FolkWorld #78 07/2022
© Jane Brace PR

Banjo Month

Banjo Brothers-In-Arms, Coleraine's Damien O'Kane & California's Ron Block are back with their brand new second Bluegrass/Irish, pioneering banjo album BANJOPHONICS. This is Track 2 'Happy Chappy / Marinie's Melody' from the album featuring two of O'Kane's compositions. They continue on from their highly acclaimed first album BANJOPHONY (2018) with a real treat for banjo and music lovers worldwide. They will tour the UK and Ireland in July & October 2022, with full band, to showcase another masterclass on tenor and bluegrass banjos and how their respective traditions meet and unite in perfect and thrilling harmony. GET READY FOR A BANJO PARTY!!

A Peppy, Thrilling Rollercoaster Ride

Damien O’Kane & Ron Block

Damien O’Kane & Ron Block

Damien O’Kane, Ron Block "Ban-
jophonics", Pure Records, 2022

Artist Video Damien O’Kane
@ FROG |

Banjo brothers-in-arms Ireland’s DAMIEN O’KANE & America’s RON BLOCK return with second album of fizzing Irish-U.S.fusion.

Gerry O’Connor

“An inspirational album composed with sonic and cultural influences from both sides of the Atlantic, forging a new and innovative sound. The 4 & 5 string banjos of Damien and Ron, a unique and beautiful combination, are exquisitely played on this pristine recording. The energy, groove and technique on Banjophonics will inspire musicians of any genre and bring joy to all music lovers.” –Gerry ‘Banjo’ O’Connor

Artist Video Gerry ‘Banjo’ O’Connor

Four years on from their debut album Coleraine’s Damien O’Kane and California’s Ron Block will revive their spectacular partnership in a second release celebrating the unbelievable scope - in their brilliant hands - of the humble banjo.

A perfect, exuberant antidote to these troubled times Banjophonics is an out-and-out riposte to low spirits, guaranteed to put a smile on your face whilst toasting the importance of family and friends.

It’s a release that has already caught the attention of Ireland’s banjo ace Gerry O’Connor, who has been described as “the single best four-string banjoist in the history of Irish Music” as well as America’s great Ricky Skaggs – a legend in the bluegrass world. (See quotes above).

Widely regarded as two of the greatest exponents of the banjo, their transatlantic tune trading began in earnest in 2018. With two bold and acclaimed solo albums to his name – the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Album’ nominated Areas of High Traffic and 2017’s Avenging and Bright, O’Kane thought it was high time to join forces with a musician he had long admired – Alison Krauss & Union Station’s banjo star and multiple award winner Block (no less than 14 Grammy Awards and six International Bluegrass Music Awards to his name for starters).

Their 2018 debut album Banjophony met with widespread critical acclaim – chosen as one of The Guardian’s albums of the month and earning a 4* Top of the World review in Songlines magazine. Now the bumper 13-track Banjophonics of originals and covers builds on a growing connectivity the musicians have found, fusing their styles and putting the Irish tenor banjo and five-string bluegrass banjo centre stage. Says Damian: “The title reflects the sound we think we make – it’s a definition of our music.”

It’s a joyous, life-affirming joust, barely pausing for breath – fast, frenetic fireworks punctuated by more reflective melodies. And it’s not totally a tunes album; it offers two songs where O’Kane and Block showcase their contrasting, fine voices and also add backing vocals to each other’s track.

Co-produced by Damien and Ron and the in-demand Josh Clark, Banjophonics melds the duo’s differing styles to captivating effect, the musicians demonstrating a high level empathy.

The end result is a peppy, thrilling rollercoaster ride which showcases an instrument that proves incredibly versatile in the right hands – both showy and subtle. The pair are joined by a host of stellar guests – the U.S. contingent comprising mandolin star Sierra Hull, double bassist Barry Bales and percussionist Jay Bellerose. From this side of the pond, the star-studded list continues with regulars Steven Byrnes on guitar, Duncan Lyall on double bass and Moog and Josh Clark on drums and percussion and single track appearances from the inestimable Michael McGoldrick on whistle, David Kosky on guitar and Kate Rusby on backing vocals.

The album is officially released July 1 on the Pure Records label. Damien and Ron set off on a 16-date gigs and festivals tour on June 30 ending at the Rusby family’s Underneath the Stars festival at the end of July. An October tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland will follow.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Damien O’Kane & Ron Block (3) Gerry ‘Banjo’ O’Connor (unknown/website).

FolkWorld Homepage English Content German Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Kidz Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld Info & Contact

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld