01 October 2014

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

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

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

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30 September 2014

Moron Brothers: an extra date in Sixmilebridge, 2 Oct. 2014

Thanks to Jennie of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club (SMB) in Co. Clare, for the news that the Club are pleased to present the Moron Brothers (above) from Kentucky, USA, in Gleeson's Bar, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, at 9.00 p.m. on Thursday 2 October. Entry is free, and a great night of music, songs, and stories is promised.

The Moron Brothers were among the leading acts at last weekend's Bunratty Banjo Festival. Photos from the Festival are being posted on the Club's Facebook page, and Festival attenders are invited to let the Club know what they think of the festival, on Facebook or by e-mail. The BIB will in the very near future publish an account of the weekend by Des Butler, with plenty of Des's photos.

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29 September 2014

Woodbine announce a retrospective album

Woodbine announce today on their Facebook page the release of a new album this year. Woodbine: the story 2002-2013 features twenty-four tracks taken from their three previous albums, spanning the life of the band since its formation in 2002. The cover art (left) shows successive configurations of the band during those twelve years.

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I Draw Slow - new video and US tour dates

Thanks to Pinecastle Records for the latest news of Dublin's I Draw Slow (above). Tomorrow they open an autumn tour in the US with a performance in Raleigh, NC, on the first day of this year's IBMA World of Bluegrass. Their full schedule in the US is given as:

30 Sept. The Architect Bar and Social House, Raleigh, NC, 11.00 p.m.
2 Oct. Albino Skunk Festival, Greer, SC, 7.10 p.m.
3 Oct. Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, Raleigh, NC, 5.15 p.m.
4 Oct. The Old Theater, Oriental, NC, 7.00 p.m.
5 Oct. The Rooster's Wife, Aberdeen, NC, 6.00 p.m.

The Pinecastle release says:

I Draw Slow is hot on the heels of their latest release, White Wave Chapel, released in July in the US. They are winning the hearts of fans and growing their audience each time they come stateside.

The latest video from the album is 'Souvenirs'. Conceived after a visit to Dublin's Natural History Museum, 'Souvenirs' is a reflection about the inanimate objects people tend to collect during the course of a relationship. 'They're the things that mark points that you would like to remember', says Louise Holden. 'But now the relationship is over and they are left with this stuff, these little souvenirs.'

The opportunity arose to film the video inside the Natural History Museum with Irish Film and Television Award-winning director Ronan Fox. The Museum provides a tranquil backdrop for the stripped-down brother-and-sister duet.

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KingBlue takes the stage, 1 Nov. 2014: update

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

Following on from the BIB post of 20 September: the eagerly awaited debut appearance of KingBlue will be at the Pikers Lodge Hotel, Lough Gowna, Co. Cavan, on Saturday 1 November at 9.30 p.m.

The band announced the gig on their Facebook page, adding 'Y'all Come!' Note that the Pikers Lodge is a 21-bedroom hotel - the Lough Gowna area draws many visiting anglers.

Update: the poster image below has now appeared on the KingBlue Facebook page.

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28 September 2014

Rackhouse Pilfer at Carter Vintage Guitars


Congratulations on a high-achieving year to Sligo's Rackhouse Pilfer, who announced on Friday (26 Sept.) that they are taking two weeks' rest after a busy season of festivals and gigs. However, their engines will barely cool off before shows resume on 3 October, with sixteen performances scheduled for that month alone. Their August included return visits to two of the biggest bluegrass events in Europe: the La Roche Bluegrass Festival on the edge of the French Alps, and the Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh, Co. Tyrone.

While they were in Nashville recording their album Love and havoc, released earlier this year, several performance videos of them were shot and can be seen on the YouTube channel of Carter Vintage Guitars - along with many fine videos of first-class instruments being given workouts by such pickers as Mike Compton, Charlie Cushman, Adam Steffey, and David Grisman. Carter Vintage Guitars, 'Nashville's friendliest guitar store', was featured in the latest issue (no. 32) of the Fretboard Journal.

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26 September 2014

From the horse's mouth - Bruff Bluegrass Festival, 3-5 Oct. 2014

Following our original post on Wednesday (24 Sept.), headed by this photo of Clem O'Brien, a full lineup and other details for this year's Bruff Bluegrass Music Festival in Bruff, Co. Limerick, is now on the Festival blog.

The programme will include the Morning Star Rose; the Big Mock Wedding will be held in Clancy's Yard on Saturday night; and on Sunday entertainments on the street will include the Donkey Derby and the High Nellie Flying Column from Cappamore and Kilkenny. Bands taking part are:

Down and Out Bluegrass Band (Belfast)
Tin Box Company (Dublin)
Rocky Top String Band (Westport, Co. Mayo)
Well Enough Alone (Dublin)
Harpers Ferry (Omagh, Co. Tyrone)
Clem O'Brien Band (Ballylinan, Co. Laois)
Southern Bluegrass Union (Mallow, Co. Cork)

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25 September 2014

Furnace Mountain in Ireland, 28 Oct.-9 Nov.; and Embracing the Queen's Festival

Thanks to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for a reminder that the autumn schedule in their Moving on Music programme includes five shows in Northern Ireland by the Virginia string band Furnace Mountain (above), who are also playing at least seven earlier shows in the rest of the island - see their page on Music Network for more details.

Furnace Mountain comprises Aimee Curl (bass, vocals), Danny Knicely (mandolin, vocals, fiddle), Dave Van Deventer (fiddle, vocals), and Morgan Morrison (bouzouki, vocals). Their full schedule in Ireland, as shown at present online, is:

Tues. 28th Oct.: Music Network, Sugar Club, Dublin 2
Wed. 29th: unbooked
Thurs. 30th: Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow
Fri. 31st: Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, Co. Louth
Sat. 1st Nov.: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Sun. 2nd: Clifden Arts Society, Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway
Mon. 3rd: Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
Tues. 4th: Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
Wed. 5th: Town Hall, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim
Thurs. 6th: Council Chambers, Bangor, Co. Down
Fri. 7th: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, Co. Down
Sat. 8th: Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre, Armagh city
Sun. 9th: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

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In the past two weeks the BIB has mentioned appearances by the Old Crow Medicine Show and Muriel Anderson in Ireland next month. As part of their tours, each of these acts is performing in Belfast as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen's (16 Oct.-1 Nov.).

This e-newsletter from the Festival organising team draws attention to its Embrace feature:

a new, innovative and exciting programme of participatory & creative learning activities. Embrace has something for everyone with more than twenty different workshops, talks and master-classes allowing audiences the chance to get 'up close and personal' with world-class artists, at little or no cost!

The e-newsletter has more details, plus links for downloading the Festival programme and booking tickets.

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22 September 2014

Matt Cooper

The BIB has received from Tim Rogers and Sean McKerr the sad news that Matt Cooper of Dublin passed away on Friday night (19 Sept.) after a hard battle with cancer. The funeral mass will be held at 11.00 a.m. on Wednesday 24 September at his local church, the church of St Philip the Apostle, Mountview Road, Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

Matt was a self-effacing man whose talents and character should have been more widely known, and we hope the BIB will be able to publish accounts from those who knew him well. As a very slight acknowledgment of Matt's worth, he was an accomplished luthier who built, repaired, and set up instruments to a very high standard for musicians including Niall Toner and Tim Rogers. His son Charlie, one of the most talented among younger musicians to have emerged on the scene here, is expert on all the bluegrass instruments. The BIB's condolences go to Charlie and to all Matt's family.

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20 September 2014

Enter the King - KingBlue

A big picture to introduce some big news. Two weeks ago the BIB mentioned rumours that 'a new hard-driving bluegrass band of well known pickers in Ireland is soon to be announced'. The wait is now over, and the news is seismic! Earlier today Clem O'Brien announced on Facebook the formation of KingBlue, composed of Sean McKerr, Mel Corry, Caolan 'Chief' Derby, and Clem himself. Clem writes:

I am proud and happy to announce my participation in a brand new bluegrass band, KingBlue. I know Sean and Mel as long as I have been playing this music and have always respected them as musicians. The Chief I only met recently but was knocked out by his ability at Ardara this year.

Recent get-togethers and rehearsals was like putting on an old pair of boots and it feels good to be back playing hard-driving bluegrass after so long. I look forward to seeing old friends, both at home and abroad, in 2015 and beyond.


Thanks to Ray O'Brien for making us aware of the news, which broke on Facebook and is already being well acclaimed there. Without having heard a note from this band yet, the BIB unreservedly recommends them to any festival organiser, venue operator, or music lover who is looking for solid, undiluted bluegrass. We can't do better to underline the significance of this momentous event than quote the 'About' section of the new band's own Facebook page:

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KingBlue is a new bluegrass band in the traditional vein, bringing together some stalwarts of the Irish bluegrass scene over the last twenty years.

Biography

Clem O’Brien, regarded by many as the country’s premier bluegrass vocalist and guitarist, has played this music at the highest level for over twenty years. He came to prominence as a bluegrass musician with the Kildare-based Flint Hill Boys and has toured as a featured artist with the world-renowned Chieftains. More recently Clem has been part of the Niall Toner Band. Clem also maintains his own band, the Clem O’Brien Band, and will continue to appear with both bands.

Sean McKerr has been playing mandolin for twenty years and is widely regarded as a Bill Monroe stylist. His driving rhythms give a distinctive edge to the band. He has played with such diverse bands as the Dusty Millers, the Mean Eyed Cats, the Freightliners, and has recently completed a British tour with Nashville-based Sharon Cort & New River Ranch featuring banjo legend Butch Robins. Sean recently featured as the bass player in the World International Bluegrass band at the IBMA convention in Nashville.

Mel Corry is also a veteran of the Dusty Millers Bluegrass Band and the Mean Eyed Cats, and earlier this year toured with New York-based Buddy Merriam & Backroads. Mel plays the 5–string banjo in the hard-driving style of Earl Scruggs and J.D. Crowe; he also shares the lead singing duties with Clem. Mel and Sean are both founder members of the popular Tennessee Hennessees and will continue to perform with the Ten Hens as well as KingBlue.

Caolan Derby, known as 'Chief' to those close to him, holds down the bass duties in KingBlue. His expertise as a bass player defies his youth and he plays with a variety of styles from aggressive rockabilly to slow waltzes. Chief brings a youthful dynamism to the band and plays bass in his own rock band.

KingBlue play a style of bluegrass firmly rooted in the classic tradition of Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, and Jimmy Martin, peppered with original songs and tunes. Their show is fast-paced and professional.

Working close: (l-r) Mel Corry, Caolan Derby, Clem O'Brien, and Sean McKerr

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Muriel Anderson in Ireland, 14-19 Oct. 2014

Thanks to Brendan O'Regan in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, for the news that the renowned guitarist Muriel Anderson, now based in Nashville, TN, will open a brief tour in Ireland next month with a concert in Brendan's Arklow Roots Music series at the Arklow Bay Hotel on Tuesday 14 October at 8.30 p.m. Tickets are €15/ €12. Brendan adds:

Muriel has been praised by the likes of Chet Atkins and Les Paul, has played with Tommy Emmanuel and Beth Nielsen Chapman, and not only plays but teaches guitar as well. Fans will want to see her playing the amazing harp-guitar! Her wonderful 'Bluegrass medley' on YouTube should excite some interest.

The complete set of dates for Muriel Anderson in Ireland (following several engagements in Britain) is:

Tues. 14th: Arklow Bay Hotel, Arklow, Co. Wicklow, 8.30 p.m., €15/ €12 (Arklow Roots Music)
Thurs. 16th: Garter Lane Arts Centre, O’Connell St., Waterford city, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 17th: Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St., Cork city, 8.00 p.m., €12/€14
Sun. 19th: Strand Arts Centre, 152-154 Holywood Rd, Belfast, 8.00 p.m. (part of Belfast Festival at Queen's)

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Banjo Babes 2015 calendar/CD - deadline imminent

Thanks to John Lawless of Bluegrass Today for the news that the deadline for entries for the Banjo Babes 2015 calendar is now less than a week away - 26 Sept. 2014. The Calendar's Facebook page says:

Applications due September 26th! Be a part of the world's most comprehensive annual anthology of lady banjo artists! And have a little fun with us. All are welcome! Open to all professional/semi-professional lady banjo artists - all ages (18+), banjo styles, nations, etc. welcome!

For aspiring participants - an application form is here. The calendar is accompanied by a CD. The image above shows the 2014 calendar; the BIB mentioned the original project on 11 Aug. 2013.

We also drew attention a few days later to the original Bluegrass Banjo Babe, Roni Stoneman, who would certainly be eligible and (we suspect) not averse to the 'little fun' aspect of the project. At any rate, here's a new version of the flyer for Roni's latest release, as announced on the BIB a week ago. Her new single 'The day the banjo dies' came out on Tuesday 16 September.

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Red Molly in Ireland, 8-15 Oct. 2014

The UK agency G Promo PR announces that Red Molly (USA; above) will be on tour in Ireland and Britain from 8 to 25 October inclusive in support of The red album, which has won wide acclaim. Red Molly consists of Laurie MacAllister (bass, banjo), Abbie Gardner (dobro, banjo), and Molly Venter (guitar). The shows in Ireland are as listed on the BIB calendar and on the BIB post for 6 September,

Videos of Red Molly in performance include 'Sing to me' and 'Willow tree', and there's more on YouTube. More tour information and bio details are on Ray O'Brien's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page.

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16 September 2014

And hotter yet....

Thanks again to Ray O'Brien (it's a busy day over at 'Bluegrass in Ireland') for yet more news of events on the scene here. First, Richie Foley of Lands End and the Niall Toner Band has sent in the news that Lands End (photo above) will play two dates in Ireland this weekend:

Fri. 19th: The Crane Bar, Sea Rd, Galway city
Sat. 20th: JJ Harlows, The Square, Roscommon town

A video of Lands End playing two years ago at St Mary's Collegiate Church, Youghal, Co. Cork, can be seen on Ray's Facebook.
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Secondly, the Grand Social (35 Lower Liffey St., Dublin 1) will present the Hackensaw Boys (USA) on Thursday this week (18 Sept.); doors open at 8.00 p.m. Tickets are €12 and can be bought online. Support will be by the Kicking Bird roots band. More about the Hackensaw Boys and their other dates in Ireland is on the BIB for 12 September.

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The scene is heating up!

The BIB editor reports:

Recently I've been telling inquirers that the bluegrass scene in Ireland seems to be coming along nicely, with new young bands being formed, and so on. It appears that I seriously understated the situation.

Thanks, therefore, to Ray O'Brien and his invaluable Bluegrass in Ireland Facebook page for three pieces of news just in today. To take them in the order in which Ray published them:

(1) Count Me In will be playing at the Fire Station, Holywood, Co. Down, on Friday 19 Sept. from 8.30 p.m., as a further part of Belfast Culture Night. Don't form the wrong impression from the 'milling crowd' image at the head of their Facebook page; in action, this is a solid and powerful band that unites a wide range of talents.

(2) The Corner Boys, from the band-prolific Sligo area, describe themselves as a six-piece acoustic band playing bluegrass, country, blues, and original music. They consist of Gerry Grennan (dobro, vocals), Brian Mulligan (bass, vocals), Brendan Emmett (mandolin, vocals), Joe Hanley (lead guitar), JB (guitar, vocals), and Vinny Casey (drums). Yes, drums; this doesn't prevent them from looking and sounding the right stuff. A neat promotional video of them doing 'Nine pound hammer' can be seen on Ray's Facebook.

(3) The Chancery Inn, on the corner of Inns Quay and Charles St. West, Dublin 7, will host a Texas Swing and Bluegrass night every Wednesday from 9.00 p.m. Admission is free. A video from the Chancery Inn's own YouTube channel, filmed at last week's session, shows Marko Gavic (USA) on lead guitar, John Denby on mandolin, and Niall of Well Enough Alone on bass, knocking out 'Beaumont rag' to an enthusiastic crowd.

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Music at Naul up to 21 Dec. 2014

Thanks to the Séamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, a good friend to bluegrass and related music in the Dublin region, for their latest e-newsletter, giving details of coming events at the Centre up to 1 October. The Centre's autumn/ winter brochure is now available and can be downloaded here.

The Centre's online list of coming music events, up to 21 December, includes shows by singer/songwriter Greg Trooper (USA) on 24 Oct., De Temps Antan (CAN) on 1 Nov., and We Banjo 3 (who have American tunes in their repertoire) on 14 Nov.

And fiddlers should be interested in hearing Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman on the 27th of this month: the Centre's notes translate 'Laghdú', the title of their debut album, as 'a lessening, a decrease, a reduction', but the BIB would prefer something like 'a cutting back'. Sometimes less is more.

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15 September 2014

Busy weekend for the Down and Outs, 19-20 Sept. 2014

Thanks to John Denby, mandolinist of the Belfast-based Down and Out Bluegrass Band (above), for the news that the Down & Outs will be playing in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast this Friday (19 Sept.) - at the Duke of York, 7-11 Commercial Court, from 7.00 p.m., and the Dark Horse on Hill St. from 9.30 to 10.30 p.m. - for Belfast Culture Night.

The following evening (Saturday 20 Sept.) the band will be playing at The Becks, Garristown, Co. Meath, at 9.30 p.m. Location and road directions will follow.

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Music under the Mountains, 19-21 Sept. 2014

Thanks to Paul McEvoy and the Red Hat Acoustic Music Club at Naas, Co. Kildare, for making us aware of this year's Music under the Mountains, which will be held from Friday 19 Sept. to Sunday 21 Sept. in Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, with concerts on all three nights.

Though the primary focus is on Irish traditional music, this year's lineup includes Saturday and Sunday sessions by a Breton ensemble playing music from Brittany. And if you have any doubt that the MUTM team are serious about mountain music, see this photo -
- taken at last year's 'Music on the Mountain' walk to the top of nearby Church Mountain (1,785 ft). The event was so successful that it will be repeated this coming Saturday at noon.

Other features that should appeal to BIB readers: on Sunday at 11.00 a.m. a mandolin workshop will be given by Dublin maestro Paul Kelly (left), who spent some years with the Sackville String Band (NB: the Wikipedia biography of Paul has some errors about Sackville lineup and chronology). And on Sunday night the final concert of this year's MUTM will be given by Donegal's Henry Girls.

A weekend ticket giving admission to all events is €40. Full details are on the Music under the Mountains website and its Facebook page. Music under the Mountains is a non-profit organisation.

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13 September 2014

Roni Stoneman - up to tempo as always

No one who saw or heard the legendary Roni Stoneman, 'First Lady of the Banjo', perform in Ireland last year will have forgotten the experience. A twelve-minute YouTube video, taken last month at the 2014 Old Fiddlers' Convention in Galax, VA (ancestral Stoneman territory), shows that nothing has slowed her down since then. Though it's an informal session, Roni is giving it all she's got both before and after Superglueing her picks on.

Thanks to Roni's husband Tom Connor for this pre-release flyer of her new single CD recording - a song written especially for her by Nashville songwriter Ronnie Buff. This CD will be available from Tuesday 16 Sept. 2014, and a new album is coming soon. Contact Tom by e-mail for more info on both.

The song title, 'The day the banjo dies', is ominous, but we can be sure that's not going to happen if Roni has anything to do with it.

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12 September 2014

Hackensaw Boys coming next week

Next Tuesday (16 Sept. 2014) the neo-old-time Hackensaw Boys (USA) begin a tour in Europe with six shows in Ireland:

Tues. 16th: Crane Lane Theatre, Cork city
Wed. 17th: Crane Lane Theatre, Cork city
Thurs. 18th: The Grand Social, Dublin 1
Fri. 19th: Culturlann, Derry city
Sat. 20th: Clonakilty International Guitar Festival, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Sun. 21st: Clonakilty International Guitar Festival, Clonakilty, Co. Cork

They will follow this with shows in Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, where they have strong connections. More details, links to venue websites, and online booking facilities are on their website.

The Hackensaw Boys, originally all from Charlottesville, VA, derived their name from the actions of 'hacking' on a mandolin and 'sawing' on a fiddle. They have been touring for more than a decade on both sides of the Atlantic, have recorded several critically acclaimed albums, have shared tours and stages with many bands, and in 2003 were honoured to serve as backing band to the late Charlie Louvin on a nationwide tour. The Boys have a lot on YouTube, including 'Ruby Pearl', 'F.D.R.', Sun's work undone', 'Dance around', and 'Ol' Nick'.

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Old Crow Medicine Show coming next month

Old Crow Medicine Show (photo: Andrea Behrends)

Following on from the BIB report of 29 July, the Open House Festival team in Belfast send their latest e-newsletter about the Old Crow Medicine Show (USA), who will be playing on Tuesday 21 Oct. at Mandela Hall, Queen's University Students' Union, University Rd, Belfast BT7 1NF. Online advance price £22.50; on the door £25. Tickets are still available online. Doors open (to over-18s) at 8.00 p.m.

Videos of the band in action can be seen on their website, and the show is presented in association with Ulster Bank Belfast Festival At Queen's. Read more here.

On the previous night (Monday 20 Oct.) the band will be performing at Vicar Street, Dublin, adm. €29.00. The two shows in Ireland are part of a European tour that includes shows in Manchester, Glasgow, London, and Amsterdam.

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11 September 2014

FOAOTMAD November old-time workshops

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog for details of this year's old-time workshops (28-30 Nov.) in England. Everyone who was knocked out by the fiddling of Aaron Jonah Lewis when he was in Ireland earlier this year, with Tumbling Bones and the Corn Potato String Band, now has a chance of a weekend's fiddle instruction from him, not to mention old-time banjo instruction from Luke Richardson. Full details are on the FOAOTMAD blog, on the poster image (click to enlarge), and on this pdf image.

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Vincent Cross sends September news from New York

Thanks to Vincent Cross in New York for his September Global Newsletter, which includes a report on his recent solo tour of Australia; details of this year's Parkslope Jamboree (27 Sept.) in Brooklyn; and a feature on New-York-based bluegrass singer/songwriter Jen Larson (photo) and her guitars in his 'Tools of the trade' series. Videos on all three subjects are in the newsletter. Vincent writes:

I'm still buzzing after my recent return from my first solo tour of Australia. The warm response from the many folks that put me up, fed me, and pointed me to the next gig was overwhelming. I cannot wait to return! Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

The Parkslope Jamboree, now in its fifteenth year, is part educational, part performance, bringing together explorers of the sources of traditional music, contemporary songwriters and performers seeking inspiration, and people who want to pick, or to learn how to pick. Vincent will give an introductory roots-writing workshop from 1.50 to 3.00 p.m., as well as performing in the concert series at 6.00 p.m.

The video in the Jen Larson feature shows her singing her song 'Fourth man in the fire' with a band comprising Michael Daves (guitar), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin), Brittany Haas (fiddle) and Paul Kowert (bass).

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Ken Harris - British bluegrass pioneer from Co. Down

The Down County Boys c.1965: (l-r) Mike Rodgers, Martin Hollis, 
Ken Harris, Mac (bass), Andy Smith

Ron Stevens of the Acme Band and the Heart of England Bluegrass Venue sends the sad news that Ken Harris (b. 1935), one of the foremost pioneers of bluegrass in Britain, died a week ago on 4 September 2014.

Ken was a founder member of Britain's longest-lived and most award-winning bluegrass band, the Down County Boys. He can be seen as the moving spirit in forming the DCB: he was lead singer, guitar player, and spokesman on stage; he had founded the Swanswell Tavern country music club where they made their debut in January 1965; and he certainly gave rise to the band's name, as he came from the Co. Down end of the Belfast area, and moved to Coventry with his wife in the 1950s.

The photo above, showing Ken fronting the Down County Boys in a very early configuration, comes from the online account of the band's earliest days by Mike Rodgers, the original DCB mandolinist. In April 1970 they were the first band from Britain (and third from outside the USA) to appear on the cover of Bluegrass Unlimited. The DCB went on to become the premier bluegrass band in Britain, winning the title of Best British Bluegrass Band more often than any other group, and are still going strong.

Ken's funeral will be at 2.00 p.m. in St James's church, Bulkington, on Tuesday 16 September, and afterwards at the Heart of England Crematorium. All those attending are invited to return to the War Memorial Club at Bulkington. The family have requested only family flowers, but donations can be made to Headway or the Coventry Myton Hospice where Ken has a memorial page with provision for direct donations.

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10 September 2014

Coming to Ireland from France

The BIB has just heard from Simon Guy, who lives in Montpellier, France. Simon has played guitar for twelve of his twenty-one years, and intends to come to Ireland this year - probably in early October - for the purposes of cultural exchange, playing music, improving his English, and perhaps forming a band.

Simon is hoping to make contact with other young bluegrass musicians, to locate regular jam sessions, and (in short) to join a good bluegrass community. While the BIB is making its own suggestions to him, anyone who wishes to contact Simon in advance of his arrival can do so by e-mail.

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