Sunday, 30 August 2015

Front Country - UK dates in November

If you were to cast your eyes around the internet and read the album reviews for Front Country's 'Sake of the Sound' you would find that there is praise coming from every quarter. Sake of the Sound is receiving appreciative reviews from the Bluegrass, Country, Americana and Folk publications who recognise the strength of Front Country's debut release. For me, David Morris summed it up in his review in Bluegrass Today when he said 'Do yourself a favor. No matter what you think of jam bands, Americana and other genres that reside at the edges of traditional bluegrass or beyond, swallow your preconceptions and listen to four songs from Sake of the Sound the first full-length CD from Front Country. Just four songs. After that, my guess is many of you will want to hear more from this San Francisco-area sextet...'

From Sake of the Sound: 'Like A River'

'Sake of the Sound' opens with a rendition of 'Gospel Train' which sets the bar very high for the rest of the album and that standard is maintained throughout. For me, the only way to describe Melody Walker's voice is soulful in a way that I have not heard in  along time - three of the tracks are also written by Melody. It is easy to undertand why Front Country won the band contests at both RockyGrass and Telluride so it would be remiss not to mention the rest of Front Country who are: Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin), Jacob Groopman (guitar, vocals), Jordan Klein (banjo, vocals), Leif Karlstrom (violin) and Zach Sharpe (bass).

After all of this you will be wanting to know where you can see them. Here are their UK tour dates:

Wed Nov 4: The Atkinson, Southport   
Thurs Nov 5: Centenary Centre, Peel, Isle of Man    
Fri Nov 6: Selby Town Hall    
Sat Nov 7: The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Sun Nov 8: Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine
Tues Nov 10: Performing Arts Centre, Kilbarchan
                             Ticket info - call 01505 550 550
Wed Nov 11: Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline    
Thurs Nov 12: Birnam Arts Centre, Birnam, Dunkeld    
Fri Nov 13: Glenbuchat Hall, Aberdeenshire    
Sat Nov 14: The Universal Hall, Findhorn    
Sun Nov 15: Dundee Acoustic Music Club (afternoon)    
Tues Nov 17: The Harrison, Kings Cross, London    
Thurs Nov 19: Norwich Arts Centre    
Fri Nov 20: The Tuppeny Barn, Emsworth    
Sat Nov 21: Square & Compass, Worth Matravers    
Sun Nov 22: South Holland Centre, Spalding

Friday, 28 August 2015

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley and Chris Jones & The Night Drivers - European Dates

Let me start my making it clear that not all dates will feature both Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley and Chris Jones & The Night Drivers but there are some shared dates so, for this reason, this announcement will talk of both with the dates for Rob & Trey and Chris Jones listed separately below.

Trey Hensley has been the recipient of accolades from the likes of Marty Stuart, Mike Auldridge, Earl Scruggs and Blue Highway. Gene Parsons of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers said of Trey “Listening to Trey Hensley play guitar I realized I haven’t heard guitar playing this exciting since Clarence White. Wow!” Trey featured as guest vocalist on 'My Last Day In The Mine' on Blue Highway's album 'The Game'. Teaming up with Rob Ickes for their album 'Before The Sun Goes Down' has produced an album that will appeal equally to Bluegrass and Country fans - as for their version of Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'Pride and Joy'...if you have not heard it, rectify that as soon as possible!

Rob Ickes has more individual IBMA awards for his Dobro playing than I have fingers and toes (as a result of an accident with an alligator and the fact that I don't count so well) but add together the IBMA awards than Rob has won himself and the awards that he has been party to with Blue Highway then I could be counting all day.

Chris Jones & The Night Drivers comprise (naturally, Chris) Ned Lubercki, Jon Weisberger and Mark Stoffel. Chris will be known to many for his articles in Bluegrass Today, his distinctive voice as well as being a presenter on SiriusXM; like Chris, Ned Luberecki will also be known to many as a presenter on SiriusXM. Jon Weisberger (when not playing bass for the Night Drivers) is also the Chair of IBMA and Mark Stoffel is noted for his playing and as a producer and recording engineer.

Their CD 'Lonely Comes Easy' was very successful with nine Top 20 songs and their new CD 'Run Away Tonight' looks as though it will do the same and if you have listened to 'Live At The Old Feedstore' then you will not want to miss the opportunity to see them play live in Europe later this year.

As mentioned before, not all dates will feature both Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley and Chris Jones & The Night Drivers but there are some shared dates and these will be highlighted.

Dates for Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley

Oct 7th 
Pyramida Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic - Ticket information with Chris Jones & The Night Drivers
Oct 9th - 12th 
Adiaha's Bluegrass Camp, Aschau im Chiemgau, Germany with Chris Jones & The Night Drivers
Oct 13th 
Altes Theater, Heilbronn, Germany with Chris Jones & The Night Drivers
Oct 14th 
RFO Americana Concert Series at Haus der Kultur, Waldkraiburg, Germany
Oct 15th
Schaffhausen, Switzerland - Ticket information
Oct 16th
Laufen (near Basel) Switzerland - Ticket information
Oct 17th
Kulturkommission, Dänikon - Ticket information

Dates for Chris Jones & The Night Drivers

Oct 7th 
Pyramida Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic - Ticket information with Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
Oct 9th - 12th 
Adiaha's Bluegrass Camp, Aschau im Chiemgau, Germany with Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
Oct 13th
Altes Theater, Heilbronn, Germany with Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
Oct 14th
Liestal,Kulturhotel Guggenheim, Liestal, Switzerland - Ticket information
Oct 15th
Villingem-Schwenningen, Germany - Ticket information
Oct 16th
Garching, Germany - Ticket information

Monday, 24 August 2015

CD Review: JigJam - Oh Boy!

JIGJAM are three excellent musicians from Ireland who have put together a remarkable mixture of music and song on this this debut album “Oh Boy”. The variety is such that your musical taste-buds are refreshed as you go from track to track.

The opening song “Tickle me Pink” from Johnny Flynn is reminiscent of the Punch Brothers but then you go to the second track “Levi” which starts with really good vocal harmonies and takes you on a journey from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the battlefields of a foreign land.

Instrumentally they bridge the gap between pure bluegrass with a medley of “Big Sandy River”, “Groundspeed” and “Bugle Call Rag” and then a couple of tracks later there is a medley of Irish hornpipes and Reels, but even then they get a bit bluegrassy towards the end.

My favourite track is “Beeswing” a Richard Thompson song that they give due justice to, especially with the added fiddle of Ciara McKeogh.

This album mixes Bluegrass old and new with traditional Irish music and even some Gypsy Jazz variations. You might think that the variety might be too much but in fact it all works well. This is a very good and very well thought out album

JIGJAM are Jamie McKeogh, Daithi Melia and Cathal Guinan, Check them out on their website at

Available on iTunes and CD Baby.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

"The Mandolin: A History" due for release November 2015

For the past several years our music world has been rewarded with a few mighty impressive publications of musical instrument history. My current personal favorite at the very top of that list of books is, and has been since its release, “Inventing the American Guitar” (Hal Leonard Publishing, 2014).

Now along comes Graham McDonald with what appears to be a serious contender for that top spot with his comprehensive study, The Mandolin: A History. As a guitar and mandolin enthusiast who appreciates such history, and given the unveiling of this latest addition to the world’s music library, my personal music book shelf may very well be complete at this point.
'Ur - Ur the Singer' on his seal cylinder
British Museum,
Image courtesy Dominique Collon

McDonald’s history of the mandolin tracks stringed instruments as long ago as 4200 years (in this case, the Lute family). Thusly, we discover the mandolin’s primitive origins in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Europe. Note the Mesopotamian musician named ‘Ur-Ur’ in the photo. He is clearly in a familiar playing position. The author suggests a Lute-like instrument with 2 strings.

We are eventually introduced to the first appearance of what many consider the prototype for the modern day mandolin: the “mandolino” of late 16th century Italy, a baroque gut-strung mandolin borne out of the early 16th century ‘mandola’.

The insight into the mandolin’s evolution goes ever deeper from there. The author’s presentation has made the reading relatively simple, even while addressing the most technical aspects and complicated subjects. Graham’s care to guide us along the way, often using specific examples, is invaluable. As if the multitude of sketches, drawings and photos are not enough (some very rare and previously unpublished) – the author even provides such minute details as string lengths and tunings, using the Hemholtz system for pitch notation.

The Mandolin: A History is truly an exhaustive study often revealing the complexity and ‘secrets’ of numerous instruments, while relating these factors to the modern mandolin. McDonald has the experience and skills required to address the similarities between modern day mandolins and their ancient cousins along this historic trek. As a result we witness a global ascension throughout the double-string instruments’ “family tree”.

In the extensive coverage of America’s contributions to mandolin history we are introduced to little known, possibly even unknown, luthiers from the past. As might be expected many prominent manufacturers in America are covered as well.

Of note is a chapter dedicated to what McDonald calls “the definitive history of the Irish bouzouki”. He considers this instrument his specialty.

There are some 400+ pages, 450+ illustrations/photos, and 22 chapters. Also a detailed bibliography and index. 

McDonald mentions in an interview, “…it is lavishly illustrated with the intent that it will be a primary reference for identifying mandolin family instruments from all parts of the world.”

Suffice it to say, the volumes of information are vast and therefore impossible to relate all the essential subject matter within the limited scope of a mere review or news report.

To paraphrase the author’s rather humble description of the concept of his book… It is about the instruments. How they are built, and how they have been built in the past.

But it is much more than that. In a short video on the Kickstarter website, Graham mentions it took 6 years to complete this project. When, in reality, this book is the culmination of a lifetime of preparation as he made his own musical and educational journeys. 

Graham McDonald has gifted us all with an indispensable guide to the co-evolution of the instruments in his study, the very special relationships which exist amongst this “double-stringed species”.

Now in the final days of a ‘Kickstarter Project’ campaign, to help raise funding for the publishing of this extraordinary book, Graham McDonald is hoping for some additional interest in order to meet his goals. 

Graham offers the following update on his website:
  “ The Mandolin ~ A History is getting close to publication, after six years of work. It will be over 400 pages with around 460 pictures of mandolins, old advertisements and other images. There is close to 100,000 words of text, including an index and a comprehensive bibliography. The girl on the left [with the mandolin] is the cover image, taken from an old postcard. I have a printer in the USA ready to do the printing, and to pay for that I will need to pre-sell around 500 copies, which the printer will be able to mail out as soon as they are off the press.”

To pre-order a copy and help secure the funds for printing, or view his introductory video, go to the author’s website. There are varying levels in which to pledge your support and receive a book (and more). Be aware there are only a few days remaining for the Kickstart project.
About the Author: 
Graham McDonald is a man of musical diversity -- a musician, hosting a music program on community radio since 1976, audio archivist, and luthier in Canberra, Australia. He is a builder of guitars, mandolins, Irish bouzoukis, citterns, mandolas and ‘wombat fiddles’. Graham has been a consultant to the National Museum of Australia, Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, the NSW Conservatorium of Music, and a certified C.F. Martin warranty repair person. He is also an author. Mr. McDonald’s two previous published works related to double-stringed instruments are, “The Bouzouki Book: A Workshop Guide to Building Irish Bouzoukis and Citterns” (2004) and “The Mandolin Project: A Workshop Guide to Building Mandolins” (2008).

The Mandolin: A History
author: Graham McDonald
High Quality Soft-cover; 400+  pages; 450+  illustrations and Hi-res photographs
22 Chapters
8” x 10” (20cm x 25cm)
ISBN  9780980476279
Retail price:  $45 (USD) Postage is free in USA only.
Estimated Delivery dates:
* November 2015 for the printed version
* January 2016 for the e-book [iBook and Kindle formats]

Contact the author directly: 
Graham McDonald
P.O. Box 365
Jamison ACT 2614

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


Here's the good news: the EBMA's printed magazine BLUEGRASS EUROPE #96 is in the mail to EBMA members. Featuring Switzerland's "Bluegrass Family Festival" and its 19th edition, we also checked out, how a 2nd generation bluegrasser sees the scene. Meet musicians, find out, what the new leadership of EBMA has up for you, check out which events you missed and what's still awaiting us. And feel free to share your thoughts with us!

BE#96 - summer issue of
EBMA's printed magazine
Content of BE#96: Editorial | EBMA NEWS | 19th Bluegrass Family Festival (CH) | Tom Bodenmann | Introducing Tom’s Wildgrass | BluegrassDuinen - News Europe | Bluegrass News USA | Over Jordan | EWOB | List of Festivals/Workshops/Camps | Review Gulpener Bluegrass Festival | Preview Dunmore East BG Festival | Film: Banjo Romantica | Livio Guardi | CD Reviews | EBMA’s European Bluegrass Guide | Radio Formats with bluegrass | Deconstructing Bluegrass | EBMA Team | IBMA WOB

The deadline for #97 (autumn 2015) is 20th September 2015 and will focus on reviewing some of the larger European bluegrass music festivals, news from IBMA WOB and Awards Show, a preview on the winter season, and more... If you would like to contribute with your personal report, a CD or book review, a great photo, or if you want your product or event advertised please feel free to contact us at editor.

Please like us on Facebook: BLUEGRASS EUROPE and EBMA and follow us on Twitter @ebma_tweet - thanks for spreading the word! 

We wish all our readers a pleasant rest of the remaining festival season - great things are going on this weekend in many countries in Europe and worldwide!!!

Angelika Torrie

Friday, 31 July 2015

The Po‘ Ramblin‘ Boys European Tour 2015

"A tree can't stand without its roots. So we are just trying to keep those roots alive. We want to complement and not take away."

The Po' Ramblin' Boys were born in the shadow of a moonshine still in the Great Smoky Mountains, springing to life with all the zest and zeal you would expect from a 1940s-style Tennessee bluegrass band. They play to thousands of tourists who hear them each day at Ole Smoky Moonshine locations at The Holler in Gatlinburg and The Island in Pigeon Forge.

In less than a month, CJ Lewandowski, Jereme Brown, Jasper Lorentzen and Josh "Jug" Rinkl,  this hard-driving traditional bluegrass band from Tennessee, will be touring Europe for the first time. The ten day tour will take them through four countries, from Switzerland to the Netherlands. Highlights of the tour include two major bluegrass, a number of bluegrass club dates and a performance at the world-famous Schorem barbershop in Rotterdam. Their tour schedule is the following:

* 27 August 2015 - Kino METROPOL - Kusterdingen (D)
* 28 August 2015 - 7. Bluegrass Festival - Birkenried (D)
* 29 August 2015 - House Concert at Jan's Place - Hoogstraten/Antwerpen (B)
* 30 August 2015 - Party Centrum De Vriendschap - Spanbroek (NL)
* 2 September 2015 - Schorem Haarsnijder en Barbier - Rotterdam (NL)
* 4 September 2015 - Bauernhof Maag - Zweidlen (CH)
* 5 September 2015 - 17. Sunny Mountain Bluegrass Festival - Lommis (CH)
* 6 September 2015 - Guggenheim - Liestal (CH)

The Po' Ramblin' Boys are looking forward to bringing their hard-driving, very tight bluegrass sound to European audiences. Make sure to catch them as they whirlwind through Europe. The tour is organised by SwissGrass Productions.

The New Breadwinners - A young Irish bluegrass touring France, 30 July-3 Sept. 2015

The New Breadwinners are a three piece acoustic bluegrass band based in Dublin, Ireland, made up of three of the finest young musicians from Ireland's Bluegrass scene. Having first met at Dublin's now legendary bluegrass session in Sin É, the trio have spent the past 2 years honing their craft on Dublin's streets and pubs, before committing to form a band in late 2014.

With their feet firmly planted in the American bluegrass tradition, The New Breadwinners also write their own material, bringing a youthful Irish touch to this American legacy. Combining an energetic stage presence with hard driving songs and impressive instrumentals, The New Breadwinners guarantee an exhilarating performance that is sure to please.

Luke Coffey on 5 string banjo and vocals; John Denby on mandolin and vocals; and Niall Hughes on guitar and vocals will begin on 30 July a five-week tour of France, taking in Normandy, the Alps, and Alsace. For the Northern leg of the tour they will be joined by Gab Faure on fiddle, who played with them in concert at the last Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. The tour schedule is at present as follows:

Thurs. 30th July: Morlaix 29600, Ty coz
Fri. 31st: Santec 29250, le Dossen

Sat. 1st Aug.: Gomené 22230, Pub Follette
Sun. 2nd: Guern 56310, Les Anges
Tues. 4th: Moncontour 22510, le Contretemps
Fri. 7th: Tremargat 22110, La Pépie
Sat. 8th: Douarnenez 29100, Café des Halles
Thurs. 13th: Valjouffrey 38740, L'église de Valjouffrey
Fri. 14th: Moulin Vieux 38350, L'église de Moulin Vieux
Mon. 17th-Sun. 23rd: Morzine 74110, The Dixie Bar (7-night residency)

Wed. 2nd Sept.: Rennes 35000, Le Hibou Grand Duc
Thurs. 3rd: Soulvache 44660, Le Papier Buvard

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Kids On Bluegrass Band head to La Roche

Anyone thinking of attending the forthcoming La Roche Bluegrass Festival may have their minds made up by what they are about to read; if you are already planning on attending, then the young musicians pictured above are a 'must see'. Read on....
The Kids On Bluegrass Band from the USA is made up of Frannie DiGiovanni (guitar), Cara DiGiovanni (fiddle), Isaac Ferrell (banjo), Jonah Horton (mandolin) and Helen Foley (bass). As mentioned in the article in Bluegrass Today, the Kids On Bluegrass Band has been assembled by band director, Kim Fox (of 3 Fox Drive) and they will be appearing at the 10th La Roche Bluegrass Festival between the 29th July and 2nd August.

I have been fortunate enough to see some of these musicians play live and you really do not want to miss seeing them. This video was taken at IBMA in Raleigh in 2014.

They are all highly gifted musicians and, whoever else is playing at La Roche, find time to see Kids On Bluegrass.

On a personal note, and from experience at HoustonFest in Galax, if you happen to see a young man walking around who appears to be permanently attached to his mandolin and playing wherever he walks, this could be Jonah Horton. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

BE Featured Artist: Danilo Cartia - July Dates in Italy

The featured artist on the current edition of Bluegrass Europe - Danilo Cartia - will be performing with Letizia Sampaolo throughout July starting tomorrow with a mini-tour of Northern Italy. As Danilo said in the interview in Bluegrass Europe, the concerts are likely to be a mixture of bluegrass, Americana, country blues and original compositions. Don't miss this opportunity to see Danilo and Letizia play.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Mazy jam and open stage - Friday 26th June, 2015

Dear friends, musicians and music lovers,

Please take note that next Friday, 26th June, 2015 there will be Open Stage at the wonderful Zy'coop place, 9a rue de l'usine, 5032 Mazy. 
Steve, Laurent & Pascal, the organising team, will be there starting from 8:00pm on. It will be a great occasion to perform solo or with your band, or jamming together. Steve Louvat will open the concert.
For further info please check website or call +32 0472 22 03 26.

By the way, make sure you will not miss any future event and become friends on Facebook. It will be easier to keep in touch!

Monday, 22 June 2015

TONIGHT: Bluegrass Jam in Rome

Thanks to banjoist, guitarist, bandleader Danilo Cartia for the reminder of this Wednesday's jam in
Rome (Italy):

Dear friends, musicians and music lovers,
Rome Bluegrass Jam is back in town, with bluegrass, country music & more!

When? Next Wednesday 24th June 2015 at 8:00pm.
Where? Sláinte Irish Pub, Via Nomentana 940, Rome.
Why? The purpose of the jam session, as usual, is to meet musicians, propose tunes, play together, have fun sharing skills and news, following the feeling of the moment.

If you are in Rome and want to be part of it, please get in touch with Danilo Cartia.

Phone/fax: +39 068273332
Mobile: +39 3396908450


Beppe Gambetta Summer Guitar Workshop - Flatpicking and more in one of the oldest European Workshops

Beppe Gambetta's 23rd International Acoustic Guitar Workshop will take place from July 26 to August 2, 2015, in Ambrož pod Krvavcem,  a small village in the mountains of Slovenia approximately 1080 m. high, about 35 km North of Ljubljana (with an International Airport) and about 45 km South of Klagenfurt (Austria). This place offers a wonderful view of the Alps, the Karawanks, and the cities of Kranj and Ljubljana. Participants from all over Europe will gather to spend a week of lessons, concerts in the night and, of course, jam their way into the wee hours of morning!

Beppe's Guitar Workshop began way back in 1992. The first time it was held in Italy but afterwards the location moved to this magic place in the beauty of the Alps. During all these past years, the International Acoustic Guitar Workshop became one of Europe’s leading educational events for acoustic guitar, whose goals are to support a community of music enthusiasts, help and foster new talents, put in contact musicians with different culture and background, open new horizons to artistic creativity and have fun together. On its 23rd edition, the Workshop keeps holding its reputation. This years' intructors will be Beppe Gambetta, from Italy, for Flatpicking with American and European Roots, and ensemble music; and Tim Williams, from (USA/Canada), for Fingerpicking, Blues, Rags, Songs and Roots.

Beppe Gambetta will bring his knowledge of the plectrum guitar techniques of both sides of the Ocean. He will focus on the challenge of the technical and artistic improvement and will bring his ability of melting elements in a new synthesis. He will also bring his competence in playing solo Flatpicking or in arranging Flatpicking for a music ensemble.

Tim Williams is a renowned teacher, a great acoustic fingerpicking
guitarist representing a living connection with the legends and the history of blues and roots music. He will teach how to use all this knowledge to feed creativity and also in singing and composing songs.

In the evening, on the Barn Stage, the students will have the possibility to perform at open mics. One night will be dedicated to the teachers performance. The jam sessions will be managed for different skill levels. Basic guitar playing and tablature reading are required. The number of participants is limited to 30, divided in two groups of 15, intermediate and advanced. Visitors, friends and jamming enthusiasts are welcome from Thursday evening (July 30th).

Check website for further info or contact Stane Svigelj, phone: +386 4188 6460, e-mail,

3rd Low Country Bluegrass Festival - June 26-28, 2015 - Oelegen (Belgium)

In Belgium, Bluegrass music has widened its public through the movie "The Broken Circle Breakdown", as that film brought this musical genre to the general public. Consequently, Bluegrass music spread its wings even in this country and since then it is much appreciated. Despite The Low Country Bluegrass Festival is a very recent organization -- it started at the end of 2012 -- it has great projects. Its members and organizers would love to host many Belgian, European and US bands on stage in the very next editions.  At the moment, it is the only Bluegrass Festival in Belgium and its 3rd edition will take place next weekend, from June 26 to June 28. Four bands from Belgium and seven from other European countries will give concerts.  Here is the line up:

Friday June 26 evening:
The Blind Horny Toads (Belgium)

Saturday June 27:
Strograss (Belgium)
The Muddy Hill Boys (France)
Shenandoah Special (Belgium)
Springfield (France)
G-Runs ‘n Roses (Czech Republic)

Sunday June 28:
Velvet Joe & The Bluegrass Diamonds (Netherland)
Stringtime (Netherland)
The Kentucky Cow Tippers (UK)
Blue Maxx (Belgium)
The Rockridge Brothers (Sweden)

Free camping will be provided to participants from Friday to Monday morning. The camping area is next to the concert hall and a free Sunday breakfast will be offered to the ones who will book their stay.

Last, but not least, the organizers would like to bring new life to the old tradition of the "Clog dancing". Therefore, of Friday 26, the 1st Shoe Race will take place in the streets of Oelegem. It is open to all ages, from 6 years old, all skill levels. Free wooden shoes can be borrowed for the race if booked.

For further info see the Festival website or Bluegrass in Belgium.