December 31, 2019
Galway Irish-Americana quartet We Banjo 3 will perform at the Somerville Theater on Jan. 25 at 8 p.m., as part of the Global Arts Live series. WB3 has won RTÉ Radio 1 Best Folk Album, Irish Times Trad Album of the Year, LiveIreland.com Best New Group of the Year and Irish American News Concert of the Year, as well as a No. 1 ranking in bluegrass by USA Billboard.
In addition to BCMFest [see separate story], January’s Irish/Celtic area happenings will include another Boston visit by Galway Irish-Americana quartet We Banjo 3, which will perform at the Somerville Theater on Jan. 25 at 8 p.m., as part of the Global Arts Live series.
“WB3” consists of two pairs of brothers, Enda (tenor banjo) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, bodhran) and David (guitar, lead vocals) and Martin Howley (mandolin, tenor banjo). Widely acknowledged as the originators of “Celtgrass,” a mix of Irish and American folk sounds that are inspired by tradition while embracing pop and other modern styles, the Scahills and Howleys are known for their sheer musical ability, tight playing, and force of personality. In recent years, the band has focused more on its own compositions, which in addition to songs of romance and love – and the difficulties associated with them – includes musings on social issues of the day.
WB3 has won RTÉ Radio 1 Best Folk Album, Irish Times Trad Album of the Year, LiveIreland.com Best New Group of the Year and Irish American News Concert of the Year, as well as a No. 1 ranking in bluegrass by USA Billboard.
The always personable David Howley recently shared some thoughts about WB3 and its forthcoming tour:
Q. You guys have been coming to Boston pretty regularly over the last few years. What do you like about playing here in town?
A. We feel at home with the people and the culture in Boston. Each time we've come to town we've left with smiles and stories to tell. The shows are really fun for us, the crowds are into it and up for some fun.
Q. What were the highlights for WB3 in 2019?
A. We had an incredible year last year. From a Billboard No.1 album to working alongside Mental Health America, it seems like only yesterday we were around Enda's kitchen table playing tunes together for the first time. The most exciting thing for us this past year was the creative push we all felt in the band, we've been writing music non-stop and are excited to have some new songs and tunes to try out this year.
Q. Your last studio album, “Haven,” included songs dealing with mental health awareness and the plight of immigrants. Do you see yourselves continuing in that vein – songs with a message?
A. Music is a tonic for the soul and a band-aid for the heart. We are so thankful to do what we do, we see it as our mission to just continue being as honest as we can through our music. We all need some respite sometimes and that's what we hope to offer people at our shows.
Q. What’s in store for WB3 in 2020?
A. We'll be test-driving some music and getting into the studio to see what happens. We're not in a rush to push out music; we want to be really intentional about our next record. You never know, you could see some new singles in the not so distant future.
Q. What about a We Banjo 3 reality show?
A. We would 100 percent do a reality show! If you can find a camera crew that can handle four sarcastic Irish guys and their patient but equally witty American sound engineer, then we're in. Of course, that poor crew would dump themselves out of the van at the first gas station.
Ticket information and reservations are available via globalartslive.org.
• Elsewhere this month, pioneering fiddle-cello duo Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas will play at The Burren Backroom series on Jan. 12, with shows at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Fraser is one of the leading Scottish fiddlers of the past few decades and Haas has been a foundational figure in the use of cello in various forms of traditional music. Together, they exchange riffs, trade off melody versus rhythm, and otherwise converse in various tones of emotion and intensity – “ducking and diving,” as they call it. Their compelling partnership of sounds draw not only on Scottish and other Celtic traditions, but also on elements of Scandinavian, Breton, American, classical, jazz and other music forms.
• The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will welcome another duo of note, Adam Agee and Jon Sousa, on Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. Agee (fiddle, foot percussion, vocals) has ties to the Boston area through fiddle camps and collaborations with local musicians and artists, as well as a previous appearance at BCMFest. With musical roots in County Clare, he and Sousa (guitar, tenor banjo, vocals) have been journeying through the Irish traditional idiom while enchanting listeners on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean through their command of their instruments and the transcendent energy in their music.
Go to irishculture.org to find ticket information for this event.
• The band that brought you “bagrock,” The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, will come to the Cabot Theatre in Beverly on Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. Formed in 2002, the “Chillis” got their break five years later when they won the BBC talent show “When Will I Be Famous?” with their crowd-pumping mix of bagpipes, drums, keyboards and guitars, and blend of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary pieces — including classic rock hits like “Smoke on the Water,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” RHCP’s credentials are substantial indeed: Many of the band members have competed at the highest level of bagpiping and drumming, and some have completed degrees at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The band has released nine albums, including last year’s “Fresh Air,” and appeared on the soundtrack to “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
For more, go to thecabot.org.
• Club Passim will host Taarka, a globally inspired ensemble led by David Teller (vocals, mandolin, guitar, octave mandolin) and Enion Pelta-Tiller (vocals, five-string violin), on Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. The repertoire of Taarka – even its name can be found in an array of countries and cultures – ranges through gypsy jazz, rock, Eastern Europe, bluegrass/old-timey, Indian and, yes, Celtic influences: Liz Carroll’s “Lost in the Loop,” for example, or their own “Finn McCool Crosses the Rocky Mountains” and “Mrs. Carroll’s Strathspey.” Their live shows have been lauded for what one reviewer called “insurmountable gusto.”
Tickets and more at passim.org.
• The duo of Dave Curley and Andrew Finn Magill will be in town at the end of the month for a pair of concerts: The Burren Backroom on Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m., and the following night at Boston College's Gaelic Roots program (6:30 p.m. in the Theology and Ministry Library Auditorium on BC's Brighton Campus; admission is free).
Curley, a Galway native, is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and dancer – and a graduate of the University of Limerick's Irish music and dance program – whose performance experiences include Philadelphia-based Celtic band RUNA and appearances with Grammy winner Moya Brennan of Clannad.
A native of Asheville, NC, Magill is a two-time All-Ireland fiddler who has branched out to explore old-timey and bluegrass, as well as music from Brazil and Malawi.