Here Comes Jig Jam

To paraphrase the Irish band’s PR material, JigJam is a bluegrass/Americana outfit that is here in America to “take back” the music styles that can be traced, in part, back “across the pond” to their musically prolific home isle. The band’s appropriately titled fifth album, Across The Pond, was released on March 1. Jamie McKeogh says “The theme throughout is about Irish people and their journey, settling in America, bringing their music and traditions with them. Our Irish roots are deeply reflected in the album, and so is our American influence…”

JigJam originated in 2012 and is made up of founding members Jamie McKeogh (lead singer and guitar) and Daithi Melia (five-string banjo and dobro), who were joined by Gavin Strappe (mandolin and tenor banjo) in 2016, and recently by St. Louis native Kevin Buckley (fiddle).

While Irish audiences have been supportive, the band has effectively relocated, to more efficiently access their much larger American audiences. “It’s not a massive audience in Ireland for what we do,” Jamie explains. “Our main following is over here in the States for playing our type of music, as in our original stuff.” A testament to the band’s American success came in 2023 with a “bucket list gig” for Jamie, as they made their Grand Ole Opry debut—to critical acclaim and a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd.

Those original songs are steeped in the separate but related traditions of bluegrass and Irish music. “We grew up playing the Irish stuff,” says Jamie. “Daithi [pronounced doh-hee], who plays the five-string in our band, he plays Scruggs-style, so I suppose everything naturally started sounding quite bluegrassy. So it’s only when we really delved into it that we realized how similar bluegrass and Irish music are…we tracked back the history of it all and it made complete sense…to go for that crossover…”

When asked about JigJam’s affinity to progressive bluegrass groups like New Grass Revival, Jamie says, “I suppose we try to bring that jam aspect into the Irish music,” explaining that the Irish tradition is to play all the melodies in unison, without much improvisation. “And sometimes we just flip it the other way and take the bluegrass tunes and play them like Irish tunes, in unison.”

Listen to the interview here.