30 January 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. Its calendar is kept updated, and news received is posted. Send in news for the calendar by e-mail; and please also send it by e-mail to Wendy Connolly for publication on the 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page, which is the interactive medium in Ireland for bluegrass news.

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.


Thanks to Bluegrass Today...

...for two news items: first, a further report from Greg Cahill of the Special Consensus on the band's latest tour in these islands, with special focus on the Shannonside Winter Music Weekend. The photo above was taken from the stage at the Special C.'s concert in Bunratty, where they were supported by the Down and Out Bluegrass Band - see Richard Leeman's account of the festival on 'Bluegrass in Ireland'.
Secondly, this feature with a video from Nechville Musical Products, in which Tom Nechville shows how, with his Turbo Module, any Nechville Heli-Mount banjo can be converted into an electric banjo in a few minutes without even removing the strings.

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29 January 2015

Michael J. Miles: news and events for spring/summer 2015

The BIB editor reports:

Thanks to clawhammer banjo maestro Michael J. Miles (USA) for his latest e-newsletter, with details of his schedule for the coming months. All his CDs, with some of the most impressive music ever played on clawhammer banjo, are now available for $10 each.

Michael's classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago start on Monday 2 March. He is giving two courses: 'Irish tunes for clawhammer banjo' and 'Beatles for fingerstyle guitar'. There's something odd about the road sign shown with the 'Irish tunes' item, but we can't quite put our finger on it...

Other items include collaborations with the Chicago Arts Orchestra and the Poetry Foundation, workshops, banjo camps, university classes, a guitar CD, and a new YouTube initiative entitled 'Existential banjo'. If this is in partnership with Henri the Existentialist Cat, we can't wait - no doubt he'll have some biting comments on the use of catskin for banjo heads in former days. Read the full newsletter here.

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More tickets available for Transatlantic Sessions in Glasgow

From the organising team of this year's Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow:

Our big announcement is the release of additional tickets for both nights of Transatlantic Sessions. With tickets from just £15 in the choir stalls, how could you resist the perfect way to end the festival.

Musicians taking part in the Transatlantic Sessions can be seen above (photo: Murdo Macleod). No prizes for guessing who the big man with the dobro is. Much more information is on the Celtic Connections e-newsletter.

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Deadline for next Bluegrass Europe is TOMORROW!

28 January 2015

The Official EBMA Magazine
with Europe's leading Bluegrass Concert & Festival Calendar
and the European Bluegrass Guide
Dear bluegrass bands in Europe

Deadline to send in your dates for BE#94 is this Friday, 30th January 2015!

Please send in your public gigs and concert dates between Mid-February and 28th June 2015! use our Excel-spreadsheet (download from http://www.ebma.org/uploads/media/BEXX_calendar_dates.xls), fill in your details and email back the completed form to editor@ebma.org as soon as possible, no later than this Friday, 30th January 2015.
Please have a look at this years European Bluegrass Gathering held 13-15 March in Munich. All information as well as online registration can be found on our website at www.ebma.org/gathering/gathering2015/

Thank you for taking time to contribute!

Angelika Torrie
European Bluegrass Music Association
www.ebma.org ¦ www.bluegrass-europe.org
European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA)

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28 January 2015

Old-time at the Glenside - next on 25 Feb. 2015

Cathal Cusack (guitar), Tim Hawkins (fiddle), and Richard Hawkins (banjo) announce that their next meeting to play old-time music upstairs at the Glenside, Landscape Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14, will take place on 25 February 2015. They are delighted to have been joined in recent months by John Heaney (bass).

This will be the fourth Wednesday of the month, instead of the third as originally intended - the change has been made because of other commitments. For the format of the session, see the BIB of 20 Aug. 2014, where a list of tunes is given.

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Belfast Bluegrass - second meeting of 2015

Thanks to Richard Leeman of the Down and Out Bluegrass Band for the news that the next monthly Belfast Bluegrass session will take place on Tuesday 3 February 2015, upstairs in the Errigle Inn, 312-20 Ormeau Road, Belfast, starting at 9.00 p.m. A location map is on the Belfast Bluegrass Facebook page. All are welcome. The Down and Outs are front runners for the title of Hardest-Working Bluegrass Band in Ireland (with Special Jamming Distinction), and any session they're in is worth going to. Richard writes:

I'm still certain that there must be some more bluegrass musicians or wannabe bluegrass musicians about Belfast somewhere...

The band recently made a major contribution to this year's Shannonside Winter Music Weekend (15-19 Jan.) in Co. Clare, playing three shows in Sixmilebridge venues and opening for the Special Consensus (USA) at their concert in Bunratty. A fuller account of the Down and Outs' experiences is appearing on Wendy Connolly's Bluegrass in Ireland Facebook page. Richard concludes:

We’d like to thank the Festival Committee for booking us and for all their work throughout the year, with special thanks to Brendan Walsh and John Nyhan.

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27 January 2015

A treat, and an education

The International Bluegrass Band at IBMA's World of Bluegrass 2007: Arnold Lasseur of the Blue Grass Boogiemen, Kazuhiro Inaba, Sean McKerr (now of KingBlue), Butch Robins 
Source: the Butch Robins website

Many thanks to Dick Bowden of New England and Bluegrass Today for a feature on banjo legend Butch Robins and a series of videos he has made with Radford University in Virginia. This adds up to several hours of Butch talking to the camera, and every minute is worth it. There is just too much to say about this, but Butch's words are what counts. As Dick Bowden says:

This video series is highly recommended if you’re interested in Butch Robins, Bill Monroe, the history of bluegrass and those who make it, music theory, trivia, or even 'art' as a concept.

And it’s free.

You can't beat that. The feature, with links to the videos and brief outlines of what is in each, is here.

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Bluegrass by appointment! - at Armagh, 6 Feb. 2015

Thanks to Nigel Martyn of the Old Flattop agency in Belfast for this poster image for the concert by KingBlue at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh city on Friday 6 February. The show starts at 8.00 p.m., and tickets are £11.00. Online bookings can be made through the Market Place's website.

The photo shows KingBlue's members (l-r): Mel Corry, Caolan Derby, Clem O'Brien, and Sean McKerr. Nigel also reveals that the band's name derives from Jimmy Martin's car licence plate. No better choice...

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26 January 2015

Awards for old friends

High Country (l-r): Tom Bekeny (fiddle), Larry Cohea (banjo), Glenn Dauphin (bass), Butch Waller (mandolin), Bob Waller (guitar), Jim Mintun (dobro)

We think that without presumption the members of the premier California bluegrass band High Country can be called 'old friends'; they were on the bill at the very first Athy Bluegrass Festival in 1991, and again in 1993 and 2008. Anyway, the main point is that, as reported in Bluegrass Today, the 8th annual Northern California Bluegrass Awards were given out during the past weekend at the Bluegrass on Broadway festival in Redwood City, CA.

The awards for Best Banjo Player and Best Dobro Player went to Larry Cohea and Jim Mintun, while Louise Mintun, who plays with Jim in the four-piece band Slide Road, tied with Lisa Burns for Best Bass Player. Jim has now won the Best Dobro Player title five times (Kathy Barwick, who toured in Ireland in 2013 and 2014, won the title in 2010).

On Slide Road's website, you can see a video of High Country with Jim Mintun singing the Bill Monroe song 'Body and soul' - plus there's a good view of Larry Cohea, who is next to him on stage. Congratulations to both!

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24 January 2015

Fish & Bird back in Oct.-Nov. 2015?

As announced on the BIB two weeks ago, the neo-old-time string-plus-percussion band Fish & Bird from British Columbia played at the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre at Naul, Co. Dublin, last night (Friday 23 January), their only performance in Ireland during the current tour in which they are taking part in the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency reports:

The band has just completed a first-ever UK tour and has been very well received, with several sold-out shows and universal praise from every venue and promoter. As a result, they have been invited to take part in the London Folk & Roots Festival that will be happening from 30 October to 15 November and we are going to try to build a second tour (three weeks in duration) around that. Could you please let us know if you would like to grab the band for a slot and indicate what your availability (mid-October to mid-November) might be?

Loudon also reports that the current issues of the Maverick and R2 magazines both carry features on the band. While in Glasgow, Fish & Bird are being filmed for a new roots-music series being produced by BBC Alba, so by the time they return they will be even better known this side of the Atlantic.

This YouTube link shows them performing 'Winnipeg', one of their more uptown and modern numbers.

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From DanGem: Happy Banjo New Year!

Thanks to DanGem Bluegrass for New Year greetings from their completely refurbished website, and the news that their first Bluegrass Get-Together of 2015 will be held, as usual, on the last Saturday in the month (Sat. 31 Jan., in this instance); 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) Breakout time for beginners; rest of players, jam time
11.00(ish) to 12.00(ish) All back together

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.'

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. DanGem's e-newsletter includes a location map for the Get-Together, and a reminder that they have the largest range of banjos for sale in this island - not to mention the other bluegrass instruments.

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23 January 2015

Detached notes

Not all of us who have enjoyed seeing and hearing Jan Michielsen as guitarist with 4 Wheel Drive (NL/D/B) may know that Jan is also the mandolinist in the all-Belgian hard-core bluegrass band Blue Maxx. They're releasing their CD The wicked path of sin on St Valentine's day in Jan's admirable home town of Hoogstraten, near the Dutch border; details are on the poster image. A fortnight later they will be on a joint concert with Rawhide, the premier Belgian bluegrass band who played at the Omagh festival in 2013.
Closer to home: thanks to Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland and the Rockies GAA club in Blackrock, Cork, for the news that country singer Lana Gibson and her band will play for dancing at the Rockies on Saturday 31 January, starting at 9.30 p.m. - no cover charge. Not bluegrass, but music from an era of country music that many bluegrassers enjoy, and certainly from before the 'Murder on Music Row' about which Larry Cordle wrote his award-winning song (IBMA Song of the Year 2000).

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22 January 2015

Old-time at the Glenside: first 2015 get-together

Cathal Cusack (guitar), Tim Hawkins (fiddle), and Richard Hawkins (banjo) announce that their next meeting to play old-time music upstairs at the Glenside, Landscape Road, Churchtown, Dublin 14, will take place on 28 January 2015.

The original plan to meet on the third Wednesday of each month was modified to avoid a clash with another event. Normal service should resume with the next meeting on 18 February. For the format of the session, see the BIB of 20 Aug. 2014, where a list of tunes is given.

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21 January 2015

Special C. capture the castles

Following on from the news of a week ago, Bluegrass Today publishes a further report from Greg Cahill of the Special Consensus on the band's tour in these islands, with special detail and photos on their shows at Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, and Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare (the latter as part of the Shannonside Winter Music Weekend). Greg adds:

Three more shows in England after tonight and then we ferry back to Ireland for three shows before heading home on 28 January. By then we will have played twenty shows in nineteen days and will be ready to get home to see our families.

All Irish dates in the Special C. tour are on the BIB calendar.

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Jarrod Dickenson in Ireland, 5-11 Feb. 2015

Thanks to Uri Kohen and his organising team at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Co. Mayo for the news that - in association with the Cap and Beard and Turning Pirate agencies - they are presenting the award-winning Texas-born singer/songwriter Jarrod Dickenson in a tour of Ireland early next month, with the following dates:

Thurs. 5th: The Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co. Louth, 8.30 p.m.
Fri. 6th: Mono Café Restaurant, Westport, Co. Mayo, 7.30 p.m.
Sat. 7th: Monroe's, Galway city, 10.00 p.m.
Sun. 8th: JJ Harlow's, Roscommon town, 6.30 p.m.
Wed. 11th: Whelan’s, Dublin 2, 8.00 p.m.; special guests Young Folk, Michael MacLennan

On 3 Feb. Jarrod Dickenson is releasing his fourth recording: the five-track EP An evening in the SUN, recorded live in the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, TN. Also on the EP are British songwriter and musician David Ford (piano, harmonica, harmony vocals) and Emily Grove, alt.folk musician (harmony vocals). Full details are in this Westport press release.

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18 January 2015

Register now for the European Bluegrass Gathering in Munich

Following on from the information on the BIB post of 16 December, the European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) announces that registration for the 2015 European Bluegrass Gathering (13-15 March) in Munich, Germany, is in progress, and you can take advantage of reduced-cost block bookings at the IBIS hotel in Munich by registering before 30 January.

The Gathering will be combined with the 5th Munich Bluegrass Festival, the 3rd European Bluegrass Pioneer Awards, and the EBMA's Annual General Meeting. Full details, together with online facilities for registration and booking, can be found in the EBMA's latest news release.

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Goodies in this month's BU

The BIB editor reports:

The January 2015 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine includes the annual Festival Guide, listing hundreds of bluegrass and bluegrass-related events around the world. Supplementary lists will appear in later issues.

The lists, compiled from data that festival organisers voluntarily send in, cannot be fully comprehensive. Outside the USA, the country with most events listed is Canada (15); in the rest of the world, Ireland comes equal with Australia, England, and Germany (3 each). The three shown for Ireland are the Shannonside Winter Music Weekend (this year's is in progress as we write), the Kilkenny Roots Festival, and the Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival.
Plenty of other good things are in this issue, notably a bumper crop of new CD reviews (four of them Highlight reviews); features on three individual festivals, including the big Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention combining bluegrass and old-time music; and the invaluable 'Notes & Queries' section by Walt V. Saunders, which this month includes the full original (pre-Carter-Family) lyrics to 'Wildwood Flower'.

Of special interest to mandolinists: the photo by Garland Gobble of a Gibson F-12 belonging to the late John Duffey; and a two-page feature by musicologist Dick Spottswood on Ernest Ferguson, who died in October 2014 at the age of 96. Ernest Ferguson belonged to a generation of country musicians who were playing professionally before the emergence of bluegrass, and his picking influenced several major bluegrass mandolinists. His 1940s recordings can be heard on CDs from Bear Family Records: two by the Bailes Brothers, and one by Johnnie & Jack.

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17 January 2015

Dixie Hall

Dixie and Tom T. Hall

Bluegrass Today publishes the sad news that Iris Violet May Hall, 'Miss Dixie', wife of the great country music singer/songwriter Tom T. Hall, died last night at her home 'Fox Hollow' in Tennessee, at the age of 80.

Her remarkable career featured just over a year ago in an article by Nancy Cardwell in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine - 'Dixie Hall: gifted songwriter, organizer, and patron saint of bluegrass - Fifty years in the music business'. Born in the English midlands, she was a trick rider in Wild West shows till a chance meeting with Tex Ritter led to a career in record promotion and publicity in the US, where she became friends with the Carter Family and many other stars of bluegrass and classic country music.

She was already writing songs before she married Tom T. Hall in the 1960s, and together they wrote hundreds of songs and set up Blue Circle Records, 'a coalition to further the growth and appreciation of bluegrass music', and Good Home Grown Music. She has almost certainly done more for bluegrass than anyone from these islands apart from the record producers Art Satherley (1889-1986) and Don Law (1902-82). Nancy Cardwell's article ends with a quotation from Miss Dixie:

Bluegrass music speaks to my heart. It's what comes out. It's the best thing that happens.

Further appreciations will appear on Bluegrass Today and in other media.
The BIB mentioned Miss Dixie and her health problems early in December 2014, when we also drew attention to the major health problems that James King, one of the most respected singers in traditional bluegrass, has had for much of this year. Yesterday the Prescription Bluegrass Blog published a letter by Gary Reid - 'James King still needs our help'. Read more about the James King Medical Fund here.


I Draw Slow at Whelan's, Dublin, 14 Feb. 2015

Thanks to Dave Holden of Dublin's I Draw Slow (above) for the news that just before heading off on their next US tour, the band will play Whelan's, Dublin 2, on St Valentine's night, 14 Feb. 2015. Doors open at 8.00 p.m., and tickets are €15. Dave adds:

We have been invited to showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, Missouri (as director's pick), in mid February, then go on to do a short tour of the Pacific North West. Later in the year we will be touring the US, Canada, and the UK. It's going to be a busy year, so come kick it off with us in Whelan's...

I Draw Slow have earned many very enthusiastic reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, some of which can be seen on their website. Dave also attaches these YouTube links to videos of their performances of 'Souvenirs', 'Mama don't cry', and 'Valentine'.

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16 January 2015

New major book from Ken Perlman

Thanks to Ken Perlman (USA), maestro of 'melodic clawhammer' banjo, for his latest quarterly newsletter, which includes news that a major publication is now imminent. Ken has already had published the magisterial 400-tune collection The fiddle music of Prince Edward Island: Celtic and Acadian tunes in living tradition, followed by a two-CD set of field recordings from PEI on the Rounder label.

His book Couldn’t have a wedding without the fiddler: the story of traditional fiddling on Prince Edward Island is now scheduled for publication in March 2015 by the University of Tennessee Press as the inaugural volume in its Charles Wolfe series. A pre-publication reviewer describes it as 'the most thorough and comprehensive exploration of any fiddling tradition anywhere'. Have a look at the corresponding website, which at present is just an introduction to the resource that it will be. Ken also writes:

Fiddler Alan Jabbour and I have recently finished work on a new joint CD called You can't beat the classics. We are joined on this project by Alan's old friend, guitarist Jim Watson, who was a founding member of the Red Clay Ramblers and currently plays bass with Robin & Linda Williams. The CD focuses on tunes that Alan collected way back and has played for years, but has never had a chance to record. The project is going through pre-production right now and we expect that copies will be available shortly.

All this and much more news can be seen on Ken's newly refurbished website.

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15 January 2015

Bluegrass gives Dublin firm a helping hand

L-r: Dan Eubanks, Dustin Benson, Rick Faris, Greg Cahill

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for a feature on the latest Special Consensus tour in Ireland, with a report on the band's progress up to yesterday by its leader and founder, Greg Cahill.

Last night the Special C. were in Grange, Co. Sligo; today and tomorrow they're in Belfast and Lisburn; and at the weekend they'll be playing in Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, and at the Winter Music Weekend in Co. Clare. All dates, including those for their return from Britain later this month, are on the BIB calendar.

While here, the Special C. have noticed a Dublin firm that seemed to deserve support, and they have consequently decided to give it a little publicity (see the photo) and use its products whenever they can.

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14 January 2015

Punch Brothers at the NCH: workshop as well as concert

Thanks to Cathal Cusack for drawing our attention to this feature on the website of the Journal of Music, announcing that in addition to their concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, at 8.00 p.m. on Wednesday 21 January, the Punch Brothers will also give a performance workshop in the NCH at 3.00 p.m. that day. The Journal of Music says:

... During this event, the band will discuss and demonstrate their approach to composing and performing, and offer feedback and advice to participants. While not a master class, participants may be invited to play during the workshop.

This event is aimed at music students and musicians, and offers a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the workings of one of the most virtuosic and freewheeling bands working today. Please contact education@nch.ie to book a place, or for further information.

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Full details of Gainsborough old-time festival

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog for full details - including this poster/flyer image - of FOAOTMAD's forthcoming Old-Time Music Festival a month from now (13-15 Feb.) at the Queen Elizabeth High School, Morton Terrace, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire DN21 2S, England. Details include making online bookings, what to bring and not to bring, when to arrive, where to stay, and more. As noted on the BIB four weeks ago, the lineup includes:

Erynn Marshall & Carl Jones (USA)
Howard Rains & Tricia Spencer (USA)
Jason & Pharis Romero (CAN; Saturday night only)
Little Hoedown (Friday night only)
The A & E String Band
Legs Levens with the Limestone Cowboys
Issy Emeney (clogging)
Old-time singing workshop with Roger Jackson
Sacred Harp singing with Cath and Phil Tyler
Ukulele workshop with Cathy Mars and Colm Daly
Plus workshops from Erynn, Carl, Howard, and Tricia

'Europe's largest and best old time festival' say FOAOTMAD. We won't argue.

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