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We Banjo 3 beaks down the barriers

Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass., January 25, 2020

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The joy is palpable when the music is of the Irish variety. And when you combine that with a typically uptempo bluegrass sound - We Banjo 3 labels its style of music Celtgrass - let's say it makes for one fun night.

The group, which has been around since 2011, is a quartet from Galway Ireland comprised of two sets of brothers - the cool looking (shades definitely helped make the man) Enda Scahill on banjo and brother Fergal with his red pants on fiddle and bodhran, and lead singer David Howley on acoustic guitar and his brother, Martin, mainly on resonator.

The quartet combined the Irish and bluegrass sounds quite easily on both instrumentals and songs with lyrics. All four members enjoyed a ton of musical space with Fergal a particular standout. His fiddle playing was prominent on many songs, while his bodhran added a toughness to a few songs.

To David Howley's utmost credit, the evening grew very serious when he introduced "Hold Onto Your Soul." Howley said, "I suffer from mental health issues, and music keeps me going." He talked on behalf of an organization that helps musicians and their families deal with mental health issues. Needless to say, the song, one of the most quiet offered by We Banjo 3, came off as the most heartfelt of the night.

Despite the joy of the night, one got the sense that the stage banter and performance was the same show after show, including when three of the members walked in lock step.

And then, of course, it was back to Celtgrass with the audience clearly joining in. At one point - yes, it was a bit corny - We Banjo 3 said it would give out swag to the best and worst dancers. After a round of the crowd dancing in front of the stage, fiver dancers were called up onstage to strut their stuff. The clear winner was the red bearded, long-legged Stu and his high kicks.

We Banjo 3 clearly was intent on breaking down the boundaries between band and crowd. They did that and more quite well.