our run-in with Luan Parle and a biker rally in the Harbour Bar back in '11. Going to be an evening of great music and craic in a terrific venue with unbelievable sound. We'll be on our best behaviour, throwing a few new tunes in there including something from Bray's finest, the Cujo Family...

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Free bluegrass practice tracks

Thanks to Hugh Taggart, lead singer and guitarist of Well Enough Alone, for sharing this news of a valuable aid for practising pickers:

Saw this on Bluegrass Today and thought it might be nice to share it with anyone who's interested. It's a site with free bluegrass practice tracks that include the option of slowing them down.

The site is set up by banjoist Simon Mitchinson, who describes it fully here. At present the list comprises over eighty tunes with a range of different keys and chord sequences, and Simon is prepared to add tunes in response to requests.

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08 November 2014

Wayfaring strangers

Thanks to the November issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine for drawing attention to the new (Sept. 2014) University of North Carolina Press publication Wayfaring strangers: the musical voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr.

Both solid (384 pages) and attractively designed with many illustrations, this is required reading for anyone interested in the connections between music in these islands and in Appalachia; indeed, its scope is much wider than that. The authors agree with an important point made by an Ulster musicologist, the late Tony McAuley, that (in their words)

it is the braiding and weaving of European, African, and indigenous American influences that creates the unique tapestry of Appalachian music. Extract any one of the essential threads - Scots-Irish, English, German, French, African American, Cherokee - and the pattern is lost.

Pages of Wayfaring strangers can be sampled here, including a foreword by Dolly Parton, who traces her own ancestry to Gloucestershire. She is featured - together with Dougie MacLean, Cara Dillon, John Doyle, Pete Seeger, Sheila Kay Adams, Jean Ritchie, Doc Watson, David Holt, Anais Mitchell, Al Petteway, and Amy White - on the 20-track CD that accompanies the book. This could make a very acceptable Christmas present.
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On a lighter note: a record reviewer later in the same issue of BU mentions a song on one album that

takes on an Irish touch. Finally, we have an Irish song that is not about potatoes or immigration [sic].

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07 November 2014

Vincent Cross reports from New York

Vincent Cross, the Irish bluegrass scene's ambassador in New York City, sends his November newsletter with a look at some NYC roots music events, including the forthcoming Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) convention (13-16 Nov.) in upstate New York - the folk world's regional equivalent of IBMA's World of Bluegrass. Vincent will be showcasing there for the first time on 15 Nov., playing three sets including a tribute to Townes Van Zandt.

The latest artist surveyed in Vincent's 'Tools of the trade' blog on songwriters and their guitars is Cathy Grier, whom he first met as she interviewed other performers about what inspired them to create. Read more on Vincent's newsletter and Facebook.

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06 November 2014

Tom Travis in Country Music People

Richard F. Thompson draws attention on Bluegrass Today to the latest issue of the UK's Country Music People magazine, which includes a highly readable major article by a British bluegrass pioneer - singer, songwriter, and bandleader Tom Travis (left) - recalling his experiences of playing bluegrass in Britain in the 1960s.

There's a fine promo photo of the Double T Ramblers (the first group Tom was in), and one of Tom with the Jaywalkers, with whom he now works show dates. Many BIB readers will have seen the Jaywalkers (without Tom) at Omagh 2013.

Further connections with the scene here can be found in Richard's feature: a link is provided to some of Tom's recordings, on which the musicians include Bill Forster (now playing with the Banjaxed Bluegrass Band) and Dave Howard, well known here as a sound and recording engineer. Many more of Tom's recordings can be heard on iTunes.

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05 November 2014

GAA host TWO bluegrass shows, Sat. 29 Nov. 2014

Thanks to Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland for a reminder that Rackhouse Pilfer (above) from Sligo will be playing at the Rockies GAA Club, Church Rd, Blackrock, Cork, on Saturday 29 November.

It's been a good year for the band (also on Facebook), starting in Nashville, where they recorded their new album Love and havoc, played at the renowned Station Inn, and were filmed for the YouTube channel of Carter Vintage Guitars. Highlights of a busy schedule later in the year included return visits not only to the Sligo Live festival but to two of the biggest bluegrass festivals in Europe, at La Roche-sur-Foron in France and the Ulster American Folk Park in Co. Tyrone; appearing on the cover of Bluegrass Europe magazine; and receiving the Jagermeister Freezer Sessions 'Live Band of the Year' award from Hot Press. Roger adds: 'So, everything points to a great night at the Rockies, and the good news is - There's No Cover Charge.'
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And on the same evening at another GAA club, 200 km north-east of the Rockies, there'll be a special treat for hard-core bluegrass fans - KingBlue and Woodbine appear together at the Athy GAA Centre, Dublin Rd, Athy, Co. Kildare.

Woodbine have been off the road since the summer, pending the arrival of Siobhan Kennedy (see the BIB for 14 Oct.), so they'll be hungry to pick. And for anyone who missed the historic inaugural gig by KingBlue last Saturday, or wants to be reminded of it - three videos are on Facebook of the band playing 'I'll break out again tonight', 'You won't be satisfied that way', and 'Panhandle rag', and an album of fine photos by Michael Barbour can be viewed here.

KingBlue: (l-r) Mel Corry, Caolan 'Chief' Derby,
Clem O'Brien, Sean McKerr

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04 November 2014

Double bass and instruction books for sale

When we learned on Sunday that Tony Wall of Waterford city is selling his rare Bill Keith Signature Rich & Taylor banjo, we (knowing that Tony has owned more than one banjo) did not take this as bad news at the time.

However, we are very sorry to learn from Ray O'Brien's Bluegrass in Ireland Facebook page that Southern Welfare, after a welcome return to the scene last year, has broken up, and consequently Tony is now offering for sale more high-quality bluegrass goods.

The bass shown above (more photos are on Ray's site) was once owned by Longford-based bass player and singer John Cassin, who played with Southern Welfare for a period. It is in excellent condition, with a K&K pickup system, plus a pickup under the neck for slap action; Innovation Super Silver strings; a soft case; and a stand (visible in the photo). Ray says: 'This is a real bargain at €600 (no offers)', and few will argue with that.

Tony is also selling his collection of Earl Scruggs books, which should be required reading for all bluegrass banjo players. Tony can be contacted via e-mail or by 'phone (0876244718).

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The crowd came through, and the band will be there!

We're delighted to report that the crowd-funding project to bring the Special Consensus (USA) to Campbell's Tavern, Cloughanover, Headford, Co. Galway, on 11 Jan. 2015, has been a complete success. As of this morning (Tues. 4 Nov.), on the final day before the deadline, the project is 103% funded.

On 18 October we published Willie Campbell's first announcement of the project, in which Willie stated: 'This is our first attempt at this, and it could really open things up for music fans countrywide to broaden the gigs available.'

So: the attempt has been vindicated (with all the possibilities that may be opened up as a result), and the Special Consensus will be coming to Headford. That sounds like a win-win situation.

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