DAMIEN O’KANE & RON BLOCK – Banjophony (Pure Records PRCD48)

BanjophonyIf you’re not a fan of the five-string egg-slicer you might be thinking of moving on but hold hard there, stranger. This is no ‘Duelling Banjos’, last one to the end gets the beers in mayhem-fest. The object of the exercise was to pair the 5-string banjo of the American tradition with the Irish style of tenor banjo playing but Banjophony does more than that. Most of the music here is contemporary, mostly written by O’Kane and Block with two each by Michael Mooney and David  Kosky and a traditional tune that crept in when no-one was watching.

Have a look at the cast list and you’ll realise that this is something rather special. There’s Stephen Byrnes on guitar, Duncan Lyall and Barry Bales on double bass, Michael McGoldrick on whistle and Stuart Duncan on fiddle just for starters. Indeed, we’re half a minute into the first set, ‘Miller’s Gin/Potato Anxiety’ before we actually hear a banjo courtesy of a lovely guitar intro from Byrnes.

Some tunes sound traditional – Block’s ‘Battersea Skillet Liquor’ is classic southern banjo picking topped of with fiddle – but more sound like new music written with the banjo in mind. O’Kane’s ‘Ode To Aunty Frances’ is a beautiful piece that could be arranged for any instrument(s) you fancy and still sound good. ‘Crafty Colette’ is another tune that approaches the banjo lead slowly and that lead, when it arrives, can best be described as “thoughtful”.

The band are very tight and Byrnes has contributed to the arrangements as has Kosky and all the music was recorded live apart from two double bass parts which came from Tennessee. You can almost feel the rapport between the musicians particularly when a tune doesn’t quite behave as expected. The title track is like that and is well-named.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ websites: www.damianokane.co.uk / www.ronblock.com

This short teaser video is all we can find:

Underneath The Stars presents its full line-up

Underneath The StarsSouth Yorkshire’s stellar music & arts festival Underneath The Stars returns this summer with another exciting line-up of established and emerging talent across the folk, jazz, roots, bluegrass, fusion and Americana music worlds, as well as the promise of enticing workshops, arts, crafts and food stalls, highlighting the creative talents of the Yorkshire region. Organised by the family production team of acclaimed Yorkshire folk singer-songwriter Kate Rusby, and now in its fifth year, 2018’s edition also sees its relocation to a brand-new site at Cinderhill Farm, Cawthorne, near Barnsley, and promises a warm welcome to this beautiful and cozy little corner of rural Yorkshire.

The line-up in full is as follows:

Steve Earle & The Dukes / Kate Rusby /
George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain / Lau /
Joanne Harris and the Storytime Band / The California Feetwarmers / Yves Lambert Trio / Damien O’Kane & Ron Block / Grace Petrie /
Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards / Melrose Quartet /
The Adventures of Andy Kershaw / Fat Suit / Honeyfeet / Estbel /
John Metcalfe / Midnight Skyracer / Amythyst Kiah / Jack Rutter /
Lori Watson / Kizzy Crawford / Jack Harris /
Howlin’ Ric & The Rocketeers / Stables / Pitou /    Hearts at War /Barnsley Youth Choir / L-R

Continue reading Underneath The Stars presents its full line-up