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Musical Haven 

Escape the weight of the world with "Celtgrass" jams from Irish band We Banjo 3

  • Yvonne Vaughan

Some people have a soft spot for Irish accents—especially a handful of my girlfriends from high school. I'm not necessarily one of those people. What's the point of all of this? Well, upon speaking to We Banjo 3's Enda Scahill, I may have changed my tune. Calling from an Irish phone number, his sweet sincerity and passion for music emanated through his delightful Irish accent.

"I've been playing banjo since I was 8 years old; I've always loved the sound of it," Scahill says. "We all grew up playing traditional Irish music in our homes. But you can't really play banjo without listening to American folk music, bluegrass. Even as you go back as far as the minstrel groups. The banjo was an integral part of that."

Scahill and his bandmates, which include his brother, Fergal Scahill, as well as Martin and David Howley, also brothers, formed We Banjo 3 in their hometown of Galway, Ireland. Active since 2012, the band is no stranger to American audiences. They've even played for former President Barack Obama at the "Friends of Ireland" luncheon in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

Now, Scahill and the gang bring their brand of "Celtgrass" jams to the Sisters Folk Fest Winter Concert Series. We Banjo 3 attributes their ability to tour outside of Ireland to the Culture Ireland organization, which helps promote Irish artists worldwide.

"The number one difference between Irish and American audiences: Irish audiences will automatically sit at the back of the club," Scahill says. "Americans want to be in the first row. Once they get into it, they are both the same. Irish people are really friendly and open, but can be shy. We've been coming here since 2012 and have had such a meteoric ride. American audiences are really special. They are open to being entertained, they've already bought the ticket, metaphorically and physically."

When I spoke to Scahill, he was taking a break from recording the band's upcoming new album, "Haven." Instead of recording in Ireland like they have each of their previous albums, the band wanted to work with sound engineer Frank Marchand. While they toyed with the idea of recording in Nashville or L.A., it was too tempting to work with Marchand in his Baltimore studio.

"Our last three studio albums, we recorded in a bungalow on the side of a hill, on the edge of a lake. It was picturesque and amazing. Now, we're in an industrial area, but the recording atmosphere, it's fabulous. We've got a lot done in three days."

The next album takes on the notion that music should be a haven for people.

"That was always our mission, to provide a really fun, inclusive environment. We're not political in any way, shape, or form," Scahill says. "We see our role as an escape. Last summer, we ran a tour called, 'The Light in the Western Sky,' bringing awareness to mental health and suicide prevention. People are really willing to talk about it. Of that nature, of that pain, about overcoming, about trying to find a better life. This is the first time the entire album was entirely self-penned and we're really excited about that."

We Banjo 3

Mon., Feb. 12


Sisters High School

1700 McKinney Butte Rd., Sisters

$15/kids. $25/door. Advanced tickets sold out.

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