Stories from the Road: Wales & Ireland

Summer is full on busy. And we can’t complain. We had a week and a half tour in Wales and Ireland at the beginning of June. We were hired for two festivals, and played some gigs around Ireland between the two. Foghorn Stringband convened at Fire in the Mountain, a small festival held on a farm in the mountains of Wales out near Aberystwyth. Sammy and Nadine were wrapping up a UK tour with Joel Savoy and Jesse Lege, their last gig of the tour at Fire in the Mountain. It was nice to overlap, and we all joined on stage for the last set. Fire in the Mountain is a musically eclectic festival and the setting has a dear, rustic, old world feel. A barnyard is the site of the main stage, a timber frame structure, surrounded by old stone barns. Little bars serving cocktails and local beer and cider nestle inside the barns. That cider is powerful mystical, and one must take care not to overdo! Attendees and bands alike camped in canvas Bell tents by the river in a little valley surrounded by forest and sheep pastures, reminiscent of the hobbit’s Shire. The weather was gorgeous all weekend, and met up with some old pals, and enjoyed playing tunes in camp, as well a culminating session in the middle of the river. Keeping cool.

We bid farewell to Jesse and Joel, (we’ve just be seen them again in the NW) and carried on the next day to Liverpool to rest before the next leg of our journey. A return to clean laundry and showers and real beds was welcome, and our good friends, the Southerns kept drinks in our hands, and kept us well fed. We flew off to Dublin the next day, and drove up to Cookstown in Northern Ireland to play a house concert at the handmade home and barn known as the Red Room. Sharon and Arne have become our friends over the years, and we always enjoy a chance to visit and share a wee glass.

Our show at the Cobblestone in Dublin brought a warm crowd and there was good craic in the house that night. It was packed full, and while slightly too warm and too crowded, I think people sort of like that on some level. Brings out the craic even more when people are all shoved together in a warm room. Our friends from I Draw Slow were in attendance, as was our fiddler friend from Montana, Mr. Ron Cane. I got proposed to by a fella in the bar, (whose line was, “a face without freckles is like a sky without stars”) and learned a few new dirty jokes. Enjoyed my first perfect pint of Guinness of the trip. All was well.

Headford and Campbell’s pub was our next stop. The band hadn’t been there since their very first visit to Ireland in 2003. So we were a bit overdue. But they welcomed us back, and Willie still had a Foghorn poster from that first show hung in the bar. And Mouse, our attentive sound man, was the very same who had done sound for the guys in 2003. (Mouse later in the evening entertained us with his own talents – he’s a gorgeous singer!) And Sandy, well she was still there, and it was good to finally meet her after hearing the tales. The boys had wistfully described a parting view of her leaning against the wall, beautiful with torn jeans and a cigarette as they drove away. She’s still got it, and she helps with booking at Campbell’s. Ah Sandy. She taught them how to pour their first pint after all. We had a full house for the show, and afterwards, the usual Thursday session commenced and I don’t think we made it home to our beds until 3 in the morning! It was a lovely session for many reasons. Many talented musicians were present, and all took turns singing songs, and playing tunes. But really anything goes… from Ray Charles to a slow traditional ballad.

Friday arrived and we drove up to Westport to burrow in for the weekend at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival. We housed central at the Wyatt Hotel in the the middle of town, and everything was walking distance. The festival is centered around small performances and sessions in pubs around town, and with a simple schedule, there is plenty of time to be part of things.
We performed Friday night in a three-band bill in the protestant church in town, a large old stone church with high ceilings with elegant paintings and carvings all about. All the Saints surrounded us from above while we played through our set. We trailed up the hill after the show, and settled right in to a session outside of our hotel bar. Folks gathered round and enjoyed the music until the wee hours. Saturday afternoon, we performed in a Mystery Show hosted by the Red Room in the back of Malloy’s pub in the Yard Bar, a glass-ceilinged room. The show was so fun, and all acoustic. More sessions followed that afternoon and evening. And again, it was wee hours before we hit our beds. Which made waking up the next morning for the gospel set at the protestant church, a bit of a feat. But we all managed it fine, and got the vocal chords working in time for the all-acoustic set. The church was full up, which, for a protestant church in the west of Ireland, was a bit outside the norm, and the priest didn’t miss the opportunity to slip in a few words, prayers and a bit of scripture. Our gospel set was in lieu of the normal church service after all. It was glorious to sing at the top of our lungs in that big church hall. The acoustics were lovely. Father Val had some remarkably thoughtful things to say about music. I wish I’d written it down, but it was something to the effect of music being a blessing to us, and it helps us in many ways we cannot define, not the least of which is the emotional release. And whether the words strike us or not, often simply the melody will. As he spoke of all the musical instruments in the bible, he remarked at how we were missing a ram’s horn, and might consider adding one to our band!

We returned to our homes in the NW, and Yukon respectively, and Caleb and myself packed up and shot straight out to Weiser for a week of unplugging in that beloved dry dusty field called Stickerville. Sammy and Nadine were home in the Yukon as well as teaching at a music camp to the north of Whitehorse. Then it was the Great Big Fais Do Do, a dance and music festival in Portland that Caleb has put on now for the third year in a row. It was a big success, and here’s to the growth of it and many more years! Jesse Lege, Joel Savoy, and Kelli Jones were up from Louisiana to play Cajun music. 

Foghorn met up in early July for a great little tour out in Colorado where we played at High Mountain Hayfever in Westcliffe, and the Rocky Mountain Old Time Festival in Berthoud, CO. We performed shows in Gunnison at the I-Bar Ranch as well as a nice little backyard concert in Lafayette, CO. From there we all flew back to the NW, and met up at my folks’ farm for a nice little weekend gathering of close friends. We camped and cooked and played a lot of tunes.

Looking forward, we have lots coming up. The Caleb Klauder Country Band is headed to the Calgary Folk Festival this coming weekend, and then out to Maine for the Ossippee Valley Music Festival. They’ll also be in Boston, MA, Ridgefield, CT, and Hudson, NY so check out for more details.

Foghorn will be in and around Portland for Pickathon in early August. Then in mid-August, we’re off to Ireland for the second time this year! Hope you’re having a great summer, and we hope to see you out there on the road! -Reeb