28 May 2015

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is still alive, keeps its calendar (the most important part of the BIB) updated, and publishes news received. Send in news by e-mail; and please also e-mail it to Wendy Connolly for the 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page. 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.


27 May 2015

June calendar now also on the BIB front page

As an experiment intended to assist BIB readers, the events currently on the BIB calendar for next month are now displayed in the right-hand column of our front page, below all the links, lists of recent posts, archives, and site meter.

The main BIB calendar remains unchanged. Both it and the new display will be updated whenever necessary. The editor will be glad to know readers' views on whether this innovation is helpful.


26 May 2015

Belfast Bluegrass: next session Tuesday 2 June 2015

Richard Leeman, organiser of the monthly Belfast Bluegrass sessions (and also guitar player and lead singer of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band), announces that the next Belfast Bluegrass session will be in a week's time, on Tuesday 2 June. The session, as always, will be upstairs at the Errigle Inn, 312-320 Ormeau Rd, Belfast, starting about 9.00 p.m. All are welcome.

Richard adds that there are no plans for Belfast Bluegrass to take a summer break. Consequently, the following session should be on Tuesday 7 July.

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Bands wanted for Durty Nelly's, 4 July weekend

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, for bluegrass bands (note the plural) for the 4 July weekend.

In our experience, Durty Nelly's is a very welcoming place, which has hosted some fine music during successive Bunratty Banjo Festivals. We recommend it, and regret only that other commitments prevent our being there. Those who can be there should contact Paul Clover; 'phone and e-mail are shown on the pub's Facebook.

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23 May 2015

DanGem Bluegrass Get-Together, 30 May 2015 - last before the summer break

Thanks to DanGem Bluegrass in Craigavon, Co. Armagh, for a reminder that their next monthly Bluegrass Get-Together will be held a week today (Saturday 30 May) at the usual place and time (the Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim BT27 4RL, from 10.00 a.m. to noon); and with the usual schedule:

10.00-10.30 Warm-up
10.30-11.00(ish) Break out time for beginners; rest of players, jam time
11.00(ish) to 12.00(ish) All back together

The DanGem Get-Together combines a jam session for those who are already active pickers, with the opportunity to learn for those who are beginners or just want to listen. This coming meeting will be the last one before the summer break.

DanGem add: 'So let everyone know. Bring along your banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dobros, and bass, or just come along and enjoy us make music. Look forward to seeing as many of you who can attend.'

DanGem's e-newsletter includes a reminder that they have the largest range of banjos for sale in this island.

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22 May 2015

The Railsplitters (USA) - available for bookings in April 2016

On 6 May the BIB carried news of the tour that will be made here next month (16-21 June 2015) as part of a tour in these islands by the Railsplitters bluegrass band (above) from Boulder, Colorado, playing classic and contemporary bluegrass and original material.

Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency reports that dates for this tour were snapped up in record time. The Railsplitters' new album (released last week) has been well received, and another tour is already being planned for next spring. Loudon would be glad to hear from anyone who would like to book the band in the period 5-26 April 2016. A recent promo video can be seen here.

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Vincent Cross: May newsletter and summer tour dates

Thanks to Vincent Cross, the Irish bluegrass scene's resident envoy in New York, for his May e-newsletter with items on gigs past and future, a video, and links to more on his website. The photo above, showing Vincent with Peter Rowan at Matt Umanov's music store, has already been shown on the Prescription Bluegrass Blog.

Vincent also has a link to the dates of his summer European tour - festivals, house concerts, workshops, etc. - beginning in Britain for the first three weeks of July. He then comes to Ireland for the following dates:

Tues. July 21st: Abner Brown's Barber Shop, 6 Rathgar Rd, Dublin 6
Wed. 22nd: The Sitting Room Session, De Barra's, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Sun. 26th: McGing's, Westport, Co. Mayo
Wed. 29th: Anchorage Bar, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
Thurs. 30th: The Lansdowne Session, Belfast
Sat. Aug. 1st: Americana Music Workshop, Athlone
Sun. 2nd: House concert, Galway city

before going on to Norway, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Switzerland. Read more here.

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The Alec Somerville banjo - in print

In the early part of 2014 the BIB carried several news items about old-time singer, clawhammer-banjo player, and Co. Donegal resident Alec Somerville and the 5-string banjo that he donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, with its unique collection of signatures by twenty-eight members of the Canadian Corps in France and Flanders in 1917.

Alec and the banjo appeared on a commemorative episode of the BBC TV 'Antiques Roadshow' series last spring. The banjo's story can now be read in the BBC publication Antiques Roadshow: World War One in 100 family treasures by Paul Atterbury, who interviewed Alec on the show. The four-page feature includes a full-page photo showing the inside of the banjo pot, with the signatures on the original skin head. The book should be available in any good bookshop.

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21 May 2015

More artists confirmed for Dunmore East 2015

Following upon the BIB post of 30 April, thanks to Mick Daly for more news of the lineup at the 21st Guinness International Bluegrass Festival (27-30 Aug. 2015) at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.

Further artists confirmed for the festival include Cup O' Joe from Armagh - who, like JigJam from Tullamore, were at last week's European World of Bluegrass Festival in the Netherlands. Photos of both bands at EWOB can be seen on their own Facebook pages and through links on the EWOB Facebook.

There will also be major guests at Dunmore East from the USA: the duo Whiskey Deaf from the vigorous scene in Portland, OR, playing traditional bluegrass, old-time, and early country music. Whiskey Deaf consists of Annie Staninec and John Kael (above, left and right), and we quote the blurb on their website:

Annie Staninec has been playing fiddle since the age of 4, and can rattle your teeth with a bluegrass breakdown, tug at your soul on a lonesome ballad, or kick you out of your seat with a cajun two-step. She’s toured the world and been on countless records with renowned artists such as Kathy Kallick, Laurie Lewis, Peter Rowan, John Reischman, David Grisman, Darol Anger, Mary Gauthier, and Town Mountain, and she’s taught at some of the most prestigious music camps in the country.

John Kael has been teaching and performing bluegrass guitar, mandolin, banjo, and bass for over twenty years, and is also an established songwriter – his award-winning song 'Handmade cross' can be heard on the Grammy-nominated album
Hard game of love by Doyle Lawson.

John also operates the very useful Bluegrass Lyrics website. Plenty of examples of Annie Staninec's playing are on YouTube, including her own channel. More additions to the Dunmore East lineup are on the way.

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Gordie MacKeeman & his Rhythm Boys (CAN) at Omagh, 3-5 July 2015

The latest e-newsletter from the National Museums of Northern Ireland draws attention to their main summer events, including American Independence Weekend (Fri. 3 July-Sun. 5 July) at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone.

Music will be provided by the award-winning Canadian roots music group Gordie MacKeeman & his Rhythm Boys (right), consisting of Gordie MacKeeman (fiddle, vocals), Peter Cann (guitar, vocals), Thomas Webb (upright bass, banjo, vocals), and Mark Geddes (drums, bass). Their Facebook shows the Hot Club of Cowtown, the Del McCoury Band, and John Hartford as 'artists we also like'.

The band have already toured Britain four times in the last two years, including performing at the Glastonbury Festival.

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The Cabin Sessions - next on 28 May 2015

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

We're back on Thursday 28 May: The Cabin Crew featuring Spats Davenport, Aisling Davenport, Con Butler, Gerry Fitzpatrick, Cathy McEvoy (fiddle), Dave Hardy (sax/clarinet), Christian Volkmann (harmonica), Richard Hawkins (banjo), Enda O'Connor (cajon). Special guests Helene (France), Rhapsody (male choir), and Seanie Vaughan (contemporary). 9.30-11.30 p.m., and admission is FREE. Hope to see you there!

NB: the Cabin Sessions will take a break in June, and will be back at the end of July.

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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20 May 2015

Coming in the Dublin area...

Thanks to Aran Sheehan of the Dublin Bluegrass Collective for news of two important upcoming events in and around Dublin - the most immediate being the open session in McLoughlins Pub, Dun Laoghaire, this Saturday, 23 May, from 9.00 p.m. This is the third monthly session in a series that began with great success in March (see the BIB for 25 April), and is open to any bluegrass pickers who would like to join in.

Aran draws special attention to the show by Mala & FyrMoon (above) from Switzerland in the Cobblestone, Dublin, on Saturday 20 June. The band's music can be sampled on their website song page. On the night, Mala & FyrMoon will be supported by the Dublin Bluegrass Collective, who announce on their own Facebook page that the DBC is 'gonna have to rip up some stonking tunes and songs to warm up for these great folks'.

All this is in addition to the regular bluegrass open sessions in central Dublin every Tuesday from 9.00 p.m. in Sin É, Ormond Quay.

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19 May 2015

Rayna Gellert: new CD and tour in these islands

Rayna Gellert's latest e-newsletter announces her new CD, Rayna Gellert & the Brothers K (cover image left) - eleven tracks of old-timey tunes and songs from Rayna herself (fiddle, guitar, viola, vocals), Kevin Kehrberg (bass, guitar, vocals), and Jeff Keith (guitar, mandolin, vocals). The track listing can be seen, and the CD bought, here.

The newsletter also gives dates for her tour in these islands: between 25 May and 10 June she will be playing seven dates in Britain, and then coming to Ireland where her only scheduled performances are at the 9th Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival (12-14 June). Full details are here.

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18 May 2015

Coming our way

After the fairly serious piece the BIB published yesterday about the European World of Bluegrass Festival, we're glad to be able to refer our readers to the EWOB Facebook page, where there are plenty of photos by Ton and Ali Dentinger and other items to show us how enjoyable last week's event was.

The latter include a video from the RTV Slingeland YouTube channel, showing Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, one of the two US bands who will be in Ireland this week, playing 'Love please come home'. The photo above, taken during the band's set on the EWOB stage, shows Jeff (right) and his son Tristan (centre).

The other US group, a trio of the younger members of The Petersens, will be playing - both on their own and in conjunction with Jeff Scroggins & Colorado - a series of shows in southern Ireland between now and Saturday. Dates (thanks to John Nyhan) are on the BIB calendar.
The European Bluegrass Blog has published this feature on The Railsplitters (USA) (see the BIB for 6 May), who will be touring in Ireland a month from now. The feature includes a video of the band playing 'My world'.

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17 May 2015

The future of EWOB

The 18th European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festival has just finished at Voorthuizen in the central Netherlands, where the event has been held annually since 1999. Musicians and fans from Ireland have taken part many times: the Knotty Pine String Band were at the very first EWOB in Lichtenvoorde in 1998, Carmel Sheerin & the Ravens won the No. 1 European Bluegrass Band award in 2005, and this year two rising young Irish bands, Cup O' Joe and JigJam, were on the programme.* It is therefore with concern that we read this announcement by the EWOB organising team, made a week ago on Facebook:

With EWOB 2015 just a few days away we are once again thrilled to be seeing all of you in Voorthuizen and hope that we can once again pull off a great musical experience for everyone!

At the same time we feel it is important to share our concerns for the future of EWOB in its current form / organisation so we can seize the moment to explore and discuss this during and following the festival.

Over the last two decennia the European World Of Bluegrass festival (EWOB - The Netherlands) has become a household name in the European bluegrass community. Each year over forty bands have been given the opportunity to present themselves, both on stage as in the area.

Unlike most festivals EWOB is not merely a concert venue. It is a unique multi-day gathering of a few hundred musicians and bluegrass lovers with the possibility to perform, camp, jam, and socialise. EWOB has without a doubt contributed to making European bluegrass a ‘smaller world’. It has triggered many friendships and new bluegrass initiatives and has given US exposure to a number of award-winning bands.

Over the last eighteen years EWOB, as an unsubsidised event, has followed a defined format. This format has been a success for a long time but may now require a new vision and direction to align with changes in expectations, economy, reduced availability of bands, funds, location, volunteers, other initiatives, etc..

These are interesting challenges which may also result in new possibilities and collaborations but they do require new people with fresh ideas and, more importantly, the drive and ambition to realise this either as part of / in cooperation with the EWOB foundation or in a completely different setup.

The organisation of EWOB has always rested on a limited (and declining) number of shoulders, with the invaluable support from the many volunteers during the festival days itself (also declining). What we do know is that EWOB 2015 will be the last festival in its current format [bold type added by the BIB].

In order to safeguard the legacy of EWOB for the future we are reaching out to you as members of the European bluegrass community. We foresee that future festivals will mainly depend on your initiatives, input and ideas. In order for this to succeed it is crucial to find people who are willing to:
• define and shape a new festival approach
• build a strong team for the future
• take on the organisational and financial responsibility
• operationalise feasible and constructive ideas

We hope that anyone or any organisation willing to play an active role to preserve this unique annual event comes forward and contacts us either during or after EWOB.

We hope that you’ll have a great festival and that there will be many more to come. See you in a few days!

We look forward to hearing of any further developments during or following the festival. The BIB editor also wishes to send condolences to Ronald Groot, head of the EWOB organising team, on the death of his mother last month.

*Update 19 May: Thanks to Colin Henry for his comment (see below): 'Of course Birddog played EWOB in 1999 and got a track included in that year's CD.' Absolutely correct; and other distinguished bluegrass people from this island have appeared on the EWOB stage or been present in other capacities.

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16 May 2015

Coastline Bluegrass Music Event, 29-31 May 2015

A couple of months ago, on St Patrick's day, the BIB drew attention to the coming Coastline Bluegrass Music Event (29-31 May), to be held at the Royal International Pavilion in Llangollen, North Wales - very accessible from Ireland.

This year the headliners are Ruben & Matt and the Truffle Valley Boys (above) from Italy, with solid credentials in hard-core traditional bluegrass. A longer feature on the Event and on the band appears on the European Bluegrass Blog today, including a thirteen-minute video (also on YouTube) which gives plenty of their music and shows how the band came together. Recommended.

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14 May 2015

Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson, 2006 (photo: Dave Dry)

The FOAOTMAD news blog reports the sad news that Keith Johnson, founder of FOAOTMAD, the UK's association for old-time music, died on Saturday 2 May after a long illness. The report continues:

It was Keith who was the driving force behind the Gainsborough Festival and also the idea of regular fiddle and banjo workshops. He and his wife Brenda often provided festival accommodation for visiting American artists and their son Rob was the festival caterer for many years. His dedication to old-time music in the UK has left its mark on many of us. One thing for certain is that whether you knew Keith or not, without him you would not be reading this blog. He will be sorely missed.

An American source draws attention to Keith Johnson's initiative in bringing West Virginia clawhammer-banjo apostle Dwight Diller to give workshops in England, and the way this raised the standard of playing there.

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13 May 2015

Martin Gross Band at Kilcolgan Bluegrass Weekend, 24-6 July 2015

Thanks to Peter Larkin in Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, for this news of a bluegrass weekend out west, a visiting band, AND a workshop for dobro players:

Martin Gross and his band from Stuttgart in Germany will be coming to Ireland on 24/25/26 July. They will be playing at the Blue Grass Weekend in County Galway in Rafterys Rest, Kilcolgan. It's about twenty minutes south of Galway city.

Martin will also be giving tuition on the 25th on the resonator guitar (dobro). Booking for his day-long tuition is being taken at present. For schedule of tuition and costs, please contact Peter Larkin on 087 995 3555 or by e-mail.

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12 May 2015

Concert tickets for Westport 2015 on sale

Following upon the release a few days ago from the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, the festival organisers announce that ticket sales are now open for the three concerts during this year's event (12-14 June 2015) - one on each day of the festival.

On Friday 12 June, the concert theme is 'Women across the water'; on Saturday 13 June, 'Bluegrass: the next generation'; and on Sunday 14 June the Clew Bay Folk Club presents Ger Wolfe. More details and online booking facilities are on the Festival's latest e-newsletter, which is headed by the photo shown above. It was taken during the Saturday afternoon bluegrass jam in McGing's beer garden last year. Your editor had the honour of taking part, as can be seen...

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Fiddle and guitar instruction needed

Does any BIB reader know of someone who can give instruction in bluegrass fiddle and guitar in the south-east of Ireland - that is, Wexford and the adjoining counties?

The instruction is needed for young musicians who are already adept in Irish music, would like to learn bluegrass, and are prepared to travel (within reason). Please send any information to the BIB editor by e-mail.

The image above is the cover illustration for Dan Miller's Flatpicking essentials, volume 3: flatpicking fiddle tunes, published by Flatpicking Guitar magazine.

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