Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dixie Hall, 1935~2015

Dixie Hall, wife of legendary songwriter Tom T. Hall, passed away on Friday, January 16, 2015 at the age of 80. She was gravely ill for the past year. All the while trying to do business as long as possible with her bluegrass music publishing and recording company, Blue Circle Music.

Miss Dixie was a major force in country and bluegrass music, yet few people know of her music business history. She moved to the USA from England in 1961, when she accepted a job working for Don Pierce of the Starday Records company. At one point in her storied life, Miss Dixie lived with Maybelle Carter at the Carter Homestead where the two of them wrote songs together. Her background story reads like a musical fairytale.

If you were to ask almost anyone in bluegrass music they would tell you Dixie and Tom T are two of the most compassionate and generous human beings in the world. Many, many artists and fans have been befriended by the Halls.

I will stop writing here, as I have been away and only just now learned of the sad news. I would like to look back at my own photos and personal reminders of Dixie, and her mate Tom T Hall.

I would kindly suggest you read an excellent account of Miss Dixie's life and her many contributions to the bluegrass music world and more in an article by Peter Cooper at this link for The Tennessean newspaper.

With dementia settling in (due to a brain tumor) Miss Dixie wrote one last song, and recorded her first single on one of her good days last fall. She offered it free to her friends as a 'parting gift'. With that song came a message. A message I am certain she would be proud to have us pass on to all bluegrass fans:

"Running out of time here but it's your earth, and your music.
Please save it and give generously. God bless you forevermore. I love you."

The world desperately needs more people like Miss Dixie Hall.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

WOB 2015 Bluegrass Ramble Showcase - Online Application Open Jan 15 - Feb 28

Good news! All emerging bluegrass bands, and established bands with new music or new personnel as well, are invited to apply to be part of the WOB 2015 Bluegrass Ramble Showcase that will take place September 29 - October 1 downtown Raleigh, NC (USA).
In addition to the showcase opportunities, the IBMA showcase package includes:

  • Complimentary booth space during business conference (value $600+)
  • Full conference registration package for performing members of group (value $1000+)
  • One organizational membership for group (value $205)
  • Featured profile in conference program and on the WOB smart phone app
  • Distribution of one mp3 per band on our AirPlay Direct account, providing radio DJ access to showcase band music
  • Inclusion of one mp3 on the 2015 Noisetrade/IBMA Bluegrass Ramble compilation. Download the 2014 compilation free.
  • Inclusion in the Bluegrass Ramble Spotify playlist, promoted on social media by IBMA
  • Priority access to “Gig Fair” appointments
  • Scheduled consultation in advance of events on maximizing showcase opportunities

  • Each showcase band will perform at least twice during World of Bluegrass Week—once on a convention center stage and once on a Bluegrass Ramble venue.

    Application Deadlines, Fees & Process

    Online application for IBMA showcases must be submitted by February 28, 2015.  All applicants are required to submita $25 fee to help defray selection process costs. If invited to participate as an official showcase artist, there is an additional fee of $500 to offset costs of services and showcase production.  Showcase applications can be made online but if online application creates a hardship for the applicant, or if any assistance is needed with online application, contact Eddie Huffman, 888-438-4262.In addition to general application information, the following materials will be needed to complete the application:

  • Name, email, and role (i.e. banjo, fiddle) of each member of the applying act
  • One studio recording (mp3 format only)
  • One Hi-Res artist photo
  • An artist bio with artist location, names/roles of band members (if known at time of application), description of the artist's sound, and note of any recently released recordings.

  • Up to 30 showcase artists will be invited in 2015, depending on the number of applicants and the qualifications of groups that apply. IBMA showcase artists are chosen in a juried selection process that takes into consideration every applicant’s entertainment value, level of professionalism, potential appeal and quality of work. There are generally more than 100 acts who apply every year. Official IBMA showcase acts from the 2014 Bluegrass Ramble are not eligible for 2015. 

    Last but not least, watch a video from 2014's Official Showcase Band Mr. Sun perform during the Ramble! Next September, THIS COULD BE YOU!

    Sunday, 4 January 2015

    Special Consensus Ireland & UK Dates

    Special Consensus: Dan Eubanks, Greg Cahill, Dustin Benson & Rick Faris
    With just a few days of 2015 gone, Bluegrass fans in Ireland and the UK can already look forward to seeing one of the premier Bluegrass bands from the USA. Special Consensus will be playing twenty dates on our side of Atlantic during January.

    The band's 2012 album Scratch Gravel Road on Compass Records was GRAMMY nominated for Best Bluegrass Album and two songs from the 2014 band release Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute To John Denver (also on Compass Records) won IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year and Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year.

    Any opportunity to see and hear a top US band in Europe is an exciting prospect but the concert on the 24th January is a very special, Special Consensus concert. As mentioned in a blog post in November, this concert will the the Phill Morley Memorial Concert; Phill Morley was one of the founding fathers of British Bluegrass music and this concert starts earlier than usual, at 5pm, and will close with a jam session led by Greg Cahill. Doors will open at 4pm with the first set starting at 5pm with the second set ending at 9pm with the day closing with a Bluegrass Jam led by Greg Cahill. It should be noted that this concert has been moved to Steeple Morden Village Hall near Royston (see the East Anglian Bluegrass Festival website for full details).

    I can't think of a better way of starting your Bluegrass 2015 than seeing Special Consensus? Get your tickets soon as these dates are sure to be very popular.

    Tuesday, 30 December 2014

    2014 A Memorable Year & My European Bluegrass Highlight... a bloggers view

    As many people will be doing as 2014 comes to an end, I wanted to look back over another year of great Bluegrass. Many highlights spring to mind, attending another HoustonFest in Galax, Virginia - surely one of the very best Bluegrass & Old-Time events in South-Eastern USA, visiting the Blue Ridge Music Center for some open-air music in a beautiful setting - how much better can it get than to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to go and listen to music? The return visit to MC at Bristol Rhythm & Roots introducing such musicians as Donna Ulisse, Mark Schimick & Josh Daniel and Red Molly brings fond memories. A year of hosting a Bluegrass radio show has also brought me into contact with Bluegrass friends from Japan to New Zealand, across Europe and the USA.....what a year!

    But what European Bluegrass event has left the most lasting impression on me? It's a tough choice..it is like watching your favourite sports team win a glorious victory with a magnificent team performance then being asked to choose who would be Man of the Match (or MVP, if you prefer) but, on balance, Eagle Music's Banjo 8 event has (for me) been this year's most memorable European Bluegrass event. The Banjo 8 event was recognising Eagle Music's 8th year as Deering Banjos' leading retailer worldwide - a significant achievement in itself; the fact that The Kruger Brothers would be playing at the event was a clear bonus. So..what made this such a memorable day?

    The day started with a welcome from Steve Noon, owner of Eagle Music and then from Janet & Greg Deering who, not only welcomed everyone attending and congratulated Eagle Music on their 8th year as the world's top seller of Deering Banjos but there was also an offer from Greg Deering to give anyone's banjo a set-up. The evening performance by The Kruger Brothers was everything that one might expect - quite simply, the audience were enthralled and the musicianship unsurpassable but it was the workshops that really left a lasting impression. Before I describe the workshops I should mention the performance by (two-thirds of) The Old Grey Dogs  - Joe & Bob - who not only performed a very well-received set in the afternoon but also led a jam session in the period between the workshops and the evening performance by The Kruger Brothers.

    The two most notable workshops, in my opinion, were by The Kruger Brothers and by Andre Dal of Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti. During the Kruger Brothers' workshop, Jens gave an insight into his general approach to playing, to the dynamics of his performances of different pieces and, along with Joel and Uwe, demonstrated his approaches with such tunes as 'Beautiful Nothing'. The workshop also included questions from the audience, one which resulted in a very entertaining spontaneous song-writing exhibition.

    Andre Dal's workshop was a fascinating view into a musician's skill and determination. Andre travelled from his home in Portugal to be at the event, and because of transport delays, arrived that the venue just 10 minutes before he was scheduled to take the stage. Despite this brinkmanship, Andre appeared unfazed and, in modest fashion, then described how he overcame a physical problem with his hand which threatened his ability to play banjo - as mentioned before, Andre plays banjo with Portuguese band Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti. Andre contracted a condition which put his hand into a clawed position which severely impacted his ability to play his 5-string and could have brought his playing days to a premature end had it not been for his remarkable determination to continue playing Bluegrass and ingenuity in (literally) engineering a solution. While many might have been beaten, Andre built a glove/brace which put his hand into a position where he could access the strings of his banjo and then re-learn his playing technique to compensate for the loss of function in his hand - the result: spectacular. The description of his refusal to stop playing and to find a unique solution was inspiring and Andre's playing?.. in the true sense of the word, triumphant.

    Before the afternoon closed, there was presentation by Janet & Greg Deering to Steve Noon in recognition of Eagle Music's achievements and sales of Deering Banjos and this concluded in the most appropriate manner - a short mass banjo jam led by Jens, Joel and Uwe.

    In addition to the workshops there was a fully display of Deering Banjos, some guitars and ukeleles....yes, we went home with a very fine new ukelele! While looking at the banjos on display, there was a familiar face trying out one of the instruments. Tabitha Agnew of the Irish family group Cup O'Joe was putting a Deering through its paces.

    Cup O'Joe (as described in a previous EBMA article) were the only non-US band to be invited to play on the Youth Stage at IBMA in Raleigh, last September. Cup O'Joe were not scheduled to perform at the Banjo 8 event, their father had brought Tabitha and her brothers Reuben and Benjamin from Ireland to Huddersfield in Yorkshire to attend the event. During the morning, Jens Kruger spent some time chatting with Tabitha who later played for him, soon to be joined by Reuben and Benjamin so everyone present was treated to an impromptu mini-set by Cup O'Joe. It was a pleasure to meet the Agnew family (though Mrs Agnew did not make the trip) and it has been wonderful to hear that, in the past week or so, that it has been announced that Tabitha is now a Deering endorsee.

    As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the day concluded with a performance by The Kruger Brothers which left everyone on their feet and, naturally enough, wanting more. I should add that the evening concert also included a set by The Kentucky Cow Tippers - surely one of the UK's finest Bluegrass bands.

    So, through the day there was recognition of Eagle Music's achievements in relation to Deering Banjos - there was illumination and demonstration from one the world's leading banjo players as well as a performance from one of Bluegrass' most popular groups - there was a modest but inspiring description of determination to overcome difficulties and continue to play some fine banjo and a chance meeting with a successful young group of musicians and their father and then seeing them gain wider recognition with Deering Banjos. There are so many different aspects of this day that bring me to the conclusion that this was the highlight of my European Bluegrass year and I can't wait to see what 2015 brings.

    Happy New Year everyone.

    Thursday, 25 December 2014

    Danilo Cartia news - Upcoming show in Bolsena (VT), Italy

    If you are in the neighborhood of Bolsena
    (Viterbo), Italy, and are looking for some good bluegrass, blues and americana music, take note that Danilo Cartia Trio will be playing there tomorrow,  5 pm, at one show, Piccolo Teatro Cavour, via Cavour, Bolsena.

    Danilo Cartia
    E-mail: banjoman@fastwebnet.it 
    Mobile: +393396908450

    Happy Christmas from the EBMA Blog Team

    It's that time of the year to wish everyone....  

    Joyeux Noël.. God Jul.. Feliz Natal.. Veselé Vánoce.. 

    Wherever you are, the EBMA Blog Team wish you a very Happy Christmas
    and a Bluegrass-filled New Year