Yeehaw! At last, country music in Ulster is getting well-deserved recognition with a bumper awards night. Have a great time, y'all, says Damien Murray
Country music has always been popular with local audiences and, in recognition of this fact, the first ever Northern Ireland Country Music Awards are set to take place at the end of this month at Ballymena's Tullyglass Hotel.
Organised jointly by JW Promotions, Jayco Entertainments and JKC Country — three organisations heavily involved in the promotion of the genre — the evening will boast a house band for the awards ceremony featuring Brendan McGarrity, Connie O'Doherty, Matt Curran, Andy Walshe and James Henry, plus guest performances from some of the nominees.
These will include Jimmy Buckley, Mike Denver, John McNicholl, Philomena Begley, Eamon McCann, Warren Smyth, Steven Smyth, Shaun Loughrey, Louise Morrisey, Thomas Maguire, Fiona Ennis and many more.
The Northern Ireland Country Music Awards 2008 on April 30 will highlight the achievements, and recognize the talents, of our top country performers.
There are a number of award categories, including Best Country Male, Best Country Female, Male and Female Lifetime Achievement Awards, Song of the Year, Best International Country Artist, Best Newcomer, Radio Presenter of the Year, Best Album of the Year and Best Live Country Act.
Voting for the awards is now open.
You can nominate online at www.jwpromos.com or at any of the Jayco Entertainment dance venues or at the Tullyglass Hotel.
Tickets for the event are also available from both the Tullyglass Hotel (Tel: 2565 2639) and Camerons of Ballymena.
Six nights of wonderful music have been lined up this month with a tour featuring lead singer and fiddler with the world-famous Altan, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Fermanagh's acclaimed bouzouki player, Ciaran Curran.
Having received her start on the instrument from her father, Francie (a great fiddle teacher with a wealth of unusual local tunes), Mhaonaigh is now one of the leading exponents of Donegal fiddle music.
Curran, a native of Kinawley (an area rich in music and song), also brings his strong family musical tradition to bear on an instrument that is relatively new to the Irish traditional music scene — the bouzouki.
The tour, as part of the Pobals Irish Language and Music Road Show, kicks off on Wednesday at The Lodge, Castlewellan, before moving to the Guildhall in Londonderry (Thursday), An Chulturlann, Belfast (next Friday), the Higher Bridges Gallery in Enniskillen's Clinton Centre (April 28), Dun Uladh, Omagh (April 29) and the Marine Hotel, Ballycastle (April 30).
Musical ladies are much to the fore in other gigs this week, including Texan singer-songwriter, Kimmie Rhodes, who finishes her current tour with appearances at Rathfriland's Bronte Musical Club this evening and at Enniskillen's Ardhowen Theatre tomorrow night.
Meanwhile, as part of the nationwide Oxjam music festival, Donegal-based trio, The Henry Girls, play a fundraiser for Oxfam tonight at the Dufferin Arms in Killyleagh.
And fellow-county artist, Deirdre Bonner, brings her brand of country to Cookstown's Burnavon Theatre on Wednesday.
Finally, Brendan Quinn launches his latest album, Sinner Man, on Thursday night at Belfast's John Hewitt Bar, with special guests including musical heads like Henry McCullough, Arty Mc Glynn, Nollaig Casey and Anton Glackin.
Quinn also has a pre-album launch outing at the Rotterdam Bar on Tuesday with Jerome McGlynn & Nicky Scott.