midwest record 2016
Here's an Irish band that's going to impact the world as hard as Clancy Brothers or U2 if they get only half a chance. With their roots in traditional music, these youngsters don't stop there. Checking in with a DIY set that so fully formed it can compete with any contemporary, well polished major label product. Uplifting, good feeling music that's most welcome in these angry, topsy turvy times, one spin of this record can change your whole outlook. Killer stuff that's played, sung and written from the heart, this bunch has what it takes to be unstoppable. Well done throughout.
A little over a year ago, I was introduced to 'Celtgrass' - a fusion of Celtic and Appalachian music from an Irish band called JigJam. A year on from their debut album, JigJam still turn out an iridescent mix of Irish folk and bluegrass Hello World front coverpulled together through blistering finger work and reflective lyrics, effectively mingling tradition with originality - and the point that strikes home is the complete absence of any discernible join between the two.
Their second album ‘Hello World’ takes you through the depths of their respect for the styles they blend. There’s impressive original compositions like ‘Hello World’, ‘Set Me Free’, ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Why Oh Why’, as for the tradition, there’s ‘Ireland’s Green Shore’ and ‘The Mermaid’ and to prove JigJam are unafraid to create their own take on classic bluegrass there’s a terrific version of Peter Rowan’s ‘Dust Bowl Children’. Fast or slow, dazzling or meditative, ‘Hello World’ is infectious for all the right reasons.
JigJam are Jamie McKeogh (guitar, tenor banjo, bouzouki, lead vocals), Daithi Melia (five-string banjo, guitar, vocals) Cathal Guinan (double bass, fiddle, vocals) and Gavin Strappe (mandolin, tenor banjo, electric tenor guitar, vocals). ‘Hello World’ is infectious for all the right reasons.
Irish American News 2015
JigJam has an album, Oh Boy!, out. At first, we simply thought this new group was We Banjo 3 from Tullamore, as groups try to pile on the express train created by the Galway group. Well, it is and it isn’t. First, let there be no doubt. These three are talented. VERY. They do the full mix of Irish and Americana—very popular lately. To this they add a terrific touch of bluegrass! Blessed bluegrass! They are the only Irish group we know that is really employing Scruggs-style banjo in their work. They are very, very good vocally, and the best Irish group so far in bluegrass. Along with Socks in the Frying Pan and We Banjo, this group earns a place in your collection. They are really young, and really good. We like this more and more. And more. (Listening to this for the 14th time as I write this.) Superior. Wow! Oh Boy!
Tim Carroll; FolkWords 2015
The ever-evolving miasma of folk music has spawned yet one more definition, and for once it’s arrived with a point of unequivocal accuracy - it’s Celtgrass - a not altogether unexpected or unexplored fusion of Celtic and Appalachian music. The interplay between bluegrass and Irish folk music has long forged a comfortable joining of bedfellows, JigJam however, with their album ‘Oh Boy!’ take it to another level. The words sparkling, innovative and infectious come first to mind, beyond that you get into 'an unadulterated display of accomplished musicianship, skill and talent'.
JigJam are Jamie McKeogh (guitar, tenor banjo, lead vocal), Daithi Melia (five-string banjo, vocal) and Cathal Guinan (double bass, fiddle, vocal). ‘Oh Boy!’ is their debut album, and that in itself is hard to comprehend because it exudes both confidence and excellence that commands attention. Their blend of influences and concentrations takes this album beyond the mix of foot-stompers you might expect, proving there’s far more to Jig Jam than raising the rafters, although they’re pretty good at that too. They also lay down some thoughtful songs drawing from the obvious influences of their natural and adopted heritages.
Naturally enough, they arrive with a pulsating opener in ‘Tickle Me Pink’ and continue to prove their talented dexterity with such delights as jigs ‘Ringing the Bell/Banks of Newfoundland’, hornpipe and reels ‘The Brown Coffin/ Monster Stormy Blues/ The Wild Irishman’ and the unrestrained vivacity of gypsy jazz and reels with ‘The Wolf/ Gan Ainm/ The Oak Tree’ - all delivering an opportunity for those that enjoy a good ‘step’ to indulge in some silly leaping. Absorb that, then listen as JigJam expand their scope breaking into a fine take on Ketch Secor’s hard hitting ‘Levi’, deliver a stunning version of Richard Thompson’s beautiful ‘Beeswing’ and a riveting rendition of Thom Moore’s ‘Cedars of Lebanon’ – powerful and thought provoking.
With their unrestrained integration of traditional and contemporary, Jig Jam have forged something splendid and ‘Oh Boy!’ turns it out in spades.
Sean Laffey; Irish Music Magazine 2014
Even before I put this in the CD player I suspected it was going to be good, engineered by Tony Flaherty at Sonas Studio in Killarney, cover shots by Macroom’s Con Kelleher, endorsed by Galway’s Tom Cussen banjos, it had a hallmark of excellence stamped on it. After the initial twenty seconds I was convinced this is a gold star deal. First impressions? A huge sound from a trio: Jamie McKeogh – Guitar, Tenor Banjo, Mandolin & Lead Vocals Daithí Melia – Five String Banjo, Guitar & Vocals, Cathal Guinan – Double Bass, Fiddle & Vocals.
They label themselves as Traditional Irish and Bluegrass fusion, and they hail from Offaly, but you’d suspect from the work here they’d been raised in the mountains south of Harrisburg. For too many years Irish country music has been a limp imitation of the proper stuff, well Jigjam are as close to authentic as you can get without having been raised on grits and fried squirrel. There will be inevitable comparisons with We Banjo Three (and that’s a good thing, they even credit Fergal Scahill on the liner notes).
Jigjam’s vocals are strong, they choose catchy lyrics, their tunes are upbeat the banjo is the main melodic instrument adding the bluegrass flavour and driving everything forward. They are not however, WB3 clones, Jigjam have their own recognisable sound, thanks largely to the pumping double bass of Cathal Guinan, which fills the air and adds full colour to the vocal tracks. They show their Irish trad roots on the jigs Ringing the Bell/Banks of Newfoundland, explore some classic Bluegrass in Big Sandy River, fire on all cylinders on a set they call Gypsy Jazz March. They are joined on Beeswing and Cedars of Lebabon by fiddler Ciara McKeogh and it is here they calm it down as effortlessly as they can rip it up. Their songs are varied ranging from Old Crow Medicine’s Show’s Levi (a song about a soldier’s life in Iraq). More Americana on Rye Whiskey and Jack of the Woods, then they tackle Richard Thompson’s Beeswing and the modern favourite Riptide by the Australian songwriter Vance Joy. They close the album with a children’s song, The Fox, you know the one about the Fox went out of stormy night, there is thunder and lightning in this version, a backwoods county fair of banjo picking, mando–chopping and tight bass syncopation.
Listening to this in the kitchen, the teenage daughter said, “I’d love to see these lads live, I bet they are a brilliant festival act…” I had to agree with her. Their opening track is called Tickle Me Pink and if you like your music with a mountainy swing this album from Jigjam will put a permanent smile on your face. Great debut album from a great trio, Offaly should be proud of these lads.
Trad Connect 2014
JigJam are the latest in a number of crossover artists that are combining elements of Irish and American genres to great effect. Groups like We Banjo 3, The Henry Girls, I Draw Slow and others have paved the way. At a time when traditional music can struggle for a live audience, artists whose musical interests lie beyond pure trad can find wider commercial acceptance by mixing it up a little.
Oh Boy! is one such album, and is a very confident debut that everyone can buy into. The musicians, Jamie Keogh, Dáithí Melia and Cathal Guinan may even have surprised themselves with the final product. This is after all a debut by three musicians whose profile prior to this would not have been high. Everything hums along at an infectious pace. The tracks both instrumental and vocal are not some pale imitation of what a crossover traditional bluegrass artist might sound like. There is a confident authority to the vocals of Jamie McKeogh and he goes a long way towards making the material his own.
They cover a lot of ground over 13 tracks including songs by Old Crow Medicine Show, Richard Thompson and the recent Vance Joy song called ‘Riptide’. Instrumentally there are jigs, reels and hornpipes but they are secondary to the folk and bluegrass material. JigJam are a new force on the music scene. Others will follow and they will have to reach the same high levels of production and delivery to succeed.