Sunday, October 23, 2005

On TV again - BBC NI - "Dander with Drennan"

Yep, it'll be broadcast in March 2006, but yesterday was spent with a production crew who are making a series with Willie Drennan on a walking tour across Antrim, Down and the south of Scotland. For episode one, Willie comes to the Low Country of County Down where he has a dander and a yarn with Mark, and then joins in for a jam session in Ivan's house and a wee chat with Graeme, Gibson and Ivan.

StraightForward Productions are handling it for BBCNI (cant find their web site, but this might help: ) and we had a really great time with Derek, Tony, Christine and Cara. Barbara made some piping hot vegetable soup to keep us on the go.

In the end, we filmed 2 tracks - a new medley "Jesus Is Ma Hairt's Fand Luve / Yer Faither" and Willie joined us on fiddle for Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light".

We were at it from 10am till 4pm - great crack and we're looking forward to seeing the programme. (apparently Willie nearly drowned the day before on a wee boat coming into Donaghadee Harbour, but sadly the camera crew didnt capture it on film!)

Gotta go!

Ballymena, Magherafelt, Comber & Portadown

It sounds like a real Tour of the North - The Ballymena Arts Festival event was great, organised by our good friend Colin Agnew, who brought Tony Collins (visit ) over from Glasgow, and also arranged the opening act as well. They were stunning even though they only played two or three pieces - they're an old-time guitar and musical saw duo and were spellbinding. Literally the most astounding version of Amazing Grace I have ever heard. They had to leave immediately after their set so we didnt even get a chance to speak to them , so now trying to find out more about them to see if they might like to tag along with us at LCB shows. We did an hour and a half set and really enjoyed meeting up with some old friends again. The best bit was getting to play the new track "The Hallelujah Man" which Colin gave us, because Colin's mum and aunt were there and came over for a chat and photos at the end. The Hallelujah Man was James Lamont, their father. A great song and we're delighted they've passed it on to us. Crowd of about 180 (filled to capacity)

Magherafelt was ok-ish, it was held in Rainey School, and we did a short 20min set. However it was an organisational nightmare - nothing to do with us - so let's just leave it at that. Poor turnout of only around 70 people as there were two other big events on locally on the same night.

Comber was in the 2nd Presb Church Hall with the new incarnation of the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra - and it was a mighty night! Willie Drennan on fiddle, mandolin, tin whistle and of course the Lambeg Drum, with a new accordion player called Ken Hopkins, a new fiddler/dancer called Kerry who was fantastic - a great night. They did an hour, then a fifteen minute interval, then we did half an hour and stayed onstage with them right to the end. Another great night with another crowd of about 180 (filled to capacity)

Portadown was in the Town Hall - we were one of 4 acts who took part, we went on last and did a half hour set. All new stuff not on the "Gran Time Comin" cd, and it all went down really well. Crowd of about 120 (maybe 3/4 capacity)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hurricane Katrina cancels LCB performance in Co. Down!

Tonight's scheduled performance at Ballygowan Presbyterian Church ( was cancelled - sorry to anyone who had travelled to see us.

The preacher for the week-long mission was due to have been the Rev Clint Pressley from Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama (visit - but due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina he wasn't able to travel.

We hear it's being rearranged for March 2006 so hopefully we'll be able to take part in the new year.

We wish the folks in Alabama, Louisiana and all of the states affected by hurricane damage a very speedy recovery and every blessing in their hour of need.

Friday, October 07, 2005

County Cavan Town Hall

Tomorrow evening sees us heading off to County Cavan to play in Cavan Town Hall. We're playing with a woman who's also from County Down (Ballynahinch Presbyterian) who sings Psalms in Irish.

An interesting linguistic combination - our Ulster-Scots and her Irish - but regardless of what the language is, the message is the same!!


Update: It was a 2hr 45min drive both there and back again, got home just after 2am. The Irish singers were Joyce Gibson from Ballynahinch Presbyterian and Jacynth Hamill from Belfast. Really lovely people and we got on very well - their music is worship-oriented (plenty of overheads and audience participation) and as you know ours is very evangelical with sin, conviction, repentance, salvation and the christian life all combined (we handed out our leaflets in abundance). The balance and mix was good.

It was a good night (a lovely clear, crisp evening) with a crowd of about 80 people which the organisers were delighted about. We did a set each followed by an interval and another set each. We tried a few of the newer tracks too which seem to be sounding better each time. Still getting used to the PA system - Barbara did a good job with it.

Joyce and Jacynth are involved in the Irish language services at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, which is holding its first ever Ulster Scots service next month. (we're not playing at it in case you were wondering)

Many thanks to Pat Nally, Charley McAdam and everyone else who gave us such a great welcome.

Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission CD Launch

NIMIC launched their "New Folk Roots and Traditional Music from Northern Ireland" cd yesterday - a double set of what they describe as "the finest artists from Northern Ireland." Ivan and Mark went - Gibbo and Graeme couldn't get off work.

One of our tracks - Did Christ O'er Sinners Weep - is included on it, with the majority of the other stuff being Irish trad stuff - some very trad and some pretty contemporary interpretations of Irish trad.

We met Robert Watt there (he's on the cd too) - he's well known in Ulster-Scots circles as one of the world's best solo pipers. And of course the magnificent Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band are on there too.

NIMIC say the CD will be sent out around the world to promoters, record companies and radio stations. Hopefully we'll get some feedback.

It's kinda funny to be selected because we know we're not that good. In fact when we were asked to be on it we thought it was some joker having us on... tone deafness must be sweeping the nation!

The Harvest is Past and the Summer is Ended

Sorry its been quiet round here.

July was really busy and the highlights for us were playing in Drum in County Monaghan, and also at the 12th July "Field" at Barnett's Park / Malone House. Absolutely amazing weather and really great crack too. We did Portstewart Town Hall one night and the organisers were turning people away - they had to open the balcony for the first time in ages and there were even people sitting on the stage area too.

August was quietish with a couple of church bookings which had been long-term commitments, but we took most of August off as a break and to help us pull together some new stuff. We've got a list of nearly 20 tracks for our next album (!) which has the working title of "Sangs o Bairns an Hame" - a lot of the material is about Heaven and a lot of them are Sunday School choruses folk have sent to us.

September was good - Portadown Town Hall one night, Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle (audience of 650), Waterside Theatre in Londonderry (crowd of about 350) and just this week Carrowdore Presbyterian Church (full house in the church hall with seats in the aisles - crowd of around 150). A few weeks ago we had a great night at Killead Presbyterian (near the airport) with a crowd of about 150 too.

Things are going well - we're still enjoying it - and we hope we can survive a fairly hectic run-in to Christmas and the New Year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Broken String Band

Well well well, we met a superb Ulster-based 5 piece bluegrass band last Friday evening, at the Star of the Maze Orange Hall (near Down Royal racetrack).

A local historical re-enactment group called "The Rising Sons of Dixie" put on a great night's crack and a load of good ol' Southern homecookin. We were there to provide a wee bit of music, as were the Broken String Band.

They're based around Belfast and Bangor and are "proper" full-time musicians (not just rakers like us) Really good guys - Gibson and Ivan knew one of them, Ivan Moorehead, from bands they were in in days gone by. Their fiddle player is Geordie McAdam (used to be in Appalachian Strings) as did Wilson the bass player. Michael the banjo player/vocalist used to be in the Soundhogs, and the mandolin player Adrian is Ivan Moorehead's brother. They were absolutely superb. If you want some real, pure, 16-notes-a-second bluegrass, these guys are for you. They did two sets, we did one in the middle - the evening kicked off around 9 and it was well after midnight before we got away.

When we did the Ulster-Scots stuff we may as well have been speaking Chinese, the poor folks in the audience hadn't a notion what we were talking/singing about - even with our lyric leaflets in their hands. Especially when I said "hoo can A dae ocht whun A hinnae got ocht tae dae ocht wae"... hmm... and then there was the joke about the Iraqis in Portavogie... must remember that these things only work in Ulster-Scots speaking areas!! We finished with an acapella version of "Did Christ Oer Sinners Weep", which we'd dug up out of an old Confederate army hymnbook.

I must admit we were wile rouch, instruments really going out of tune and everything a bit haywire, but we had a good night and met some really nice people too - including the Broken String Band.

I'm sure you'll be reading more about them very soon (if they had a web site I'd put a link here - but you can check them out each Wednesday night in session at Balloo House restaurant/pub, near Killinchy in County Down)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Killicomaine Baptist Meeting House, Portadown - Sunday 5th June

Another really good night; place was packed out so extra seats were brought in, making the area we were standing in pretty tight. Graeme's been struggling with a sore throat so he croaked his way through. I'd guess maybe 150-ish people were there, young and old.

Gibson unveiled the new Mastertone banjo tonight; we opened with "Hallelujah I'm Ready to Go", next was Big Smith's "I Am The Door" and finished off with "I Saw the Light", with everyone singing along. Pastor Harvey Shaw preached, we did "My Lord Keeps a Record", and when the meeting was finished at 8pm only about 10 people left...

... so we kicked off all over again and did "Fu an Skailin", "Come Awa the Noo", "A Joy That Turn't my Hairt Frae Stane", "Gran Time Comin", "My Sins are A Awa", our own special Ulster-ified version of "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" and a rough and ready version of the Louvin Brothers standard (also covered by Uncle Tupelo) "The Great Atomic Power". A good night's crack and fellowship - all recorded onto digital video tape so there may well be VHS / DVD evidence somewhere!

Then - of course - everyone piled into the big back room for tea, sandwiches and buns. Met some lovely people including a group of metallers/rockers who travelled all the way from Larne to see us play (and even asked us for autographs at the end!) We reckon Larne to Portadown is a round trip of over 100miles. Impressive (or else daft?!)

Back home to the Low Country after 11pm, ready for bed.... next stop the Confederate Night at Star of the Maze next Saturday.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Radio Ulster - George Jones

So after Ballyclare it was over on the ferry, across Strangford Lough, to meet up with the BBC Radio Ulster team and the Big Yellow Bus (the vehicle they use for outside broadcasts) at the Dufferin Arms in Killyleagh (see ).

George had contacted us after the Good Friday show we did with him and invited us along. Once again we met some good people (Mark bumped in to an old school friend - Robbie Meredith - who now works for BBC Northern Ireland) had some fun, did a soundcheck in a wee room in the pub and got stuck in.

We did three tracks - "Hallelujah I'm Ready" and "My Sins are A Awa", a short interview and then later on in the show we played "My Lord Keeps a Record". Kinda nerve-wracking being on live radio but we really enjoyed it.

George told us that the Del McCoury Band are coming to Belfast later in the year, so we're looking forward to that one; for those of you who saw them playing with Steve Earle in the Ulster Hall on "The Mountain" tour a few years ago you'll know how brilliant they are.

Gibson's new banjo has arrived - a Gibson Mastertone. Now he has no excuse...

And good to see you again Robbie, give us a shout/email some time!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ballyclare May Fair - last Thursday evening

We had a great time at this event, playing in the assembly hall of the High School to about 300 / 350 folk with our friends in the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra. The May Fair is a big deal, with fairgrounds, markets, a horse fair in the middle of the town itself - so we were delighted to be asked to play there.

Lord Laird kicked things off as guest of honour having just flown back from London that same afternoon. As usual the USFO played up to the interval, we came on and did half an hour and they came on to play "I Saw the Light" with us (fiddles flying!). We stayed onstage together till the end with a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" to end the evening. We met some lovely people and enjoyed a great Ulster-Scots Supper of wheaten bread, soda bread, potato bread, lorne sausage, beef sausage and haggis. Gallons of tea - good, simple Ulster-Scots grub, and delicious too! As usual there were folk there who were keen to have a yarn afterwards, some of whom had Low Country family connections and others who just wanted to talk about music, faith and language. Really good night!

Check out the Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra web site at

Virginia Calling

This email from James Barbour from Virginia:

"...I'm from North Carolina just south of Virginia. We have a wee festival in my little town every fourth weekend in September. We call the event Mule Days. My family started the annual tradition over sixty years ago. It all comes together in the small town of Benson. Just of the interstate 95. If ya'll ever make it here around that time drop in on us..."

"...I just wanted to ask if you would be making any possible trips to the states. we have a many folk and Bluegrass shows here that you would indeed be a wonderful part of and would allow your sound to be spread thru out the world. just an idea. I do have another question for you though. I was told my last name was from a Scottish decent. I was wondering if by chance you would know. as you noticed the spelling of my name at the opening of this letter it is pronounced (bar-ber) which i was told was also a name from the Scottish..." 

James Barbour

We were pleased to let James know that the name Barbour has a great Scottish heritage - for example, the 14th century writings about the Scottish King Robert the Bruce were written by John Barbour.

Low Country Boys hit Alabama!

The internet is an amazing thing - this email came from Lynne Neal is Seale, Alabama:

"...I'm glad to have found y'all and look forward to receiving the CD.  I am Scotch-Irish through and through, my mother's maiden name was Bruce and her Grandfather Bruce made fiddles and played with an informal group of friends any time they could get together!  I love this kind of music, and as a Christian, like the gospel music aspect very much.

Thanks so much for making this available to us all!

Lynne Neal.....from the Heart of Dixie.....Alabama  (and I hope you do get to visit the great state of Alabama's beautiful!)..."

So far we've probably sent more than 30 CDs to the States. Maybe we'll make it to Alabama some day?!

Thanks Y'all

Thanks to everyone who has supported the Low Country Boys so far - 1000 cds sold in 10 weeks since it was launched, airplay all over Ulster and Scotland, 2 live broadcasts with George Jones of Radio Ulster (in the studio on Good Friday, and just last Friday live from the Dufferin Arms in Killyleagh), a full hour interview with Ronnie Morrison of Downtown Radio on his "Gospel Hour" show a few weeks back - all amazing and we're thankful to everyone.

Looks like there's life in this oul Ulster-Scots language and the oul Gospel for a while yet!