01 October 2016

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: alive as ever

Although the editor 'retired' from bluegrass blogging over three years ago, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is as alive as ever, keeps its calendar updated, publishes news received, and is adding new features: since the beginning of 2016 the right-hand column has been enhanced by a slice of the calendar, a list of known bands, links to readers' comments, visual images, and (most recently) 'New releases' and regular jams. Send in news by e-mail.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page (now updated). Click on the 'Welcome' label below for more about the BIB's background, purpose, and uses.


30 September 2016

'Walking in sunlight' - Uncle Dave in musical drama, coming to Ireland

Thanks to Dr Virginia Donnell, professor emeritus of Theatre at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), and one of the production designers for the musical stage play 'Walking in sunlight: the life and legacy of Uncle Dave Macon'. The play is just finishing a run at MTSU's Tucker Theatre (see image below, and here). Dr Donnell writes:

We are touring the production in Ireland in May 2017. We are hoping to book school performances in the Dublin and Belfast areas. These are 'free/no costs' performances in keeping with our mission to reach children and youth. Any help or promotion would be greatly appreciated.

The MTSU Arts description of the play reads:

Walking in sunlight: the life and legacy of Uncle Dave Macon. A musical stage play: Eight youth find the answer to life decisions through the life and music of Dave Harrison Macon.

The legacy of Uncle Dave Macon, the first superstar of the Grand Ole Opry and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, includes more than his heartfelt and foot-stomping music. His life is a legacy of hope, the pursuit of joy for himself and others, and an indomitable spirit. In the play eight youth learn that we all suffer adversity, and we all receive inspiration. How we respond to each of these determines the trajectory of our lives. Uncle Dave was resilient, overcoming life’s unexpected and often painful hurdles, to live his dream and bring dreams to others. 'Walking in sunlight' connects the youth of today with a classic example of a good man's journey, enriched by the classic, old-time tunes of a past era which have again become popular in the present.

Any offers of engagements for school performances, or other suggestions of assistance, can be sent to Dr Donnell by e-mail.

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Hot Club of Cowtown (USA) back in Ireland, 25 Oct.-6 Nov. 2016

Hot Club of Cowtown in Austin, TX, 2016 (photo: Valerie Fremin)

For lovers of western swing in a powerful trio package, the Hot Club of Cowtown - Elana James (fiddle, vocals), Whit Smith (guitar, vocals), and Jake Erwin (bass, vocals) - will be back in Ireland for a two-week tour beginning on 25 October.

They toured in Britain earlier this year, shortly after the release of their latest album, Midnight on the trail. This coming weekend they'll be at the 20th Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, and early next week in Algeria on behalf of the US State Department. Their dates in this island are as follows:

Tues. 25th Oct.: Sugar Club, Leeson St., Dublin 2, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 26th: Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 28th: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 29th: Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, Co. Louth, 8.30 p.m.
Sun. 30th: Triskel Christchurch, Cork city, 2.30 p.m.

Tues. 1st Nov.: Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway, 8.00 p.m.
Wed. 2nd: Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, 8.00 p.m.
Thurs. 3rd: Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 4th: Old Courthouse Theatre, Antrim town, 7.30 p.m.
Sat. 5th: Bangor Castle, Bangor, Co. Down, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 6th: The Black Box, Belfast, 8.00 p.m.

Online booking facilities are on the band's tour page. The tour is being jointly presented by Music Network and Moving On Music.

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29 September 2016

Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, 21-3 Oct.: festival poster

The concert schedule for this year's Bunratty Bluegrass Festival (21-3 Oct.) appeared on the BIB just under a month ago (30 Aug.); so thanks again to Brendan Walsh and his fellow organisers in the Sixmilebridge Folk Club for the poster image above. showing all the most important details of the programme and listing the festival's sponsors at the foot. As with all images on the BIB, click on it for an enlargement.

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Bertram Levy in these islands, Feb. 2017?

Thanks to the FOAOTMAD news blog for a short but momentous item that will resonate with fans of a certain age:

Bertram Levy and his daughter will be touring February, I think 3rd to 19th. More details as I get them.

Bertram Levy, as can be seen from his website (and not just the bio page), is a remarkable figure in the playing of old-time music since the 1960s. A founder member of the Hollow Rock String Band, 'the first young urban band to play the repertoire collected directly from the old timers', he later founded the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA, which celebrates 40 years in 2017. His love for squeeze-box music has led him into a long-time mastery of the Anglo concertina and (more recently) the bandoneon and tango music.

While he was working as a surgeon in Dublin in the mid 1970s, his playing understandably influenced those who were then trying to learn old-time music here. We hope his trip to these islands will include a return, however brief, to Ireland.

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28 September 2016

Latest news on the Slocan Ramblers

The BIB editor reports:

Last Friday the BIB published the news from the UK's Brookfield Knights agency that the Slocan Ramblers from Toronto will be available for bookings in these islands from 20 October to 18 November next year.

Yesterday (Tuesday 27 Sept.) the IBMA's World of Bluegrass - the focal point of bluegrass activity on this planet - began in Raleigh, NC. A report on the first day by Tara Linhardt on Bluegrass Today includes a three-and-a-half-minute video showing a group identified only as 'a fun young band from Toronto, Canada'. They turned out to have all the drive and excitement one looks for in traditional bluegrass, so I checked it out on YouTube: the band turns out to be the Slocan Ramblers, who were playing their showcase set in the Marriott Hotel at 10.00 p.m. On the strength of this, I hope we see them over here next year.

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27 September 2016

Further education

The BIB editor reports:

At some stage in a bluegrass fan's life, there will be a period in which more recordings will be desired than can be afforded - at least, it was so, back in the days before the internet. Even today, fans can still be tantalised by hearing of legendary live shows that never got on to a commercial recording. Consequent-
ly, I've been recently delighted by discovering two superabundant YouTube channels, both under the auspices of Chugoku Gakuen University, Japan.

For me, the chief period of not-buying-enough-albums was the 1970s and '80s. The channel Access Granted has a great range, extending from the 1960s into the 1990s, of complete albums that have not been re-released on CD. Many album covers are familiar from reviews in Bluegrass Unlimited (including a few that I actually bought at the time). The notes include complete track lists and names of musicians taking part. The sister channel Connection Allowed has recordings made over an even longer stretch of time, of live shows at festivals, concerts, and clubs. The first four videos shown on the home page, for instance, are by the Seldom Scene, Jimmy Martin, Flatt & Scruggs, and Tony Rice & Norman Blake. My further education starts here...

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25 September 2016

Apply now to take part in EWOB 2017 (# 20)!

The European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) organising team announced a week ago on Facebook:

OPEN FOR APPLICATION! (Bands and Volunteers)

It gives us great pleasure to announce that EWOB 2017 is in the works! EWOB will be celebrating its 20th anniversary!

We're proud to have been one of the major meeting grounds for European bluegrass over these 20 years and are grateful for your presence and contributions.

We will be able to use the trusted location in Voorthuizen [central Netherlands] for another year and are hoping for your support to pull off this memorable 20th EWOB.

Bands can apply by visiting www.ewob.nl; download the submission form and follow the instructions!

Bands should deliver their applications by 1 December 2016; those bands selected to perform at the 2017 EWOB Festival (25-7 May 2017) will be informed in January.

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24 September 2016

Bruff Bluegrass Festival, 1-2 Oct. 2016: lineup announced

Jack Clancy and the organising team of the Bruff Bluegrass Music Festival in Bruff, Co. Limerick, announced earlier this week the lineup for this year's event, to take place next weekend (Saturday 1 October and Sunday 2 October).

As shown on the Festival's blog and Facebook, the bands taking part will be the Down and Out Bluegrass Band from the Belfast region, and two Dublin bands, Well Enough Alone and the Tin Box Company. All shows will be in Clancy's Bar at the Limerick end of Bruff's main street. Further details of times are TBA.

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Earl Scruggs: banjo icon - coming in Mar. 2017

Thanks to Richard Thompson for revealing (in his feature yesterday on the late Vic Jordan in Bluegrass Today) that a new book on Earl Scruggs, the Father of Bluegrass Banjo, is expected to come on sale early next year. It is based on extensive interviews with Earl's family and many notable banjo-players and others who knew him or came under his influence.

Earl Scruggs: banjo icon, a 256-page book by Gordon Castelnero and David L. Russell, is being published by Rowman & Littlefield and is scheduled to appear in March 2017. The hardback is priced at $40.00 and the e-Book at $39.99; no details appear at present of a paperback issue.

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23 September 2016

Slocan Ramblers (CAN) available for bookings, 20 Oct.-18 Nov. 2017

More news from Brookfield Knights for event organisers and venue owners planning for autumn next year - Loudon Temple writes:

Hi, folks - we are excited to confirm that we have teamed up with one of the hottest bluegrass bands on the circuit - the Slocan Ramblers from Toronto - to bring them to the UK for the first time in 2017.

Timing could not be better, as it was just announced last night that they have been nominated in the prestigious Canadian Folk Awards in the Traditional Album of the Year category for their fine CD
Coffee Creek that won them so much attention in 2016.

You can see video links and hear sample tracks here. The tour period will be 20 October to 18 November next year. We anticipate a lot of interest in this band. Please let us know if you'd like to grab them for a slot on your music programme.

The Slocan Ramblers (also on Facebook) consist of Adrian Gross, Alastair Whitehead, Darryl Poulsen, and Frank Evans. They have appeared on such prestigious festivals as Rockygrass in Colorado and MerleFest in North Carolina. Moreover, they have been mentored by Chris Coole, guitarist and lead singer for the Foggy Hogtown Boys (whose tour here in 2009 included the Omagh festival), who is also an outstanding clawhammer banjo player. Brookfield Knights quote Chris as saying of the Slocan Ramblers:

What really impressed me [...] was that, while they can pull off the precision and virtuosity that is at the backbone of bluegrass, they understand the power of the fragile moment in music.

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The Cabin Sessions, Dundrum, 29 Sept. 2016

Gerry Fitzpatrick, organiser of the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', announces the Session for Thursday next week (29 September):

We're back again with you on Thursday 29 Sept. The Cabin Crew with special guests Sean McComish (contemporary), Capo Two (folk), and from the USA Charlie Roth (Americana)!

The Sessions are held on the last Thursday of every month at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dundrum, south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station, in the city direction). Shows run from 9.30 to 11.30 p.m. and admission is FREE. 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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22 September 2016

Tennessee Mafia Jug Band in Ireland, 29 Oct.-12 Nov. 2016

The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band from Goodlettsville, TN, will be touring Ireland for two weeks this autumn, starting just five weeks from now. The band (also on Facebook) features the unique Leroy Troy (on the left in the front row), heir to the banjo acrobatics and other performance skills of the late Uncle Dave Macon via Cordell Kemp, and a firm favourite at the much-missed Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals.

The schedule, as shown on their website, appears below. Please note the shows shown as beginning at 7.00 p.m., which seems an unusually early starting time. The BIB has changed this to 8.30 p.m. in the case of 5 Nov., on the basis of what we know of the Red Room's general practice; so please check with the venues before going to any of these shows.

Sat. 29th Oct.: Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Naul, Co. Dublin, 8.30 p.m.
Thurs. 3rd Nov.: Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, 8.30 p.m.
Fri. 4th: Coach House Hotel, Ballymote, Co. Sligo, 7.00 p.m., with Rackhouse Pilfer
Sat. 5th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, 8.30 p.m.
Sun. 6th: Athy Community Arts Centre, Athy, Co. Kildare, 7.00 p.m.
Mon. 7th: Kilworth Arts Centre, Kilworth, Co. Cork, 7.00 p.m.
Tues. 8th: Sixmilebridge Folk Club, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, 7.00 p.m.
Wed. 9th: Schoolyard Theatre, Charleville, Co. Cork, 8.30 p.m.
Thurs. 10th: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (Clonmel World Music), 8.30 p.m.; 'phone Gerry on (086)3389619
Sat. 12th: St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry, 7.00 p.m.

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The Railsplitters (USA) - available for Aug.-Sept. 2017

Thanks to Loudon Temple of the UK's Brookfield Knights agency for the news that plans are being made for the third tour in these islands by the Railsplitters from Colorado (above). The date run is from 28 August to 17 September.

The Railsplitters toured Ireland in the second half of June 2015, and in November-December they were part of Rainer Zellner's 7th Bluegrass Jamboree! package on its three-week tour of central Europe. Loudon writes:

The Railsplitters have wowed the crowds at Shetland Folk Festival and were hailed as an outstanding success at the big Gate to Southwell Festival in Notts, too. This footage was recorded when they played a session for the John Murray Show at RTÉ 1 last time they toured Ireland.

Please let us know if you would like to grab them for a show and advise what date/s (one or two options would be very helpful) might be available, to help us with routing considerations.

The very appreciative reviews they have received can be sampled on their press page and on the Brookfield Knights website. Event organisers and venue owners who are interested in booking this rapidly rising band can contact Loudon by e-mail.

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20 September 2016

Special Consensus in Europe, 29 Oct.-10 Nov. 2016

The Special Consensus: (l-r) Nick Dumas, Dan Eubanks, 
Rick Faris, Greg Cahill

The BIB announced on 8 September details of the forthcoming tour of Ireland by the Special Consensus (USA) in the New Year. Our friends at Bluegrass in Belgium have just made us aware that the band will be touring widely on the Continent at the end of next month and in early November; they'll be playing shows in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Czech Republic as well as Belgium.

If you expect to be in Brussels on 31 Oct., take note that as the venue (Toogenblik) has limited capacity, tickets (€12 if booked before 10 Oct., €15 after) must be reserved in advance by e-mail.

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19 September 2016

Flatpick champions of Winfield 2016

The festival widely known as 'Winfield' (Kansas) originated as the Walnut Valley National Guitar Flat-Picking Championships Festival in 1972, and Winfield winners have often become prominent figures in the music.

So the BIB thanks the Walnut Valley Association for this photo of the National Guitar Flat Pick Championship winners: (l-r) second-place winner Jason Shaw of Lincoln, Nebraska; first-place winner Steve Lewis of Jefferson, North Carolina; third-place winner Eric Hardin of West Jefferson, North Carolina.

Steve Lewis wins a Collings Winfield model mahogany/Adirondack spruce guitar; and, as he was also second-place winner in the bluegrass banjo contest, he goes home with a Deering Calico 5-string too. More news of Winfield contest winners can be seen here.

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18 September 2016

Tragic death cancels Clare festival

Ray Barron of Two Time Polka sends the sad news that the 'Che do Bheatha' festival in Kilkee, Co. Clare, next weekend is cancelled due to the tragic death of the coastguard volunteer Catriona Lucas. Two Time Polka had been scheduled to play on Saturday 24 September.

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17 September 2016

Celtic Connections 2017: tickets now on sale

Thanks to the Celtic Connections organising team in Glasgow for their latest e-newsletter, announcing that tickets are already on sale for ten of the shows at next year's event (19 Jan.-5 Feb. 2017). Full details are on the e-newsletter.

The shows listed do not include that for the Special Consensus (USA), who are scheduled to play in the Strathclyde Suite at 8.00 p.m. on 30 Jan., in the last of seven shows in Britain during their New Year tour. The following night they will be playing in the Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone - 'Ireland's welcoming hug for visiting bands', as the BIB put it some time ago. Full Irish dates for the tour are here.

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'Mr Winfield' - and the Irish connections

Thanks to the Walnut Valley Association (WVA), organisers of the annual instrumentalist championships and festival at Winfield, Kansas, for the news that guitar maestro Dan Crary has made his thirty-fifth appearance at Winfield, having been at the very first event in 1972 and contributed greatly to its development. The WVA is happy to endorse the title 'Mr Winfield', given to Dan by a fan in 1992. The photos above show him in the 1970s (left) and this year (right).

Flat-picking lead guitar was not unknown in bluegrass before Dan Crary, but the examples of Don Reno, Bill Napier, and George Shuffler were not widely followed; and although Clarence White had demonstrated how the immensely influential style of Doc Watson could be used in a bluegrass band, Crary's stunning work with the Kentucky-based Bluegrass Alliance seemed to open the gate for its full acceptance in bluegrass.

Crary's tastes range widely in music, and he is also a first-class communicator. This year's Winfield festival includes a special performance of his 'Primal Twang', a stage presentation of the guitar’s long history, comprising on-stage narration, video projections of rare historical footage, and live performances by Crary and international guitar stars. A DVD of 'Primal Twang' is available. The WVA adds: 'It has been said that viewing “Primal Twang” should be a requirement for anyone that has played or has the desire to play a guitar.'

Dan Crary first performed in Ireland at the Tailor's Hall, Dublin, in autumn 1978 with the Sackville String Band (in its new four-piece bluegrass-oriented format) opening for his impressive solo act. He has subsequently played here on several occasions, both solo and as a band member in Berline, Crary & Hickman and its expanded version, California. He became a good friend of Frank Robinson of Derry, and Frank's choice of a Taylor dreadnaught as his personal acoustic guitar owes something to Dan's example and advice.

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16 September 2016

Band news

Tonight (16 Sept.) the Down and Out Bluegrass Band will be playing in the courtyard of the Dark Horse (30-34 Hill St., Belfast) from 7.00 p.m.; while at Peacocke's Hotel, Maam Cross, Connemara, the Whileaways will be playing - doors 8.00 p.m., show starts 9.00 p.m., tickets €15. And over at the Chasin Bull, Main St., Bundoran, Co. Donegal, Erdini will be playing 'a full electric set'.
Cup O' Joe, who like the Down and Outs had a busy time last week, are now in Britain: having played last night at Upwood Village Hall in Cambridgeshire, they are now going to be at the 13th Cornish Bluegrass Festival, Hendra Holiday Park, Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 4NY, for this whole weekend (Fri. 16-Sun. 18 Sept.).
Greenshine, who are taking part in next month's Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, will be playing on Monday 19 Sept. at the Station House Theatre, Clifden, Co. Galway, as part of Clifden Arts Festival, from 10.00 p.m.; and on Tuesday 27 Sept. in the 'Attic Sessions' at the Cove Bar, Waterford city, 8.00 p.m.
The Henry Girls will play their last (so far) Donegal gig this year at the Railway Tavern, Fahan, Co. Donegal, on Sat. 24 Sept. with special guest Charlie Roth; doors open 9.00 p.m. Tickets are €10.
JigJam are en route to the Michigan Irish Music Festival (USA) this weekend, while Rackhouse Pilfer are in Toulouse, France, performing for the International Cartoon Forum 2016.
Pilgrim St are playing at the Sally Gardens, Rathkenny, Co. Meath, on Sat. 1 Oct. as a fundraiser for Newtown United F.C. Tickets are €15, and the show starts at 9.30 p.m. The band will subsequently resume recording their debut album.
The Watery Hill Boys of Drogheda will be playing this Sunday (18 Sept.) in Clarke's, and on Saturday 1 Oct. in Carberry's, both in their home town.
And Wookalily have a busy autumn coming up, with the following dates:

Sat. 24th Sept.: Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, 8.00 p.m.
Sun. 25th-Mon. 26th: Winterfell MiniFest, Strangford, Co. Down (Game of Thrones Visitor Attraction)

Fri. 7th Oct.: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, Co. Down, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 8th: Crusoe's Coffee Shop, Castlerock, Co. Londonderry, 8.00 p.m.
Fri. 14th: 'Roots Fridays', Belfast Empire, 10.30 p.m.
Sat. 15th: Spookalily at Brownlow Castle Halloween Party, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, 8.00 p.m.
Sat. 22nd: The Tap Room, Newcastle, Co. Down, 10.00 p.m.

Sat. 5th Nov.: The Alley Theatre, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, 8.00 p.m.

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The Moron Brothers - better very late than never

The Moron Brothers of Kentucky, who topped the bluegrass section of the bill at the Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival in Co. Clare two years ago, have released a 45-minute video on Facebook. This was originally scheduled to air last night; but as the Brothers explain, there were some technical difficulties (involving a mouse and a .44 Magnum), and they've now posted it under the heading 'Better very late than never!' John Lawless, on Bluegrass Today, calls them

everybody’s favorite bluegrass comedians [...] a rare and remarkable act, combining good, clean, cornpone humor with bluegrass music and backwoods ways. I dare you to watch and not laugh out loud.

NB: The Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival has since grown into the Bunratty Bluegrass Festival, the next edition of which will be starting just five weeks from now (21-3 October).

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