The latest recording from Irish bluegrass band JigJam was recorded live at the Tullamore Rugby Club in Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland, giving the listener a feeling for the live energy this band generates. Hailing from the heart of the Midlands of Ireland, JigJam blends traditional Irish music with bluegrass, jamgrass and Americana influences. All four musicians sing. Jamie McKeogh sings lead and plays guitar and tenor banjo. Daithi Melia plays Scruggs-style banjo and guitar. Cathal Guinan plays fiddle and double bass, and Gavin Strappe contributes tenor banjo and mandolin.
The band turns in an invigorating version of “The Fox.” I give it a 10 because you can definitely dance to this rendering of The fox went out one moonshine night..“The Mermaid,” another traditional favorite, gets a similar energetic treatment. “Uncle Derek’s Delight” is an instrumental medley that begins with “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” triplets and grace notes proudly dancing. “99 Years” gets a bluegrassy treatment with fine singing.
“Hello World,” Bob Dylan’s “Señor,” “The Island,” and McKeogh’s original “The Robin” have an original, contemporary Americana sound. “Fergie’s Trip To Sligo” and “Durrow To Drangan” are intricately well-played. “Yarmouth Town” is a catchy ballad. “Lucky Duncan” has some familiar fiddle tunes embedded in the arrangement (I recognized “Boil Them Cabbage Down” and “Big Sandy River”). The set closes with “Tickle Me Pink,” reprised from the band’s first album.
The combination of Celtic and bluegrass guitar rhythms, as well as the presence of both tenor and five-string banjos might be a bit disconcerting for some bluegrass ears, but these guys make it work. Be sure to check out JigJam’s two previous studio albums, Oh Boy!and Hello World. Better yet, go see them live. The late Charles Sawtelle often advised the Hot Rize boys: “Look sharp, be sharp.” The sharply dressed JigJam certainly fits the bill, based on the snazzy bow ties, neck ties, vests, and jackets in publicity photos. (www.jigjam.ie)NCW