Omagh Bluegrass Music Festival 2018

Bluegrass Omagh. It’s probably the largest bluegrass festival on the island of Ireland and it has been running now for over a quarter of a century. The lineup for this year’s festival was just as impressive as the festival’s setting of the Ulster American Folk Park, the headline act of husband & wife combo Darin & Brooke Aldridge flown in just for the occasion. It was good to see and hear them again.”

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Chris Jones & The Night Drivers | Dublin, Ireland 2018

“… the Beast from the East… did its upmost to disrupt the 2018 Ireland tour by Chris Jones And The Night Drivers. It forced the band, formed by Chris Jones in 1995, to ride out the worst of the unusually severe weather in Northern Ireland while wiping our some of the early shows of the 11 gigs originally scheduled.”

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Tom T. Hall | Olive Hill, KY | Bluegrass Trails

“Portions of the Carter County town of Olive Hill, KY … were as quiet as we’d come to expect from rural Kentucky, but the town is both big enough (population over 1,500) to boast some activity and its residents curious enough to approach us wondering what on earth we obvious out-of-towners were doing poking around somewhere like Olive Hill. “Blame Tom T.”, we said. “Who else?”

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The Osborne Brothers | Hyden, KY | Bluegrass Trails

‘There were/are signs on Osborne Brothers Way on the outskirts of the town commemorating Sonny and Bobby, born here in 1937 and 1931 respectively and still with us today, but nothing that said Osborne Brothers in the veritable ghost town of Hyden itself. Firmly on the bluegrass map, the town hosts a popular multi-day annual bluegrass festival, The Osborne Brothers Hometown Festival, at the town’s Bobby Osborne Pavilion. The festival started in 1994 as a benefit for the Thousandsticks Volunteer Fire Department and Hyden hosted its 25th festival in August of 2018. Festival weekend is probably as good a time as any to visit the town, and if doing so you should find it a livelier than how we found late on a mid-October afternoon.’

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Kenny Baker | Jenkins, KY | Bluegrass Trails

“We did our pre-departure homework, so we were confident at the time that we’d find some reference in Jenkins or neighbouring Burdine/East Jenkins to master fiddler and former local boy Kenny Baker, best known for his 25-year tenure with Bill Monroe, the longest tenure of any of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. But no, nothing. Not on the streets of the town, nor among the foliage of the town’s Sam Bentley Cemetery. We came up short.”

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Stanley Bros. / Jim & Jesse | Coeburn, VA | Bluegrass Trails

“Very few of the sleepy settlements along southwestern Virginia’s musical Crooked Road, if any, can top Coeburn‘s All-Star lineup of past and present bluegrass A-listers. The dual brother duo of Jim & Jesse McReynolds and Ralph & Carter Stanley are already bluegrass royalty, something Ralph Stanley II, the present generation of Clinch Mountain musicians, may attain someday.”

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Jimmy Martin | Sneedville, TN | Bluegrass Trails

“… Sneedville, Tennessee, may be one of the poorest towns in the US… but at least it can lay claim to being the hometown of Jimmy ‘King of Bluegrass’ Martin. Suffice it to say, this is the only reason we found ourselves on the streets of the town searching out signs of Sneedville’s favourite son while receiving inquisitive stares from the few locals we encountered; Sneedville is a friendly town (we got free coffee), but it’s still the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else and if you ain’t from round these parts then you’re gonna stand out. We did.”

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Grand Ole Opry

“What started out in November of 1925 as a simple for-radio broadcast of old-time music from Downtown Nashville on 650AM WSM, the WSM Barn Dance, is today the longest continuously running live radio programme in the world. Known since the late 1920s as the Grand Ole Opry and branded as ‘The Show that Made Country Music Famous’, the Opry‘s permanent home since 1974… has been the 4,400-seater Grand Ole Opry House located in the Music Valley neighbourhood some 9 miles east of Downtown Nashville. Both as big and as well-oiled a commercial enterprise as you’ll find anywhere in present-day Music City and a tourist must-do, embarking on a backstage tour of the Opry House… gives an awesome insight into what it is that turned Nashville into the centre of the country crooning rhinestone universe.”

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The Ryman Auditorium

“It was upon the Ryman Auditorium stage in December 1945 that the ‘Father of Bluegrass’ Bill Monroe presented to the world the sound of a new musical genre…. ‘bluegrass’, as it was to become known, was born. Today, bluegrass remains a staple on venerated stage where it started.”

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