From Galway, Ireland, We Banjo 3 offers Old Settler’s Music Festival audiences a unique mixture of high octane traditional Irish music and bluegrass. The band calls this special musical blend Celtgrass, a fitting name for two styles whose roots in the folk music of yesteryear run deep.
We Banjo 3 consists of four members – the brothers David and Martin Howley, and the brothers Enda and Fergal Scahill. Each is a world-class musician in his own right – Enda Scahill is a world-respected, best-selling author on banjo technique, and Fergal Scahill is one of Ireland’s most renowned fiddle players. David Howley is an accomplished traditional rhythm instrumentalist, and his brother Martin is a seven-time winner of the All Ireland Banjo Championship.
While the band has played extensively throughout the United States, including performing for then-President Barack Obama in 2016 (according to the elder Scahill: “He really likes the banjo”), this April will mark their first time in Central Texas.
Their upcoming performance at Old Settler’s Music Festival will include the impressive, multiple award-winning banjo playing the band is known for and named after. It will include some of the band’s most celebrated songs interpreted on mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and the Bodhrán – a traditional Irish frame drum that gives Celtic music its unique rhythmic foundation.
While the band’s Irish origins may lead audiences to immediately draw connections to Irish favorites like The Chieftains, Planxty, and Lunasa, We Banjo 3 has a special set of influences that draw far and wide across the American continent. They count fans of Old Crow Medicine Show, Punch Brothers, and Bela Fleck among their own, and write songs like Kentucky Grind (off of their 2016 #1 record, String Theory) that merge these influences into something altogether brand new.
The band has a special penchant for positivity, as the lyrics to songs like Happiness can attest:
“Oh, happiness is just around the corner from me,
And I feel like it’s the first time I can really see,
Fear is an illusion.
Happiness is just around the corner.”
For some, this seems at odds with the Irish oeuvre – at first glance, the message is certainly far-removed from the modern social irony of W.B Yeats that We Banjo 3 cites as an influence, and it’s no murder ballad. But according to the band, poetry is:
“…a beautiful distillation of thoughts. There’s always a need for poetry, perhaps most in times of stress, strife, and uncertainty. We tend to write from a place of good intentions, trying to connect our experiences with those of others.”
We Banjo 3 sees poetry and music as intertwined with one another. Each discipline carries a direct line of a community’s sense of collective history. Whether regaling a story of travels through Ireland’s picturesque western coast or provoking a spontaneous dance party, the band is dedicated to celebrating and sharing its heritage through the art of song.
Be on the lookout for their brand new album, to be released in summer 2018, and make sure to stop by their performance at Old Settler’s Music Festival in Tilmon, Texas on Thursday, April 19.