23 April 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 occasional news 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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Well Enough Alone: new member, EWOB, and the Kilkenny Shop

Thanks to Well Enough Alone for this news:

Well Enough Alone have added a new member to the band. We're delighted to have Patrick Simpson and his powerful high tenor voice and rock-solid rhythm guitar join us. The current lineup is [above, l-r] Patrick Simpson (guitar and vocals), Niall Hughes (double bass and vocals), Hugh Taggart (guitar and vocals), Luke Coffey (banjo and vocals), Martin McWhorter (mandolin).

We're also looking forward to the European World Of Bluegrass Festival at Voorthuizen in Holland, which we'll be playing at. We have a showcase slot on Saturday 31 May at 19:30. We're excited to be playing at EWOB and will be travelling over on Thursday 29 May to spend a few days picking at the festival before our show.

If anyone is looking to hear some bluegrass on Sundays in Dublin, we continue to play upstairs in the restaurant of the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau St. from 2.15 till 4.15 p.m. For bookings, call 087 1717850 or e-mail.

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Wookalily's debut album gets a Kickstart

Thanks to Wookalily, the 'female-led Americana folk band' based in Portadown, for their latest e-newsletter. Their twelve-track debut album, bringing together past and present members of the band as well as guest vocalists, is being recorded at Millbank Studios in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, engineered by Michael Mormecha. The Wooks write:

Years of playing, writing, laughing, and performing all coming together to create an unique and eclectic album... It's a celebration of the life and times of Wookalily. It's been a great experience to make this music and we hope you all get to enjoy it as well.

The main hurdle left to overcome is funding to complete and launch the project; and Wookalily are adopting the increasing popular resort of Kickstarter to reach the required £3,000. You can help the project by pledging a contribution here.

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Wookalily also launched earlier this month their residency in the John Hewitt Bar, Belfast:

We have various opening acts on from 9.30 p.m. and we take to the stage from 10.00 p.m., finishing up around 11.30 p.m. It would lovely to see you there some Friday night. We have some more exciting gigs coming up throughout the year.

The full e-newsletter, with nice artwork and a link to Wookalily's gig calendar, can be seen here.

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22 April 2014

Tumbling Bones and Woodbine at Athy, 25 Apr. 2014

Tumbling Bones (above) from Portland, Maine, USA, are now in the third week of their third tour of Ireland, which ends a week from now - after which, they'll continue with shows in Germany and Britain. Their full Irish schedule appears at the head of their website; all dates are also on the BIB calendar.

Among their remaining dates over here, Tumbling Bones will be performing on Friday night (25 Apr.) in the GAA Centre, Dublin Rd, Athy, Co. Kildare. The Centre is the main concert venue for the annual Athy Bluegrass Festival, the oldest annual bluegrass event in Ireland, founded in 1991 and organised since 1998 by Tony O'Brien.

Tumbling Bones will be supported on Friday by Athy's own Woodbine, led by Tony. (This combination worked very well and enjoyably for all parties last year; the impact the Bones made then at Athy also led directly to their being booked for this year's 12th International Bühl Bluegrass Festival in Germany.) The show starts at 9.00 p.m., and admission is €10. Tony adds:

A great night assured & your support much appreciated.

Thanks to Ray O'Brien (no relation) of 'Bluegrass in Ireland'. For a treat - and a look into the future - use this link to Ray's Facebook page.

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News from the Mother Country

Thanks to Blair Bainbridge (1) for the news that today is the release date for the new Smithsonian Folkways album Long time… Seldom Scene by the legendary Seldom Scene (see the BIB for 20 Mar.).

And (2) for this link to a further YouTube video of the Scene in the studio, recording the Hazel Dickens song 'My better years' - a well-shot video of one of the really great bands at work. This is on the Smithsonian Folkways YouTube channel, whose many videos include several on Pete Seeger (1919-2014). SF announces: 'We will soon be publishing a tribute page to Pete, without whom our organization would not be possible.'

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Many over here have fond memories of seeing, hearing, and perhaps meeting the Gibson Brothers and Joe Newberry at previous Appalachian & Bluegrass Music Festivals at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Joe has been there as a member of the Red Clay Ramblers, and also of Big Medicine.

Today Bluegrass Today carries a feature on Joe's fine song 'Singing as we rise' (the inspiration for which came at a past Sore Fingers Week in England); the recording by the Gibson Brothers with Ricky Skaggs won the IBMA’s Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year award for 2012. As a bonus, there's a very enjoyable video of the Gibsons and their band delivering the song on stage, plus its complete lyrics.

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21 April 2014

Arklow Roots Music - change of programme

Brendan O'Regan, organiser of the Arklow Roots Music series at the Arklow Bay Hotel in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, announces with regret a change in the spring programme that was published on the BIB on 17 March: the concert with the singing duo Ennis from Canada, arranged for this Wednesday (23 April) has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Nonetheless, the scheduled concert with Beth Nielsen Chapman (photo above), the highly regarded singer/songwriter from Nashville, will take place on Thursday 1 May. Tickets (from Arklow Bay Hotel, 0402-32309) €25; pair of tickets in advance, €40.

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Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards (USA) available for bookings in May 2015

Apologies to Laura Cortese (left) for not yet having an up-to-date photo of her - this is one the BIB used in 2009 when she was performing at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair for that year. Apart from her established solo career, she had then just come from playing bass for Uncle Earl. Loudon Temple of the UK Brookfield Knights agency now announces that Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards will be touring the UK and Ireland a year from now: from 12 to 24 May 2015.

Her latest album, Into the dark, won enthusiastic critical acclaim and a lot of airplay. The lineup for next year's tour will be the same as that for a recent US State Department cultural tour of the Far East: Laura (voice, fiddle, viola), Mariel Vandersteel (voice, fiddle, Hardanger fiddle), and Valerie Thompson (voice, cello). All the members have a wide range of musical experience; the trio can be seen in performance on YouTube here and here.

Event organisers and venue owners who can offer a booking in that period of May 2015 should contact Brookfield Knights and indicate which dates might be preferred.

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20 April 2014

Baltimore Fiddle Fair, 8-11 May 2014

Thanks to Declan McCarthy for details of this year's Fiddle Fair (8-11 May) in Baltimore, Co. Cork.

Among the top-class artists on the programme, those with special interest for BIB readers include Aly Bain, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Stephanie Coleman & Cleek Schrey, This Is How We Fly (with Nick Gareiss dancing), the New Rope String Band, and Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, & Jordan Tice. (A unique feature this year will be the presence of John Sheahan, last surviving member of the Dubliners.) The Fair will also include many additional events - workshops, art exhibitions, and many great sessions in and around Baltimore.

Tickets are on sale now, but please note that season passes have been sold out for some time. For full details, including a view of this year's stunning new poster, visit the Fair's website.

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John Lowell Band (USA) in Ireland, 13-19 May 2014

The John Lowell Band: (l-r) John Lowell, Julie Elkins, Tom Murphy

Thanks to John Nyhan for the news that the John Lowell Band, a four-piece contemporary bluegrass group based in Montana, will be playing eight dates in Ireland in the middle of next month after a tour of Germany that will include the 12th International Bühl Bluegrass Festival (2-3 May).

The band consists of John Lowell (guitar, vocals), Julie Elkins (banjo, vocals), Tom Murphy (mandolin, vocals), and Ben Somers (bass, vocals) - all seasoned and respected performers with years of touring and recording experience behind them. Their dates in Ireland will be:

Tues. May 13th: Rory Gallagher Music Library, Grand Parade, Cork, 11.30 a.m.; tel. 021 4924919
O'Neills bar, Main St., Buttevant, Co. Cork, 9.00 p.m.; tel. 087 8168692 (Bluegrass session; musicians welcome)

Wed. 14th: Mill Bar, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 9.00 p.m.; tel. 086 8599615 / 086 8464509

Thurs. 15th: St John's Arts Centre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.; tel. 068 22566

Fri. 16th: Tigh an Cheoil, Ballinagaul, Ring, Co. Waterford, 9.00 p.m.; tel. 087 0640542 / 087 9898560

Sat. 17th: Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, 8.30 p.m.; tel. 0402 38529

Sun. 18th: Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, 9.00 p.m.; tel. 087 8300069

Mon. 19th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m.; tel. 087 7921771

For further information, 'phone 087 7921771.

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18 April 2014

A respected Bluegrass business

The BIB editor writes:

Every now and then I Google the words 'Bluegrass Ireland'. There's a paranoid element in this: I'm making sure that the World Wide Web has not forgotten about the Bluegrass Ireland Blog. The search was made this morning. There was the BIB, of course, it hadn't vanished in the night; there too were Ray O'Brien's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page and Kevin Gill's original 'Bluegrass in Ireland' website.

But just a little further down the list of search results is the website for Bluegrass Horse Feeds, a milling and animal-feed company established by A. N. Irwin & Sons in 1847, based in Co. Tyrone, and respected in its field throughout these islands.

I'm certain that Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, would have been interested; and that so would prominent horse-loving bluegrass musicians still with us, such as Ron Thomason of Dry Branch Fire Squad or Laurie Lewis. Moreover, the firm's merchandise includes a nifty baseball cap with a Bluegrass Horse Feeds logo for just £9.99.

Could there possibly be here a point of contact - even potential reciprocal benefits - for the bluegrass community and the animal-feeds industry? In putting this forward, I apologise to anyone, especially in Co. Tyrone, who has already made this connection for themselves; more especially if they've been walking round the annual Appalachian & Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh with their Bluegrass Horse Feeds caps on, and I haven't noticed.

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17 April 2014

Two Time Polka: Easter and after, in Ireland and the Netherlands

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka reports:

Here are details of our next few gigs:

Sun. 20 Apr.: South County Bar, West Village, Douglas, Cork. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 021 4891574

Sun. 27 Apr.: Marine Bar, Pulla, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Start 7.30 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 058 46520

We will be playing on Friday 2 May and Saturday 3 May at the International Cajun & Zydeco Festival, Raamsdonksveer [on the Maas, north of Breda], Holland. For any of you living in Holland or Belgium, as we know there are a few, it would be great to see you there.

Regards,
Ray and TTP

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15 April 2014

The first Royal Roots session: Navan, 1 May 2014 (update)

We can now welcome a new organisation in Co. Meath, Royal Roots, catering for musicians who want to play bluegrass, old-time country, and other Americana roots music.

The BIB thanks Eugene Donegan for the news that Royal Roots will be launching the very first in a series of weekly music sessions on Thursday 1 May in Beggy's bar, Bridge St., Navan. The sessions will be a mixture of bluegrass, old-time country, American folk, Cajun, and gospel. All musicians are welcome, and the session kicks off at 9.30 p.m. Royal Roots have produced an attractive poster, which can be seen on the Royal Roots Facebook page and also on Ray O'Brien's Bluegrass in Ireland page.

Taken together with the Ashbourne concert series set up by Sean McManus and friends at the start of this year, we're delighted to see bluegrass flourishing in Royal Meath.

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Events at the Seamus Ennis Centre

Joost van Es of 4 Wheel Drive with the statue of Séamus Ennis outside the Centre (photo: Jan Michielsen)

The Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 'Ireland's biggest little venue' and a good friend to bluegrass and related music in the Dublin region, has just issued its latest schedule of events updated to 9 May 2014. Coming very soon: on Sunday 20 April the Centre holds a Record Fair, with

an even bigger collection of dealers selling everything from CDs, DVDs, rare CD box sets to vinyl LPs from the '50s to the present. Rock 'n' roll, metal, jazz, soul, indie, rock and country, blues, dance, folk, world music and hiphop/rap – it's all going to be here at our Record Fair to celebrate the weekend of World Record Store Day.

Maybe even some bluegrass or old-time music... And on Friday 9 May the Henry Girls from Donegal will be playing an evening concert at the Centre.

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14 April 2014

Cabin Sessions in Dundrum, Dublin, 24 Apr. 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):

The lineup for the Cabin Sessions for Thursday 24 April is:

The Cabin Crew with Spats Davenport (guitar), Con Butler (bass), Gerry Fitzpatrick (dobro), Cathy McEvoy (fiddle), Christian Volkmann (harmonica). Special guests Michael McIver (classical guitar), Grace Tallon (contemporary), Dave Hardy (clarinet/sax). 9.30-11.30 p,m. adm. 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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13 April 2014

George Shuffler

George Shuffler (11 April 1925-7 April 2014) was buried on Thursday in his hometown of Valdese, North Carolina. A full account by broadcaster Becky Johnson of the funeral - 'George Shuffler laid to rest', with many photos - was published on Friday on Bluegrass Today.

For those who are not yet familiar with his contributions to bluegrass music, a comprehensive outline by Richard Thompson was also published on Friday on Bluegrass Today, under the title 'George Shuffler: a career overview'. At the end of this feature is a link to where you can find tributes paid to him by such acclaimed musicians as Jack Lawrence, Tom Gray, and James Alan Shelton.

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11 April 2014

Instruments and sound equipment for sale

Thanks to Eamonn Quigley who passes on news from Bill Whelan, godfather of old-time music in this island: Bill has some instruments and sound equipment for sale. The BIB hopes to be able to reproduce photos before long; meanwhile, here are the details. Please note the prices given, as no offers will be accepted.

Nechville Midnight Phantom Heli-Mount banjo. The appearance and maker's specifications can be seen here. Bill's instrument has a black head fitted, and no resonator. €1,500.

Harley Benton BeatBass (fiddle-shape electric bass, resembling Paul McCartney's Höfner). Never used. €100.

Yamaha single-speaker 250-watt portable PA system, Stagepass 250m model. Six-channel mixer. Unused. €200.

T.Mix PM600 six-channel mixer amplifier block with digital effector. Unused. €120.

Contact Bill by mobile (086 2435231) or e-mail.

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The Down and Out Bluegrass Band at Ashbourne, 3 May 2014

Thanks to Sean McManus of Ashbourne, Co. Meath, for the news that the Down and Out Bluegrass Band will be playing in Molly's Bar (across the road from the church), Frederick St., Ashbourne, on Saturday 3 May. The show starts at 9.00 p.m., and tickets are €7.

This is the third concert in a series set up by Sean and friends around Ashbourne to bring bluegrass music to the area - where performances have been few in the past, but where there is also (as previous concerts have shown) a lot of potential support.

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10 April 2014

A shorter way to 'Tipperary'

The BIB published news on Monday of last Sunday's special instalment of BBC TV's 'Antiques Roadshow', in which old-time singer and clawhammer-banjo player Alec Somerville (left), appeared with the Roadshow's Paul Atterbury to talk about the historic 5-string banjo which he has donated to the Canadian War Museum.

At that time, we could only refer those who wanted to see this part of the show to the full version on BBC's iPlayer - which is not available for viewers outside the UK. Thanks to the weekly FOAOTMAD news blog for reporting that Colm Daly has put a video of Alec's section of the show on to YouTube. It can also be seen on the FOAOTMAD blog.

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Events in the next ten days

Events in the next ten days (from the BIB calendar; please check also the 'Weekly sessions' section of the calendar)

Thurs. 10th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Whelan’s, Dublin 2

Fri. 11th: The Whileaways (Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce, Noelie McDonnell), Cúirt International Festival of Literature, Galway city, 1.00 p.m.
Tumbling Bones (USA), McGing’s, Westport, Co. Mayo, 9.30 p.m.
Tangled Roots (Eleanor Shanley, Frankie Lane, Paul Kelly, Brendan Begley, and Mike Hanrahan), Dublin Conservative Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2, 9.00 p.m., €17 (€15 reserved in advance)
The Whileaways, (Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce, Noelie McDonnell), Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m., €13

Fri. 11th-Sun. 13th: Bluegrass Weekend, Kilcolgan, Co. Galway: Southern Welfare at Rafterys Rest

Sat. 12th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Aras Eanna, Inis Oirr, Aran Islands, 8.30 p.m.

Sun. 13th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Mannion’s, Balla, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.

Mon. 14th-Fri. 18th: Sore Fingers Summer School, Kingham Hill School, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England

Tues. 15th: The Broken Circle Breakdown (film), Droichead Arts Centre, Stockwell St., Drogheda, Co. Louth, 8.00 p.m.
Tumbling Bones (USA), Sea Rod Inn, Doohoma, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.

Wed. 16th: Tumbling Bones (USA), Aras Inis Gluaire Community Centre, Belmullet, Co. Mayo (afternoon performance)

Thurs. 17th: The Broken Circle Breakdown (film), Tech Amergin Community Arts and Education Centre, Waterville, Co. Kerry, 8.00 p.m.
Tumbling Bones (USA), Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, 8.30 p.m.

Southern Welfare in residence at Kilcolgan, 11-13 Apr. 2014

Ray O'Brien announces on Bluegrass in Ireland:

Thanks to Peter Larkin from Galway who sends a reminder to all bluegrass fans in the west that Southern Welfare (Waterford) will be returning this weekend (11-13 April) to Rafterys Rest, Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, for a whole weekend packed with non-stop finger-picking bluegrass. Peter writes:

'Friday night: We will be having a bluegrass picking session in the bar and Peter sends the invitation out to all bluegrass pickers in the area that all are welcome to attend and jam with the Waterford boys.

'Saturday night: Southern Welfare take to the stage for what is set to be another fun-filled night of hard-driving bluegrass music (it has been nearly two years since these guys last visited Galway and we are all very excited to have them back).

'Sunday morning: Southern Welfare will join the Rafterys Rest bluegrass house band for some Sunday morning gospel music.

'We are looking forward to having this band back on the scene; they have been missed over the past number of years at festivals up and down the country', adds Peter. For more information on the weekend you can contact Peter Larkin on 087-9953555.

BIB editor's note: When the Weekend was announced back in late February, Southern Welfare's Tony Wall (banjo, guitar, vocals) was quoted as saying: 'This is possibly one of the best places to play bluegrass in Ireland, with so many people really interested in the music.' Taken together with the Banjo Gathering two weeks later just up the road at Clarinbridge, this part of Co. Galway will be pretty lively...

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09 April 2014

Tour news - and Ireland at MerleFest 2014

Thanks to Paul Lee of the Musiclee.ie agency for his latest list of shows, beginning with tomorrow night (10 Apr.), when Tumbling Bones, from Portland, Maine, will bring their mix of traditional bluegrass, old-time, country blues, and expert buck-dancing to Whelan's in Dublin; 8.30 start, €15 (€13 reserved in advance).

On this tour (their third in Ireland) Tumbling Bones will have their new album, Loving a fool. The BIB calendar shows all dates for the tour; it lasts till the end of the month, when they go to Germany for the 12th International Bühl Bluegrass Festival (2-3 May), followed by dates in Britain (8-20 May).

Tangled Roots, the 'Folk the Recession' group including Frankie Lane and Paul Kelly, will be playing just up the lane from Whelan's at the Dublin Conservative Club the following night (11 Apr.). Other artists on Paul's list with a special appeal for BIB readers include the highly acclaimed Cahalen Morrison and Eli West (USA), who will be playing at Whelan's on Thursday 8 May as part of a too-brief tour in Ireland - see the BIB calendar for the rest of their schedule.

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Following the news that appeared on the BIB on 10 Feb. and 9 Mar., the Brookfield Knights agency reports that the period for which Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers (USA) will be available for bookings in Ireland later this year will be from Tues. 4 Nov. to Sun. 9 Nov..

They will have with them Zoe's third album, World of strangers. Promoters and event organisers who are interested should contact Brookfield Knights. The band's live shows can be sampled in this clip from 2012.

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This year at MerleFest, the world's most prestigious acoustic Americana music festival, Ireland will be very actively represented by Niall Toner and I Draw Slow.

On Friday 25 April I Draw Slow will be performing on the Watson (11.45 a.m.-12.30 p.m.), Creekside (1.15-2.00 p.m.), and Dance (7.00-8.15 p.m.) stages. The same afternoon (2.00-3.30 p.m.), on the Austin Stage in Alumni Hall, Niall will be taking part in judging the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest finals, together with contest chairman Jim Lauderdale and fellow judges Darrell Scott and Charles Humphrey III.

On Saturday 26 April the Niall Toner Band plays at Creekside (10.45-11.30 a.m.) and the Cabin stage (1.45-2.15 p.m.), and I Draw Slow at the Americana (1.30-2.15 p.m.). Later that afternoon (3.45-4.45 p.m.), at the Mayes Pit-Cohn Auditorium, Niall and band, together with Dave and Louise Holden from I Draw Slow, will be part of a workshop entitled 'Irish roots music yesterday and today'.

On Sunday 27 April the Niall Toner Band will be at the Autograph MF Mall (9.00-10.00 a.m.) and the Americana (11.45 a.m.-12.30 p.m.) and Traditional (1.45-2.30 p.m.) stages, the latter with a 'Celtic connections' theme.

Thanks also to Pinecastle Records (the US label that both Niall and I Draw Slow are with) and Kim Fowler of Two Dog Media for the news that I Draw Slow's latest album, White Wave Chapel, will be released in the US on 8 July. For more details, including some of the many nice things that have been printed about their previous album, Redhills, see the Two Dog Media e-newsletter.

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08 April 2014

Complete lineup for Athy 2014 announced

The NEBB (l-r): Grahame Turner, Terry Hymers, Greg Smith (hidden), Paul Brewer, Marc Noel-Johnson

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for the news that the complete lineup for the 24th Athy Bluegrass Festival (11-13 July 2014) is on the Festival's website, with band details, photos, and web links:

The New Essex Bluegrass Band (GB)
Ferguson & Ferguson (USA)
Nelson, Crosby, & Crosby (USA)
The Down and Out Bluegrass Band
Della Belle
Woodbine (host band)

A schedule for the three main concerts (Friday and Saturday, 9.00 p.m.; Sunday 1.00 p.m.) also gives ticket prices. Additional programme items are to be confirmed. The New Essex (NEBB), Britain's premier traditional hard-core single-mike bluegrass band, twenty years together and with many overseas appearances to their credit, will top the bill at all three concerts. More about them appeared on the BIB on 29 Nov. 2013.

If you haven't looked at the Athy Bluegrass Festival website since last year's event, it has been completely refurbished - and so has Woodbine's.

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07 April 2014

Links with the past: update

Alec Somerville with the banjo at the Canadian War Museum, 17 Dec. 2013 (photo: Ashley Fraser of the Ottawa Citizen)

Congratulations to old-time singer and clawhammer-banjo player Alec Somerville, now resident in Donegal, for his part in last night's special instalment of BBC TV's 'Antiques Roadshow', filmed with the Roadshow's Paul Atterbury in front of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing at the Somme.

Alec had brought the English-made 5-string banjo which he has since donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa - the sole example in its collection of a musical instrument that belonged to a soldier. On the inside of the original skin head are the signatures of twenty-eight members of the Canadian armed forces in France.

Alec rounded off his appearance by playing 'It's a long, long way to Tipperary' - on one of his own banjos, as the 'Paris banjo' is not in playing order. Later in the programme Linda Roland, a Canadian now living in Germany, appeared in a remarkable sequel. Alec writes:

Her great-uncle, Gunner Raymond Roland, signed the banjo and added the date 'Paris August 24th 1917'. He died in 1933 from the effects of having been gassed. I found her through the Platts family (another signator) and contacted her and she came to the filming at the Somme. She has since been to stay with us in Donegal. Raymond Roland and James Platts enlisted at Toronto January 9th, 1915, together - they were neighbours in the Niagara Peninsula fruit-farming area.

This was episode 16 of the thirty-sixth series of 'Antiques Roadshow', and the first in a sub-series of episodes dedicated to the first world war. It can be seen here for the next six days on BBC iPlayer (not available outside the UK, unfortunately), and will be re-broadcast on Wednesday 16 April at 9.20 a.m. on BBC Two. Alec's story is also expected to be featured in Banjo NewsLetter.

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Meanwhile, in the last week two links with the first generation of bluegrass music have been lost: a week ago (31 Mar. 2014) Gladys Lee Stacy Flatt, widow of Lester Flatt (d. 1979), died at the age of 98 in Sparta, TN, Lester's home town. A few days later (3 April) Arthur Smith died at the age of 93 in Charlotte, NC; entertainer and media personality as well as musician, he composed and recorded the enormously influential 'Guitar boogie' and (with the late Don Reno) 'Feudin' banjos', now widely known as 'Dueling banjos'. John Lawless's reports can be read on Bluegrass Today via the links shown above.

Update: John Lawless publishes the sad news that George Shuffler of Valdese, NC - singer, influential guitarist, and bassist with classic bands including the Stanley Brothers and Don Reno & Bill Harrell - died earlier today, just short of 89. He was inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame in 2011. A recent recording in his honour, 'The boy from Valdese', is available as a free download.

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