How It’s New York:  Mick Moloney, who put this together, teaches at NYU and is a huge force in music here (and around the world, actually, but since we’re New Yorkers we’re claiming him).  And, this event is presented by the Irish Arts Center in association with American Irish Historical Society and Glucksman Ireland House – New York University.

How It’s Irish:  This concert traces how Irish and African music have influenced American country and bluegrass.  Some of the musicians are Irish, The Green Fields of America Some are American, and there’s an African Griot (storyteller and historian), too, who plays the ORIGINAL banjo:  Cheick Hamala Diabete. 

The concert takes place at Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St,  on Thursday March 15th at 8pm. Tickets from $25 can be purchased online  or by calling 866-811-4111.

Mick has put on extravaganzas, celebrations of music mixed with lecture, slides and storytelling before, including If It Weren’t for the Irish and the Jews (which I wrote about for Irish Music Magazine, second page here;  and for Irish Examiner USA), A Tribute to the Famous McNultys, and A Tribute to Harrigan and Hart.  They’re always fascinating, and always draw musicians of different styles together.

This one has grown from a tour Mick did last summer called “The Crooked Road Tour:  The Roots of American Music.”  We did a small report on it in May, and I wrote that I wanted more dates so I could see it.  And here it is!

Symphony Space writes:

 This St. Patrick’s Day season, join us for a real toe-tapping, knee-slapping, singing and dancing fête celebrating the Irish traditional music influences on old time American, country and bluegrass music.

Mick will talk about how early Irish immigrants met up with Germans, black slaves and Cherokees and created a distinctive American sound– and you’ll get to hear it, demonstrated!  I heard a little bit of what he’ll be talking about in his lecture on the Origins of the Banjo at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, last week, and it was fascinating stuff.  On this week’s podcast we we have a little clip from it– including Mick’s absolutely convincing explanation of the origins of the term “hillbilly.”  It’s Irish!

Celtic Appalachia features musicians from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia including Sammy Shelor (multiple year SPBGMA Banjo Performer of the Year awards; Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass 2011: see them perform on this YouTube clip from Letterman!), famed luthier Wayne Henderson, Eddie Bond, Leigh Beamer, Kirk Sutphin, and Linda Lay, as well as The Green Fields of America (Mick Moloney, Athena Tergis, Martin O’Connell, Joey Abarta, Brendan Dolan, Niall O’Leary and Parker Hall) and special guest Grammy-nominee Cheick Hamala Diabate, West African griot (storyteller), the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra and Eoin and Moley O’Suilleabhain.

Celtic Appalachia feature live Irish step dancing with Niall O’Leary and tap with Parker Hall (Riverdance).

The Crooked Road is both the name of a place– Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, which is a 300-mile series of connected roads and byways– and the name of a Music Series.  Scotch-Irish, as they came to be known, brought their music and played it in their homes and porches.  The American sound has its origins in this fusion, with the autoharp, mandolin, banjo, dance and chorus.

Here’s a longish, but irresistible video of highlights from the summer dates!

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.