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

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Good news for Bluegrass Banjoists: Rüdiger Helbig Signature Strings

Rüdiger Helbig is probably the most famous banjo picker in Germany who is also credited for helping bluegrass scene rise and grow in Western Europe. With his band, Huckleberry Five, he travels the continent bringing American-style music to bluegrass lovers and fans. Since 1979 his music store in Munich, FolkLaden, is a reference point for instruments and accessories for Germany’s folk music community. Rüdiger also hosts a bluegrass camp in the Spring south of his home in Munich. You can find more details about Bluegrass Camp Germany online. Next year’s instructors include Greg Cahill, Clay Jones, Jesse Cobb, and Phil Leadbetter.

Lately, the Ortega Guitar company asked Helbig to help them design a line of budget-priced banjos for the European market, and the beginning of this month they have introduced a set of banjo strings bearing Rüdiger's name and likeness. These Rüdiger Helbig Signature Bluegrass Banjo Strings are made with a special steel alloy which lasts longer and the more they are played, the better intonation they provide, he says. 

In addition, Rüdiger says these strings are a little harder than normal, and last longer than the usual ones on the market. They are good for playing slow stuff as the sustain is much better than on regular made strings.

The full gauges are .010", .012", .014", .022" and .010". In case you break a first or fifth string, each package contains an extra .010" string. The sets can be found at any Ortega dealer in Europe and in the US sometime in 2015.

Italian Bluegrass Meeting - May 29, 2015

Banjoist, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Danilo Cartia sends his best Season greetings and announces the next edition of the Italian Bluegrass Meeting 2015.

The 2014 successful edition held last June, as part of the well-known Acoustic Guitar Meeting that yearly takes place in Sarzana (Italy), saw Tim O'Brien as special guest. Next year's meeting, on May 29, will have just as important guests like Mark Johnson & Emory Lester, and Russ Barenberg.
They will give an evening gig on the main stage and, during the day, they will also lead free banjo, mandolin and guitar workshops. A special area will be reserved for the event, with a dedicated stage on wich bluegrass artists and bands will alternate shows, jam sessions and more workshops.

All bluegrass musicians willing to participate are invited to register free by sending an e-mail to the organizer Danilo Cartia (banjoman@fastwebnet.it). The workshops are also free but will be held based on a minimum participants number, so do not forget to indicate if you are interested in participating in one or more workshops.

For additional infos you can also join the Facebook group of the Italian Bluegrass Meeting, check the news on the bluegrass meeting blog -- work still in progress on the latter -- or contact Danilo Cartia.

So, save the date and make a wish come true, come to Italy and play bluegrass!

Danilo Cartia
Phone/Fax: +39 06 8273 332
Mobile: +39 339 6908 450
e-mail: banjoman@fastwebnet.it

Friday, 19 December 2014

Old-time / Bluegrass music week in Spain

Would you like to learn to sing, play fiddle, banjo or guitar in traditional American Folk style with some of the finest teachers? Here is an ideal opportunity for an outstanding week for beginners and experienced players, held in May 2015, in a beautiful and remote valley located in mountainous south-eastern Spain, an hour’s drive north of Almeria.  

The team of delightful and generous teachers will include Dave Bing and Ben Townsend (from Virginia, USA), Joff Lowson, Johnny Whelan, Kate Lissauer (from Maryland, USA), Rose Ardron, Sue Clare and Sibs Riesent. With all your food and accommodation needs taken care of  you can leave the daily world behind and fully immerse yourself in music for a whole week.

This Old-Time Country Music Workshop Holiday will allow you to learn playing fiddle, guitar, banjo, or singing, work with some of the world’s finest old-time country musicians, make new friends, enjoy a wealth of great experiences, eat great food, swim, walk, play games, and become more relaxed and healthy than you ever thought was possible in connection with playing music!

In addition to a full tuition program, there is also ample opportunity to play freely together, with everyone encouraged to join in. You will also have the occasion to jam with the teachers and receive one-to-one coaching outside of the daily scheduled classes.
Cost (travel expenses not comprised) is £595, food and tuition included. Booking 5 months in advance of the week you are joining will allow you a discount on the registration fee. 
For additional infos go to website 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Invitation to the 2015 European Bluegrass Gathering


Dear European Bluegrass Friends,
Since 2009, a highlight in the European bluegrass calendar has been the annual meeting in early spring where musicians, fans, event organisers and other activists share ideas and plan coordinated development initiatives for Bluegrass across Europe.
The EBMA is now happy to confirm that arrangements have been made for the 2015 European Bluegrass Gathering (formerly “Summit”) to be held on the weekend of 13-15 March 2015 in Munich, Germany.
The Gathering is open to all, professionals and non-professionals, members and non-members of the European or other bluegrass associations, and previous participants include fans, musicians, promoters, journalists, webmasters, national association reps and anyone else with a personal, professional or organisational interest in Bluegrass in Europe.
The meeting will follow up on plans laid out last year in Prague and and will be hosted by the Munich Bluegrass Friends and their 5th Munich Bluegrass Festival.
Everybody is invited, from all European regions, and we hope to make the 2015 European Bluegrass Gathering a unique event for everybody involved.
Costs and arrangements for travel, food and accommodation as usual are the entire responsibility of the participants. The gathering will be limited to 60 delegates and early booking (in particular of rooms) is advised. Detailed information and registration to be online shortly at our website.
Please help us spread the word to people you think should attend this gathering.
Kind regards,
Angelika Torrie, Chairman of EBMA

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Danilo Cartia & Letizia Sampaolo: upcoming show in Reykjavík, Iceland

This Wednesday some bluegrass music will reach Reykjavík, Iceland! Banjoist, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Danilo Cartia & Letizia Sampaolo announce that they will be playing bluegrass, blues, and americana at one show at Bíó Paradís - Hverfisgata 54, Reykjavík, starting 8:00 pm.

Danilo Cartia, vocal, 5-string banjo, guitar
Letizia Sampaolo, vocal, guitar, autoharp

Danilo Cartia
Phone/fax: +39 068273332
Mobile: +39 3396908450
E-mail: banjoman@fastwebnet.it