19 September 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.


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.
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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Cabin Sessions in Dundrum, Dublin, 25 Sept. 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'll be back at The Cabin on Thursday 25 Sept. with the Cabin Crew - Spats (gtr), Con (bs), Gerry (dob), Cathy (fdl), Christian (hca), Dave Hardy (clart/sax). Our special guests are: from Florida Tony & Anne Preston (folk), from Dublin Eileen Gogan (contemporary), and from Kildare Emma Butler & Aisling McCarthy (contemporary). 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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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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09 September 2014

Remembering Monroe on his anniversary

Thanks to Niall Toner for this report on the Niall Toner Band's Carlow concert on 6 Sept. (see the BIB for 4 Sept.), and for the photo, showing the NTB (l-r: Richie Foley, Dick Gladney, Niall Toner jr, Niall sr, Johnny Gleeson) performing 'William Smith Monroe':

I am delighted to say that we had a full house at the Milford Room on Saturday night last, where we remembered Bill Monroe with renditions of 'The Master's resting place', 'Bill Monroe's mandolin', and 'William Smith Monroe'. September 6th was as near as I could book an anniversary gig...

The Father of Bluegrass was born on 13 Sept. 1911 and died on 9 Sept. 1996.  Niall's original composition 'William Smith Monroe' broke airplay records when it was released in the Monroe centennial year, 2011.

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Quote of the month

I'm hiring you to help me sound good and, by that, I mean no upstaging and no overly flashy licks. Keep it basic and try to play backup fills that fit what I'm singing. Do that, and I will do all I can to sell you to the public when it's your turn to move in front of the mic.

Advice given (Aug. 1954) by Mac Wiseman to his new banjo player, Don Bryant, as quoted in Don Bryant's article on Mac Wiseman in the Sept. 2014 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited. Some of us could still profit from that advice...


08 September 2014

John Mitchell

On Friday 5 September Sharon Loughrin posted this tribute to a remarkable man on her Facebook page:

Sad news that our bluegrass family has lost a great character this morning. John Mitchell was the embodiment of the phrase 'a man of many talents', not only playing but making instruments, wood carving, writing poetry (the most beautiful handwriting I've ever seen), the spookiest of card tricks!! - the list goes on. We'll treasure the items he gifted us and the memories of the craic with him in The Red Room, Cookstown; our only regret is that we only knew him for a few short years. Peace at last for John after a long fight.

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06 September 2014

A supergroup in formation?

A respected member of the bluegrass scene in Ireland tells us of

... strong rumours going about that a new hard-driving bluegrass band of well known pickers in Ireland is soon to be announced.

This kind of rumour, of course, is bound to annoy those bands who firmly believe that such a band already exists, and it's ours, thank you very much. It will also annoy those of us who have not been asked to join.

Nonetheless, the BIB can't help being interested. Does anyone know the substance, if any, that lies behind these rumours?

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Clonmel World Music programme for autumn 2014

All the acts on Gerry Lawless's Clonmel World Music programme for autumn 2014 should interest BIB readers. A month from now Red Molly (USA; above) will be playing for Clonmel World Music at its home venue, Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, at 8.00 p.m. on Friday 10 October. Red Molly consists of Laurie MacAllister (bass, banjo), Abbie Gardner (dobro, banjo), and Molly Venter (guitar), and they'll be in Ireland for eight days before going on to play nine shows in Britain. Their complete Irish tour schedule is:

Wed. 8th: Bronte Music Club, Rathfriland, Co. Down, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 9th: Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, Co. Antrim, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 10th: Clonmel World Music, Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 11th: Whitehorse Inn, Ballincollig, Co. Cork, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 12th: Venue Theatre, Ratoath, Co. Meath, 8.00 p.m.
Mon. 13th: Balor Arts Centre. Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 15th: Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo town, Co. Sligo, 8.00 p.m.

At the end of October, the French-Canadian 'powerhouse trio' De Temps Antan (André Brunet, fiddle; Pierre-Luc Dupuis, accordion; Éric Beaudry, guitar), who got rave reviews when they played here in January, will be back in these islands from 24 Oct. to 2 Nov. inclusive, and playing at Clonmel World Music on Thurs. 30 Oct. At present no details of the tour are on their online schedule.

Finally, on Thurs. 20 Nov. Chatham County Line (USA) will be playing at Clonmel World Music in one of only two dates in Ireland during a tour of Europe (14-23 Nov.) that includes Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Britain. The previous night (Wed. 19 Nov.) they will be at the Button Factory in Dublin. Special guests on the tour will be the North Carolina duo Mandolin Orange.

Chatham County Line consist of Dave Wilson (guitar), John Teer (mandolin, fiddle), Chandler Hold (banjo), and Greg Readling (bass) who have been together for ten years and have released seven albums. Clonmel World Music says of them:

Chatham County Line have an ongoing commitment to classic string band instrumentation. While their acoustic lineup informs their performances, it places no limitations on the band’s formidable songwriting talent. This is a band we have been after for five years; we can’t recommend them highly enough.

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04 September 2014

Roots Music Weekend at Buttevant, Co. Cork, 19-21 Sept. - and Buddy Mondlock & Mike Lindauer in Ireland, 18-24 Sept. 2014

Thanks again to John Nyhan for the news that a Roots Music Weekend will be held in Buttevant, Co. Cork, from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st Sept. 2014. The venues will be O'Neill's bar, McCarthy's bar, and the Mercy Centre Hall.

Pub schedule:

Fri. 19th
O'Neill's, 10.00 p.m. Banjaxed Bluegrass Duo
McCarthy's, 10.00 p.m. Open folk session (all welcome)

Sat. 20th
O'Neill's, 2.30 p.m. Stories, songs, poetry (all welcome)
O'Neill's, 10.00 p.m. Gordon and Rosie (old-time/folk/bluegrass)
McCarthy's, 10.00 p.m. Pat and Ricky Kelleher (old-time/folk/bluegrass)

Sun. 21st
O'Neill's, 9.30 p.m. Stuart, Mick, John (folk/blues and beyond)
McCarthy's, 9.30 p.m. Southern Bluegrass Union

Concert: on Sat. 20th at 8.00 p.m. Buddy Mondlock and Mike Lindauer from Nashville, with support act folksinger/guitarist Breege Phelan, will be in concert in the Mercy Centre Hall. Booking and enquiries: tel. 087 7921771.
Enquiries for any of the above: tel. 087 7921771 or 086 1764251.

Singer/songwriter Buddy Mondlock, together with bassist Mike Lindauer, begins on Sun. 7 Sept. a tour of these islands, with a special expedition to Ireland managed by John Smith Music Tours. Buddy writes on his website:

... Mike Lindauer (my trusty bassist and singing partner) and I have been traveling to Ireland for nearly twenty years now. I’ve completely fallen in love with the beauty of the place - the nature, the music and especially the people! And every time I announce the tour I always get a bunch of e-mails back saying things like 'Need a roadie?' or 'Wow, I’ve always wanted to go. Got any room left in your suitcase?' I’m happy to say that this coming autumn you can come with me!

The full Buddy Mondlock/Mike Lindauer schedule in Ireland is as follows. More details, including venue website links and location maps, are on Buddy's online calendar.

Thurs. 18th: Coughlan's Live, Douglas St., Cork city, 9.00 p.m.

Fri. 19th: Tarred and Feathered Folk Session, Grange Woodbine Community Centre, Raheny Rd, Dublin 5, 9.30 p.m.; +353 862757707. €15; for advance tickets contact Liam Boylan (086 2757707; e-mail)

Sat. 20th: The Mercy Centre Hall, Main St., Buttevant, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m.; 087 7921771

Sun. 21st: DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2, 8.30 p.m. €13 advance; €15 door

Mon. 22nd: Mick Murphy's Bar, Main St., Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, 8.00 p.m. Also playing: UK clawhammer banjoist Dan Walsh.

Wed. 24th: The Sessions at Central Arts, Central Hall, 123a Parade Quay, Waterford city, 8.30 p.m. €12

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NTB in concert in Carlow (6 Sept. 2014) and on RTÉ

The NTB in Reception at the RTÉ Radio Centre, Donnybrook, Dublin 4: (l-r) Johnny Gleeson, Richie Foley, Niall Toner, Dick Gladney

Thanks to Niall Toner for this news:

The Niall Toner Band, featuring Johnny Gleeson on dobro, Richie Foley on mandolin, and Dick Gladney on bass, are performing at the Milford Room in the Seven Oaks Hotel in Carlow on Saturday night, 6 September. Doors 8.30 p.m., and advance booking at hotel reception, 059-9131308 (almost sold-out!) This concert is being recorded by RTÉ Radio 1 for broadcast in the 'In concert' series, which goes out on Sunday nights, and will also be made available as a podcast, worldwide.

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The Moron Brothers (USA) in Ireland, late Sept. 2014

Thanks to John Nyhan of Co. Cork for news of the forthcoming visit by the Moron Brothers of central Kentucky, Lardo (Mike Carr) and Burley (Mike Hammond), about whom much more can be seen on the BIB post for 25 May 2014. This is the Brothers' first trip to Ireland, and it will be an all-too-short tour, just for one week at the end of this month. The complete schedule is as follows:

Fri. 26th: Creamery Bar (upstairs), Bunratty, Co. Clare, 9.00 p.m. (part of 2nd Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival)

Sat. 27th: Kilkishen Cultural Centre, Kilkishen, Co. Clare, 8.00 p,m.
(supported by Gordon and Rosie, old-time/folk and bluegrass)

Sun. 28th: The Barn, Bunratty Folk Park, 4.00 p.m. (part of 2nd Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival)

Enquiries for all of the above: tel. 086 8464509.

Mon. 29th: Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 8.15 p.m. Booking and enquiries: tel. 087 7921771

Read, watch, and listen to more of Lardo and Burley on their website and here.

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Bunratty Banjo PIckers Festival, 26-8 Sept. 2014 - and more

Thanks to Brendan Walsh and his organising team at the Sixmilebridge Folk Club in Co. Clare for fliers and other details of the Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival in just over three weeks' time (26-8 Sept. 2014), and the next Shannonside Winter Music Weekend in four and a half months' time (15-19 Jan. 2015).

The lineup for Bunratty can be seen here. For BIB readers the main attractions are the Moron Brothers from Kentucky (see the BIB for 25 May 2014); Limerick's own Banjaxed Bluegrass Band (who are now listed as having three fiddlers); and the Bog Standard String Band, a misleading name for Tim Rogers and Ben Keogh of the old Rough Deal String Band, combined with Derek Copley and Ais Conway Keogh of the Greasy Coat String Band. And there's plenty more in the genres of gypsy swing, traditional, folk, and roots music. The schedule of events in all venues can be seen here.

The spread of genres in the January programme is even wider, and the bluegrass enthusiast can count on seeing the Special Consensus (USA), Niall Toner, and the Down and Out Bluegrass Band there. More details will appear on the BIB soon.

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02 September 2014

A historic bluegrass site - ripe for restoration?

Art Menius is an honours history graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a prolific bluegrass writer, and a major administrator in bluegrass and other arts - among many other accomplishments, he was the first executive director of the IBMA and a member of its board; was board member and president of the Old-Time Music Group, publishers of the Old-Time Herald; and is currently a board member of the Folk Alliance International.

On Sunday last, Art posted on his blog 'A visit to a lost bluegrass music temple' - the deserted, vandalised, and overgrown remains of Blue Grass Park in North Carolina, established as a festival venue in 1969 by the legendary promoter Carlton Haney (1928-2011). The photo above - by Art's wife, bluegrass photographer Becky Johnson - gives a distant view of the stage:

Where thousands saw New Grass Revival for the first time, where Tony Rice jumped ship from Bluegrass Alliance to J.D. Crowe, where Carlton told the Blue Grass Story, where Bill Vernon and Fred Bartenstein emceed, looked like a burned out mobile home.

Art's account has become the most popular post ever to appear on his blog. It includes more photos and some rewarding links to material relating to the early days of bluegrass festivals - together with the hope that Blue Grass Park may be restored and live again as a venue and a tourist attraction for the area. Read it here.

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Willie Watson in Ireland, 10-13 Sept. 2014: update

Thanks to Tom Stapleton for an update of his gig list, first posted on the BIB on 1 June 2014. Tom announces that Willie Watson (USA), formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show, will be playing at Leap Castle, near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, on Saturday 13 September. The capacity is 60, so book by phoning or texting Tom at 087 2238040.

The Leap Castle show is the last chance to see Willie Watson on this tour, which begins tomorrow with six shows in Britain. His four dates in Ireland are:

Wed. 10th Sept.: The Button Factory, Curved St., Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Thurs. 11th: Coughlan's Live, 7 Douglas St., Cork city (Hotpress Venue of the Year)
Fri. 12th: Cleere's, 28 Parliament St., Kilkenny city; capacity seated 70.
Sat. 13th: Leap Castle; capacity 60.

More details, including venue 'phone numbers and links for online booking, are on Willie Watson's website. Willie, who plays guitar, banjo, and harmonica, can be seen on YouTube playing 'Rock salt and nails' and 'Mexican cowboy' (both are also on his website). His old band, the Old Crow Medicine Show, will be in Ireland for two shows in about seven weeks' time.

Update 13 Sept.: Thanks to Left of the Dial for pointing out that Leap Castle, four miles from Roscrea and on the border between Co. Offaly and Co. Tipperary, is in fact in Offaly - not Tipperary, as we stated at first. See comment below.

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01 September 2014

Whitetop Mountain Band in Ireland and Britain, 5-28 Sept. 2014

The Whitetop Mountain Band: (l-r): Jackson Cunningham, Martha Spencer, Chris Testerman, Debbie Bramer, Emily Spencer

Thanks to Martha Spencer of the Whitetop Mountain Band for more news of the band's three-week tour of these islands, beginning this coming Friday at Naul, Co. Dublin. The full schedule is:

Fri. 5th: Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul, Fingal, Co. Dublin; +353 (0)1 8020898
Sat. 6th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone; +44 7747 120659
Sun. 7th: Roadside Tavern, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare; +353 (0)65 707 4084
Tues. 9th: St John’s Theatre, The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry; +353 (0)68 22566
Thurs. 11th: The B Bar, Barbican Theatre, Castle St., Plymouth, Devon PL1 2NJ; +01752 242021
Fri. 12th-Sun. 14th: Cornish Bluegrass Festival, Hendra Holiday Park, Newquay, Cornwall; +44 1637 875778
Mon. 15th: The Bell Inn, 103 Walcot St., Bath BA1 5BW; +01225 460426
Tues. 16th: Burnett’s Hill Chapel, Martletwy, Pembrokeshire SA67 8AX; + 01646-651725
Thurs. 18th: St Ives September Festival, the Western Hotel, Gabriel St, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2LU; +44 1736 795277
Fri. 19th: The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Swanage, Dorset; +01929 439229
Sat. 20th: Bluegrass Plus Club, Ninfield Memorial Hall, Ninfield, nr Battle, East Sussex TN33 9EE; 01424 893390
Sun. 21st: The Green Note, 106 Parkway, London NW1 7AN; +44 20 7485 9899
Tues. 23rd: Anchor Inn, 52 Abbey St, Faversham, Kent ME13 7BP; + 01795 536471
Wed. 24th: Musically Monstrous Productions, Three Horseshoes, Chinnor Road, Towersey OX39 3QY; tickets
Fri. 26th-Sun. 28th: Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival, Moniaive, Scotland; + 01848 200272 or 07740 856047

Martha also sends the following bio material:

The Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop, VA, is an area rich in the old time music tradition; this band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region’s style of old-time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style.

At the same time, Whitetop Mountain Band shows are very versatile and entertaining, containing everything from fiddle/banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honkytonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old-timey ballads, originals, and four-part mountain gospel songs. Shows also include flatfoot dancing. The band is well known for their high energy and charisma on stage.

The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Family Fold. The band has also performed at all sorts of venues throughout the United States from festivals to concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in NYC, Carter Family Festival, Dock Boggs Festival, World Fair, Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival, and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals the band has performed at. They were featured on the NCTA Crooked Road Music tour of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho in October 2007 and the East Coast tour of MD, VA, PA, NJ, WV and D.C. in 2010. The band members have toured overseas in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. WTMB has also taught and been master musicians/dancers for workshops and classes in fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals, and dance all over the US. Some of these include Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, NC, Cowan Creek Music School, KY, Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap, and Mt Rogers Combined School.

The band currently has recordings on Mountain Roads Recordings, Arhoolie Record Label, and Virginia Foundation of the Humanities. The band members have also been recorded by June Appal and Heritage and on fiddle compilations for Rounder Records.

The Whitetop Mountain Band has been featured in many books, magazines, and TV/radio shows about Appalachian music such as The guide to the Crooked Road, A Hotbed of Musicians, Strings of Life, In Good Keeping, Country Music Television, Travel Channel, PBS, Old Time Herald, and many TV news and radio programs.

Lineup for 2014 tour
Emily Spencer (banjo, vocals), Martha Spencer (guitar, fiddle, vocals), Jackson Cunningham (mandolin, vocals), Debbie Bramer (bass), Chris Testerman (fiddle)

The Whitetop Mountain Band is still carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle, and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals. Their daughter Martha Spencer plays with the band as well. She is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass, vocals) and dancer. She has taken part in many Master flatfoot dancing workshops and performances also. Jackson Cunningham, plays mandolin, guitar, and vocals in the band. Jackson has also played music since early childhood. He grew up in a musical family as well and has performed in several bluegrass and old time groups from the West Coast to the East. He also has sung in duet and trio groups as well and has recordings out on the VFH label. Jackson also plays clawhammer banjo and harmonica. Debbie Bramer, originally from Michigan, moved to Fancy Gap, Virginia in the early 90s. Debbie plays bass and dances in the band. Debbie has been a member of several clogging teams and been active in many dance workshops and competitions. Chris Testerman grew up in Whitetop and learned fiddle from Emily Spencer while attending Mount Rogers school.

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28 August 2014

Oldtown Rounders at the Electric Picnic, 31 Aug. 2014

Thanks to Ray O'Brien for passing on the news from Seán Óg McKiernan that the Oldtown Rounders (above) from Galway will be playing at 9.30 p.m. on Sunday 31 Aug. at Jimmie Lee's Juke Joint in this year's Electric Picnic at Stradbally, Co. Laois. See Ray's 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page.

The Rounders 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., and have a residency at An Púcán on Forster St. in central Galway city, where they are playing every Friday during the summer from 7.00 to 9.00 p.m.

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