Party of 7, Ireland, Bela, and IBMA

Since I checked in last, I played some shows and recorded with the family band called O’Brien Party of Seven. The group includes my sister Mollie O’Brien, her husband Rich Moore on guitar, daughters Brigit and Lucy Moore on vocals and piano, and my sons Jack and Joel O’Brien on vocals, bass, and percussion.

Our recording should come out early next year. It’s tentatively titled “Reincarnation” and features all the members singing the wonderful, quirky songs of Roger Miller. I hope we can do a CD launch tour in the spring.

A recent trip to Ireland brought me back to my ancestral County Cavan for the All Ireland Fleadh. I had a killer band including husband and wife team John McCusker and Heidi Talbot from Scotland, Arty McGlynn from Ireland, and Mike McGoldrick and John Joe Kelly from UK. We did several gigs around the country as well, all very well attended, and then Arty and I left for Tønder fest in Denmark for some shows with Dirk Powell.

I spent some time with Steve Martin in his not so humble cabin home on a hill in North Carolina a few weeks ago. We ate some food and picked for his wife and in-laws. Then we met again the next day at the Mountain Song Festival in Brevard North Carolina, where I performed with Bryan Sutton, and sat in on Steve’s show. It’s a great event in benefit for the Boys and Girls Club there. I stayed an extra day and sat in with 18 South and as well as the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Next was a long drive to the north shore of Lake Superior at Grand Marais Minnesota, where I met old friends Jon Veznor, Kathy Mattea, the Mountain Stage crew, and many more at the 10th annual Unplugged Festival at North House Folk School. A bunch of us took a short hike up Cascade creek the day before things kicked for me with a mandolin and fiddle workshop, a couple Mountain Stage Tapings, and a songwriters concert featuring my old friend and blues guitar specialista Mary Flower, Irish singer Cathie Ryan, John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Michael Johnson, and more! It’s a beautiful spot, and the North House Folk School is worth a visit. You can learn to build a boat, throw a pot, or play a fiddle there. Mary and I played a show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on our way home. I enjoyed seeing several musician friends at that show as well – Bob Douglas, Peter Ostroushko, Tim Hennessy, Cal Hand, and the powerful Judy Larson.

Now I’m home preparing for the IBMA awards, and a Hot Rize tour through the southeast. We’re rolling on a bus from Georgia to Virginia, so check the tour page and make plans to see us on our 10 day run. I’ve got a playlist of new songs to try with the fellers as we roll down the highway in a tour bus.

Last night at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, I saw and heard the debut of Bela Fleck’s new concerto for banjo and symphony orchestra. Banjo and fiddle go great together, and so do banjo and violins, cellos, and the rest. It was spectacle and a wonderful night of music. I sent him an email today saying, when you get done with your performance tonight, why not put your feet up and try not to be so brilliant for a few days!

Lastly, I want to urge music fans of all types to come to Charleston West Virginia for the induction of a seven new members of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame on Saturday October 15th. Once again it’s a diverse and interesting class of inductees - long time Jimi Hendrix collaborator Billy Cox, the aforementioned Kathy Mattea, jazz great Butch Miles, and country diva Connie Smith will be there, and we’ll be inducting deceased greats Tommy Thompson of the Red Clay Ramblers, Walter “Jack” Rollins who wrote both “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “Frosty the Snowman”, and blues belter “Diamond Teeth” Mary McClain. This awards show features some one-of-a-kind performances and feel good presentations each year. I know Marty Stuart and I will back up Connie, which I’m excited about. I’ll be in the house band once again. For info go to

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by R & T