The new release from Galway crossover giants,
We Banjo 3: String Theory
the interaction of [musical] particles in space.
The pure drop distilled. A heady mountain brew. Galway wild flagstones weaving smoky trails through Appalachian hills.
Music moves the morning mist rising. This is Ireland. This is America.
We Banjo 3 are the most virtuoso, innovative quartet to emerge from Ireland in decades. They have long established their reputation for combining strikingly brilliant music with euphoric live performances. Now the band release their fourth album, String Theory, at once redefining the boundaries of tradition and in the process, transcending genre. This album is an exploration of the timeless interaction of Irish and American music, the intertwined particles constantly changing, colliding, interacting with each other.
Music cannot simply be defined as a singular point in time but a dance of traditions. This record connects ancient songs, new songs, old tunes mined from both traditions, new tunes composed and influenced by the journey between the two – a perfect harmony of the folk roots music of two great musical nations. 12 tracks recorded at Sonas Studios on the side of a mountain in Co. Kerry and then mastered in LA, this has a truly international groove. Exciting guest appearances by Grammy winner Alison Brown, Aoife Scott and Trevor Hutchinson, and a brass section from Ohio, round out the sound.
This is a truly unique album.
Track 9: Little Liza Jane
Track 10: Aunt Jemima's Plaster
Track 12: The Chair Snapper's Delight
This Is Home
2. Good Time, Old Time
4. Island Orchard
5. Ain't Nobody Else Like You
6. Kentucky Grind
7. Trying To Love
8. Crann Na Beatha (Tree of Life)
9. Little Liza Jane
10. Aunt Jemima's Plaster
11. Two Sisters
Also available from Copperplate:
We Banjo 3: Roots of the Banjo Tree
We Banjo 3: Gather The Good
We Banjo 3: Live in Galway
May 17 Dublin - Whelan's tickets
May 18 Kilkenny - Set Theatre tickets
May 19 Cork - St Luke's tickets
May 20 Wexford Opera House tickets
May 21 Offaly - Birr Arts Centre tickets
May 24 Sligo - Hawkswell Theatre tickets
May 25 Limerick - Dolan's tickets
May 26 Galway - Black Box tickets
June 1 Oban Live, Scotland
June 23 KY - ROMP Bluegrass Festival website
June 24 VA - River & Roots Festival website
June 25 PA - Celtic Fling and Highland Games website
July 8 MI - Blissfest website
July 9 IL - Chicago Irish Festival website
July 28-30 OH - Dayton Ohio Celtic Festival
Aug 4-6 OH - Dublin Irish Festival
Aug 11 WI - LaCrosse Irish Festival
Aug 12-13 MN - Irish Fair of Minnesota
Aug 18-20 WI - Milwaukee Irish Festival
Aug 25-26 WI - Mad Gael Festival, Madison
Sept 1-2 MO - Kansas City Irish Festival
Sept 3 CO - Four Corners Folk Festival
Sept 4 OR - Timberline Mountain Music Festival
Sept 8-9 OR - Sisters Folk Festival
Sept 15-16 MI - Michigan Irish Festival
www.liveireland.com "The Livies" Jan 17 Concert of the Year – We Banjo 3 –
Irishfest in Milwaukee saw the fifth birthday party for WB3 as a group. A fab concert from the hottest group in real Irish music. Of course, they blend Americana and bluegrass in abundance—just making each show the best. This one was emotionally special, as well. WB3 was clearly saying thanks to Milwaukee for launching their career. Very, very special, indeed! Well done, lads! Bill Margeson
“An Irish band transcending even the best of superlatives” – The Huffington Post
“We Banjo 3 have crossed Bluegrass and Irish Trad ingeniously” – Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“The Irish-American crossover has been attempted before, but never so gloriously OTT and with such panache!” –fRoots Magazine
“These four lads just keep taking their musical genius to new levels” – Irish Music Magazine
Skilfully crafted and seemingly delivered with ease, String Theory is an album that you just have to lie back and revel in. One helluva record, this is music, natural without any additives - Simon Jones, fRoots Magazine
Galway quartet press home their "Celticgrass" crossover credentials with their most confident and accomplished release to date. The result is dizzying in its eclecticism, ravishing in its amalgam of influences - Michael Quinn, Songlines Magazine
These four guys are the new super group. This new cd is as close to perfect as mere mortals should try for - Jack Baker, Irish American News
The Living Tradition Dec/Jan 17
Rather confusing mob, the Banjo Gents. For one thing, there are four of them, two sets of brothers no less, and their interests extend beyond the banjo. But ‘We Assorted Stringed Instrument Four’ – it just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?
Quibbles over numbers aside, their mission statement is to rebuild some of the broken links between Irish and bluegrass music. That still leaves room for what sounds to me like some pretty straight-ahead country as well. And yes, the much maligned banjo is right in the forefront. Two of the four regulars and one of their occasional contributors list it as their weapon of choice.
Whether they are tackling something deeply familiar, like Little Liza Jane, or a new piece by one or other band member or their pals, they play up a storm. Listen to the sets of tunes under the names of Aunt Jemima's Plaster or Chairsnappers Delight, for instance, and you can believe that the banjo is taking over the world.
A word about their choice of songs though – and they all fancy themselves as singers. In the track Happiness, they are so relentlessly jolly that it becomes quite depressing. And is it time for a moratorium on new versions of The Two Sisters? We know that it and its close relations tell an epic story, but variants of it are everywhere and we know how it ends now.
Those quibbles aside, this is a hugely enjoyable album, with a focus that makes it a bit different from anything else out there. Dave Hadfield
IRISH TIMES ALBUM OF THE DAY - ****
The momentum that’s gathered under the collective posteriors of We Banjo 3 is nothing short of Olympian. String Theory, their fourth album, sees them hurtle into the wide blue yonder with a kit bag of exceptional tunes and a propulsive wit that tickles at the perimeter of many of their sets.
String Theory benefits from a panoply of arrangements that buff and polish that fiery banjo ensemble sound. David Howley’s lead vocals have grown in stature along with his songwriting chops, and he reaches sublime heights on the picaresque harmonies of Two Sisters.
The beautifully executed cover art adds further to the three-dimensional delights of this collection. - Siobhan Long, Irish Times
When adding vocals, the band’s musical traditions merge even more closely, tying the trials and triumphs experienced across its native Ireland with the melodies spun from blue-collar Appalachia in the opening reflection of “This is Home” and bounding forth with universal joy in “Happiness.”
- Erik Ernst, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Chris Spector, midwestrecord.com
We Banjo 3 are something special. they’ve pioneered a new genre fusion of Celtgrass. It’s remarkable to hear this music and think it’s only four musicians behind the tunes - jam-tastic! Colleen Taylor, The Irish Echo
MOJO Jan 17
The misnamed We Banjo 3 (there are 4 of them and only 2 regularly play banjo) have invented their own "file under" category .... Celticgrass. Not sure about that, but the blend of the brilliant Scahill brothers' formidable Irish tune- making with material of a distinctly American vintage, along with the no nonsense singing of David Howley, is effective. Stage is always likely to be their forte, but this is a very vibrant record. Colin Irwin
Songlines Oct 16
"THE IRISH-TRAD-MEETS-BLUEGRASS CREW ARE STRONGER THAN EVER" * * * *
Galway quartet We Banjo 3 here press home their "Celticgrass" crossover credentials with their most confident and accomplished release to date. String Theory's thrust carries them from Ireland to the country and bluegrass terrains of the US and back again- with a diversion into Canada's Quebecois landscape with Aunt Jemima's "Plaster - Sheepskins and Beeswax". Tellingly it segues into Tipperary luminary Paddy O'Brien's Ormond Sound and in a nod to the Irish group Four Men and A Dog, "Marco's Reel".
The result is somewhat dizzying in its eclecticism, ravishing in its amalgam of influences. Kentucky bluegrass legend, Bill Monroe's, "Wheel Hoss" and North Carolina fiddler Marcus Martin's old-time acccented "Cousin Sally Brown" gleefully rub shoulders with traditional Irish reels and new instrumentals and songs by David Howley and Enda Skahill.
There's a thoroughly contemporary edge, too in Greg Brown's "Ain't Nobody Else Like You"( which is a charming duet between Howley and guest vocalist, Aoife Scott), the infectious cover of Noelie McDonell's "Happiness" and the traditional ballad, "Two Sisters", a tale of murderous sibling jealousy given a new twist of Tom Waits by the band. A sense of the quartet's noticeably tighter ensemble playing is evident throughout in a vivacious enjoyable set. Michael Quinn
R2 Music Magazine 9/10.16 ****
Individually the four members of We Banjo 3 - brothers David and Martin Howley and Fergal and Enda Scahll — are hugely talented musicians, and when they combine those talents the results are predictably mind-boggling.
Those unfamiliar with the music of the Irish quartet need look no further than Enda Scahill‘s composition 'The Unraveling Jig' and exploration of the shared links between Irish and American traditional music. A blistering instrumental that forms a part of 'Kentucky Grind' - a three-tune set that also includes Bill Monroe‘s ‘Wheel Hoss' and Martin Howley‘s paean to a well known Milwaukee coffee house, 'Colectivo Espress-oh', it sums them up perfectly.
That marriage of Irish and American music weaves through String Theory and gives it a unique identity that mixes traditional and contemporary material and their own compositions, plus telling guest contributions from the likes of Grammy-winning banjo player Alison Brown (’Good Old Time') and Dublin singer Aoife Scott ('Ain‘t Nobody Else Like You'). We Banjo 3's reimagining of the string band tradition is hard to resist. Trevor Hutchinson ﬁlls out the sound with his distinctive double bass and with unexpected incursions from brass on Noelie McDonnell‘s relentless upbeat song.
We Banjo 3‘s latest album will surely cement their ever growing reputation. Dave Haslam
Take a large pinch of Irish tradition, mix with a similar portion of American heritage, pour in a large slice of innovation, then blend in strong tinges of Appalachian legacy, bring to the boil through the dazzling musical talent and dexterity ... the result is ‘String Theory’ the latest album from We Banjo 3 (a different approach to a band name considering there are four of them). And that sums up this band, unexpected, innovative, overflowing with energy and essentially different.
Sometimes called ‘Irish Bluegrass’ or for the perpetual name-inventors, ‘Celtgrass’, this music takes the best ingredients of its collective folk and roots customs to whip up a brew that breaks boundaries and redefines classification. Long and intricate twist the links between Celts and the Americas, untwining the relations of influence is impossible. The simplest solution is refrain from placing the music on ‘String Theory’ into any identity-boxes and simply go with the flow of original compositions, revitalised rhythms, mesmerising melodies, inventive tunes ... and enjoy the result.
The songs come from deep wells of feeling, ‘This Is Home’, opens and instantly focuses your attention with its message of hope, the infectious and effervescent ‘Happiness’ is one of those songs that simply put a smile on your face, while the raw sentiment of ‘Trying To Leave’ is obvious. The tune sets include get-up-and-groove delights like ‘Good Time Old Time’, the mix of ‘Kentucky Grind’ and sparkling ‘Aunt Jemima’s Plaster’.
‘String Theory’ delivers gentle tunes hand-in-hand with irrepressible foot-stomping reels and jigs entwined with expressive ballads, never has the banjo been taken to so many places it never thought to go. We Banjo 3 take you through a concoction that you’ll want to savour again, and again. Review: Tim Carroll