My most recent record (or album, as Damien O'Kane would say) Banjophony has been out for nearly a month now and we've been thrilled by the brilliant response to our 'cooperating-banjos' sound! There are exciting bits of news we can't mention yet but, for now, here's what some people have been saying about Banjophony, which is available on Amazon as cd or download and iTunes.
'Fuses together Irish and American bluegrass traditions with impressive ambition' - FOLK ALBUMS OF THE MONTH, The Guardian, July 2018
'Individually Damien O’Kane & Ron Block are masters of their instruments. In Banjophony, they’ve taken a collective approach to create an album of incredibly captivating music' - Folk Radio
'They have invented the title Banjophony to describe their sound. I would have called it simply gob-smacking' - 5*Review Spiral Earth
'Banjophony goes deep into the American-Irish cultural connectivity in a soulful, intricate way' - Irish Music Magazine Official
'The banjo has too often been the subject of jokes but this transatlantic duo has produced a truly magnificent album - Shire Folk Magazine (Sep/Oct 2018)
'If you weren't up for swinging your pants to a banjo tune or two, you are now...Ron and Damien are flying the flag for making the banjo more cool and even sexier' - Louderthanwar
'Banjo playing is the new rock n' roll and you better believe it after listening to this wondrous album' - 4* Review http://getreadytorock.me.uk/blog/2018/07/quick-plays-chinawhite-calm-for-the-restless-damien-okane-ron-block/
“I challenge banjo non-believers not to be moved by this transatlantic banjo union” - Lynette Fay BBC Radio Ulster
'Absolutely delightful – a superb piece of music by two big banjo players. Working in harmony and tandem – a superb sound. Just so sweet' - BBC Radio Merseyside
'Phenomenal! I was utterly blown away by these guys. Exquisite musicianship. My gig of the year' - Ralph McTell (after a live show).
"Beautiful and wild...there are no boundaries here" - Jerry Douglas
"Banjophony is the soundtrack of summer" - Kate Rusby
Thanks for all the banjo love!
I'm so thrilled to announce this upcoming duo banjo record with Irish banjo wizard Damien O'Kane, with an amazing mix of U.S. and U.K. musicians. We'll be touring in late July and early August in the U.K.
Artwork by Alkalart and design by Tom Pitts at Hand Drawn Pixels.
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Greetings! First of all, thanks so much to everyone who has participated in my online banjo workshop on RonBlock.com! It has been an amazing response. The workshop sessions and extra videos will be up on the site for a good long while, and the extras, including my Traditional Banjo Workbook, will continue to be given away as a part of the online course. If you're interested you can find the course at https://ronblock.com/home.
2018 has shaped up very well for touring. I spent the end of January until the middle of February in the U.K., playing with Kate Rusby and Damien O'Kane at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, then headed to Yorkshire to finish recording Banjophony, a melding together of Damien's Irish four-string banjo style with my more bluegrassy approach. Damien is one of the best musicians I know, and I'm thrilled to work with him. We'll tour Banjophony in the U.K. this year, starting with the Underneath the Stars Festival and ending with the Cambridge Folk Festival on August 5th (I'll be playing with Kate Rusby there as well, and one other date on that U.K. trip).
I came home Feb 13th, and on the 16th through the end of the month helped produce a ten-song, sparse, folky recording with Jackson and Ella Paul, a brother-sister duo from London with excellent voices and playing.
Despite a minor flood in my studio due to a broken pipe, Ethan Jodziewicz and Barry Bales played bass last week on several of the Banjophony tracks, and Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, and Stuart Duncan are due here next week to add parts.
I'll be guesting on March 17th at the Music City Irish Festival here in Nashville, and near the end of March I head to Sore Fingers, a bluegrass and old-time camp in Kingham, U.K., near Oxford - always a thrill to spend time with U.K. friends.
When I get back I've got some dates at the end of April with The Vintage Martins (Eric Uglum and Bud Bierhaus) in Kentucky and Indiana, and then rehearsals for the Alison Krauss tour start. We tour, more or less, from mid-May until October - check www.ronblock.com/tour for specifics - not all dates are up yet; I'll post them as they are confirmed.
Greetings, fellow banjo pickers!
Have you had moments where you've wanted your playing to move along more quickly? Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to go to the next level?
I've struggled with all those things. At nearly every level, I've plateaued and thought, "Is this it? Am I stuck here?" Since the age of thirteen I've been obsessed with learning how to play the banjo well, because going to the next level is always such a thrill.
As a result I've had to develop some tried-and-true ways of doing things through experimentation and study. I've used these ideas for my 26 years with Alison Krauss & Union Station, for the O Brother soundtrack, and for everything else I've ever played on - and I'd love to share them with you.
Just got this in an email: “I’ve just got to say, this workshop has been so much more than I expected….The effort you’ve put into this and the ground you’ve covered like a fog will keep me busy for years….Again, thanks so much. I call that a bargain, the best I ever had!” David W.
TOPICS: Just a few of the things I've covered:
Releasing tension (the thing that puts a lid on our dexterity).
How I work on timing and feel.
The trick to learning the neck well.
String bending, vibrato, and working it all into rolls.
Clinch Mountain Backstep.
Mollie Catherine Carter.
Learning from recordings.
How to practice effectively.
Oh, I almost forgot the extras. By signing up for the workshop you'll receive free downloads of my banjo-oriented bluegrass record Hogan's House of Music, my Christmas Collection (18 holiday favorites), and a pdf of my long out-of-print The Traditional Banjo Workbook.
I look forward to seeing you there.
LESSONS WITH A PRO: 26 Years With Alison Krauss & Union Station, banjoist on the O Brother Soundtrack’s “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and on sessions with Dolly Parton, Kate Rusby, Dan Tyminski, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and many more.
LEVEL: Broadly Intermediate - lots of material for not-so-beginners all through early advanced players.
SUBJECTS: Playing without tension, improving timing and feel, dynamics, tone, string bending, vibrato, scales, single-string playing, transcribing, and more.
BONUS MATERIALS: Each participant will receive free downloads of Ron’s banjo-oriented bluegrass cd, Hogan’s House of Music, his Christmas Collection of 18 holiday favorites, and a free download of the long out-of-print Traditional Bluegrass Banjo Workbook – a total of $49 in free extras.
WORKSHOP REVIEWS: "As a guy who's been participating in this clinic I promise you the value you'll receive is worth FAR more than the price. I've done banjo camps, clinics, and lessons with the best in the business. The wisdom Ron imparts is second to none. You WILL be a better player, and you'll enjoy every second. You'll have a hard time putting your banjo down after the first session, and you'll be thinking about it all day at work after the second. And it only gets better from there."
"Great class. Ron knows how to communicate; he 'teaches ideas' and is well prepared. No wasted time. The overall class experience is like having a one on one lesson with good friend."
I plan to do more of these free videos in the future, both for The Traditional Banjo Workbook (featuring solos from Scruggs and Crowe) and The Traditional Guitar Workbook (featuring solos from George Shuffler, Larry Sparks, Don Reno, Bill Napier, Junior Blankenship, and Clarence White).
"Like" my Facebook page and/or follow for more videos and updates for Facebook Live banjo/guitar workshops.
Thanks to all of the friends and fans who support my various and sundry musical adventures. It was a busy year, and I'm grateful for the opportunities I was given.
Here are just a few of the highlights:
Released two recordings - Trouble Go Down, with Jeff Taylor, and my own Leiper's Fork Christmas.
Performed on Woodsongs in Lexington.
Played shows with the Soggy Bottom Boys in California, Virginia, North Carolina. - Dan Tyminski, Barry Bales, Stuart Duncan, Mike Compton, Pat Enright, Jerry Douglas. These guys are a blast.
Taught banjo at Jack Hatfield's banjo camp in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Taught banjo at Sore Fingers in the U.K., and I'm going back this year to teach advanced guitar. A great bunch of folks.
Played banjo on four songs on Kate Rusby's Life in a Paper Boat - always a certifiable thrill to be a part of such great music. Life in a Paper Boat has gotten a lot of attention for Kate, and deservedly so. Great songs, top singing and playing, and out-of-this-world arranging and production.
Played my own shows in the U.K. with Sierra Hull. We played Kate Rusby's Underneath the Stars Festival, the Summertyne Americana Festival at the Sage in Gateshead, and shows in Tamworth at the Bolehall Manor Club and Sheffield's Greystone's. In the middle of this trip I recorded half of a collaborative record with Irish banjoist/guitarist Damien O'Kane and guitarist David Kosky at Pure Records out in the Yorkshire countryside. Sierra sat in on some of the sessions on mandolin.
Played shows with Steve Martin - the band was myself, Stuart Duncan, Barry Bales, Jeff White, and Adam Steffey.
Played several of my own shows with Clay Hess and Brennan Hess in California and North Carolina.
Played Red Hat Theatre in Raleigh and the IBMA awards show with the Soggy Bottom Boys.
Performed a video version of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms with Selah.
Played with Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White Skaggs, and Leslie Satcher at a songwriter in-the-round in Franklin, Tennessee.
Played shows with Buddy Greene, and a Christmas show in Macon, Georgia with Buddy and Jeff Taylor.
Played Andrew Peterson's two Nashville Behold the Lamb of God shows.
Played with Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Melonie Cannon, and Jim "Moose" Brown for Dolly's Smoky Mountains Rise telethon.
Played on Alison Krauss's new record, Windy City, and on her videos featuring four songs from the record.
Played on Marc Martel's version of What Child Is This? and was featured in his video. I had the most hilarious time making it with him.
I'm looking forward to another year of music!
Leiper's Fork Christmas is available NOW at RonBlock.com/store
Get nine instrumental Christmas favorites and one original song for $10, or combine it with a download of Carter's Creek Christmas to get eighteen holiday tunes for $15.
I had another blast of a time recording these tunes on vintage 1930s and 1940s Martins and a 1926 Gibson Granada, along with Barry Bales, Tim Crouch, Jeff Taylor, Luke Bulla, and Julie Lee.
1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
2. The First Noel
3. We Three Kings
4. Away In A Manger
5. Go Tell It On The Mountain
6. Come, Children Of This Long, Discarded Night
7. Here We Come A-Wassailing/Good Christian Men Rejoice
8. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
9. In The Bleak Midwinter
10. Jingle Bells
Buy digitally now at RonBlock.com/store
I'm a little late on my New Year's wishes but I just returned from a holiday trip with little-to-no wifi.
2015 was an eventful year for me, and many thanks go to all of you who support the music of Alison Krauss & Union Station and my own music, and particularly this year my bluegrass instrumental record Hogan's House of Music and my end-of-year record, Carter's Creek Christmas.
I wish everyone a very blessed and happy 2016!
Here are a few highlights of 2015:
West Coast tour with AKUS and Willie Nelson.
Hired a manager for the first time in my career.
New photo shoot.
New website with its own store.
Composed seven tunes, added nine others, and recorded Hogan's House of Music, named after my Dad's music store in Southern California.
Created my record label, Hogan's House of Music.
Arranged and recorded tunes for my first instrumental Christmas release, Carter's Creek Christmas.
Performed cd release shows around Nashville for both releases.
Created first music video of my solo career.
2 page feature interview in Country Weekly about Hogan's House of Music.
Played tunes from Hogan's with Sierra Hull on Nashville’s Lightning 100.
Played music from Hogan's for the folks at Country Weekly and Music Row Magazine with Clay Hess and Sierra Hull.
Did two benefit concerts with Alison Krauss, one with Dan Tyminski.
Played with the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band at Guitar Town in Colorado.
Interview in the Tennessean and the Nashville Scene.
Held a record release party for Hogan’s House of Music at Puckett’s in Franklin, Tennessee, with Sierra Hull, Todd Phillips, Trey Hensley, Bryan McDowell, and Lynn Williams.
Played shows with Buddy Greene, Jeff Taylor, Mark Fain, and Sierra Hull.
Interview for Bluegrass Unlimited.
An appearance on Fox 17 in Nashville.
A showcase of Hogan’s House of Music with Sierra Hull, Rob Ickes, Clay Hess, Bryan McDowell, and Irl Hees.
Featered interview in Collectible Guitar Magazine.
An Alison Krauss & Union Station show at IBMA in Raleigh.
A banjo workshop.
An appearance at the Huber Banjos booth at IBMA to sign cds.
An appearance to play some tunes with Clay Hess and talk with the Grammy folks at the Nashville NARAS office.
Played three separate shows at the Franklin Theater in three months - one with Buddy Greene, Gordon Mote, and Lee Greenwood, one with Andrew Greer and Cindy Morgan, and one with Jars of Clay and Rob Ickes.
All in all, a good year.
We have some exciting news to announce!
Ron Block is in the process of putting the finishing touches on his new Christmas EP, "Carter's Creek Christmas", releasing November 27th!
He has taken a handful of Christmas tunes requested from fans, and picked a few of his personal favorites.
The album features:
-O Holy Night
-What Child Is This?
-Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
-Angels We Have Heard On High
-God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
-Brightest and Best
-Cherry Tree Carol
The record is all instrumental and reimagined versions of some Christmas classics! There are both sparse/intimate moments, and a couple uptempo and light hearted tunes.
Everything has been recorded in his Moonlight Canyon Studios in Franklin, TN with instruments ranging from his 1938 Martin D-28 Herringbone, 1946 Martin 00-18, a 1957 Gibson ES-125 and a 1963 Fender Tele through a late 50s Fender Deluxe, and his newer 1990s Gibson F-5 mandolin, and Huber Ron Block Model banjo.
Tim Crouch is also featured on the record. Tim also played some of the fiddle on "Hogan’s House of Music".
The album will be for sale digitally on the 27th and we will have physical CDs as well. We're thrilled to share this holiday music with you, and hope these songs will be good additions to your Christmas playlists.
Many thanks go out to Kate Albie Armstrong for the incredible album cover she created, and Crystal Koster Martel for the beautiful photography. Also thanks to Laura Preston for diligent and invaluable work helping me launch and sell this music!
-Josh (Music City Management)