25 July 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.


24 July 2014

Si Kahn at the 4th Cork Mother Jones Festival, 27 July-2 Aug. 2014

'Mother Jones' in her mid sixties (photo from Wikipedia article)

US singer, songwriter, activist, and organiser Si Kahn will be in Cork city from this coming Sunday (27 July) to 2 August, taking part in the 4th annual Cork Mother Jones Festival, which begins in Shandon on 29 July.

The festival commemorates Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones (1837-1930), born in Cork city, who emigrated to North America with her family as a teenager, married there, and (after major personal misfortunes) devoted herself to labour organisation and agitation, being very active in the Industrial Workers of the World, the United Mine Workers, and the Socialist Party of America. In 1902 an opposing lawyer labelled her 'the most dangerous woman in America'. Much of her work was done in the mining districts of Appalachia. She has been commemorated in many songs, including one by Andy Irvine.

Si Kahn himself has a distinguished record of activism in social, political, and environmental causes, as well as performing and recording many times in bluegrass settings. He has written a musical drama, 'Mother Jones in Heaven', which has earned strongly enthusiastic reviews, including acclaim for actor/singer Mary Gannon Graham in the title role. The action is set in a celestial bar, with plenty of drink, Irish music, and topical comment.

Si's schedule at Cork is as follows: 

Sun. 27 July: Singalong of US labour and civil rights songs, Maldron Hotel, 8.00 p.m. Free songsheets provided.

Mon. 28 July: Songwriting workshop, Maldron Hotel, 8.00 p.m. Si adds: 'We won’t be able to work on more than two or three songs, but if you want to take the chance that we’ll work on one of yours, please bring 20 copies of the lyrics. Don’t bring your best song or a song you consider finished - only one that you’re still working on and/or are having trouble with.'

Thurs. 31 July: Grand Concert (fundraiser for the Cork Mother Jones Festival) with US labour/folk musician Anne Feeney, hailed by the late great Utah Phillips as 'the best labour singer in America'. Firkin Crane Theatre, 8.30 p.m.

Fri. 1 Aug.: Presentation: 'A life of activism', Firkin Crane Theatre, 2.00 p.m.

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22 July 2014

Vincent Cross: July newsletter

Thanks to Vincent Cross (on the left in the above photo) in New York for his 'Oh My July' global newsletter, which includes a link to details of his Australian tour this month; images from the 'Notes for Notes' roots writing workshop in Santa Barbara; another to Vincent's 'Tools of the trade' blog on songwriters and their guitars; and another to a brief clip of Vincent singing 'The cuckoo' (also visible on YouTube) from the recent EuroGrass show at the Jalopy Theater, Brooklyn, which Vincent considers 'quite frankly the best room for acoustic music in New York City'.

Anyone interested in taking part in Vincent's roots writing workshops can contact him directly on his website.

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21 July 2014

Cabin Sessions in Dundrum, Dublin, 31 May 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 on Thursday 31 July with the Cabin Crew - Spats (gtr), Con (bs), Gerry (dob), Cathy (fdl), Christian (hca). Special guests are Joey Magic (Americana) and Lynda Lucas & Erin Achenbach (folk/country). 9.30-11.30 p.m., adm. FREE. Hope to see you there!

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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The crossing: new CD from the White Mansions

Thanks again to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for the news that The crossing, the new CD by The White Mansions, is available for digital download from iTunes.

As reported on the BIB on 18 July, The White Mansions are among the bands taking part in this year's Bluegrass Weekend section (2-3 Aug. 2014) of the Maiden City Festival in Derry city.

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18 July 2014

In memory: Jimmy Quinn, Tommy Ramone

Thanks again to Ray O'Brien and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' for sharing an item published today on the Mohill Bluegrass Festival Facebook page: a three-minute video by Cinny McAdam of Jimmy Quinn, singing lead on 'Carolina Star' in a barroom jam - a reminder of what the scene lost with Jimmy's death in February this year.

Tommy Ramone, born Tamas Erdelyi in Budapest, Hungary, in 1949, died last Friday (11 July). He was the drummer and last surviving founder-member of the Ramones, the pioneering New York punk-rock band who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 Grammies.

By that time he had become the most notable of the growing number of pickers making the transition from punk rock to old-time music, and performed on vocals, mandolin, guitar, banjo, and dobro as a member of the duo Uncle Monk with Claudia Tienan (see photo). They toured in Ireland in late April and early May 2010.

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Ulster news: two festivals, two concerts, plenty of bluegrass

Thanks to Sharon Loughrin of the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for this news:

This coming Tuesday, 22 July, the Count Me In bluegrass band [above] will be playing at Jonny the Jug in Holywood, Co. Down, at 9 o'clock.

The Count Me Ins are then on stage at the Cairncastle Ulster Scots Festival on Wednesday 23rd; also appearing are Colin Henry and Janet Holmes, also the Down And Out Bluegrass Band [see the BIB for 2 July 2014].

On the same night [23 July], the two Gary Fergusons will be at the Red Room, all welcome as usual!

Details are now on the web for the Maiden City Festival, Londonderry. Saturday 2 August is of most interest, with the usual 'Bluegrass on the Walls' sessions at various places in the city. There is also a Saturday evening concert with Cup o' Joe, No Oil Paintings, and Noriana Kennedy. Sunday afternoon also has a bluegrass brunch session, so lots to hear over the weekend.

Full details of the Bluegrass Weekend section of the Maiden City Festival can be seen here in downloadable form. 'Bluegrass on the Walls' presents the Tennessee Hennessees, the Down and Outs, Wookalily, Count Me In, the Broken String Band (with John Fitzpatrick on fiddle), and the Murder Balladeers. The lineup for the 'Youngtime Bluegrass' evening concert in the Craft Village is as given by Sharon above. The Bluegrass Brunch on Sunday presents Janet Holmes and Colin Henry, Wookalily, White Mansions, and the Murder Balladeers in the Craft Village.

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Westport goes to the Opry, and Dublin Goes Country

Thanks to Ray O'Brien and 'Bluegrass in Ireland' for sharing two items. The first of these comes from the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival Facebook page, and includes two photos showing Des and Pat Butler at the Grand Ole Opry, with Des wearing his Westport Festival T-shirt.

(By the way, there is plenty of other good things on the Westport page, including many photos from this year's Festival.)

The second item is a message from Karl Deeter of the Tin Box Company, urging bluegrassers not to miss any opportunities offered by the Dublin Goes Country initiative, which has arisen to fill the void caused by a lack of Garth Brooks. Note specially the Whelan's Bluegrass, Country, and Roots Festival (25-27 July), 8.00 p.m. each night, and free admission.

The BIB adds: Brush up your versions of 'Baton Rouge' and get in there! NB: on the Dublin Goes Country and Whelan's festival pages you can see a six-string banjo, apparently being clawhammered.

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16 July 2014

Dunmore East set to celebrate twenty years of bluegrass

Thanks to Karen Cheevers of B2B Communications for this press release under the title '20th Guinness International Bluegrass Festival attracts international acts to Co. Waterford coastal town':

Bluegrass makes a welcome return to Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, as the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival celebrates twenty years of great bluegrass, blues, country, and honky-tonk music. This year the 20th Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival will take place on 21, 22, 23, and 24 August 2014, and American quartet Boxcar Preachers is set to headline one of Europe’s biggest free bluegrass festivals.

The Boxcar Preachers from Austin, Texas, first played at the Bluegrass Festival back in 2006, and festival founder Mick Daly is delighted that the old-time outlaw country band is back for the twentieth festival: 'The Boxcar Preachers created a great buzz in Dunmore East back in 2006 so we felt it would be apt to have them back as the Bluegrass Festival celebrates twenty great years.'

Bruce Gardner (co-founder of the band) and Craig High got together almost thirteen years ago when they realised they came from similar musical stock. The music they play is perhaps more reminiscent of the era of Bonnie and Clyde or John Dillinger, but their outlaw connection goes back to the romantic days of the Wild West when train robberies began to spread like an epidemic.

According to Mick, 'Since the Bluegrass Festival started back in 1994 the committee has been dedicated to growing the event and making it a fantastic weekend for music lovers, tourists, locals, and families. This year we plan to have more high-calibre local and international bluegrass, country, and blues acts playing throughout the village over the three-day festival. The pubs and hotels in Dunmore will have a full live-music schedule from afternoon to nightfall, with all gigs absolutely free.'

The festival will also feature plenty of family-focused fun with food stalls, children’s entertainment in the Park, and lots of activity throughout the village.

Mr Daly was also pleased to confirm that some great UK and Irish acts will be performing over the Festival, with the return of Southern Welfare, the Mons Wheeler Band, and Land’s End. Land’s End is an edgy bluegrass combo that debuted in Dunmore East in 2012 and returned in 2013. The band, made up of members from Cork, Galway, Dublin, Munich, Liverpool and Canada, performs music strongly embedded in the bluegrass tradition, but each member brings a distinctive sound of their own musical tradition to the musical arrangements of the band.

'It’s a great line up befitting of our twentieth year of bringing great bluegrass music to Dunmore East. Visitors can expect to hear a wide mix of bluegrass, country, blues, rhythm, swing, and honky-tonk over the three-day festival.'

The 20th Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival kicks off on Thursday 21 August at Azzurro Restaurant and heralds the start of three days of bands playing almost fifty gigs in the villages’ pubs, restaurants, and hotels. For more information about all free events at the 20th Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival in Co. Waterford, visit www.discoverdunmore.com.

BIB editor's note: In addition to the bands named above, the Down and Out Bluegrass Band, Black Bottle String Band, Newfoundland, Greasy Coat String BandDublin City Rounders, and Barefoot Jenny are on the Festival programme.

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15 July 2014

Stelling banjo for sale

First-class professional bluegrass banjos don't often come on to the market, so thanks to Ray O'Brien and Tony Wall in Waterford for sharing this from Denis Hayes of Cork city. Denis writes:

I have had this banjo for about two years. I bought it from Brian, the banjo player from the Thunderbridge Bluegrass band in the UK. It is in pristine condition and has been well looked after.

I have fitted a Renaissance head, a new Stelling birch bridge, and had the tension hooks re-plated. Phil Davidson had done an excellent re-fret job shortly before I acquired the banjo. As far as I am aware everything else is original. It is a powerful instrument and you don't see many around.

The original case has clearly seen some action but it is structurally OK. Railroad spikes installed at the 7th, 9th, 10th, and 12th frets.

Looking for €2000 for it. I will be in Dublin this Thursday if anyone would care to try it.

BIB editor's note: Contact Denis on 086-3111011. As new Stelling banjos begin at over $5,000, this seems a real bargain. Grahame Turner of the New Essex Bluegrass Band was playing a Stelling at last weekend's Athy festival.

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Sarah Jarosz in Ireland this week

Thanks to Tom Stapleton for a further reminder that this week is when multi-talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and 2014 double Grammy nominee Sarah Jarosz (USA) will be playing four dates in Ireland, supporting her latest release, Build me up from bones.

Tom is presenting the first of these, tomorrow (16 July) - see the poster image. The full schedule is on the BIB calendar and the BIB post for 1 June, together with Tom's own contact data.
Thanks also to the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, for their latest e-newsletter, with reminders of three musical events in the next three weeks: the Mae Trio (AUS) on Fri. 18 July; Charlie McGettigan and Ferguson & Ferguson (USA) on Sat. 26 July, the penultimate show in the Fergusons' tour; and on Sat. 2 August the Hot Seats (USA).

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14 July 2014

Calling all bluegrassers in Galway

Seán Óg McKiernan (far right in the above photo of the Old Town Rounders of Galway city) would be glad to make contact with

... any serious bluegrass fiddlers - or, indeed, any serious bluegrass players - in the Galway area, as they are very difficult to come across. I meet a lot of trad players who have the odd bluegrass tune but it's hard to beat the real deal!

There's a nationwide shortage of that commodity... Any members of the bluegrass tribe in or around the City of Tribes who might be interested in jamming should contact Seán Óg by e-mail or mobile (087 6362248).

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13 July 2014

The Hot Seats in Britain and Ireland, 17 July-3 Aug. 2014

Thanks to Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knight agency for the news that one of the best US string bands on the circuit, the five-piece Hot Seats from Virginia, will be arriving in these islands in this coming week for their sixth tour, a two-and-a-half-week one that will culminate in three dates in Ireland. They have played major festivals on previous tours of Britain, and will be bringing their brand new album, Grandpa’s favourite - their eighth or tenth, depending on who's counting - which will be officially released on their arrival.

The tour dates begin on 17 July, with shows mostly in Scotland; full details are on their website. Irish fans will have a chance to renew acquaintance with Ben Belcher (second from right in above photo), banjo- and guitar-player with the Corn Potato String Band on their tour in Ireland last month. The three Hot Seats shows in Ireland are as follows:

Sat. 2 Aug.: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin
Sun. 3 Aug.: Beach House BBQ, Bangor, Co. Down (afternoon); Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone (evening)

Media presenters who would like to access or download a broadcast-quality copy of Grandpa’s favourite should contact Loudon by e-mail.

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Gear needed for US band at Dunmore East 2014

Aran Sheehan of Dublin Bluegrass sends this appeal to the community:

... regarding some equipment that we need for the Boxcar Preachers (USA) in Dunmore East [the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, 21-24 Aug.], this year.

Looking for an amp - not a terrible one, but a good Peavy 112 or the like and a volume pedal for lend or rent for the visiting bluegrass band's pedal steel (20-27 August).

Also if by some slim chance someone has a pedal steel (GFI, Ultra, or similar, as pictured) that would be amazing, as it's tricky getting that over from the US.

Anyone who can help should contact Aran by mobile (085-7110826), land line (01-6584615), e-mail, or Facebook.

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10 July 2014

Niall and 'Million dollar bill' on YouTube

Thanks to Niall Toner for this link to his latest YouTube video, which shows Niall singing his song 'Million dollar bill' (from his latest Pinecastle album, Onwards and upwards). As the image above shows, you get Niall's genial countenance as he sings (and some shots of nifty fingerwork on the mandolin), plus a running display of the lyrics below the 'MILLION DOLLAR BILL' line.

The song itself is the kind that Charlie Poole might have been happy to sing. The video can also be seen on Niall's own YouTube channel.

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Ferguson & Ferguson (USA) in Ireland from today!

Thanks again to Ray O'Brien for passing on the news that Ferguson & Ferguson (above) arrive in Ireland today for their sixteen-day tour beginning at this weekend's Athy Bluegrass Festival.

Singer/songwriter Gary Gene Ferguson (seated, in the photo) is on his tenth consecutive annual tour in Ireland, with multi-instrumentalist Gary Alan Ferguson (standing) as his musical partner this year. For more on the duo, see the BIB post of 11 Nov. 2013. All dates are on the BIB calendar; more tour details, including contact data for individual venues, are on Gary's online calendar.

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4th Mohill Bluegrass Festival (8-10 Aug. 2014) announces lineup

Thanks to Ray O'Brien for passing on news from festival organiser Tommy Kelleher at Mohill, Co. Leitrim, who announces:

This year's Mohill Bluegrass Festival kicks off on Friday 8 August at Planxty Maguire's, Hill St., Mohill, with music by the Down & Out Bluegrass Band. The band lineup for the weekend is:

Down & Out Bluegrass Band
Count Me In
Cool Hand Dukes
The Cat's Meow

You will find more info on our Facebook page, which is currently being updated.

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09 July 2014

Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival announces dates for 2015

Thanks to Uri Kohen (above) in Westport, Co. Mayo, for this news:

The 9th Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival will take place on 12-14 June 2015, and the organising team are already in talk with some major international acts alongside some very popular Irish acts.

For those who enjoyed the 2014 festival, a new set of videos from the Friday night are now available on the festival website. More videos will be posted in the coming weeks on the festival official YouTube channel.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank once again all the bluegrass fans who made their way to Westport, and we are looking forward to seeing them next year.

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Prison Love in Merrion Square, Dublin, 12 July - and I Draw Slow CD out in the USA

Thanks to Mark 'Marko' O'Mahony (second from left above) for this news:

The Festivals keep coming for Prison Love... After a storming late-night show at Body&Soul, we are back at the more reasonable time of 2.00 p.m. Saturday 12 July for the City Spectacular Festival in Merrion Square. Three great days of free entertainment await, including the legendary Street Performer World Championships and lots of other family and foodie attractions.

Prison Love will be on the Go Metro music stage from 2.00 to 2.45 p.m. on Saturday the 12th, so swap your marching boots for dancing shoes and join the party. Be good!


As announced on the BIB on 11 Feb. this year, White Wave Chapel - the second album by I Draw Slow, Dublin's premier 'neo-old-time' band, to appear on the US Pinecastle label - was released in the USA yesterday (8 July).

Thanks to Kim Fowler of Two Dog Media for this online press release, which includes bio information on the band and links to their video 'Valentine' and to audio streaming of the whole album.

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08 July 2014

Wookalily at the DC Music Club, Dublin, 11 July 2014

Thanks to Adele Ingram for news about the concert by Wookalily (left) at the DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2, this coming Friday (11 July). The show starts at 9.00 p.m., and admission is €15, or €13 pre-booked.

The DC Music Club (in the premises of the Dublin Conservative Club, a few yards from Whelan's) has become the main Dublin venue for Paul Lee's Musiclee.ie productions, and more about the Wookalily concert can be read here and on Facebook.

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Pe & Pe back in Ireland with a new CD, 13 July-3 Aug. 2014

Thanks to Alec and Pauline Somerville in Co. Donegal for the news that the Czech fiddle-and-banjo duo Pe & Pe (Petra and Petr) will return to Ireland this summer, travelling and playing in the north-west. Since last year, they have recorded a new CD, The valley of happiness. Their schedule is:

13-17 July: Donegal town
18-20 July: Ardara (for the 7th Ardara Bluegrass Festival)
21-24 July: Killybegs
25-27 July: Donegal town
28-31 July: Moville
1 Aug.: Donegal
2 Aug.: Dublin
3 Aug.: departure

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The Gibson Brothers sign with Rounder

Fans of the Gibson Brothers in this island will be glad to hear that they have signed up with Rounder Records. Music from Rounder albums played a large part in the brothers' bluegrass education, and joining the label's artist roster is an achievement for them that ranks beside their other recent achievements. The above photo by Ted Lehmann shows (l-r) Leigh and Eric Gibson, and Ken Irwin and Marian Levy, Rounder's founders. Read more on Bluegrass Today.

A Ted Lehmann photo with a different view of Eric Gibson can be found on Ted's 'Bluegrass, books, and brainstorms' blog, which the BIB admires and thoroughly recommends. Ted (now retired) and his wife spend about 200 days a year travelling to bluegrass events in North America, and the result is a blog full of comprehensive reports and innumerable splendid photos and videos. On 1 July Ted's report from the Jenny Brook Festival in Vermont began; and about an eighth of the way down that webpage you can see Eric Gibson playing electric country lead guitar in the Clem Hawkins Revival Band, a classic country outfit.

PS: Dobro enthusiasts may already be aware that a week ago Rounder announced what will be a historic album of dobro music: Three bells, a collaboration of Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, and the late Mike Auldridge. This is scheduled for release on 16 September.

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Woodbine show moved forward from 23 to 16 Aug. 2014

Tony O'Brien sends word that in the schedule of forthcoming performances by Woodbine (left) that appeared on the BIB on 29 June, there has been a change in the last one on the list. The show at Killybegs, Co. Donegal, originally announced for 23 August, has been moved forward a week to 16 August. Other details of this show will be announced as soon as possible.

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07 July 2014

Traditional and contemporary bluegrass, weekly in Galway from the Oldtown Rounders

Good news: new young bluegrass bands seem to be emerging in Ireland at an exponential rate. Thanks to Ray O'Brien for publishing this news from Seán Óg McKiernan on his 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page:

The Oldtown Rounders are playing in An Púcán every Friday for the summer from 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.

The group play traditional and contemporary bluegrass inspired by the likes of Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Bryan Sutton, etc. Check out a few of our recordings of some classics on MySpace.

Seán Óg, the band's guitarist, has also posted five mp3s on Banjo Hangout (are guitarists allowed to do that?). An Púcán is in central Galway city (on Forster St. just off Eyre Square) and it hosts live traditional Irish music seven nights a week, plus occasional Irish dancing displays.

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Two Time Polka: gigs in July

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka reports:

Here are details of our upcoming gigs in July:

Fri. 11th: Uluru Bar, Dunmore Rd, Waterford. Start 10.00 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 051 855333

Sat. 26th: The Blue Haven, Pearse St., Kinsale, Co. Cork. Start 10.15 p.m. Adm. free. Tel. 021 4772209

Sun. 27th: Howl in the Haybarn 2014, Carmody's Barn, Carrigaholt, Co. Clare. It's a one-day event with seven acts from 5.00 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. Online booking €15+booking fee, €20 from local bars. We'll be on stage at 10.00 p.m.

Thurs. 31st: Mother Jones Festival, Maldron Hotel, John Redmond St., Shandon, Cork. Start 10.00 pm. Adm. free.

Ray and TTP

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05 July 2014

Pilgrim St - debut in Navan, 3 Aug. 2014

Thanks again to Eugene Donegan, who earlier this year sent news of the launch of the Royal Roots sessions (see the BIB for 15 April), which have since been held weekly in Navan, Co. Meath, and have now given birth to a new tradition-oriented bluegrass band. Eugene writes:

We are launching our new band Pilgrim St in Swan Lane (Ardboyne Hotel, Navan) on Bank Holiday Sunday (3 August), admission €10.

The band lineup is Peadar Farrelly (guitar, vocals), Richie Farrelly (guitar, vocals), Eugene Donegan (banjo, vocals), Cathal McQuaid (fiddle), Eoin McDonnell (mandolin), Mack Lynch (dobro), and Francis McGinn (bass). Our music includes songs from Bill Monroe, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs & Lester Flatt, and Hank Williams.

We will hopefully have a website up and running before the gig. Here is a link to our Facebook page.

The BIB wishes Pilgrim St every success.

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