Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Merlefest this week !

It's that time again folks, Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC, and we are part of it ! Really looking forward to performing over the coming weekend, and also getting the chance to see so many of the finest acts in the World .... After MERLEFEST we are the special guests at a live Radio Show in Knoxville, TN.

Niall Toner Band
Monday, April 28, 7 p.m. 
Tennessee Shines Radio Show
at the Knoxville Visitor Center and live on WDVX FM and WDVX.com.
We also have lots of cool merchandise for sale, and we look forward to seeing you all along the trail..

Yours, Niall and the Gang.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Recent stuff .......

My last Blog entry dealt mostly with the excitement of being invited to perform at MERLEFEST 2014. I have since been asked to participate as a Judge, along with Jim Lauderdale and Darrell Scott in the Chris Austin Song Contest, which takes place annually as part of MERLEFEST. What an honour ! This is a very prestigious event, and former winners include the wonderful Gillian Welch , and look what happened for her! So, it's a very high standard, and I look forward to hearing some great songs ............

I made the mistake recently of expressing some personal feelings in response to an enquiry which came to me by way of FACEBOOK. There was a huge, and unexpected, reaction to my post, and I quickly realised that I had made the mistake of giving an impression to the entire World, that I was in some kind of  the awful trouble. I have since followed-up on FACEBOOK with some explanations, and I have also spoken with many of those concerned, and I am now taking this opportunity on my Blog to clear the air ...... But, thank you for all your messages of goodwill.

I am in fine fettle, and I'm glad to say that Moira and all our Family are well, Physically, Spiritually and otherwise. The events that led to my recent remarks about the transience of life, and the way I was feeling, were prompted by the passing from this life of three dear human beings. I [we] had known Sandra Ramdhanie since the early 70s, and she was a close friend and advisor for all those years. We had lost touch a little since She moved to Spain, and her Death was a great shock. A week after Sandra passed, Moira's dear Cousin, Patsy Malone, who was caring for Moira's Aunt, Maureen, died, and she is also dearly missed. Two days later, Frank Russell, Maureen's Son, and Moira's other Cousin, died tragically as he was boarding a 'plane to return to Dublin from Thailand, leaving behind him a tangled web of emotions, legal difficulties, and Family problems. It was the cumulative affect of all of the above that caused me to reflect in such a public forum.

But that's life, and I am fond of quoting one of my favourite songwriters, the great Guy Clark, 'Nobody said it was going to be easy ' ................

Onwards and Upwards, Niall. [ Almost the end of a grey January ........]

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Niall Toner Band
Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10.45 am,  Creekside Stage 
Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 11.45 am,  Mayes-Pit Cohn Auditorium
Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 1.45 pm,   Cabin Stage
Saturday, April 26, 2014 at  8.30pm,    Autograph A

Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 11.45 am,   Americana Stage.

Check Official Programme for further details.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where to start ?

I have been going to the Annual IBMA Conference and Music Festival since it was held in Owensboro and Louisville and then Nashville, but I would have to say that this years event in Raleigh, NC, was the best ever! On a personal level for me it was a triumph,being booked and confirmed for Merlefest 2014, the World's most prestigious Roots Music Festival. The real honour here is the fact that you can't 'pitch' for a gig at Merlefest,you have wait to be invited. It goes to show that all the hard work with my original Music and Songs over the past 11 years has not gone un-noticed. I have said it before, and I'm not shy about saying it again, but the support I got from Clem O'Brien and Dick Gladney has played a vital role in taking my Music to this level. IBMA in Raleigh was just like having all my Birthdays on the one day ! The City is a very welcoming place to be, and when it's also full of all one's Musical heroes, how can you go wrong ! During the week, I performed seven Showcase gigs, at places like the Lincoln Theatre, The Longview Centre, The Convention Centre at the Marriott Hotel, and the Tir Na Nog Irish Bar on Blount Street. The nucleus of my Band for these shows comprised of yours truly on Vocals and Guitar, and Richie Foley, from Cork Band, Land's End, on Mandolin. I recruited a variety of fine local musicians to assist, including Missey Raines on Bass, Pete Wernick on Banjo, Dan Mahony on Dobro [ what a great Player !], Tom Driessen [Yes, Casey's Dad ! ] on Bass and Rob Parks, also on Bass. We played for the Merlefest Folks, for the Greyfox Festival owners, and a whole raft of Venue Owners and Festival Organisers
. The entire event would not have gone so smoothly for me if it was not for the talent and dedication of all the above Musicians, but I also have to say a big thanks to my PR team, Andrea, Jacquie and Dawn, from Make Welcome Entertainment, and Matt and Ethan and Lonnie from Pinecastle Records, as well as the Folks from IBMA and EBMA, especially Rienk Jenessen. Thanks to all concerned, and see you all at Merlefest 2014, and IBMA 2014. Photo shows Richie Foley and me, with Tom Driessen and Dan Mahoney just out of shot, but playing great !!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Press Release .................... Niall Toner song to feature in US/Canadian TV Drama, HAVEN. Niall's song, Lonely Souls and Broken Hearts, which previously featured in the ABC TV Drama, Nashville, has now been chosen to feature in the US/Canadian TV Drama co-production, HAVEN. The show is based on the Stephen King novel, The Colorado Kid, and has been running successfully now for three years on both US and Canadian TV. Niall says: 'It's an honour for me to have my song included for the second time on a major TV Drama' I will be reporting from Raleigh, NC, next week. www.nialltonerband.com

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yes, it's been a while, and I'd have to admit that I have been pre-occupied with matters domestic! We have a beautiful new Grandchild called Alfie, and everyone is thrilled with his arrival ......... Our recent show at Killoughternane Schoolhouse was another roaring success, thanks to the huge support from Jim Quirke and his team of helpers. As you can see from the photo, string-band Music can be a lot of fun !!!!! We also had a ball playing for Frank and Karen's Birthday bash [ 80th and 50th ] in Fallon and Byrnes in Dublin, and sincere thanks goes to Paddy Kiernan on 5-String Banjo and Guitar for stepping in at short notice. I'm off to Raleigh in North Carolina this week for showcase Gigs at IBMA, and I'll report from there
. Check our website for details, and talk soon ? Regards, Niall.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Pencil and a Notepad ......

On Sunday, I will be presenting a Songwriting Workshop at the Clonmel Arts Centre at 4pm,as part of the Clonmel Busking Festival. All are welcome, and all you need is a Pencil and a Notepad, and maybe an idea or two! Then at 9.30pm, NTB will be playing a Gig,and maybe singing one of the new songs just composed ! Looking forward to seeing you all in Clonmel.... Niall.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This coming weekend, I have been invited to do a solo spot at the Greystones Roots Festival. I will be on stage for about 45 minutes, singing songs from my Pinecastle CD, and that's on Saturday night at the Beach House. I will also have an opportunity to get to listen to many of the fine acts on the bill. Then, on Tuesday next, August the 6th, I have the honour of playing at the Steeple Sessions in the Unitarian Church on Stephen's Green with Clem O'Brien and Dick Gladney. We last played this wonderful venue with Peggy Seeger a few years back, and I'm looking forward to our return visit. We will have CDs, T-Shirts and copies of my new Book, The Nuts and Bolts Of Songwriting, for sale on the night. Tickets are going fast, so book now to hear one of our all-too-rare all-original, all-acoustic shows in Dublin. See ya there ...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Last week the NTB had the good fortune to work two wonderful Gigs, first at Crocanoir, in County Tipperary, and then on Saturday night last in the Wexford Arts Centre. Both of these venues have to rank in the Top Five of smaller Irish venues, and I highly recommend both to anyone with an interest in live Music. Croanoir is usually held in a converted outhouse on the farm of John and Monika Birmingham, near Mullinahone. On the evening, the Weather was so good, they decided to move the Stage outdoors, and the Gig turned into a Mini-Festival, just like Slane Castle ! We had a ball, and as always, the hospitality was just wonderful. Wexford Arts Centre had no option but to stay indoors, and a goodly crowd left the Beaches, and made for a very appreciative listening audience, who then bought CDs and T-Shirts in great quantities ...........Bless them all. Patrick Hogan took this shot of Me, Dick and Clem, looking serious ! Looking forward to a return visit to these two great venues ...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nuts and Bolts Of Songwriting launched ....

Great crowds, glorious weather, fine Coffee and Food, and the truly spectacular surroundings of Borris House, how could a fella go wrong ? It was the perfect setting for the launch of my Book at the Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas, as part of the Carlow Arts Festival, 2013. I was interviewed by Catriona Ni Muruhcu in the Chapel, next to Borris House, and we had an attentive and interested audience who asked great questions, and our conversation was peppered with my Songs and a few instrumental Tunes. Afterwards I headed to the 'book-signing' Tent, a large Marquee which was erected on the lawn outside, and I got to share space with the likes of Martin Amis and other successful Authours, all singing and selling their wares. I did very well with both my Book and CDs, and also sold a number of the exclusive Niall Toner T-Shirts, which are rapidly becoming a 'must-have' for the discerning Music Fan .......... Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement. The Nuts and Bolts Of Songwriting will be available shortly in all good Book Shops, a number of Musical Instrument Stores, and of course by mail from my website at www.nialltonerband.com

Monday, May 27, 2013

Losing a Good Friend, and an Icon to boot ....

Today I lost a good friend. Chris Twomey passed away today. He had been ill for some time. I first met Chris Twomey, the doyen of the Autoharp, in Cork in 1966, when I was transferred to the Southern Capital by the Lyons Tea Company. I sang a few Woody Guthrie/Bill Monroe/Hank Williams songs during the interval at a Jim O'Donnell Folk Group Concert, and Chris was in the audience. He introduced himself, and we became instant, and firm, life-long friends. Forty-Seven years in all. We began playing Music together, with Chris playing his 'DAM-GUD' Guitar, an ancient instrument he had restored himself, and along with Gary Cronin, we did our first Gig in the Group Theatre, opposite the Beamish Brewery, and we called ourselves The Kinfolk. Shortly after that, we teamed up with Jim O'Donnell and his group, and became Paddy's Goatskin and String Band. That conglomerate performed Folk songs from just about every Tradition, and Jim encouraged Chris and I to feature our American Songs and tunes in what would have been the interval at each gig. Our repertoire was largely drawn from the songs of the Carter Family and the New Lost City Ramblers. After being joined by my Brother, Colm, we named our group the Lee Valley String Band, in honour of Chris's home place in Monard, right smack in the middle of the Lee Valley. We played two guitars and a Mandolin, with one guitar capoed-up to replicate the high-strung sound of Mother Maybelle Carter's Autoharp. One day, while perusing the Music Shops of Cork,[ there were several, back then ] I spotted an old Autoharp in a place on Oliver Plunkett Street, which, on enquiry, was priced at the princely sum of 6 Pounds. I made the purchase and presented Chris with the instrument. About three weeks later he turned up for rehearsal and played the newly acquired instrument as though he'd owned one for years. Chris never looked back, and became a true Master of the Autoharp, as well as being no mean player of the Guitar, Concertina and Dulcimer, and a unique Singer too. Chris, you will be missed by all your pals and fans in the Music. I just hope that Bill Monroe and Hank Williams have recruited you into their Heavenly Band. Your Friend, Niall. Picture shows Chris Twomey on Guitar and yours Truly on Mandolin in the back yard of Parnell Terrace, off Pouladuff Road, in 1966. Photo by Moira Toner.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Borris Festival Of Writing and Ideas 2013

My book, the Nuts and Bolts Of Songwriting, will be launched at the Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas on Saturday, June the 8th, at 4.30pm. I will demonstrate some of my writing/composing techniques, and I'll also be interviewed by Caitriona Ni Mhurucu. We will have copies of my Book for sale on the day,which I would be glad to sign, and there's also a strong rumour that there will be a little Wine and Cheese available. Anyone with even a minute interest in the craft of writing songs will find something of interest, and who knows, there's always the possibility that a new 'Lennon and McCartney' or 'Jagger and Richards' might emerge as a result ! See you there .............Best, Niall.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More Good News ...

Today I had the honour of being presented with my Bluegrass Personality Of The Year Award from the EBMA by my Boss at RTE Radio One, Annmarie Power. Here we are in the Office of Radio One. I have to say that the Award itself is a real beauty, made by hand in a selection of Hardwoods. There may well be a fight as to exactly where this will sit. RTE want it for the Showcase at Radio Reception, but I want it at home ! I will keep you posted on the blog ....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Great Reviews for Onwards and Upwards ...

Hi all, well it's sometimes a nervous wait when you have sent your new CD out to all the Music Press, and you are wondering , 'what will they think of my work'? I an very happy indeed to say that the Reviews for Onwards and Upwards have been just superb, and I am blogging a selection here today. Thanks to all those Reviewers who took the trouble to listen. Reviews/Quotes/Onwards and Upwards/Niall Toner/Pinecastle Records WILLIAM SMITH MONROE is the finest Monroe tribute song I've ever heard. Niall Toner and his superb Onwards and Upwards proove beyond a doubt that European Singer-Songwriters can produce authentic, honest, creditable Country Music with great integrity. Alan Cackett/Maverick Magazine. This is a charming and impressive Roots Album from one of our major Songwriting and Performing talents, full of fine songs and great, great Music. Four and a half stars out of five ! Greg McAteer/Hot Press Magazine. Niall Toner is the real deal, producing a fine original Album that showcases his full range. His duet with Wendy Buckner on 'TOMORROW' compares well with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and he delivers a terrific, classic original Country song on his MILLION DOLLAR BILL. An Album full of gems. Art Menius/Bluegrass Unlimited Niall Toner has been awarded the European Bluegrass Music Personality Of The Year, 2012, for his achievements in the Music Business, and his success with Onwards and Upwards in the US and around the World. Martino Coppo/European Bluegrass Music Association. SWEET BUNCLODY GIRL is a song rich in Irish Folk Heritage, and has ‘crowd-pleaser’ written all over it. The best track for me on this fine Album is REMEMBER ME, a well-written, delightful, and thought-provoking song. Four Stars out of Five. Chris Smith/Country Music People I admire the way Niall’s deep affinity for Bluegrass and American Country Music blends seamlessly with his Irish sensibilities. It makes him a uniquely appealing artist. Onwards and Upwards is a brilliant Album. Peter Wernick/Doctor Banjo. Regards, Niall. April 3, 2013.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Website Back! and Coffee With Niall ...

Firstly, I need to apologise for our website being out of action for a while, and to thank Daradh Toner for fixing it today, so we are back-up-and-running again. Also, we are looking forward to playing the Kilworth Arts Centre on Monday next, March 25th. See you there ............ Below I re-print my interview with Bluegrass Writer Richard Thompson, under the title, Having A Coffee With Niall Toner ................. Niall TonerThis is the first in a fun new series in which we ask bluegrass music personalities, some famous, some not so famous, about some of their interests as well as about the music that they love. Welcome, Niall Toner. What would you like to drink? I’ll have a good strong black coffee with some warm milk on the side. No sugar, thanks. Do you want anything to eat as well? My favorite snack with coffee is a thing called Chocolate Biscuit Cake, or Tiffin, so if they have a good version of that, I’ll treat myself to just one piece. What is your favorite food? Probably Oriental and I mean everything from Cantonese to Malaysian and Japanese to Vietnamese. What’s the nicest meal that you have ever had? I would have to say that my all-time favourite meal was in the Imperial Restaurant in Dublin, and it was on an afternoon that my wife and I had noticed that this eatery was full of Chinese people, and we took that to be a sign of a good restaurant. They were serving a huge array of small portions called Dim Sum, which translates loosely as ‘Afternoon Tea’. Not only was the range of tastes and smells and textures just amazing, but the extensive meal for two, with copious quantities of Green Tea, was very inexpensive when compared with the normal evening menu. What drink would you have with that? I suppose I have already answered that question by mentioning the Green Tea. Tea would always be my preferred drink, especially with Oriental Food, but since I don’t use alcohol, tea or coffee, as above, would always be my preferred liquid refreshment. Let’s talk bluegrass….. Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music? My parents bought me a guitar for my 12th birthday, and I got stuck in, learning the tunes of the day, from Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley, and so on. One night, I was tuned to Radio Luxembourg, when I heard Blue Moon of Kentucky, by a guy called Elvis Presley, and I thought that it was the most amazing sound I had ever heard. The following day, I couldn’t wait to tell my Buddy, Fran, about the sound I had heard, and he said to me, ‘Wait ‘till you hear the original’. I had no idea what he meant, until we got to his house, and he took a vinyl album off the shelf, placed it on the Dansette turntable, and out comes Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, with Blue Moon Of Kentucky ! My ears were ‘pinned-back’, and my entire life was changed. My friend went on to play me the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Hank Snow, and there was no going back ……… Which of your own songs do you have a particular liking for? I began writing songs in the early seventies, but for many years I was intimidated by the incredible standard that was already out there. John Prine, Guy Clark, Bob Dylan, the list is endless, and it wasn’t until around 1990 that I felt that I was beginning to write songs that could stand up against even the most basic Flatt and Scruggs or Ernest Tubb number. As to my own songs, it’s very hard to pick a favorite, but I am particularly fond of Million Dollar Bill, from my current album, and probably William Smith Monroe, which is also on there too. I also love a song I wrote with Keith Sewell, called Josie’s Reel. It’s a song about his grandmother, who was a dancer, and it was recorded in a really great version by Special Consensus, a superb bluegrass band from Chicago. What about a song written by someone else? I love all the older bluegrass and country songwriters, and I’m also crazy about Guy Clark and a fellow called Larry Cordle. Larry’s I Know How It Feels is a masterpiece, but if I had to choose just one song from another writer, I would have to pick The Story Of The Day That I Died. It’s the new single from Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice, and it was composed by Ashby Frank. If there’s any justice in this world, this song will win an award at IBMA 2013. Which particular album do you like best and why? My first Bill Monroe album, the one with the photo of the horses in a field on the cover, which has no banjo, just Monroe’s driving mandolin and a couple of fiddles, and some accordion, is still my outright favourite bluegrass album. It defines what Monroe believed his music was all about, and it sounds as fresh and lively today as if it were just recorded yesterday. Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Bluegrass Stomp, an instrumental, and Can’t You Hear Me Callin’, with Mac Wiseman taking the lead vocal. It does not get any better than this! [Toner is referring to The Great Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys LP, Harmony / Columbia, HL7290.] You play a ……. I play guitar and mandolin, and I’m also a closet five-string banjo player. I own a Vanden F-Style mandolin, made for me by Michael Vanden, and I have two old Gibson acoustic guitars, one made in 1939, and the other in 1973. They are all working instruments, and I use all three on stage with Niall Toner Band. The other members of Niall Toner Band are Clem O’Brien, who plays mandolin and guitar, and Richard Gladney, who plays upright bass and autoharp. We have release four all-original CDs to date. What’s your favourite bluegrass memory? In 1983, Bill Monroe came to Cork to play a double bill with Jerry Lee Lewis as part of the Carling Country Music Festival. I interviewed Monroe for an RTE radio show called Country Heartland, and after the formal part of our interview, Bill invited me to dinner and then asked me if I would take him out the next day, to ‘survey the territory’ (his words). We spent the next two days together, and got on with each other like the proverbial house on fire. At one point Bill taught me a tune he had composed ‘for the people of Ireland’ (his words) called The Chilly Winds Of Shannon., thereby making me a ‘keeper-of-the-flame’. That’s my bluegrass memory ………. Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow? I’m not interested in sports, unless you include mandolin-tickling or guitar-licking … What hobbies do you have? I collect bluegrass, Old-Time, Blues, Ragtime, Gospel Music and Rock ‘n’ Roll, all on vinyl. What is your favourite film and why? Fargo and Dog Day Afternoon, both classics. Do you get much time to watch TV? Not a lot, but I enjoy a good murder mystery or a spy movie. Do you have a pet? I have four cats, Daisy, Mini-Beast, Pinecastle and Hairy Molly. We live in a rural spot and they earn their keep by keeping the small-and-furry population under control. What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in bluegrass music? I made a decision to be in bluegrass when I was 12 years old. Had I made a different decision, I would probably be a marine biologist. Niall Toner is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s leading experts on bluegrass and American Country Music, and he brings this knowledge of music to a wide audience, both through his recordings, his live performances with his Niall Toner Band and various workshops, as well as through his Radio Show, Roots Freeway, which is broadcast on Ireland’s national radio station, RTE Radio One. A prolific songwriter, his songs have been recorded by the Nashville Bluegrass Band and Special Consensus. He formed the Niall Toner Band in 2001. His latest album is the highly acclaimed Onwards & Upwards, released by Pinecastle Records on October 30, 2012. Toner, who is the first recipient of the EBMA European Bluegrass Personality of the Year Award, lives in the Blackstairs mountains region (County Carlow and County Wexford) of Ireland. He was unable to attend the presentation itself – held this past weekend during the 5th annual Bluegrass Summit in Prague. But he did create this brief video to be played at the ceremony, offering his thanks to the association for the honor. The text of Toner’s acceptance speech is substantially the same as with his message published at Bluegrass Today on March 7. 2012 was an exceptional year for Niall with his signing to Pinecastle Records, the North Carolina-based label, and the ready acceptance of their first album, as a whole, as well as tracks therefrom. In November last Onwards and Upwards, reached the #1 position on the AirPlay Direct (APD) all-genres Top Fifty radio download chart today (12 Nov. 2012). It was at that time also at #23 in the all-genres APD all-time Top Fifty Albums chart, and at #22 in today’s APD Bluegrass/Folk Album Radio Downloads chart. The video, like others recently done recently for Toner, was made by his grandson, Kyle O’Neill. 0 0 33

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bluegrass Unlimited Reviews Onwards and Upwards ...

NIALL TONER, ONWARDS & UPWARDS NIALL TONER ONWARDS & UPWARDS Pinecastle Records PRC 1182 This is the American debut on Pinecastle for one of music’s great stories. Niall Toner is an excellent, 68-year-old American country and bluegrass composer and singer who happens to be Irish. His fourth CD, Onwards & Upwards is Toner’s first recorded in the U.S. On Airplay Direct, a four-year-old promo download service for radio, Onwards & Upwards already stands as the 15th most downloaded release of all time of any genre of music with more than 6,000, and third for November 2012 when it appeared. Onwards & Upwards contains only four indisputably bluegrass pieces. “The Pride And Joy Of Shelby,” in honor of Earl Scruggs, resembles a John Hartford song in lyrics, arrangement, and topic. “William Smith Monroe,” on the other hand, sounds original, dark, and slowly burning—a great song. Toner delivers a bluegrass arrangement of a terrific country novelty in “Million Dollar Bill,” a song I can easily imagine the late Del Reeves or Roy Acuff adapting. “Burren Backstep” concludes the album with a kicking instrumental. Playing mandolin and singing lead, Toner waxed the album at Loud Studios in Nashville with Keith Sewell producing and playing guitar, electric guitar, piano, mandolin, and fiddle. The pickers include Rob Ickes on resonator, bass great Viktor Krauss, and Ashby Frank on mandolin. One can hear the elevated level of musicianship and production quality compared to Toner’s quite substantial earlier recordings. Niall Toner discovered the music of Bill Monroe as a small boy in Dublin and later drew inspiration from American old-time revivalists such as the Fuzzy Mountain and Highwoods String Bands. As a national radio host since the 1970s and writer, he became Ireland’s best known authority on American country music. Meanwhile, his vocation of songwriting opened doors with even Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman recording one of his pieces, as have the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Barry & Holly Tashian, Albert Lee, and Special Consensus. Perhaps most heard of his compositions is “Nuns Island Reel,” featured in the video game smash hit, Grand Theft Auto IV. Another made it on to the new ABC TV series, Nashville. He formed the Niall Toner Band, with which he still tours, in County Carrow in 2001. Previously, he belonged to the Lee Valley String Band in Cork, the Sackville String Band in Dublin, and Hank Halfhead & the Rambling Turkeys. Toner wrote or co-wrote all 11 titles on Onwards & Upwards. “Judge And Jury,” the lead-off track, is a classic American country song, driven by mandolin and reso-guitar with the memorable line: Nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging they say. “Bling” shows his ability to comment on current trends in the clever lyrics to a traditional honky-tonk song. “Tomorrow” is a duet that compares well to Gram Parsons and Emmylou, while the tremendous “Way Of A Wanderer” occupies the lovely acoustic, but not exactly bluegrass space most often associated with the late Kate Wolf. Toner is the real deal, producing an excellent album for his U.S. debut that attempts to show his full range. That may be a bit too broad a task for any one CD. “Lock And Key,” a fine Americana song, has enough of a bluegrass flavor to fit in, but the Irish singer-songwriter piece, “Sweet Bunclody Girl,” seems too much of a stretch. (Pinecastle Records, 2881 NC Hwy. 106., Columbus, NC 28722, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)AM

Monday, March 11, 2013

EBMA Award ....

This might be considered to be the lazy man's way out, but I was struck by the eloquence and accuracy of Richard Hawkins' comments on the EBMA website, so I simply reproduced them here on my blog. There's not a lot I can add, except to say, once again, that I am truly honoured to get this Award. Niall Toner is delighted to be the recipient of the first ever European Bluegrass Personality of the Year award from the European Bluegrass Music Association, and sends his thanks to all who have supported him in the media. The award is in recognition of Niall's achievements during 2012, including being signed to a major US bluegrass record label and making an outstanding impact on the US scene with the success of his recent Pinecastle album Onwards & upwards. More details of the EBMA Bluegrass Pioneers and Personalities awards project can be seen on the European Bluegrass Blog. Onwards & upwards, which comprises ten original songs and an original instrumental, including tribute songs to Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs, can be sampled on AirPlay Direct. Anyone needing a hard-copy CD for air play or review should approach Niall directly.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chart action !

Niall Toner's Latest Album Tops Charts Nashville, Tennessee: Onwards & Upwards, the latest album from Irish bluegrass singer-songwriter Niall Toner, is number #1 on the Top 50 APD Bluegrass/Folk Albums - All Time downloads chart. The album also ranked #23 on the Top 100 Roots Country Albums of 2012 on the Roots Music Report. Maverick magazine gave Onwards & Upwards four stars and called it an "almost perfect blend of bluegrass and country highlighted by quality songwriting". Hot Press rated it 8 out of 10 and described the album as a "charming record from one of our major songwriting talents". Onwards & Upwards was released in November 2012 andis Toner's first US release from Pinecastle Records. "I am excited and honored that Onwards & Upwards has gotten such a positive response. Thank you to my fans and everyone that helped make this record a success," said Niall Toner. Toner wrote or co-wrote each of the songs on the record, and he collaborated with musician Keith Sewell on four of the tunes. Sewell also produced the album. The album's debut single, "Tomorrow", hit the airwaves in February. Niall Toner is widely regarded as one of Ireland's leading experts on bluegrass and American country music, and he brings this knowledge of music to a wide audience, both through his live performances with The Niall Toner Band and various workshops, as well as through his radio show, Roots Freeway, which is broadcast on Ireland's national radio station, RTE Radio One. Toner's songs have been recorded by many artists including Bill Wyman, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Albert Lee, Special Consensus, Italian Bluegrass stars Red Wine, Keith Sewell, The Swanson Family, The Fleadh Cowboys and Paddy Cole. One of Toner's compositions was also included on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto IV, and more recently, Toner's tune, "Lonely Souls and Broken Hearts", was used on the soundtrack of the ABC TV Drama Series, Nashville. In 2003, the Country Music Association nominated Toner for a Global Artist Award. Learn more about Niall Toner by visiting www.NiallTonerBand.com. Make Welcome Entertainment provides management and publicity services for bluegrass, roots and country artists. With offices in Nashville, Tennessee and Washington, DC, Make Welcome is well positioned to focus on the details so artists can focus on making great music. To learn more about Make Welcome Entertainment, call 1-­-800-­-838-­-6087 or visit www.MakeWelcome.com. ### Media Contact: Andrea Ball Make Welcome Entertainment Mobile: 301-335-2715 Andrea@MakeWelcome.com

Friday, February 15, 2013

Stags Head Raw/Maverick and Hot Press ...

Our return to the Stags Head on Sunday last could be described as slightly less than triumphant, in commercial terms, I suppose, but then it all depends on one's perspective. I have never been one for looking backwards, and none of us can change our History, but History is what it is, and I'm a firm believer in respecting it, and then leaving it where it should be left, firmly in the past. However, I would have to say that it felt pretty good to be standing in a room on the second floor of the Stags Head which held so many happy memories for me, and looking out over the small, but attentive audience, I could visualize the faces of people who attended, and some who participated in, many of the Sackville String Band gigs in that room. I could see the late Imor Byrne, with his long hair and sparkling eyes, hand-rolled Cigarette dangling from his lips, his Fiddle under his chin, saying things like 'Gram Parsons is the maestro', and launching into a chilling twin-Fiddle version of 'The Wind and Rain', or his own wonderful 'Three Guilder Wine' with John Caulfield. John, with his distinctive handsome visage, his Fiddle secured under his chin with his Red and White spotted Bandana, and his cigarette tucked into the headstock of his beloved German instrument. I see another raft of faces, Bill Whelan, first a member of the audience, later becoming a member of the Band, and one of the best damn Upright Bass players in the Universe, before becoming one of the best damn drop-thumb Banjo players in the Stratosphere. I see Eamon Quiqley, doorman and supporter/organizer supreme, later to become my Brother-in-Law. I see my Sister, Maeve, with her Autoharp cradled to her bosom, head to one side, singing a beautiful rendition of Jimmie Rodger's Travellin' Blues over the gentle, fragrant tones of her delicate instrument.I see many others, like a youthful Tim O'Brien, with his Fiddle at the ready, sitting half-way down the audience, waiting to be called 'on-stage'. I see George Kaye, Dermot O'Connor, Gerry Madigan, Jimmy Kelly, Jack Franks from Colorado and rakes more ........ The incessant rain never stopped,and the din from the drunken Rugby crowds outside hardly subsided all night, but up on the second floor, our small audience loved our set, I met several old pals from Templeogue, and a couple of Film Producers approached me about my Music for a Movie. Barry Hartigan, the organizer, also sold a rake of CDs, so all-in-all, I'd have to put my return to the Stags Head [ Raw] down as a success ............ Oh yeah, also this week, Hot Press and Maverick Published some wonderful reviews of Onwards and Upwards. Thanks guys ............. Niall, February 15 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Stags Head Raw ....

As the Album title says: Onwards and Upwards ! I'm delighted to say that the NTB are coming to Dublin shortly to play a gig in a room that I last performed in back in the 70s with folks like the late Imor Byrne, as well as my good friend, Richard Hawkins, Colin Beggan, Jimmy Kelly, John Caulfield and a host of others. Talk about going back to your Roots ! This time 'round, the venue has been re-named, slightly, and it's now called The Stags Head Raw. It's a super little room on the second/third floor of one of Dublin's finest Pubs, and the maximum capacity is around 70-75. We are expecting a full house on the night, so you will need to book well in advance to get in. Clem and Dick and I will be performing lots of the material from the new Album on Pinecastle Records, and we will also have copies of it for sale, as well as T-Shirts and other goodies, and copies of the 'Best Of Niall Toner Band' Albums. We look forward to seeing lots of familiar faces, as well as plenty of new ones there ! For further information and booking, email : stagsheadraw@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Myshall, a great success ...

Well, the NTB gig on Saturday night last at the Myshall Community Centre, was, as I predicted, a blast. People came out of the woodwork, and everybody truly enjoyed the music of the Lofires and ourselves, and the two combined ! The night was a success on several levels. We raised a bunch of money for the proposed Myshall Sports Centre, and everybody had a ball into the bargain. Kudos must go to the Fundraising Committee and all the people who helped to put the night together. Our local Postman, John, must be thanked for doing things 'beyond the call of duty', as well as Mary and Vincent at the local Post Office, and Jim Kavanagh and his gang for Chairs, etc ... The Nationalst Newspaper and Clare Minnock for advance publicity, as well as for a great report, with photos, in today's edition. Thanks to the Lofires fro traveling from Dublin on the night, and to Mary Jordan of the Forge Restaurant for her assistance. I'm sure we will do this again at some time in the future. Meanwhile, keep an eye on our website for Dates, Tours, News ...........Niall.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Myshall Fundraiser Cometh .....

The excitement is building 'round these parts as we approach the date for our first Gig of 2013, the Myshall Sports Complex fundraiser at the Myshall Community Centre on Saturday the 19th of January. The local response has been nothing short of phenomenal, and at this point it looks like we will have a sell-out ! There's going to be a lot of 'well I told you so' about the place, so if you have left it to the last minute to book, act now, and call Ashling Kavanagh at 086-9674241, or drop in to the Myshall Post Office and talk to Mary or Vincent about reserving your tickets. Full credit must be given to the local Sports Complex Fundraising Committee, and the old adage about Horses and Camels certainly does not apply here. Saturday next will be a unique one-off chance to hear the superb original music of Dublin's Lofires, as well as to enjoy the repertoire of the Niall Toner Band, featuring the amazing Richard Gladney from St.Mullins on the Upright Bass, and the sensational Guitar and Mandolin and Vocal stylings of Clem O'Brien from Ballylynon in County Laois. Modesty forbids me from singing the praises of, or saying too much about, yours truly ............. but here's a nice photo of me with my trusty Gibson Guitar taken by Fiaz Farrelly in Ballymoon Castle on the Muine Beag road. Onwards and Upwards ....

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Donald Teplesky Review of Onwards and Upwards ...

This review of my Pineastle Album just appeared on the Country Standard Time website under the collective title of 'Five great Bluegrass Albums I forgot to review during 2012' by Donal Teplesky of Canada. It speaks for itself .... My regard for Ireland's Niall Toner is well-established. While he isn't prolific, since encountering him a bit more than a decade ago, I have come to appreciate his approach to bluegrass and songwriting a bit more with each of his albums. His fourth is "Onwards and Upwards," his first for Pinecastle. When a song kicks off with an execution ("Nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging, they say") of an innocent man- similar in theme to Long Black Veil and maybe even The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia- I know I'm in the right place. But Judge and Jury is just the first of the treasures to be unearthed in this collection produced by Keith Sewell. William Smith Monroe is the album's centerpiece, as finely executed tribute to the father of bluegrass as has been written. That it didn't receive the airplay and attention I felt it deserved when released more than a year ago is one of the (many) things I will never understand. I thought it was perfect. Still do. The Pride of Shelby is less wordy in tribute to Earl Scruggs. "Onwards and Upwards" is wide-reaching in its approach to bluegrass; no two songs follow the same path. Lock and Key is sweetly sentimental as Toner sings with Wendy Buckner over Sewell's instrumental bed, while Burren Backstep has those ancient tones that are so often referenced. Way of a Wanderer contains a heavy dose of country within its 'grass and Bling is a bit frivolous but still enjoyable with a loping rhythm. Remember Me is an intense portrait of the failings of age, with Rob Ickes' reso sounds sounding eerily like a musical saw. Like the previously mention Kallick album, great effort was put into "Onwards and Upwards" booklet, especially into Toner's song notes.

Friday, January 4, 2013

News: Ah, The Christmas and 2013...

News: Ah, The Christmas and 2013...: Well, we are almost into 2013. Christmas was very much a Family Affair for us, and the entire gang managed to survive the Holiday Season wit...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ah, The Christmas and 2013...

Well, we are almost into 2013. Christmas was very much a Family Affair for us, and the entire gang managed to survive the Holiday Season without too much trauma. It can be a challenging time of the year, so I am looking forward to the beginning of a new one. Our first Concert of the New Year will be in the Myshall Community Centre in County Carlow, and it's a fundraiser for the new local Sports Complex. Our special guests on the night will be the Lofires from Dublin, featuring the songs of Niall Toner Jnr. and his friend, Johnny Rowen. They will have copies of their new Album for sale on the night. We will also have copies of Onwards and Upwards on Pinecastle Records for sale that evening, as well as Niall Toner T-Shirts and other goodies, and remember, it's all in a good cause. You can book tickets by calling Ashling Kavanagh on her Mobile at 086-9674241, and tickets are also on Sale at Mary Jordan's Coffee Shop at the Forge, and at the Myshall Post Office. Looking forward to seeing you all on the night.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prescription Bluegrass does it again !

Wednesday last, 12/12/12, was World-Wide Bluegrass Appreciation day, and to mark the occasion, Brian McNeal of Prescription Bluegrass Blog offered free ads to Bluegrass Bands and Songwriters all around the World. These ads, provided they are supplied as finished artwork to Brian before the deadline, will run, free of charge, until the end of 2012. What a great opportunity to spread the word, and everyone who is is any way connected to Bluegrass Music should have made sure to be included. Anyway, here's my strip for the project, reminding folks to check out my Pinecastle release, Onwards and Upwards. Also, here's another great Photo by Fiaz Farrelly, taken in Ballymoon Castle, near Bagnelstown in County Carlow. Fiaz also designed all my Artwork during 2012, including all the great imagery and photos in my Pinecastle Album. I want to send my best wishes to Fiaz and Laura Hale, and all my friends and colleagues for the Season. Happy Christmas and a great 2013. Yours, Niall.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Great Review ...

A fella would nearly want to be blogging every day, and that's just to keep up with what's happening ! OK, this is going to be a short one, but I wanted to mark the occasion of the first Review for Onwards and Upwards. It comes from the Bluegrass Today website, and it's enough to make a man feel good about the World, and Bluegrass Music. Here's the link : http://bluegrasstoday.com/onwards-and-upwards-niall-toner/

Monday, November 12, 2012

News-News-News-News-News-News-News-News-News-News Niall Toner's new Pinecastle Album, Onwards and Upwards, is at Number One in today's Air Play Direct, all Genres, Top Fifty Radio Download Chart, and you can't get much higher than that !!! Onwards and Upwards is also at number Twenty-Three in the all genres APD All-time Top Fifty Albums Chart, and at number twenty-two in today's Bluegrass/Folk Air Play Direct Album Radio Downloads Chart. Onwards and Upwards is a special collection of new Roots and Bluegrass songs with a Celtic twist, written and recorded by Niall with a stellar line-up of hand-picked Musicians at Loud Studios in Nashville. The project was produced by Keith Sewell who also played Fiddle, Guitar, Mandolin and Piano, with Rob Ickes on Dobro,Ashby Frank on Mandolin, Viktor Krauss on Bass, and Niall doing all the Vocals as well as playing Mandolin and Guitar. The project was engineered by Jake Burns the photos and design were by Fiaz Farrelly and Laura Hale, and the Album was mixed and mastered by Keith Sewell at Woodshed Studios in Nashville. Onwards and Upwards is now available in all formats. Signed copies can be ordered through www.nialltonernband.com tracks and/or the full recording are available from iTunes, CDs from www.pinecastlemusic.com and Barnes and Noble bookstores throughout the USA and Canada. Niall and the NTB are exclusivley represented Worldwide through the makewelcome.com music agency.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This Photo of me was taken at a concert in the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA.

Make Welcome Entertainment

: > From: Make Welcome Entertainment > Subject: Niall Toner Song to be Featured on "Nashville" > Date: November 6, 2012 12:25:46 PM CST > To: holly@tashian.com > Reply-To: jennifer@makewelcome.com > > Having trouble viewing this email? Click here > Make Welcome Logo > > Niall Toner Song to be Featured on ABC's Nashville > > "Lonely Souls and Broken Hearts," a song written by Irish broadcaster and > singer/songwriter Niall Toner, will be featured on the television series Nashville on Wednesday, November 7. Written at an IMRO Songwriting event and included on his Mood Swing album on Avalon Records, Toner recorded the song with Clem O'Brien and Dick Gladney. > > > "I attended a songwriting event in Clifden and was hoping to be pulled out of the hat to work with Vince Gill or Kieran Kane," Toner explained. "There were an uneven number of writers, so I was left without a writing partner for the day. The feeling of disappointment led to my writing this little country song. The date was November 6, 1997 ... almost 15 years to the day that the song will broadcast on ABC TV!" Nashville airs in the United States on ABC-TV on Wednesdays at 10 pm ET. > > > > Niall Toner is widely regarded as one of Ireland's leading experts on bluegrass and American country music. He recently signed a record deal with legendary bluegrass/roots music label, Pinecastle Records, and has just returned to Ireland after a successful mid-Atlantic US tour, during which he launched and promoted his new album, Onwards and Upwards. While in the US, Toner appeared at the Historic Jonesborough Bluegrass Series, the Burnsville Arts Centre in North Carolina, and the legendary Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville. > > Other performances on Toner's US tour included live showcase gigs with a band featuring the legendary Barry and Holly Tashian on guitar and bass and Martino Coppo from the band Red Wine (from Genoa, Italy) on mandolin. Performances with this lineup included a syndicated broadcast on WAMU with Chris Teskey and a showcase for the European Bluegrass Music Association during IBMA's World of Bluegrass. Toner also made a number of radio and television appearances, including a guest spot with Jim Lauderdale on Nashville's famed WSM Radio 650; a live radio broadcast on Blue Plate Special on WDVX in Knoxville, TN with host Red Hickey; an interview with Cody Ray on Top Gun Radio in Bristol, TN; and Song of the Mountains with Tim White at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia, which will broadcast to 47 million American homes in March 2013. > > Learn more about Niall Toner by visiting www.NiallTonerBand.com or contact Make Welcome Entertainment at info@MakeWelcome.com or 800-838-6087 . > >

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Better Late Than Never ...

I am delighted to say that one of my songs, Lonely Souls And Broken Hearts, is included in the next episode of Nashville 105 on the ABC TV series on November 7th at 10-11pm ET in the USA. I wrote the song at an IMRO Songwriting event held in Clifden in the West of Ireland in 2000, and recorded it on my Mood Swing Album with the Niall Toner Band on Avalon Records. Those Songwriter events that were sponsored and run by IMRO provided wonderful opportunities for Writers to get to know each other, and to write songs in co-operation that might never have been written otherwise. On this particular occasion, there were an uneven number of Writers in the house, and my name was the last out of the hat, and so I was left with no writing partner for that day. However, that's exactly the feeling [ of being 'left out' ] that led to my writing this little Country Song, and look at where it has led to, albeit after twelve years ! So, never say 'never' ....... This is a good example of how a composition that's been around for this long can find it's way on to a major TV Show, and should act as an example, and an encouragement to other writers who may be suffering from that 'is anything ever going to happen with my songs' feeling. Mind you, it has always been a favorite at our live gigs. Keep her goin' Patsy, best, Niall. November 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Missing In Action !

OK, I am sorry, especially for those precious few who read my blog, as I have been MIA for quite a spell, but I will try to make up for 'lost-time' by giving you as much of a full report as I can. I was on tour in the US in support of my new Album, Onwards and Upwards, on the Pinecastle Records Label, and try as I might, I found it difficult to get around to doing my blog. It's not that there wasn't wi-fi connections, in fact they are just about everywhere, but simply that I was so absorbed in making sure that I got to all my shows on time and in decent shape, that I did not get around to blogging. My new Album was launched in style at Jack's Barbecue on Lower Broadway in Nashville back in September, and that was followed by shows in Ernest Tubb's Record Store, The Jonesborough Bluegrass Festival, a Blue Plate Special live Radio show in Knoxville, another live Radio Show in Bristol, TN/VA, a TV Show Recording with Tim White for Songs Of The Mountains at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA [ after which the Mayor of Marion made a presentation to me ! ] which will be broadcast to over 40 Million homes on PBS, gigs at the Acoustic Cafe in Johnson City, and shows in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, NC. I also did a guest spot with Jim Lauderdale on WSM Radio in Nashville, and recorded an interview with Jim which will also be syndicated to over 50 Radio Stations throughout the USA. Prescription Bluegrass and The Bluegrass Blog and John Lawless, Brian McNeal and a hundred others all did wonderful work on my behalf. I also want to thank Ethan Burkhardt, Matt Hood, Lonnie Lassiter, Amanda, Robert and Barbara Dempsey, Steve Johnson, Joe Trimbach and all the guys who played with me, sometimes under the most bizarre circumstances. I also need to thank my Wife, Moira, who traveled with me, and looked after the sales of CDs and my beautiful T-Shirts. [ Pictured, and available, for a reasonable stipend, by eamiling nialltoner.music@gmail.com or by calling 087-2877-299 As well as all the above, I managed to drive about 10.000 miles, visit the Iron Man Screen Gems Film Studio in Wilmington, NC, with Jeanene Huber, and had a swim in 'Shark-infested' waters off the NC Coast in water that was about 15 degrees warmer than on this side of the Atlantic ! That's it for now ! Best, Niall.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What a Good Gig Should Be ..

Last Friday night's show at Killoughternane Schoolhouse was exactly what a good show should be. A happy Band playing their heart out and a full house of appreciative listeners. What more could a fella want ? If I could bottle whatever the feeling is when all the ingredients are just right, then I would, and I'd give it as a gift to all the Musicians and Singers and Performers that I know have sometimes faced indifferent and small crowds, poor conditions and poorer fiscal rewards, and so forth. Like the old seanfocail ' There's Longer Horns on Faraway Cattle', sometimes when I'm ploughing the far corners of this Earth in search of fame and fortune, I dwell on just how much fun it is to discover that what you are chasing is sometimes, just a hop and a skip away from your own front door. Bian Ararcha Fada ar na buaimh thar lar ..Mar a deirthair. Slan go foil, Niall. September 2012.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Salty Dog, indeed ...

The Electric Picnic is currently celebrating nine successful years as Ireland's premier Annual outdoor Music Festival, and the Salty Dog Stage, set in the beautiful woodlands of Stradbally Estate, has carved a reputation for fine Music at the heart of this Festival. This year the Niall Toner Bad were delighted to have the opportunity to bring our particular brand of Stringband Music to this stage, and a most unique stage it is ! Thanks to Hugo Jellett and his team for doing a fine job, and the photo here, taken by Adam O'Brien, shows yours truly in full flight ............. A great time was had by all. Next Friday we are back in Killoughternane at the Schoolhouse, for another sold-out Concert, and we are looking forward to seeing you all there. Best, Niall.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

During my recent recording session at Loud Studios in Nashville, one of my songs I was hoping to cut was called 'You Can Never Have Too Many Guitars'. In any event, it got left out of this particular session, but it will be included in the next one! As you can see from the photo, taken by Fiaz Farrelly in the lane behind my house, I am a firm believer in that adage ................ My T-Shirt, bought at Merlefest 2011, shows the hands of the late Doc Watson, who, by a strange and wonderful musical coincidence, played the little brown Army and Navy Gibson Guitar that I am holding under my left oxter ! Niall Toner, August 2012.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Exciting Times, indeed ....

The run-up to the launch of my first Album for Pinecastle Records is indeed, an exciting time for me. My last visit to the US was such a pleasure, and a success, that the prospect of the result has me on 'high-alert'. [ In the best possible sense of the expression ] The launch will be at Jack's Barbeque on Lower Broadway in Nashville, a famous eatery that has been in business since before Hank used to drop in the back door for a beer and a plate of Ribs during his break from the Ryman. So it's a place full of music history, and old, by American standards anyway. After my launch I will be performing a number of Showcases at IBMA, and as part of the EBMA, and also hosting a showcase with a bunch of great Bands at the famous Ernest Tubb Record Store, just across the road from Jacks, and that's on September the 26th. After that I'm off to NC and VA and rural TN to do a whole bunch of very different venues and clubs and Festivals. Check my 'live' listing for details, but remember, always, check with the venue before travelling long distances ! Official release/distribution of my new Album, Onwards and Upwards is, strictly speaking, not until October, but I hope to have copious quantities with me for sale, and well as copies of 'The Best Of ' CD, so don't be shy about enquiries ! Best, Niall.
I'm not sure what kind of Music was played in Ballymoon Castle, but this shot shows me bringing my sound up there, accompanied by a flock of Crows. Appropriate, or what ! Photo: Fiaz Farrelly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Athy Once again ................

Well, in spite of worries that the recession might have a negative effect on the weekend, Athy Bluegrass Festival celebrated it's 22nd year in style, and the crowds were up on last year ! Tony O'Brien and his team [ mostly his Family ! ] did a sterling job, and although they had decided to use the smaller of two possible rooms at the GAA Centre, the atmosphere proved to be electric [ acoustic, actually ! ] and listeners were treated to a great weekend of Bluegrass Music from Woodbine, The Niall Toner Band and Four Wheel Drive from Holland. Clem O'Brien also gave a standout solo performance on Sunday afternoon, with a display of his true understanding of the stylings of the late great Doc Watson. Also worth noting was the wonderful fiddling of Dessie Crerand from Donegal, who played a couple of sets with Woodbine. Four-Wheel Drive were their usual hardcors selves, with great vocals and superb instrumental skill. Overall, another memorable Athy Festival, and the result makes it look very likely that Ireland's longest-running Bluegrass Fest will be back in 2013 ........... My best, and only picture of the weekend shows the Grand Finale, with Four-Wheel drive on stage with guests, Tom Poole on Dobro, Richard Hawkins on Banjo, Clem O'Brien and Tony O'Brien on Guitars and Vocals, and various members of the Down and Out String Band.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eventful Couple Of Weeks ...

It has been an eventful couple of weeks, both here in Bluegrass Manor, and out and about doing Gigs. We had a wonderful visit from Neil Rosenberg and his wife. Neil is the author of a very fine book on the recordings of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, and he is also a fine 5-string Banjo player, so we had lots to do, and lots to talk about. Neil had borrowed my 1904 John Alvey Turner for the duration of his stay in Ireland, and he and his wife, Terri, played many great Newfoundland Fiddle tunes, as well as some great Bluegrass standards, and made fine contributions to a bunch of my new songs. Speaking of new songs, the launch of my Pinecastle Album has been confirmed for the 25th of September at Jack's Barbeque on Lower Broadway in Nashville, during IBMA week 2012. I will also be doing some Pinecastle Records showcases, as well as playing for EBMA at the Renaissance Hotel. The Album is called Onwards and Upwards, and the title says it all ! The project was produced by Keith Sewell [ Dixie Chicks, Sam Bush Band, Lyle Lovett, Earl Scruggs ] and recorded at Loud Studios in Nashville with Viktor Krauss on Bass, Rob Ickes on Dobro, Ashby Franks on Mandolin, Keith Sewell on Guitars and yours truly on Vocals and Mandolin. There are ten new songs and one instrumental, and I can't wait to get it out to Radio and TV ............. Here at home we are also planning the release of an Album called 'The Best Of The Niall Toner Band', 2002-2012,celebrating ten years of very productive work with Clem O'Brien and Dick Gladney. There are 21 tracks in all on this project, and it will be available at our up-coming Gigs from July onwards, and as they say, in all good record stores. Included are some of the songs that have brought our music to an International audience, and also led to my singing with Pinecastle Records. Finally, for now, I am looking forward to the Athy Bluegrass Festival this coming week-end. Best, Niall, July 2012.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Return to Croc An Oir

I am delighted to report that our return to Croc An Oir in County Tipperary was just like History repeating itself on Saturday night last. Once again, we had a full house at this wonderful venue, and what's more, lots of new faces. I always find this to be both a challenge and a thrill, and the thought of playing to so many people who have not heard us before contributes greatly to our determination to deliver the best show possible. The show went really well, and my new songs were well-received. John and Monika served refreshments after the gig, and we toasted Monika's Son, Sean, who was, ate that very time, climbing to the summit of Mount Kilamanjaro. I am happy to say that we have since heard that he got there, and has now returned safely to Lower Ground. We, Clem, Dick and myself, are already looking forward to returning to Croc An Oir next Season. Onwards and Upwards ...............

Friday, June 15, 2012

NTB gig in the 1890s Wyoming Barn at Eigse 2012

I said in my last blog that it was just like stepping back into the 1890s, the only tell-tale giveaway was the PA and Lights ! The Eigse Festival folks had even gone to the trouble of providing period Chairs and Benches for the listeners, who, I'm delighted to say, arrived by the wagon-load, and we had the full-house signs up at 8.30pm on Wednesday night. Probably the most remarkable aspect of the night was the fact that 99% of the crowd was comprised of new faces, and people who were completely new to our style of music. This, once again, is testament to my personal philosophy. If you provide an entertaining show, comprised of original material, performed in Bluegrass/Traditional Country style, combined with entertaining and informative links, with a little humour, you're on to a winner. We also had an opportunity to perform some of my new songs from the forthcoming album on Pinecastle Records, which were very well received. The Staff at the Visual Arts Centre were most helpful, and Steve di a great job on the Sound and Lights.Thanks to all concerned, and we will be back before too long. Watch this space ...........

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bluegrass Workshop success ....

Many thanks to Hugo Jellett, Director for the Carlow Arts Festival, for having the vision and the courage to suggest to me that I might consider presenting a Bluegrass Workshop during Eigse 2012. I have to say that I was a little nervous about the idea, but what a result! We had 14 participants, all with instruments, including Guitars, Mandolins Fiddles and Basses, and all very keen to learn Bluegrass. I did some basic demonstration on rudimentary flat-picking technique, and three of my Guitar students then demonstrated their skills on a couple of standards, and did a brilliant job. Sincere thanks must go to Dick Gladney, who not only played Bass throughout, but took time to give some one-on-one instruction to a fellow Bull Fiddle player. There were total beginners on all instruments, and some really fine players too, in particular, a young man on Fiddle, and a very fine young Guitarist. The enthusiasm was palpable, and there is no way we could not continue with this approach in the Carlow area, at the very least. I am already in the process of talking to both Eigse, the Arts Council and IBMA about support for an ongoing project. Oddly enough, there was nobody with a 5-String Banjo, but the main reason for this may have been the fact that the best young Banjo picker in Carlow was busy doing a gig with his own little String Band. For our next event we will make sure there are no such clashes. Most of our attendees will be coming to the NTB show on Wednesday night which is taking place in the 1890s Wyoming Barn in the Visual Arts Centre at 8.30pm. Advance ticket sales are very strong, and we are looking forward to a full house. We will also be doing some of the new songs from our forthcoming Pinecastle album, due for release in September in Nashville. Oh yes, the folks at our workshop were a little shy about posing for the Camera, so you will have to do with a photo of yours truly playing the part of a Lawman with my Patrol Car ..........

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Friday night last I walked in to the 1890s, in the shape of Brian Duggan's amazing Wyoming Barn in the Visual Arts Centre in Carlow. What an experience, to hear David Mansfield playing Fiddle on the Heaven's Gate Waltz, with a Barn-Full of people in period dress, roller-skating around, re-creating the scene from the Movie, Heaven's Gate ! This is the venue for the next Niall Toner Band gig, and that's on Wednesday night, June 13, at 8.30pm. Advance ticket sales are very solid, and we are looking forward to playing for what Dick Gladney describes as 'the home crowd'. There are still some seats left, so don't leave it too late to book ! I had the good fortune to sing a couple of my songs on the Sue Nunn Show on KCLR last week, and the afforementioned David Mansfield jumped in on Fiddle, and did a great job on songs he had never heard before. Thanks David, and hope to see you in the US later this year. No photo of that occasion, just yet, but I will post one as soon as it comes to hand. Looking forward to playing the 1890s Barn on Wednesday. Best, Niall.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Memories Of Doc Watson ...

I was at Merlefest last April where I had the good fortune to hear and see Doc Watson playing his regular stint, and he played, as always, superbly, displaying all of his awesome talent, and there was no sign that he might be slowing up or contemplating retirement. I was back in RTE Radio One on Wednesday last, recording my first Roots Freeway show for next Saturday evening, when I heard the news about Doc's passing. I was, like so many others, very saddened, and I wanted to rush to my computer and write a tribute, right away. However, I got distracted by other sad news, when I met Pat McGuire, and he told me that Irish Blues Legend, Red Peters, had also passed away recently. Both of these men had a huge affect on me and my music. May they rest in peace. In 1981, I was involved, with a couple of Doc fanatics, in putting Doc Watson and his Band on at Liberty Hall. There's a whole 'other' story about the resulting background ramifications, but that will be told someday in another format. Doc and Merle and T Michael Coleman accepted my invitation to Dinner at our house in Knocklyon, and Doc spent the afternoon playing my battered old 1938 model Army and Navy Gibson Guitar for the neighbour's kids , before tucking in to a feast of wild Irish Salmon, prepared by Moira and Carol Hawkins. We felt at the time that it might show disrespect to a blind man to be taking photos, so the only memory of his visit to our house is in our own hearts, and the hearts of the folks who shared that precious evening with us. There is, however, one surviving shot, and I'm including it here. It was taken in the dressing room at Liberty Hall, and shows, L-R, Doc, Me, Bill Whelan, and our MC on the night, Liam Nolan of RTE Radio. As you can see, we were a lot younger, thinner and hairier, and totally stricken
by Doc's amazing tecnique.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Press Kit

In my last blog I was musing about the inspirational side of things, and it's probably the most essential ingredient, as all else follows ..... The commercial side of Music is always a little more difficult for the artist to deal with, so it's it's a major bonus when someone else takes on the visual side of things, and I have been really lucky in this regard, with Daradh and his website design, and Fiaz with his photos and general image and logo concepts. Here's a picture of the demo CD which is included in our new Press Kit for the USA
. As they say : Onwards and Upwards.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

I was recently pondering this very question about where the inspiration comes from for a poem, or a song, or a tune? I have read about folks like Bob Dylan who claim that the songs are already 'out there', somewhere in the ether, and that he just acts as a conduit through which they flow. Other, perhaps less prolific writers will tell you that it's all about small ideas and a lot of hard work. For me, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. However, I can confirm that there are some places that I find to be very inspirational, indeed, and one in particular is the spot where I'm sitting in today's photo. It's located in a small country lane, an ancient right-of-way that has probably existed since before Famine times in Ireland. It's barely wide enough to acomodate
an old horse and cart, but is still in use as an avenue of access to fields that can not be approached in any other way. Cattle are sometimes moved through this leafy glade, but that's in early morning or late evening. At other times, I have the spot to myself, along with the birds and rabbits, and it is truly, inspirational.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Riley Puckett and the Skillet Lickers ...

One of my favourite Old Time String Bands from the 1930s and 40s was a bunch of Guys from NC and TN that worked and recorded under the collective title of Riley Puckett and The Skillett Lickers. Apart from their music, which I loved, I was facinated by their name, and similar names from that period, like Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers,Weems String Band, and so on. In fact it was this style of name that inspired the names of so many of my own Bands over the years, like The Sackville String Band and Hank Halfhead and the Rambling Turkeys. [ There's a more complex story behind the latter, which I will explain in a future blog!] It was interesting to come across a vintage Grocery Store in rural Tennessee recently, which bore the name Puckett, and I found it inspirational just to sit and ponder. Once again, Fiaz was on hand with his Camera.

Don't Shoot The Sherrif ...

On a rare day off during my recent Recording in Nashville, we took a trip out to a small Tennessee Village called Leiper's Fork. It's the kind of quaint place that has been preserved as a Tourist attraction, and is now comprised of Craft Shops and Restaurants, with some interesting Vintage Cars and an Old Grocery Store, hosting live Music seven days a week. On the outskirts of the Village they have parked a Patrol Car which belonged to the Sherrif Of Leiper's Fork in the 1950s. I was strangely drawn to it, and Fiaz took this photo. Don't shoot the Sherrif !

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Onwards and Upwards!
I just got back from Nashville where I was recording my first album for Pinecastle Records, which is slated for a worldwide release in September 2012. We were working at a wonderful studio called Loud, on Music Row, and the results were very satisfying indeed. Post-production was at the Toolshed Studios in Mount Juliet, TN. We cut nine new songs of mine, including a tribute to the late Earl Scruggs, called 'The pride and joy of Shelby', and an instrumental I composed called 'Burren backstep'. Other new titles include 'Million dollar bill', 'Judge and jury', and 'Bling', and the project was produced by Keith Sewell (Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs). We also recut 'William Smith Monroe' and 'Tomorrow', which will be included. Keith also played guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and piano; Ashby Frank played mandolin, Viktor Krauss played upright bass, and Rob Ickes played Dobro and Weissenborn guitar. I sang lead and played mandolin, and Wendy Buckner, Fiaz Farrelly, and Keith sang harmonies. The sessions were engineered by legendary Nashville whizz-kid (and old-time clawhammer player) Jake Burns. Thank you, guys, for all your talent. Fiaz Farrelly came with me to document the entire experience, and also got to make his vocal debut on our 'Earl' song. Fiaz also took this photo at Loud Studios, which shows (l-r) Jake Burns, Keith Sewell, me, Rob Ickes, Ashby Frank, and Viktor Krauss. The provisional title for the album is Onwards and upwards, and the release will be during WOB 2012. On a personal note, I want to thank all my friends and supporters here who have helped me to make this giant step forward for 'Irish bluegrass'. Most especially, I want to thank my wife, Moira, who has been a rock of support all the way. I also must thank my son Daradh for his work on my website, my son Niall for inspiration and advice on writing songs, Fiaz Farrelly for his photos, design, and general artistry, and my entire family for sticking with me, and putting up with me and my dreams. My manager, Steve Johnson, for setting up my showcase at IBMA 2011, and Martino Coppo and Jimmy Sunnebrandt for being my band on that auspicious occasion. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Ethan Burkhart, Matt Hood, and Lonnie Lassiter and the entire Pinecastle team for signing me to their record label on that night. I would not have been able to get my songs and music this far if it were not for the amazing support and loyalty of the talented and brilliant Clem O'Brien and the equally talented and brilliant Dick Gladney. We have been playing together for the past ten years, and whatever the future brings, Clem and Dick and I remain a firm and united musical unit, with a solid philosophy of keeping our standards of originality as high as possible, and flying the flag for Original Irish Bluegrass, Roots and Traditional Country Music. Onwards and Upwards..

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On The Road Again ...

It's good to be back home, and getting stuck in to doing some live gigs again. This weekend the NTB are performing in Syd Harkins and The Ormond Hotel in Kilkenny as part of the Annual Kilkenny Roots Festival. Check the Kilkenny Roots site for details. There's an amazing line-up of American and local Bands playing over the weekend. I'm also looking forward to the up-coming Eigse Festival in Carlow in June, during which I will be presenting a Guitar Workshop, that's on Sunday the 10th at 11.30am. All welcome, and bring your Guitar ! After that, the NTB will be playing a show at the replica Wyoming Barn, which is being specially constructed for the occasion, and that's at 8.30pm on Wednesday the 13th of June. See you there. On Saturday the 23rd of June we are back at Croc An Oir, one of our most favourite spots in the World ! It's probably the most remote location in Ireland, but they are hugely supported by the locals, and always have the 'full house' sign on the door. July the 14th sees us at the Annual Athy Bluegrass Festival. This is Ireland's longest established Bluegrass Festival, and it's a great testament to the dedication of Martin Cooney, the original organiser, and Tony O'Brien, who took over a few years back, and continues to run this well organised event. Today's photo by Fiaz Farrelly shows me in the middle of a Tennessee stream. There's something about water in my blood that keeps bringing me back to places that are full of Croppies, Crawfish, Trout and Bass.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hard Work, But Someone's Gotta Do It ...

More greetings from Nashville where it's all about the music. I just spent a couple of days with Keith Sewell at the Toolshed Studios, working on the mixes and fixes, and getting to really enjoy the fruits of our labours. It's a lot more relaxed than Studio Seven on Music Row, and it has given me a chance to get a full perspective on all my new, and not-so-new, songs. The weather has changed, very much for the better, and we were also able to spend a little time out-of-doors today. The photo shows me and Wendy Buckner working on a new song on the old swinging chair in her garden. Tough work, but someone's gotta do it ..................

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Loud Studios, Nashville, TN

Greetings from Nashville, where I spent yesterday in Studio Six on Music Row, recording songs and tunes for the new Album. Keith Sewell is producing, with Engineer Jake Burns at the desk. Viktor Krauss played Upright Bass, Ashby Frank was on Mandolin, and Rob Ickes played various Dobros. Keith also featured on Guitar and Piano, and we cut a whole bunch of new songs for the Pinecastle project. It was a truly amazing experience to work with these superb Musicians. Fiaz Farrelly was taking pictures and Videos all day, and you will be seeing the results over the coming weeks and Months. For the songs, well the wait may well be until the planned release date in September.
The 'snap' of me outside the Studio was taken on my 'Phone.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two Banjo Legends Gone in the one Week ...

The passing of Barney McKenna today affected me on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. I had the good fortune to have known him since about 1962/63 when I used to travel with Peggy Jordan to the Abbey Tavern in Howth to hear the Ronnie Drew Folk Group, as the Dubliners where known then. On one such occasion, Barney played a particularly soft and tender tune, during which a member of the audience continued a conversation with the person in the next seat. After the applause died down, Barney said ' if you two don't shut up, I'll come down there and break me fuckin' Banjo over yes 'er fuckin' heads'. He got the result he deserved, and I have followed his example ever since. I also had a much more recent experience in Barney's life when I was asked by Nashville banjoist and Producer, Tim Carter,to write a lyric for a song that Barney wanted to record about the connection, as he saw it, between Bluegrass and Irish Music. This I did, and I'm thrilled to know that Barney recorded the song in Nashville, and that it will be released, posthumously, soon. It's called When The Bluegrass Meets The Greengrass. Incidentally, although I don't think he ever did record this, Barney was so good on the Banjo, he could play what he called 'imitation 5-string in Scruggs Style' on his Tenor Banjo. For Banjo fans who never saw him do this, it involved fretting one string on the fifth fret to give him the 'ring', and a cross-picking pattern with a flat pick that have more in common with George Shuffler or Jessee McReynolds. This memory is particularly poignant when you realise that the Wold's other great Banjo innovator, Earl Scruggs died on Thursday last. Two Banjo legends gone in one week. Hey, it just occurred to me that there may well be an amazing meeting of styles in a session on high. Also,although I have no intention of joining them for a long, long time, and I'm not sure if I'd pass the audition anyway, but I am the proud owner of a wonderful John Alvey Turner 5-string, which you can admire in this photo, taken by Fiaz Farrelly in Myshall Graveyard.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Should'a Brought The Rod ....

St.Mullins in County Carlow is one of the most stunning locations in the Universe,just above where the River Barrow meets the sea. I have rarely been there without my Fishing Rod, hence the title of today's blog! Last week, as I was telling you about in my previous blog,was spent in the company of Fiaz Farrelly, a young man who hails originally from Zimbabwe via Dundalk. Fiaz was taking photos for various Pinecastle Record Company projects, and caught me sitting on a rock, dreaming about the fish I might have been catching at this very spot. Later, I decided to try charming them with my Mandolin ...............

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Winner, For sure ...

It's always a pleasure to blog with good news ! On Saturday last I had the honour of presenting this beautiful Tanglewood Acoustic Guitar to the winner of our recent competition on my Roots Freeway Radio Show on RTE Radio One. The questions were fairly difficult, but in spite of that, we had a huge response, with only two slightly incorrect answers, and my only regret was that we just had the one Guitar to give away! A panel lead by Jim Lockhart took over the duty of picking the winner, as I wanted to pick out my own name ! I want to thank Eugene and his crew at I'm In Music in Carlow Town, and all the folks at Tanglewood Guitars in Ireland for their generosity and support. Also, hats off to Producer, Aidan Butler for taking the photo, and the best of luck to our lucky winner,Emmet Byrne of Dundalk, in his career in the music business !

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Images ....

I spent several days during this past week working with a wonderful Photographer and Designer, Fiaz Farrelly. In what seemed like sub-zero temperatures, we scoured Counties Carlow and parts of County Wexford in an effort to find intriguing and beautiful locations to take pictures of me, looking very warm and cosy, while fighting the urge to wear two Fur Coats to ward off the biting wind from the North ! Locations proved to be the least of our challenges, as there are an incredible number of amazing places within shouting distance of my own hall door. The cold was something else ..

We did manage, I understand, to capture many images, and you, like me, may well be saying, where are they ? Well, like me, you will have to wait a short while, but I do hope to be able to show you some of the results before next weekend. When one is working on this side of the lens, [ ie: the target ] it's always a bit of a mystery, and it just adds to the excitement of waiting to see the finished article. Of course some, maybe most, of our photos will are intended for use with my new Pinecastle Album, and I'm happy to say that I have the utmost confidence in Fiaz Farrelly and his magic lens to produce a great result. [ie: Me looking warm, happy and interesting ! ]Oh well, ok, here's a taster. Who do you think this is, walking by the Barrow, with his Guitar ?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St.Patrick's Day ....

It is probably just pure coincidence, but when I went to my Air Play Direct page today, March the 17th, I found to my amazement, and great pleasure, that NTB had rocketed into the Number One Spot on the All Time Downloads Chart in the Bluegrass/Folk category. The luck of the Irish on Paddy's Day ? What an achievement for an Irish String Band, and on March the 17th! I want to thank all the Radio Stations [ 6,500 at last count according to APD ] who have downloaded my Music in the past year, and in so doing, have put me in this coveted number one spot, in a chart which also includes many of the legendary figures of Bluegrass who have been a major influence on my own music and songwriting. Penni McDaniel of Hope River Entertainment, my PR Company in the USA, have sent out a Press Release today with all the details. It's accessible at this link :


A colleague once said to me that he saw very little connection between Irish Music and Bluegrass, although I begged to dissagree at the time. Well, there is now !!!!

Thanks again, yours, Niall.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Radio Show Numbers 1 and 2

Hi everyone in Radio Stations around the World, I just wanted to let you know that the Radio Show I was telling you about is now available for download from Air Play Direct. It's in two sections, and they are labelled APD 1 and APD2. The duration on both is approximately 30 mins with a long 'playout' facility on both slots for local ads. The first download came from an Australian Radio Station, and I look forward to getting comments and reactions from 'down under', and over there, and wherever you are? Communications have become so easy in recent years, there's no excuse for not gettng in touch. Best, Niall.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Watch This Space .....

I have had the honour of presenting Roots Freeway on RTE Radio One, and I have often described the experience as being just like my daily routine, playing and listening to Music I love, and sharing it with an audience. If I wasn't doing it 'on air', I'd be doing it at home anyway. Rarely have I ever played my own music on that show, but now comes a new opportunity to share my Music with the entire World through the auspices of Air Play Direct in the US. My show is to be called The Roots, The Whole Roots, And Nothing But The Roots, and the first edition will be available to 6,500 Radio Stations Worldwide,shortly. Hence, watch this space ! On my first show, which is in two half-hour segments, I will be telling my own story about how I got started in Music, my influences, my inspirations, my trials and triumphs, and I'll be playing a selection of my own songs which have been recorded by some of my heroes in the music business.

Downloads of TRTWRANBTR will only be available to Radio Stations, but anybody can go to the APD site and listen ! Watch this space ..........