08 February 2016

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is as alive as ever, keeps its calendar (the most important part of the BIB) updated, and publishes news received. Send in news by e-mail.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page. Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background and purpose and how to use it.


07 February 2016

10th Coastline Bluegrass Music Event, North Wales, 3-5 June 2016

The most accessible bluegrass festivals outside this country (unless you're in Ulster) are in Wales - so thanks to John Prytherch, organiser of the Coastline Bluegrass Music Event (CBME), for news of the 10th Event, which will be held on the weekend 3-5 June 2016 in the Pavilion at Llangollen, North Wales.

The complete lineup for this year's CBME is now on the website, with bio details. Topping the bill are Sunnyside from the Czech Republic, with Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh; and from Britain Flats & Sharps (who headed the Saturday concert at Westport 2015), Tilter Wheel, The Rip Roaring Success, Biggin Hillbillies, Stompin' Dave Allen, and the Appalachian dance teams Feet First and Leap to your Feet.

A definite plus, announced on the CBME Facebook, is that the MC will be Dublin-born Eugene O'Brien, current chairman of the EBMA and former banjo-player with the Sons of Navarone (B). Eugene's MC work is masterly, as anyone who's seen him at it can testify.

The CBME ranks high on the 'best festivals' choices of journals in Britain, including both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph - two papers that rarely agree on anything else... Tickets can also be booked online, with special provision for campers and BBMA members.

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05 February 2016

Old-time news from the Greasy Coat Stringband

Thanks to Derek Copley of the Greasy Coat Stringband for this news and poster for an upcoming gig in the Back Room of the Cobblestone in Dublin on Thursday 18 February. Derek writes:

The Black Feathers, a duo based in England (though Ray Hughes is from Dublin) will be performing and have asked the Greasy Coat Stringband along for support on the night.

It's a welcome opportunity for the Greasys as we are currently working with a new member and exciting new setlist, as ever deeply rooted in the nuances of traditional old-time fiddle-and-banjo music. We'd love to see some familiar faces - and new ones too - on the night. Doors 9.00 p.m. and tickets €8.

In other old-time news, the Thomas House old-time jam on Monday nights is thriving the past few months, since we decided to convene a little earlier, at 8.00 p.m. All old-time enthusiasts always welcome. There's going to be some drinks promos coming along in early spring too.

That is good news! Look out for some more exciting old-time news in the near future from the Greasy Coats. Meanwhile, the Black Feathers will be playing the following shows in Ireland this month; location data and links to venue websites are on their online tour schedule.

Sat. 13th: Market Place Theatre, Armagh city
Sun. 14th: Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Tues. 16th: The Ruby Sessions, Doyle's, 9 College St., Dublin 2
Thurs. 18th: The Cobblestone, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Fri. 19th: Theatre Royal, Waterford city
Sat. 20th: Glor Theatre, Ennis, Co. Clare

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04 February 2016

Baker's dozen: a new mandolin album by Gerry Madden

Gerry Madden
Thanks to Danny Slevin of Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, for this news of a new recording featuring some of the most talented musicians on the scene here. A particular treat for admirers of Gerry Madden's mandolin playing, it also serves as a memorial to the much missed Vinny Baker, who died in July 2013. Danny, who organised the very successful tribute concert in Vinny's memory at Mullingar in June 2014, writes:

There is a brilliant new album out by Gerry Madden. It was recorded in Vinny's studio and was almost certainly the last album he produced.

The album features some amazing mando playing by Gerry. It also features Charlie Arkins on fiddle, Moyra Fraser on keyboards and accordion, Johnny Gleeson on dobro, and Vinny on guitar. For good measure, there is even a bit of clawhammer banjo by Ger McGrath.

On the last track on the album, you can hear Vinny's voice saying 'Take it from the top.' The words had been edited out but Gerry had a copy of the track on his phone, so they were able to put it back in. Very emotional.

Gerry, who was Vinny's colleague in the successful band Bending the Strings along with Moyra Fraser and Martin Cooney, now plays mandolin with the Waterford-based group Strange Fruit. The BIB will be posting further information on getting hold of the new album.

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03 February 2016

Bands wanted for Fourth of July weekend at Durty Nelly's

The BIB editor reports:

Wendy Connolly's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook carries an appeal from Paul Clover, manager of the celebrated Durty Nelly's bar (above) at Bunratty, Co. Clare. He is looking for 'American-style bands' to play over the American Independence Day weekend (Sat. 2-Mon. 4 July), and adds:

C'mon, folks! Don't let 4th July go by without some real bluegrass and Americana at this fine establishment! It'd be as unthinkable as going the day without fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob! Oil up those fingers and get pickin'!

In our experience, Durty Nelly's is a very welcoming place, which has hosted some fine music during successive events at Bunratty. Bands wishing to play there should 'phone Paul at 061 364861.

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2 Stroke String Sessions resume in Ranelagh, 6 Feb. 2016

Dublin's 2 Stroke String Sessions announce with pleasure that they have found a new home at the Mountpleasant Inn, Ranelagh. The Sessions will be recommencing this coming Saturday (6 Feb.) from 10.30 p.m. till late, and will then continue on the first Saturday of each month thereafter. Admission is free - so you're advised to

Come on down and get an earful of old-time fiddle and banjo tunes and the occasional murder ballad or two.

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Athy's phoenix rises from the ashes

The Athy Bluegrass Festival, Ireland's first and longest-running annual bluegrass music event, has officially come to an end (see its Facebook for 28 Nov. 2015 and the BIB for the same date). The good news is that its place is being taken by the Woodbine Bluegrass Jamboree - and Tony O'Brien is starting the new event (8-9 July 2016) with a bigger bang than we'd expected.

The 'support band' mentioned in November turns out to be the Hamilton County Ramblers, based in Chattanooga, TN, and including Jim Pankey on banjo. Many will remember Jim from four years ago with Chuck and Susan Nation in the band led by former Blue Grass Boy Curtis Blackwell (see the BIB for 9 Mar. 2012). Banjo players are likely to be familiar with the wealth of instructional material he has on YouTube, both in three-finger and clawhammer styles. The video of the Ramblers which Tony posted yesterday as a foretaste of July is also from Jim's YouTube channel.

The Hamilton County Ramblers: (l-r) Josh Hixson, Roy Curry,
James Kee, Jim Pankey, John Boulware

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02 February 2016

A hot two nights in Belfast: tonight and tomorrow

Tonight and tomorrow night should be a very satisfying time for bluegrass enthusiasts in Belfast and the surrounding area: tonight (Tues. 2 Feb.) there's the usual Belfast Bluegrass monthly session, upstairs at Errigle Inn, 312-320 Ormeau Rd, Belfast, from 9.00 p.m., to which all are welcome.

Tomorrow night (Wed. 3 Feb.) the powerful and exciting band Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) will be providing high altitude bluegrass from the Rocky Mountains in the Sunflower Pub, 65 Union St., Belfast. Doors open at 8.00 p.m., and admission is £10.00. This is a Belfast Bluegrass production. For further information, 'phone 07779 721643 or e-mail.

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01 February 2016

John Denby teaches mandolin in the Dublin area

For anyone wanting to learn mandolin in the Dublin region: John Denby, one of the most dynamic mandolinists to have appeared on the scene here in the last few years, is available to give mandolin lessons in bluegrass, folk, country, rock 'n' roll, bluesy styles, and basic trad - he also plays tenor banjo.

Since early 2012 John has been a full member of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band; the photo shows him in full-dress Down and Out uniform. His playing in field jams during the 24th North Wales Bluegrass Festival in July 2012 earned him a special spot on the main concert stage. In 2013 he and Hugh Taggart accompanied Roni Stoneman during her visit to Ireland. In 2014 John became a founder member of the New Breadwinners, and with both bands he has played all over Ireland and toured in Europe.

Contact John by mobile (085 185 9287) or e-mail.

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Your banjo (and you) can be part of history

As the BIB announced three weeks ago (11 Jan.), Roni Stoneman (left), First Lady of the 5-String Banjo, will return to Ireland this summer, combining a friendly visit with select performances, including (as in 2013) a show at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in June.

As any banjo-player knows, travelling with a professional bluegrass banjo in a hard-shell case can be hard on one's hands, arms, and back; and Roni would be glad to leave her bow-tie Mastertone 'warhorse' (see photo) at home if she could count on being able to use a decent banjo in Ireland for about a month - from late May to late June.

Hiring instruments is not as common here as in the US but isn't unknown, and that option will be explored. Meanwhile - if you have a good banjo that you keep as a reserve, or are otherwise not constantly using, give some thought to the idea of being able to say that it has been played by a historic figure in bluegrass: the first woman to be recorded playing Scruggs-style banjo, one of the stars of a long-running TV series, and daughter of one of the first major American old-time recording artists. Drop the BIB editor an e-mail if the idea appeals.

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31 January 2016

Competition answers

Last Monday the BIB drew attention to the new programme for events at the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin (a good friend to bluegrass and related music in the Dublin region), which can be read here.

By the courtesy of the Centre, the BIB was able to offer two seats for each of this weekend's shows at Naul in response to correct answers to two questions. NO answers were received; but here are the answers that were expected. For the Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) show on Friday, the question was:

Name three other bluegrass bands from Colorado who have played in Ireland before 2015.

Answer: Hot Rize, the Bluegrass Patriots, High Plains Tradition.

And for the Gordie Tentrees with Jaxon Haldane (CAN) show last night:

One of the most influential bluegrass albums featured two songs by a Canadian songwriter. Name the writer.

The writer was Gordon Lightfoot, whose 'Ten degrees and getting colder' and 'You are what I am' were recorded by J.D. Crowe & the New South on Rounder 0044. The album also includes Ian Tyson's 'Summer wages', so an answer pointing out that it featured three songs by Canadian writers would have been valid.

The Centre also draws attention to the return of Woody Pines (USA) on Sat. 12 Mar. in what is expected to be a sell-out gig. Other shows likely to interest BIB readers are in the planning stage.

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30 January 2016

Colorado comes to the Beehive, 31 Jan. 2016

Thanks to Tony O'Brien for passing on news from Pat McGill of the Beehive Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal. Pat organises the annual Ardara Bluegrass Festival; the Beehive, on the east side of the main street in central Ardara, serves as the festival club and has hosted some memorable sessions in its bar, yard, and upstairs function room.

Tomorrow night (Sunday 31 Jan., from 8.30 p.m.) the splendid band Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) will be playing at the Beehive. No bluegrass enthusiast who lives within range should miss it. They were in tremendous form last night at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, and are playing tonight at the Pikers Lodge Hotel in Lough Gowna, Co. Cavan. Details for the rest of the tour - they're playing every night till Thursday 4 Feb. - are on the BIB calendar.

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29 January 2016

Support for an Irishwoman in need

Bluegrass Today published yesterday news of Annie Nice, born in Ireland and resident in Raleigh, NC, the city that has generously hosted IBMA's annual World of Bluegrass (WOB) for the last few years. John Lawless writes:

Bluegrass artists and fans will recognise Annie as the long time manager of Tír na nÓg, an Irish pub in downtown Raleigh that regularly featured live bluegrass music in the restaurant. They also served as a Bluegrass Ramble venue during IBMA’s World of Bluegrass week, and many WOB attendees will recall the lively, friendly atmosphere she maintained at the club. [...] She is a fierce advocate for all things Irish, including notably, the traditional music of her homeland.

Artists from the bluegrass scene in Ireland who have played at Tír na nÓg include Niall Toner and Cup O' Joe from Co. Armagh. The bar recently closed, since when Annie has been a managing partner of the Hibernian Pub in Raleigh and has set up Irish Mother Productions as an event agency.

On Tuesday this enterprising Irishwoman, who has been a good friend to bluegrass, was violently attacked and injured in the street in Raleigh. She is out of hospital, and a GoFundMe page was set up to raise $10,000 to support her and her daughter during recovery. We're glad to report that $10,263 was raised in one day by 163 people.

Update 2 Feb.: The target has now been set at $20,000, of which $17,521 has been raised in five days by 290 people.

Update 6 Feb.: The total raised is now $19,188.

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28 January 2016

More music in Clare, 1 and 5 Feb. 2016

Thanks to Brendan Walsh of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club in Co. Clare - and also director of the Shannonside Winter Music Weekend - for this news:

We have Jeff Scroggins & Colorado playing in the Mill Bar, Sixmilebridge, next Monday night [1 Feb.] at 9.00 p.m.; lots of seats and tickets €15 on the door.

Also, we have the Whileaways doing a gig in Kilkishen Cultural Centre on 5 Feb. Book tickets at 086 846 4509.

The photo (by Carol Hawkins) shows Jeff Scroggins & Colorado working close in the Main Guard, Bunratty Castle, on 23 Jan.

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Commemorating Tommy Jarrell

The BIB editor reports:

A year ago today was the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Thomas Jefferson 'Tommy' Jarrell (b. 1 Mar. 1901) of Surry County, NC. I missed that opportunity of commemorating one of the best-known figures in the history of old-time music, and this post is a small attempt to make up for the neglect.

A good biographical account is on the Old-Time Fiddlers Hall of Fame website. The 'Round Peak' sound, created by the musicians of that area of Surry County, is now practically the default setting of old-time music as it is played today, and this is largely due to the influence of Tommy Jarrell - felt both through his music and through the warmth and openness of his character.

The first record by him that I owned was the solo fiddle LP Sail away ladies (County 756), released in 1976, and I was (and still am) knocked out by its vitality. The phrase 'Round Peak' is so familiar these days that it is a surprise now to see that the sleeve notes use it only for his home area; he was seen then as a 'Galax style' musician. Alice Gerrard, friend both to Tommy Jarrell and to Bill Monroe, and musical partner of Hazel Dickens, will be among the instructors at the Old-Time Workshop Week in Andalusia in April/May this year.

Since 2002 Tommy has been commemorated with an annual festival in Mount Airy, NC, on the last weekend in February. On Friday 26 Feb. 2016 the Surry Arts Council will hold in his memory a Youth Competition at 5.30 p.m. and a Tommy Jarrell Birthday Concert and Dance at 7.00 p.m., both in the Earle Theatre on Main St., Mount Airy, which also holds the Old Time Music Heritage Hall.

Plenty of footage of Tommy Jarrell is on YouTube; here, from the Alan Lomax archive, is the first of two videos of him playing 'John Brown's dream' with friends. A question to be answered by scholars - how much of the klezmer revival is due to Tommy's asking Hank Sapoznik: 'Don't your people have music?'

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27 January 2016

Shannonside Winter Music Festival: report and photos

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado warming up in the 
Bunratty Castle Hotel

Thanks to Des Butler for this report on the 17th Shannonside Winter Music Festival (21-25 Jan.), and for the photos. Des writes:

No doubt you enjoyed Jeff Scroggins & Colorado as much as I did; what a performance, from their impromptu session at lunchtime in the Bunratty Castle Hotel, where I actually got to meet them, through their performance at the Creamery Bar on Saturday night, their concert in Durty Nelly's on Sunday afternoon, and the jamming session in the Bunratty Castle Hotel on Sunday night, where they were still playing at approximately 2.00 a.m. as I headed up for bed.

On fire in the Main Guard, Bunratty Castle

I could not get enough of this band.

Jam at Bunratty Castle Hotel: (l-r) Nick Amodeo, Jeff Scroggins, 
Martin Gilmore, Greg Blake

The entire festival was a musical extravaganza and is a credit to all the organisers. If as a music lover one did not find a genre to one's liking here, one really needs to check one's pulse. Personally I have not come across any festival catering for almost all musical tastes and genres as this one does.

Pepper and the Jellies: songs of the swing era

The Mariachi San Patricio

John Nyhan, Nick Amodeo

John Nyhan, Jeff Scroggins, Martin Gilmore

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26 January 2016

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado in Belfast, 3 Feb. 2016

Greg, Jeff, Tristan, Sebie, and Ellie at the
Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival

Thanks to Richard Leeman of Belfast Bluegrass for news of the forthcoming concert by Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (USA) in Belfast, in the penultimate show of their present tour. The concert is a Belfast Bluegrass production, and Richard has issued an attractive press release, based on the bio page of the band's website.

[Update: Thanks to DanGem Bluegrass, the full text of the release, with original illustration, can be seen here.]

Note: Tristan Scroggins (mandolin and vocals) turned 21 earlier this month (see the BIB for 7 Jan.); and since this year's SPBGMA convention will begin on 4 Feb. in Nashville, it's worth remarking that lead singer Greg Blake from West Virginia has won the SPBGMA Guitarist of the Year award five times and been nominated twice for the SPBGMA Traditional Male Vocalist award.

The band began their tour of Ireland on 23 January at the Shannonside Winter Music Festival, Co. Clare, and will play a date at the​ Sunflower Pub, 65 Union St., Belfast, ​on Wednesday 3 February. Doors are at 8.00 p.m., show starts 8.30 p.m. Tickets are £10 and are available now online and on the door, subject to availability. Richard adds:

This promises to be a fantastic night of music that will appeal not just to fans of bluegrass, but all lovers of country, Americana, and folk music. Don’t miss your chance to see the best in American bluegrass in one of Belfast’s best live music venues!

For further info, please contact Richard on 07779 721 643 or by e-mail.  BIB readers will already be aware that this band is highly recommended. By all means buy their new CD (not yet released in the USA); but you'll be missing a lot if you don't see them in action.

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Gordie Tentrees with Jaxon Haldane - in Ireland

Our post last night on the BIB competition included Gordie Tentrees with Jaxon Haldane, who will be playing at Naul on Saturday 30 Jan. Their tour has already begun; the remaining dates, starting tonight, are:

Tues. 26th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, 8.30 p.m.
Wed. 27th: Balor Arts Centre, Main St., Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 28th: Monroe's Live, Dominick St., Galway city, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 29th: An Tain Arts Centre, Dundalk, Co. Louth, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 30th: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m.

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25 January 2016

Séamus Ennis Arts Centre - into 2016 with a bang / And a BIB competition!

The Séamus Ennis Arts Centre at Naul, Co. Dublin, announces the Centre's new programme for the year as far as the end of April, which can be read here. The Centre has been a good friend to bluegrass and related music in the Dublin region, and its latest e-newsletter begins:

Following on from the success of last year, everyone at the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre is really excited at what we have in store for you in 2016. [...] The year kicks off with some fantastic bluegrass tunes from Jeff Scroggins & Colorado [Fri. 29 Jan.], followed by the amazing Gordie Tentrees with Jaxon Haldane [Sat. 30 Jan.]. We are delighted to continue to showcase the very best of North American folk, bluegrass and country music and this season sees the return of Woody Pines [Sat. 12 Mar.] in what will be an amazing sell-out gig.

Read the whole e-newsletter here.
By the courtesy of the Centre, the BIB is delighted to be able to offer two seats for each of this weekend's shows at Naul in a competition. The prizes will be awarded for the first correct answers we receive to the following questions. First, for the Jeff Scroggins & Colorado show on Friday:

Name three other bluegrass bands from Colorado who have played in Ireland before 2015.

Secondly, for the Gordie Tentrees with Jaxon Haldane show (they being from Canada) on Saturday:

One of the most influential bluegrass albums featured two songs by a Canadian songwriter. Name the writer.

Answers by e-mail, please.

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Two Time Polka at Ballincollig, 30 Jan. 2016

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka announces:

Our next gig is on

Sat. Jan. 30th: The White Horse Winter Music Festival, Ballincollig, Co. Cork. Start 11.45 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 021 4871388

Ray & TTP

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Jeff Scroggins & Colorado: a must-see

The BIB editor reports:

On the basis of seeing them at the Shannonside Winter Music Festival, I believe Jeff Scroggins & Colorado are the most exciting bluegrass band I have seen in this country; and that's said with no disrespect to the many fine bands that have played here. Passion, precision, drive, humour, choice of material, and the interaction that blends so much energy from all over the band into a powerful unified whole - nothing of what I like to hear in a bluegrass band is lacking.

Any bluegrass enthusiast who can reach one or more of their shows should do so. This applies equally to musicians - there is no band playing bluegrass in Ireland at present that can't learn something by seeing these guys.

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