Damien O’Kane and Ron Block, Banjophonics Review
Damien O’Kane and Ron Block is a duet of banjo players, Coleraine’s Damien O’Kane and California’s Ron Block; together, they are bringing us a new album of unique sounds of bluegrass and Irish music titled Banjophonics. The album has thirteen tracks that wed two different banjo traditions and the union of two cultures – bluegrass and Irish. O’Kane and Block recorded at Pure Studios after a tour in the UK. The album was planned to be finished in April 2020, but a particular pandemic got in the way! So, a real treat for banjo lovers worldwide, they will tour the UK and Ireland in July and October 2022 with a full band to showcase another masterclass on tenor and bluegrass banjos and how their respective traditions meet and unite in perfect and thrilling harmony. Joining O’Kane and Block on the album is Duncan Lyall, double bass, Moog synth, Ali Hutton, guitar, stomp, and Josh Clark, drums and percussion.
Banjophonics draws from many waters to keep an enthralling set of music afloat. The use of various banjos (5-string, tenor) adds to the variety, as does the instrumentation and the use of multiple tunings of the stringed instruments. The opening song, “The Taxi Driver / Close Enough,” is an O’Kane original inspired by his dad, and for the B section, he adds the influence of jazz. O’Kane performs on a tenor banjo, and Block is on the 5-string banjo. The use of accents is essential in this melody and is a superb example of bluegrass and Irish music’s familiar territory. “Daisy’s Dance” is a Block original with an uplifting theme and good use of dynamics. Bringing in more bluegrass sounds is “Soundcheck Sonics / Andy Brown’s.” This song demonstrates both banjoist’s control of the instrument and powers of projection while still being self-aware to fit within the band and bring out the melodic qualities of their designated part. Indeed, Banjophonics has a varying program from many styles but maintains a well-proportioned program that is enjoyable and sonically imaginative. Overall, Banjophonics wins you with its catchy melodies, rich expressivity, idiomatic bluegrass meets Irish inflections and orchestrally inspired banjo textures. That’s the short of it!
Connect with Damien O’Kane & Ron Block: Website |
July 1, 2022