Explore the vital spirit of our four-pawed comrades on canvas, in Portland'5 first visual arts exhibit this spring - "It's Raining Cats and Dogs" - in the Hatfield Hall...
Skerryvore & We Banjo 3
Twice winners of Scotland’s Traditional Music ‘Live Act of the Year’ Award (2016 & 2011), SKERRYVORE have been on a meteoric journey that has taken them from the remote Isle of Tiree on to International tours that have included performances in Central Park NYC, The Ryder Cup Louisville and the Shanghai Expo, China. SKERRYVORE create a unique fusion of folk, trad, rock and pop that represents all the different personalities and upbringing of the 8 band members who hail from different regions of Scotland.
Formed in 2005, the band marked their 10th anniversary in 2015 with a ‘Decade’ concert at Mossfield Stadium, Oban. After selling 3,000 tickets in ninety minutes, the capacity was increased and 6,000 visitors from all over the world enjoyed SKERRYVORE, joined by a host of guests including Dougie MacLean and legendary Irish musician Sharon Shannon. The success of the Decade concert led to the creation of the band’s own annual festival, Oban Live that has now attracted over 10,000 attendees to enjoy international acts including KT Tunstall, We Banjo 3, Julie Fowlis and Capercaillie alongside SKERRYVORE.
2017 saw the release of the single "Live Forever" that provided the soundtrack for the Scottish tourism promotional campaign ‘Wild About Argyll’ and saw the single hit No.1 in the iTunes World Music chart. This was followed by the launch of the Live Forever Tour that has the band performing over 70 shows in the UK, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands and the United States.
2018 will bring the release of SKERRYVORE’s 6th studio album accompanied by a global tour that will include a headline performance at the legendary Tonder Festival, Denmark.
WE BANJO 3
For all the innovation and invention that goes into modern music these days, it’s the inspiration derived from one’s roots that proves the most enduring. So credit Galway, Ireland’s We Banjo 3 for finding common ground between old world tradition and authentic Americana by playing their banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin in an innovation fusion of styles that they dub “Celtgrass.”
Four albums in — their latest, String Theory, was released in July of 2016 — the band’s rousing revelry, sheer virtuosity, power, passion and purpose have made them one of the music world’s most celebrated ensembles. Variously described as “astonishing,” “the Gold Standard of Irish and American Roots music,” and “the Irish Punch Brothers,” they’ve can claim the # 1 position in Billboard’s World Music charts, top honours from IMRO (the Irish Music Rights Organization), top sales numbers and the distinction of entertaining an American president, an Irish Prime Minister and members of the U.S. Congress at the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon on Capitol Hill. Little wonder then that We Banjo 3 is literally taking both sides of the Atlantic by storm, carving a reputation as one of the world’s most imaginative ensembles.
Of course, all results are generally due to the sum of the parts, and the individuals involved here all contribute to the common cause. Made up of two sets of siblings — brothers Enda Scahill (tenor banjo, vocals) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, viola, dobro, percussion, guitar, mandolin, vocals) and brothers Martin Howley (tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals) and David Howley (lead vocals, guitar) – We Banjo 3 finds a natural symmetry as well as a cohesive chemistry that’s been imbued in the band ever since they were initially drawn to one another by their common creative interests. Inspired by the traditional Irish and Americana music they heard growing up, they placed three banjo players in the mix in the beginning, eventually diversifying their sound while broadening their boundaries as well.
Likewise, the individual members brought a credence that extended well beyond their family connections. Martin is a seven-time all-Ireland banjo champion and the first Irish musician to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Enda has recorded with Ricky Skaggs, the Chieftains and many others, aside from being considered as one of the world’s leading authors and authorities on Irish banjo techniques. Fergal has performed with dozens of artists at home and abroad, and is widely recognized as an Irish champion of both fiddle and bodhran. David has been cited as a solo artist of exceptional skill, while Garry is a veteran of work with numerous bands and individual artists.
Likewise, the evolution in the group’s sound followed a natural progression that evolved early on. Their 2012 debut album, Roots of the Banjo Tree, leaned entirely on banjo music and the various styles implied by that instrumental arsenal. Their critically acclaimed sophomore set, Gather the Good, released in 2014, furthered that vantage point, an aural summation of the impressions and experiences gained while touring the U.S. and their initial introduction to Nashville that was followed by the release of 2015‘s Live in Galway, recorded in the same small hometown pub where the band performed their very first gig.
Their new album, String Theory, appears to be a change in their tack, but only slightly. Half traditional covers, half original material, it finds the band’s reverence for their roots given a contemporary twist, further solidifying the common bonds between the two styles. The various jigs and reels underscore the band’s celebratory stance, but on a tender ballad like the 17th century soliloquy “Two Sisters,” the mix of love, jealousy and evil intent sound tailor made for modern times. While the instrumental interplay is in evidence as always, each individual musician adds his own distinctive style, further affirming their collective cause.
Indeed, anyway you look at it, We Banjo 3 adds up to one exceptional outfit.
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