Monday, 23 November 2015

Front Country's UK Tour Comes To A Close
It has been an autumn of pleasant music surprises so far including two involving King Crimson! King Crimson? I hear you say. Yes - I know this is the European BLUEGRASS Music Association Blog but I shall explain more later.

On Sunday evening (22nd November) we ventured out into The Fens to see Front Country at the South Holland Centre in Spalding for the last concert of their UK tour. Just a word about the South Holland Centre: this is a wonderful venue - large enough to accomodate a good-sized crowd but small enough to feel that you are at an intimate concert. We shall be returning in April for The Railsplitters* but intend to return sooner than that!

But what about the concert? As previously reported in the EBMA blog article in August, Front Country had been in the UK since early November and we had been hungrily reading the reports and watching YouTube clips from the tour; particularly as we had missed seeing Front Country play at MerleFest in North Carolina - don't ask, a long and dismal tale - so having the opportunity to see them play in the UK was exciting. One of the clips from the tour which was viewed prior to Sunday (and heard played live on Sunday) was 'You Can't Blame The 80's' by Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin) and Leif Karlstrom (fiddle) who also perform as the duo 'Small Town Therapy'.

In addition to this, the concert naturally drew from Front Country's most recent recording 'Sake of the Sound' but also included material from Melody Walker's 'Gold Rush Goddess' including the un-plugged finale of 'Family Band'. Despite having previously played 15 dates with just two days rest, the band were fresh as they took the stage and immediately had the audience in the palms of their hands.

The power and versatility of  Melody Walker's voice is exceptional as witnessed from her singing of  'One Kind Word' and 'Colorado' to the powerful rendition of 'Gospel Train' which closed the first half of the concert. (Please note that I did not say 'Larry Sparks' 'Gospel Train'' because Front Country have made that song their own, in my opinion). But there is more to Front Country than the spine-tingling vocals of Melody Walker; Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin & banjo) & Leif Karlstrom (fiddle) have already been mentioned and along with Jacob Groopman (guitar & banjo) and Jeremy Darrow (bass), this is a band of fine musicians.

During the second half of the concert, we were told that the band are working on their follow-up to 'Sake of the Sound' but would also be releasing an EP of cover versions in the near future. At this point I smugly thought I knew what would be coming next. Prior to their appearance at MerleFest, Front Country had released a video of them singing Don Henley's 'Boys of Summer' and, more recently, close to Halloween, had released a video of them singing Talking Heads' 'Psycho Killer' will be one of those, I confidently told myself. I was looking forward to seeing the looks on the faces of the audience as either song began only to find that the look of astonishment was on my face as they broke into King Crimson's 'Three of a Perfect Pair'** and - as our Transatlantic cousins would say - killed it! But here is their version of 'Boys of Summer'.

It is rumoured that Front Country will be returning to the UK next Autumn and I hope that this is the case. If you saw them, then I am sure that you will look forward to seeing them again and if you missed them this time, make sure you catch them on their next visit. You can be kept advised of Front Country news by signing up to their mailing list on their website. I know from speaking to Melody after Sunday's concert that many of those attending the UK concerts had added their names to the mailing list, but I would strongly recommend adding yourself to the mailing list on-line as quickly as possible to make sure that you don't miss a thing and be granted immediate access to some exclusive tracks by the band.
Note: I found that the signing up system did not recognise UK postcodes but this could be overcome.

*More information, along with UK Spring Tour dates for The Railsplitters can be found on the Brookfield-Knights website.

**I mentioned two King Crimson-related surprises this Autumn, the other was being invited to King Crimson's pre-tour concert but a friend who had recorded with Robert Fripp in the 60's.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Old Time American Music workshop week - April 30 to May 7, 2016

Alice Gerrard, legend of old-time country and bluegrass music, is announcing one of La Fuente most exciting weeks ever. She will lead participants in music and song through classes that will include singing, fiddle, banjo, guitar (all at various levels) plus beginner's instrumental, Wernick method jamming, percussive step-dance and song-writing.

This time, Alice will be joined by one of her long-time musical partners, Tom Sawber, a luminary of the old-time country scene in the US, due to his brilliance as instrumentalist and singer. Both teachers are at the pinnacle of their field, and carry a wealth of knowledge and teaching skill. They can not be recommended highly enough, and it would be a pity to miss this rare opportunity to spend an intimate week in their excellent company.

A new highlight of the week will be a songwriting group, facilitated by master songwriters Alice Gerrard —  who was nominated for a Grammy for her recent work, Bittersweet —  and Sooz Clare.  Joff Lowson will offer his Wernick Bluegrass jamming workshop and a beginners’ instrumental class, for any stringed instrument. This will be suitable even for those who have never touched a musical instrument before. A percussive step-dance, voice and banjo, all from Buffalo Gals’ own John Whelan, Sibs Riesen and Kate Lissauer, will also be offered.

The classes will be held in a beautiful and remote valley located in mountainous south-eastern Spain, an hour’s drive north of Almeria. The site is a self-contained oasis, very private, nestled in a bowl of hills.  Residents, teachers, and staff live together in two beautifully restored old farm houses — casitas — and a charming sleeping house, all surrounded by exquisitely landscaped terraces.

You can find direct details of all inclusive not-for-profit week, costs, travel, early booking discount and venue, at La Fuente Holidays website.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Deering Banjos 40th Anniversary Event at Eagle Music

I shall start by repeating something that I said last year:

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think of towns that you would associate with Bluegrass and banjos. So, who was on your list? Was it Galax, the home of the annual Fiddlers Convention in Virginia, or Union Grove which has held the Ole Time Fiddlers & Bluegrass Festival for over 75 years – or how about Rosine in Kentucky, the resting place of Bill Monroe? What about Huddersfield in West Yorkshire? If not, maybe it should. Huddersfield is where you will find Eagle Music who are Deering Banjos’ No. 1 dealership world-wide.

Following their presentation with a Distinguished Achievement Award at IBMA in 2014, 2015 is another significant year for Deering Banjos as they celebrate their 40th Anniversary of making banjos.

Greg Deering

2015 has also been a significant year for Eagle Music who are, once again, the No.1 reseller of Deering Banjos worldwide - their 9th consecutive year as No.1. We might read about and see advertisements for some of the renowned instrument shops in the U.S. but we have one of our own here in the U.K. - Eagle Music.

The Deering Banjos 40th Anniversary Event had a full programme of on-stage performances and workshops such as those by Pat Kelleher (Long Neck Banjo) and Bill Forster (Bluegrass Banjo) as well as the opportunity to try many of the Deering banjos on display and other instruments available at Eagle Music. As described by our friends at the Bluegrass Ireland Blog, Ireland was well represented and, perhaps, most prominently by JigJam who performed two sets - the second being the opener for the evening concert with The Kruger Brothers.

Jens Kruger contributing to the discussion
by the Deerings
During the morning there was an on-stage presentation by Janet, Greg and Jamie Deering about the beginnings and evolution of the Deering Banjo company. We were told about the creative approaches to marketing and advertising that Greg and Janet took in the early days and how the aircraft industry in their region gave Deering Banjos the opportunity to obtain materials with which to produce their own manufacturing hardware. While Deering Banjos have associations with artists such as Scott Avett, David Holt and Tony Trischka - and, of course, Jens Kruger - it was interesting to hear about how important it was to the Deerings to develop the Goodtime range so that those seeking an entry-level instrument could benefit from the manufacturing quality that the professionals had come to rely upon. The innovative attitude continues at Deering Banjos with new materials and methods being researched and, with over 250 years of banjo-making experience within the Deering staff team, it is clear that Deering Banjos are not resting upon their laurels.

Steve Noon of Eagle Music being presented with his
9th No.1 Reseller award.

But what about the music? Well...there was the (now) traditional massed banjo extravaganza with a rendition of Oh! Susanna which started with a gentle tempo to enable the fingers to warm up followed by an interesting change by Uwe (I think it was to see if everyone was paying attention!) and then the full-speed version.

JigJam, from Ireland, have recently returned from a successful tour of festivals in the U.S. and are scheduled to return their again in 2016. Having previously reviewed their CD, Oh Boy!, in the EBMA Blog, it was good to meet them and hear them play live. From their sets it is easy to see why the organisers of Bluegrass and Irish Music festivals are keen to have JigJam appear. They have a warm stage presence combined with great musicianship with each of the members - Jamie McKeogh, Daithi Melia and Cathal Guinan moving comfortably between instruments and sharing vocals .

The day concluded with a performance by The Kruger Brothers which included pieces from their latest recording 'Lucid Dreamer'. As might be expected, the performance was exceptional - many of the audience had been at the North Light Gallery all day and had seen Jens, Uwe and Joel on stage and spending time talking with, helping and advising people who had come along for the Deering Banjos 40th Anniversary Event. The rapport between The Kruger Brothers and their audience can never be overstated and if you have seen the film 'Beautiful Nothing' made by Dames Don't Care about The Kruger Brothers you will know that this opinion is universal amongst their fans. The set included their song 'Carolina In The Fall' for which there is a movement to have this song adopted as the state song for North Carolina and which is the name of the Kruger's home-town festival which will be taking place in Wilkesboro, North Carolina on September 23rd & 24th 2016. Hopefully, we shall see The Kruger Brothers on this side of the Atlantic before then.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

For Sale: Mike Auldridge's 1935 Regal/Dobro

A genuine piece of Bluegrass history.

The late Mike Auldridge's primary (and favorite) resophonic guitar played exclusively on recordings and in performance from 1983 through 1993; his 1935 Regal/Dobro #426. This guitar is the last of Mike's personal guitars that will be made available to the public. It is being sold to benefit his family.

Fellow bandmate and friend, John Duffey, used to jokingly introduce Mike as "The Legend". It was no joke. Duffey admired and respected Mike Auldridge perhaps more than anyone else in his musical life. So did Mike's many fans. He was one of the very few true innovators in the history of the resophonic slide guitar world. Those familiar with his music with the band 'Seldom Scene' or solo recordings know he had a very special touch on the instrument. This instrument was Mike's "baby".

Mike passed away 29 December 2012. While sad to see iconic tools-of-the-trade have to leave their Master, it is often out of necessity to offer them for sale. In a best case scenario, we might hope someone with the talent to do so will be the new caretaker. Someone who will honor and continue the history of this beautiful well-played piece.

Regal/Dobro #426 comes with Mike Auldridge's custom-built case, a letter written and signed by Mike telling the story of this instrument, and several other items.


More details and price may be found at Resophonic Outfitters.

Friday, 13 November 2015

EBMA Youth Scholarships for 2016

We are pleased to announce the first EBMA Youth Scholarships for 2016. They go to 15 years old Evan Lyons from Ireland and Tabitha Agnew, 17 years old, from the United Kingdom. Both submitted applications and samples of their music which were assessed by the EBMA Board who then made the awards.

Evan Lyons & Tabitha Agnew
Evan and Tabitha have both requested to go to the Sore Fingers Summer School which will be held during the week of  Easter 2016 at Kingham Hill School, which is near Oxford in the UK. Sore Fingers is a very well established teaching camp which has been running for twenty years. It accommodates over three hundred students for six days of intensive tuition with teachers from the USA for Bluegrass and Old Time Music.
Sore Fingers Summer School
Tabitha will study banjo with Ron Block, best known as the banjo player in Alison Krauss and Union Station, while Evan will study with Greg Cahill the leader of the band Special Consensus. So two great musicians to pass on their knowledge to these two young musicians.

Evan and Tabitha show great promise for the future, they come from musical families who greatly support them in there ambitions. Tabitha plays with her brothers in the band Cup O’Joe* which is already gaining fans at festivals and concerts. Evan is catching up and has played as a guest with the Niall Toner Band and JigJam**

EBMA is delighted to have been able to award scholarships to these young and talented musicians.

* An EBMA Blog article about Cup O'Joe from September 2014

**An EBMA Blog article about JigJam's debit CD 'Oh Boy!'

Monday, 9 November 2015

April Verch Band - European Concert Dates in November

April Verch
Photograph by Parker J Pfister
Last night (Sunday 8th November), April Verch completed the English leg of her latest European Tour. April - along with Cody Walters (bass & clawhammer banjo) and Lucas Chohany (guitar & mandolin) - played at The Greystones in Sheffield (a very popular music venue in Sheffield) through True North Promotions*.

If you have been to an April Verch concert before then you will need no encouragement to find your way to one of the remaining dates but if you have not seen April play live then let me offer you some encouragement to rectify that situation.

As you might expect from someone who has won both the Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship and the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition (the first woman ever to take both of her country’s two top contests) the fiddle playing is exceptional. Drawing from Bluegrass, Old-Time as well as Canadian Traditional music, April's playing is peerless. There are also original tunes and songs penned by April and the members of her band. But we must not forget the dancing! April's dancing - which was seen by millions during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics - is spectacular; sometimes Cody & Lucas were left to keep the music going while April flew across the boards and other times (much to the delight of the audience) the dancing and the electrifying fiddle playing were simultaneous!

Cody Walters and Lucas Chohany
Cody Walker has played with April since 2007 but Lucas is, very much, the new recruit joining the April Verch Band shortly before the start of this tour.

Belle Election from April's latest CD 'The Newpart'

So...where can you see the April Verch Band before they return home?
  • 9 November     Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 12-15 Nov.        Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival Hamnavoe, Shetland Islands, Scotland
  • 19 November    Baltoppen LIVE Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 20 November    Troubaduren Soroe, Denmark
  • 21 November     Malmö Live Konserthus Malmo, Sweden
  • 23 November     Columbi Egg Bergen, Norway
  • 26 November     Riksscenen Oslo, Norway
  • 27 November     Kulturhuset Blå Grotte Fredrikstad, Norway
  • 28 November     5:00 jam session with AVB at ‘t Ey Belsele
  • 29 November     Folk Club ’t Ey Belsele, Belgium
More information about April Verch, her band and much more can be found on her website.

*True North Promotions is run by Bluegrass musician and singer, Maria Wallace. True North have organised concerts featuring such artists as Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Rayna Gellert and last night's concert by April Verch. Maria has more concerts to be announced for the New Year so keep an eye on the True North website.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Red Wine Bluegrass Party #7

'A BLUEGRASS JOURNEY' - Teatro della Tosse, Genoa, Italy
Saturday, November 7, 2015 - 09:15pm 

The Red Wine Bluegrass Party No. 7 - "A Bluegrass Journey" – will be an imaginary journey into bluegrass music. It will start from its Anglo / Scots / Irish origins, mowing at first towards old time music of the early American colonies, and then to country music. It will follow the Southeastern US early blues / gospel tradition and Bill Monroe, the charismatic mandolin player and leader of The Bluegrass Boys, thus eventually leading to Bluegrass music.

The journey will continue exploring other subgenres, born from the latest contamination with folk, jazz, pop and rock that in many cases allowed Bluegrass to establish itself in countries far from its origins.
A number of national and international guests will accompany The Red Wine on this trip (Filippo Gambetta organet, Henrich Novak  dobro, Jiry Kralik violin, Michel Balatti flute and other surprise guests), adding different sounds and atmospheres to the show.
Enjoy some of their music while waiting for the show!

Advance sale:
Teatro della Tosse - Piazza Renato Negri, 6, 16123 Genova (tel. 010 247 0793)
Disco Club - Via San Vincenzo, 20, 16121 Genova (tel. 010 542 422)
Happy Ticket -

Single ticket € 20

For further info: the Red Wine website or Facebook page.