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More about Tom Hanway...


Tom at Westbeth Theater, NYC - 2000
(photo: Nadina Simon)


Upon graduating from Hampshire College in 1984 (with a B.A. in Legal Studies), Tom became a full-time musician and began his career by busking in Europe (Germany, Belgium and France), playing fingerstyle blues guitar in the tradition of Rev. Gary Davis, Jorma Kaukonen, Blind Blake, and Roy Bookbinder. Tom began playing the banjo in 1985 and quickly established himself as one of New York's and the Northeast's most solid and creative players. His debut CD, Bucket of Bees (1991) on his Joyous Gard label is a pioneering effort which incorporates bluegrass, Celtic, jazz and world music, giving Tom the opportunity to work with many extraordinary artists, including Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, David Grier, Bill Keith, Kenny Kosek, Barry Mitterhoff, Tony Trischka, Andrea Zonn and Vassar Clements. Bluegrass Unlimited (January 1992) gave Hanway's debut CD a full-page Highlight review, writing: "Hanway displays a level of taste, control, depth, professionalism and business acumen that make Bucket of Bees every bit as accomplished as the best efforts of the major indies." Bucket of Bees earned Hanway several International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) nominations in 1992. Tom Hanway & Blue Horizon formed and recorded an eponymous CD that same year, featuring Maura McCabe, hailed by critics as "brilliant, innovative" with a "depth of powerful, evocative vocals."

Tom is a leading proponent of the "Celtic fingerstyle" banjo. With Geoff Stelling in 1998, he co-designed the Tom Hanway SwallowTail (No. 4737), the original Celtic-bluegrass banjo, now in production at Stelling Banjo Works, Ltd., Afton, VA - a popular model in the U.S. and abroad. In 1998, Mel Bay Publications issued his Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo (plus CD). In reviewing this book in January 1999, Bluegrass Unlimited wrote: "What Earl Scruggs' book did for bluegrass banjo, Tom Hanway's book may well do for the 5-string in Irish and Celtic music.... [This work] will certainly become regarded as 'the bible' for any 5-string player with an interest in this joyous music."

Tom is at home singing bluegrass, gospel, blues or a folk ballad and enjoys making the banjo work in genres where it is rarely heard, e.g., Irish, Celtic, blues and rock music. One of Tom's goals in playing various styles is to maintain each of them as a "living tradition" that is inclusive, interactive and fun. He has traded licks onstage and at sessions with such talents as Bill Monroe, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, Johnny Cunningham (Silly Wizard), Jorma Kaukonen (the Airplane/Hot Tuna), Levon Helm (The Band), Warren Haynes (the Allman Bros./Gov't Mule), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Tom Constanten (the Dead), Merl Saunders (Jerry Garcia), Buddy Cage (New Riders), Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, John Herald, the Zen Tricksters, and the Provincetown Jug Band. He has also performed in an off-Broadway bluegrass musical, Feast Here Tonight, with fiddler Kenny Kosek. In 2000, Tom Hanway recorded with David Bromberg (live from Studio A) for WFUV's City Folk Live II CD (2000) on "Hot Corn, Cold Corn." He performs solo as well as with Blue Horizon, John Herald, Reel Hoss, Badbelly, and Burnt Toast, with whom he has toured Scotland and England. Tom has also toured much of the United States, Ireland, and Australia, and he now lives and performs in Ireland.

Tom Hanway has written for Banjo NewsLetter, 5-String Quarterly, The Banjo Gazette (UK), and the Celtic League, and was the banjo columnist for Acoustic Musician magazine in the late nineties. As an editor for Netscape's Open Directory Project and as a freelance music journalist, Tom helps others in their searches for bluegrass, Celtic, folk and world music. A Web-editor listing and profile can be found at: http://www.dmoz.com/Arts/Music/Styles/Bluegrass/Festivals.

Tom was the founder of the Big Apple Bluegrass Society, an organization devoted to picking and grinning, as well as educating the public about bluegrass. In 1998 Tom & Kathleen Hanway founded the Big Apple Bluegrass & Folk Festival, dedicated to the music of Bill Monroe - the acknowledged "Father of Bluegrass." Tom hosts two weekly bluegrass jam sessions at Paddy Reilly's and the Baggot Inn in New York City, where pickers from the four directions meet, sing and trade licks. In 2002 Tom also began the Irish Folk Session at the Baggot, where he plays original and traditional Irish and Celtic tunes on the 5-string banjo. Tom dedicated the 2002 festival to his wife, Kathleen, who passed away on March 17, 2002. The first annual Kathleen Low Hanway Music Award was given at the festival, to an individual for special achievement in folk music; by popular vote, the award went to Jen Larson. Tom is currently completing The Badbelly Project, his first country blues and gospel guitar album, with guest artists who include Vassar Clements, Lucy Kaplansky, Larry Campbell and Lincoln Schleifer, who is co-producing the project with Tom. Tom's next recording is an Irish/Scottish (Gaelic) traditional music album with Scottish fiddling ace Johnny Cunningham, who will engineer and co-produce with Tom.

Tom with Oscar Brand
Tom with Oscar Brand at The Baggot Inn,
NYC - 1999
(photo: Barbara Wolf)




Tom believes that Celtic, bluegrass and jazz music are intertwined: All are contemporary roots music, incorporating traditional bluesy modes and dance rhythms, each emphasizing personal variation, creativity and improvisation of the highest order. Bluegrass and jazz evolved at the same time in places like Nashville and New York. Many bluegrass tunes are related to Celtic reels and hornpipes. Bluegrass, jazz and Celtic musicians are turning up and jamming at each otherís festivals around the globe. Language barriers are breaking down as these living traditions evolve and cross-fertilize each other.


Tom & Kathleen Hanway
Tom and Kathleen Hanway relaxing at the
souvenir table at Big Apple Bluegrass 2000,
at The Baggot Inn, NYC
(photo: Nadina Simon)

Kathleen Low Hanway passed away on March 17, 2002.



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