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Jug of Punch

Trio plays Irish and French Canadian tunes
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From left, Richard Johnson, Sean Conners and Daniel Carr of the group Jug of Punch play a tune for the Tidings Cafe.
 Posted: 2:00 AM February 15, 2013

Jug of Punch has developed a small following at Paddy Brannan's Irish Pub, where it's been alternating Irish and French Canadian tunes in a corner on Saturday nights for more than two years.

"What I really wanted was a place where I could hear myself and play with other musicians and the quality would be consistent," says Daniel Carr, who plays guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo.

"Danny has to lift his guitar up for people to get to the bathroom," says pub owner Tysin Senestraro. "It's very intimate."

The trio gets its name from the title of one of the first Irish songs Carr learned. He's joined by Richard Johnson on mandolin, guitar and bodhran and Sean Conners on fiddle.

Johnson, 68, who has been playing folk music for more than 50 years, says Irish music is a little darker, and French Canadian is more upbeat.

"Bouncy, I would describe it as bouncy," says Carr, 30.

Carr, who lives in Ashland and is earning his master's in teaching at Southern Oregon University, says he's inspired by his mother, pianist Josie Mendelsohn.

"She is a fantastic piano player, so we really wanted to have something so she could come down and really take the floor," Carr says. "It's based on her and her love for French Canadian."

For the Tidings Cafe, Jug of Punch performed "The Sailor's Bonnet Set," a medley of traditional tunes, at Paddy Brannan's. The band plays at 9 p.m. Saturdays at the pub, 23 S. Second St., Ashland.

Conners, 15, is driven by his father to Ashland from Grants Pass every Saturday night. Johnson drives in from Chiloquin, where he says there is not a lot of Irish music.

"Chiloquin is a very strange place," he says. "I've only slid off the road twice getting over here. I don't mind the drive."

Even though the men are all far apart in age, their love of old music binds them together.

"I like playing," Conners says. "It's one of my favorite things to do. I play at home quite a bit. I'm also in my orchestra at school."

Conners and Johnson find inspiration in annual music camps, where they meet musicians and learn new tunes.

"I went to fiddle camp two years ago and I got to play with a fiddler named Liz Caroll. I got to learn tunes from her," Conners says.

"You start to measure your years in the number of times you've been to these camps," says Johnson, "because I go to one every year, too."

Carr and Conners have started recording music together so they'll have a CD available to purchase this summer, when they take their music to the streets.

"That's my summer job," Carr says.

Jug of Punch enjoys performing at private events and weddings, and hope to do more weddings in the summer.

"For the right person and the right crowd, it's the best kind of music," Carr says.

Jug of Punch members say they enjoy playing together and learning from each other.

"When I first heard Sean play, I thought, 'He's channeling some old Irishman,' " Johnson says.

"It's the hat," Conners says, laughing.

Reach Mandy Valencia at 541-776-4486 or by email at avalencia@mailtribune.com.


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