In the great tradition of Irish dance music and song, a premium has always been upon the interaction of musicians: in exchanging songs and tunes, in sharing the music as it has migrated worldwide everywhere the Irish have found themselves, and in passing on the tradition to subsequent generations. Some of the greatest recordings in traditional Irish music have been the result of fortuitous, sometimes chance meetings of compatible musicians who share the common language of dance tunes. On Coyote Banjo, Chris Smith, Randal Bays, and Roger Landes dig deep into that common language, finding new and innovative things to say in a centuries-old tradition. Recorded live in the studio, in the style of great folk and jazz discs of the past, these musicians capture the excitement of a meeting of old friends making music together.
Chris Smith (banjo, mandola, mandolin, field organ) has played, taught, and recorded roots music from around the world for the past 25 years. He records and tours internationally with Altramar medieval music ensemble, and leads the Irish traditional band Last Night's Fun and the Juke Band (pre-WWII blues and jazz), and directs the Texas Tech University Ceili Band. He has lectured or performed at hundreds of colloquia, concerts, workshops, and pub sessions across the Continent and in Europe, and on National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, and the Fox Network nationwide. He has published dozens of articles on topics in jazz, classical, and traditional musics, holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and Indiana University and teaches Music History and Literature at Texas Tech University School of Music. He directs the Vernacular Music Center at TTU, is the author of Celtic Backup for All Instrumentalists, "The Celtic Guitar" (in The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar) and Irish Session Tunes by Ear, and is a founding staff member of ZoukFest, the world's only music camp and festival for players of the Irish bouzouki. He is also the authorized biographer of Irish folklorist, piper, singer, collector, and broadcaster Séamus Ennis.
The Cork Examiner, Ireland's second largest newspaper, called Randal Bays (fiddle) "a rare beast, a master of both the fiddle and the guitar", and Fiddler Magazine said he is "among the best Irish style fiddlers of his generation." That's high praise for this self-taught American whose recordings and concerts have earned him recognition on both sides of the Atlantic as a multi-instrumentalist of uncommon talent. As writer Don Meade puts it in "The Irish Voice" (New York, Jan. 2001) "Still best known to many for his beautiful guitar accompaniment on fiddler Martin Hayes' early recordings, Randal himself is a marvelous fiddler, one of the best in the country." Randal has performed all over the U.S., Europe and Canada, including appearances at major festivals such as the San Francisco Celtic Music and Arts Festival, the Festival Des Musiques-Vivantes in France, the Willie Clancy Summer School and Festival in Ireland, the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina, the Alaska Irish Music Festival, California's Sebastopol Festival and many more. In addition to his work with Martin Hayes, Randal has recorded or performed with many great musicians, including James Kelly, John Williams, Daithi Sproule, Frank Kilkelly, Kevin Burke and Micheal O'Domhnaill.
Of Roger Landes (bouzouki), Celtic Heritage Magazine said: "Not only is Landes helping to legitimize the instrument -- he is taking it to a whole other level." Roger took up the bouzouki in 1981 while attending university, and quickly set about learning Irish tunes, also playing tenor banjo, mandolin, bodhran and uilleann pipes; as well as co-founding the popular Celtic band Scartaglen. When that group disbanded after a decade, he decided to concentrate on exploring the melodic capabilities of the bouzouki in 1994. His critically acclaimed CD Dragon Reels is the result of his intensive work mastering the intricacies of Irish traditional music. Since releasing Dragon Reels in 1997, Roger has produced several recordings for other artists, performed in a duo with singer Connie Dover and recorded Janissary Stomp, a collection of mostly original duets for two bouzoukis with folk and roots musician Chipper Thompson. Roger appeared in and contributed to the soundtrack of the 1999 film Ride with the Devil, directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). In 1998 and 1999, he hosted the first international gatherings devoted to the Celtic bouzouki, "ZoukFest", in Weston, Missouri. Late in 1999 he relocated to Taos, New Mexico, where he maintains a busy schedule performing, producing, composing and organizing ZoukFest. Dragon Reels was re-released by Dorian Group, Ltd. In addition to his work with Connie Dover, Roger also appears with Randal Bays, Carlos Nunez, and Frankie Gavin.