BBC Folk Awards Best Musician nominee Dan Walsh combines ‘virtuoso playing and winning songwriting’ (MORNING STAR). Describing what Dan does is no easy task but at the heart of it is British, Irish and American folk music delivered with a healthy dose of funky grooves – all performed with his unique and dazzling take on clawhammer style banjo helping to challenge all preconceptions about the instrument. Add to all that poignant songs, astonishing musical departures and lively humour and the result is a truly memorable live show which has wowed audiences across the world from intimate seated rooms to huge dancing crowds in festival fields.
Walsh has recorded seven solo albums to much critical acclaim. Most recently he returned to his first love and recorded ‘O’Neill’s Tunes’ – a collection of traditional Irish tunes played in his unique take on clawhammer style which was described as ‘expertly played’ and ‘difficult to find any fault with’ by Songlines magazine as well as receiving airplay on BBC Radio 2. He is an in demand performer with a hectic touring schedule in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and throughout Europe. He has also released two banjo tablature books including a very successful book of clawhammer arrangements of Irish folk tunes which inspired the O’Neill’s album.
Dan is also an in demand session musician and has recently worked with Universal Studios for an upcoming film soundtrack. Dan is also an in demand session musician with recent guest appearances, on stage or in the studio, with the likes of Ward Thomas, Imelda May, Joss Stone, Seth Lakeman, the Levellers, Duane Eddy, Martin Simpson and even the City of London Sinfonia. He has recently added a home studio setup so is busier than ever. Other previous work has included tours with sensational Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan and Canadian country singer Meaghan Blanchard.
He is also greatly in demand as a teacher and teaches banjo both in person and over Skype/Zoom and is the only international banjoist to be invited to teach at the Midwest Banjo Camp in the USA. He also teaches at Newcastle and Sheffield universities. Dan also retains a passion for outreach work and has performed throughout the UK in hospices, hospitals, special needs schools and care homes.
Urban Folk Quartet
In addition to his solo work, Dan is a member of the Urban Folk Quartet, a sensational band who have performed all over the world and acclaimed by such luminaries as Joss Stone and Newton Faulkner. Featuring two remarkable fiddle players Joe Broughton and Paloma Trigas alongside innovative percussionist Tom Chapman, the band combine all manner of influences and a lively show to create an unforgettable gig experience.
Dan Walsh & Brooks Williams
Dan’s latest venture sees him team up with American bluesman Brooks Williams in an exciting new duo already rapturously received by Fairport Convention’s Simon Nicol who said “everyone at the concert also wondered why these two had never teamed up before. An excellent, uplifting and cheering experience!” The duo combines the best of British and Americana and has already made waves in the gigs that have already happened on the back of a rapturously received remote collaboration posted during lockdown.
Dan Walsh & Alistair Anderson
Dan continues to perform with North East concertina legend Alistair Anderson in a cross generational duo that combines high energy and world class musicianship. Alistair is a legendary figure who has toured for fifty years across the world and has had an incalculable influence on the new generation of folk talent after creating Folkworks and the Newcastle University Folk Music degree course…which of course Dan studied! The duo have one album – Live At Home.
Dan Walsh & John Dowling
After a rapturously received first tour and album ‘The Chapel Sessions’, this banjo duet featuring two of the country’s finest players had to take an enforced break owing to two sliced fingers and a pandemic! However, with all digits back in working order look out for some more gigs coming soon! John Dowling is one of the UK’s greatest bluegrass banjo players and the contrast of clawhammer and finger picking in this duo that combines beautiful harmonies and red hot picking can be heard on the album ‘The Chapel Sessions’.
Dan uses Deering Banjos – www.deeringbanjos.com
He plays two sierra banjos, one made of walnut. Both use a fishman rare earth pickup
He also uses ‘Dr Arm’, an innovative alternative armrest made in the Czech Republic – www.banjolit.com
He plays a Fylde guitar with a Fishman blend pickup, again with d’addario strings
Banjo style and history
Dan is one of the UK’s leading lights in melodic clawhammer banjo. Clawhammer banjo refers to playing with the back of the index or middle finger nail in a downstroke movement while the thumb concentrates principally on the 5th string which is a drone string but also picks other strings using a technique called drop thumbing. The hand assumes a claw like shape while the movement comes primarily from the elbow. The style is a very old one used primarily in American Old Time music though players like Ken Perlman, Michael J Miles and others have experimented with other genres using the technique. The good thing about the style is it can cover lead, chords and percussion all in one so it makes a great solo style.
Dan’s style is very percussive with lots of syncopation. Clawhammer is the foundation for pretty much all of Dan’s playing although he does also use a little of the other primary 5-string style ‘Scruggs’ style, named after the great Earl Scruggs who invented it which is more akin to guitar finger picking. Many other techniques are used such as pinched harmonics, tapping and Dan’s trademark ‘funkhammer’ style.
So then why did a 13 year old from the middle of England choose the banjo? Dan had a long standing love of Irish jigs and reels, heard a banjo playing them courtesy of Barney McKenna and Gerry O’Connor, and said to his parents ‘I want to learn the banjo’. So a banjo teacher was found – the legendary George Davies in Cannock who taught 5-string melodic clawhammer style banjo. It was only a year into playing that Dan discovered this was not the instrument he had heard in all that Irish music that being the 4-string tenor banjo! Indeed Dan had never even heard of old-time or bluegrass music so had no inherent idea of what the banjo is supposed to do! He still plays those beloved jigs and reels, influenced greatly by legendary melodic clawhammer pioneer Ken Perlman, and has added old time and bluegrass to his ever growing list of influences on his playing.