IF you’re still deciding whether you’re going to head to the Omagh Bluegrass Festival this weekend we’re fairly sure this will swing your vote.
The unique festival, which runs from September 4-6 at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, will see a variety of bluegrass, roots, gospel and Americana acts perform throughout the outdoor museum seeing them strumming on the porches of the log cabins.
And if you’re lucky you might even see a bit of dancing in the cobbled streets and jamming outside the General Store.
The line-up includes some of the biggest names in bluegrass, hailing from Ireland, England, North America and mainland Europe.
For more information log onto www.nmni.com
Here are 12 acts set to take the festival by storm:
1. Prison Love
The band is one of the top exponents of traditional American music in Ireland and has graced stages across the UK, Europe and the US.
Prison Love never fails to impress and have received numerous accolades and rave reviews along the way, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Vassar Clements, Dirk Powell and The Foghorn String Band.
Theirs is the finest musical-moonshine this side of the big pond. Doesn’t matter if you’re dancing or listening, come aboard and take a swig of some real deal American roots music.
2. Vancouver’s Viper Central
In 2008, the Vipers released their debut: The Devil Sure is Hard to Please. Blending instrumental prowess with innovative arrangements and creative vocal harmonies (doo-wop BGs such as those on Down in West Virginia, certainly find themselves comfortably outside the standard bluegrass practice), the album showcased the diverse songwriting talents of every member in the band and earned them a place among the bands to watch for in Canada’s thriving roots music scene.
In 2010 the Vipers released their sophomore album, Live at the Street Church. Comprised of traditional and original bluegrass gospel songs, effectively capturing the energy of their live performance. Over the past four years, Viper Central has toured North America and Europe, performing at festivals such as the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival, the Southwell Folk Festival (UK), and the Willisau Bluegrass Festival (Switzerland).
3. Niall Toner Band
Niall Toner has been playing music ever since his Dad gave him a Guitar for his 11th birthday. Around that time, a school friend introduced Niall to the music of Bill Monroe, Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, and he was hooked. He was a founder member of the Lee Valley String Band, The Sackville String Band, and Hank Halfhead and the Rambling Turkeys.
In the 80s, Niall began writing his own songs, and his work has been recorded by Bill Wyman [Rolling Stones], The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Albert Lee, and many others. Niall’s instrumental composition, A Real Reel, was featured on the Grand Theft Auto IV game, one of the biggest-selling video games in history, and his song, Fallen Angel, has recently been featured in the Nashville TV Drama.
Niall currently fronts his own Band, playing Mandolin, Banjo and Guitar, and has released five all-original Albums since 2001.
CC Smugglers is an Americana band who are actually from England and not Tennessee and they have some epic stories to tell. Before they were a household name they set off to ‘tail’ their musical heroes the Tennessee string band Old Crow Medicine Show on their UK tour busking outside venues to the waiting crowds.
It was an obvious pairing but it was also a ballsy move as Old Crow knew nothing about their plans. Old Crow were themselves discovered playing on a street corner in North Carolina some 15 years before and the happy ending story is that CC Smugglers went on to support The Medicine Show on their tour which would not have happened if CC Smugglers weren’t incredible.
Their barnstorming, uplifting country Americana combines bluegrass, blues and Americana Folk music into a belting and cheerful ramshackle melee.
Wookalily is a female led Americana folk band with roots in bluegrass and country. They turf out timeless songs from the bogs of Northern Ireland to the bayous of Louisiana.
Having been swamped in both musical traditions they’ve managed to create a transatlantic sound that is authentic yet quirky. They’ve managed to create a unique and distinctive sound that’s all heart.
Wookalily’s style, sometimes referred to among the lily’s as chillbilly roots, has an old-timey feel with a young-timey appeal.
6. Bill Faster
Bill Faster are the first band to feature at the Festival from the Slovak Republic and come from a long history of musical friendships and experiences.
After Velvet Music’s January 2013 Mountain Tour, with Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley, these friends got together to make some music, and the fresh new sounds they created prompted them to start the band.
Members include Dušan Hronec, guitar, vocals. Martin Burza, fiddle, vocals Richard Ciferský banjo, vocals, Henrich Novák resophonic guitar, vocals and Anton Národa, bass.
With a shared passion for bluegrass, mountain music, country and rock ‘n roll, Elena Skye and Boo Reiners blur the lines between these musical styles.
The Demolition String Band have been thrilling audiences for more than a decade now with their original material mixed with traditional and not-sotraditional songs, they’ve released five albums and toured the U.S. and Europe sharing bills with acts like The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Joan Osborne, Ricky Skaggs, Southern Culture On The Skids, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Roger McGuinn, and many others.
We welcome back to the Festival the Watery Hill Boys who hail from Drogheda in County Louth. Although they were formed in late 2010, the group’s individual members bring a wealth of experience in Old-Timey and Bluegrass together to play their dynamic and tuneful version of a music which sprang from many different traditions in the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s.
The music of the Watery Hill Boys is based on the sound of various legendary groups from the Carter Family, Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers, the Blue Sky Boys, and that of the legendary Bill Monroe – from his 1930s duets with his brother Charlie to his formation of the Bluegrass Boys in 1939 and his dynamic reworking of various music genres to form a music which we know today as Bluegrass.
Multi-instrumentalist Donal Óg Black features on Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar on Vocals, Jim MacArdle on Guitar, Autoharp and Vocals and Neil Conlan features on Bass and Vocals.
9. King Blue
King Blue is a new bluegrass band in the traditional vein bringing together some stalwarts of the Irish Bluegrass scene. Clem O’Brien is regarded by many as the country’s premier Bluegrass vocalist and guitarist and has toured as a featured artist with the world renowned Chieftains.
Sean McKerr’s driving rhythms give a distinctive edge to the band. Sean recently featured as the bass player in the World International Bluegrass band at the IBMA convention in Nashville.
Mel Corry is also a veteran of the Dusty Millers Bluegrass Band and the Mean Eyed Cats. Caolan Derby’s expertise as a bass player defies his youth and he plays with a variety of styles from aggressive rockabilly to slow waltzes.
10. Claire Lynch Band
The headline act this year is the multi award winning Claire Lynch Band, she returns to headline Omagh for the second time following her memorable performances at the Folk Park in 2009.
Long recognised and praised as a creative force in acoustic music, Claire Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. She was the 2013 Female Vocalist of the Year for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and a 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship.
The current Claire Lynch Band is a powerful juggernaut, a quartet that has the innate ability to perfectly interpret the beauty, subtlety, and genre-defying sophistication of Claire’s music.
11. Northern Exposure
Festival stalwarts Northern Exposure comprises of two brothers Pete and Patsy Toman and Pete’s son, Jonathan. This trio from the Orchard County of Armagh serve up a wonderful mix of bluegrass, gospel and country.
The band has been around the bluegrass scene for the past 15 years and during this time has taken part in most of the bluegrass festivals in Ireland.
Brendan & Jonathan are currently recording an album of banjo & fiddle music featuring some Appalachian & traditional Irish arrangements along with original compositions by the duo.
12. Tom Sweeney
This Tyrone balladeer, songwriter and storyteller remains a firm favorite at many of the summer music festivals across Ireland and North America and has done so for over thirty five years.
Tom brings many of his performances of children’s songs and stories to primary and elementary schools across the country and over the Festival weekend, he will perform songs and tell stories which ALL the family can enjoy.
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