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BIO --- Members of Skuttlebutt --- An Introduction

BILL ENGELHARD - Bill sings many of the lead vocals for Skuttlebutt, and plays bass and occasionally finger picking guitar. While John provides the group with its Irish roots, Bill adds the maritime background by being a native New Englander (hometown, New Canaan, Ct), sailboat charter captain, and boasts of a great-grandfather who was a Scandinavian sea captain.

Bill's formal training in music consisted of piano lessons and involvement in both school and church choirs. He first became a "music fanatic" during the folk music craze of the early 60's during which time he taught himself to play guitar.

He succumbed to rock music after the British invasion and played in several rock bands during high school and then college at Clarkson Tech. in Potsdam NY during the middle and late 60's. It was during this time that he taught himself to play the electric bass.

The highlight of his musical career in college was the opportunity to play for a year in a group with Steve Chapin, Harry's brother.

For 13 years (1986-1999), Bill was a member of the popular Saratoga/Mohawk Valley based folk group, The Foothills Trio, providing the bottom end to the Trio’s music both vocally and instrumentally.

In addition to performing at many of the area’s popular folk and Irish music establishments, Bill had the opportunity, as part of the FH3, to open/appear on the same venue with such “big name” performers as Tommy Makem, The Wolftones, Black 47, Gaelic Storm, and the McKrells.


JOHN CROMIE - Tin whistle wiz John Cromie is known for his versatility and heart felt interpretations of traditional Irish music. 

After playing tuba all through high school, John is a relative newcomer to the whistle. He purchased his first whistle in May of 1990 at the urging of a good friend, (who still has not been forgiven by John's wife), and the rest has been a quick slide down a slippery slope.

Before long the urge to play out overcame common sense and he was sitting in with local groups both on stage and in the recording studio. It was also during this period that he became the official "whistle consultant" for Celtic Treasures, a fine Irish gift shop in Saratoga Springs, NY.

He then had the great fortune of being asked to perform the music for "Out of the Heavens in Showers," a one-man play on the life of Micho Russel, the legendary Doolin whistle player. This very touching and intimate drama is the work of the very gifted Irish poet and playwright John Doorty.

The world premiere took place at Café Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY which in turn led to a Rennselaer County Council on the Arts grant for John to go to Ireland and perform the show with traditional musicians. A second trip was in order the following year for the final production on Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands.

Other performance highlights include half a dozen shows at Café Lena, including opening for Paddy Keenan, two whistle nights with Ray Wall, Jerry Jenkins and one of his favorite performers, George Ward.

John also performed at the 2000 Capital District Scottish Games with Jennifer Licko, a wonderful song stylist and singer of traditional Scots Gaelic songs.

Last, but certainly not least, he performed at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall with Jay Unger and Molly Mason, Mark O'Connor for a performance of Jay and Molly's fine orchestral piece "The Harvest Home Suite."

In addition to whistle, John's duties with Skuttlebutt include the very new job of singing, both lead and harmony, so pay attention -- an adventure can happen at any moment.

A favorite of east coast festivals and sessions, John teaches whistle, has recorded extensively and is working on both a solo album and a tune book of original compositions.


JIM DUNBAR - Jim's formal music training began in high school choral groups and on trumpet in orchestras, dance, and jazz bands. Wanting to join in the British invasion of the '60's, he taught himself drums, bass, and guitar playing an assortment of rock styles through his college years. By the mid '70's, Jim found himself playing guitar and banjo in bluegrass bands in New York and Connecticut and eventually added Celtic and folk styles to the repertoire. Somewhere during this time a mandolin found it's way into his hands and he has seldom put it down since.

Over the years Jim has had the good fortune to play on the same bill and jam with bluegrass artists such as The Del McCoury Band, Roland White, old time fiddle master Chubby Wise, mandolin legend Frank Wakefield, Bill Keith and Eddie Adcock who played in various incarnations of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Bands, and mandolinist Adam Steffey of Allison Krauss & Union Station.

His range of musical experiences now come together with vocal harmonies, mandolin, guitar, bass, and a little harmonica now and then to round out the Skuttlebutt sound. And, although he likes to amuse himself with songwriting, don't expect to hear him sing many. Once committed to paper and/or disc, the words leave his mind like smoke from a campfire on a windy day.


JIM LESTRANGE - from a very young age, Jim Lestrange has been singing and playing the music of The Adirondacks  when the legendary "Adirondack Minstrel," Lawrence Older of Middle Grove New York, began teaching him the traditional songs and fiddle tunes of upstate New York, many of which were sung and played in the Adirondack lumber camps.

In his twenties Lestrange taught himself how to play and build the hammered dulcimer. It was then that he started performing at festivals and contra dances throughout the northeast  with such notable musicians as the virtuoso hammered dulcimer player Paul VanArsdale and legendary Adirondack fiddler Vic Kibler at The Blue Mountain Lake Arts Center, Blue Mountain Lake, New York and Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, New York.

Taking a break from more traditional music for awhile, Lestrange began playing bluegrass music and formed the Hilltop String Band in the early 80's, which played a mixture of traditional and bluegrass music on the guitar, 5-string banjo, fiddle, bass and hammered dulcimer. The band performed extensively throughout the northeast as such venues as New York State Council on the Arts concerts, folk and bluegrass festivals, fairs, museums, historical societies, concerts in the park series and coffee houses.


Review --- To those viewers who are not from the foothills of the Adirondacks a word of introduction.  The Foothills Trio and Skuttlebutt are indeed made up of many of the same artists.  They began under the name "The Foothills Trio" and after a number of years they reformed under the name "Skuttlebutt".

The artists featured above are lovers of music.  Like many independent artistic musicians they "hold down" careers and do what they love in their free time.  I say it is what they love because these fellows are ready and willing to sit in at any opportunity to share their talent.  This may be as a group or as individuals to support other independent musicians in a gig or two.

I have had the privilege to hear these gentlemen perform live at a number of venues.  One of the many outstanding characteristics about this group is the love of the music they play and the harmony with which they play it.

"Songs for a Winter Night" by the Foothills Trio is a wonderful collection of Christmas songs that really generates the spirit.  Their second album, "In Good Company" is a collection of many well known ballads including; Portland Town, The Town I Loved So Well, and We, The People.

On the newest CD; Stand To Your Glass, Skuttlebutt presents fourteen well engineered and presented songs. The CD titles include original tunes composed and played by Irish Whistle Whiz, John Cromie, and songs composed and sung by Skuttlebutt mandolin/guitar player Jim Dunbar. Other vocals include lead and harmony vocals by bassist Bill Engelhardt and guitarist/hammered dulcimer player Jim Lestrange.

1. The Rose Tree / Road To Boston
2. Bonnie Leigh
3. Coal Town Road
4. Sea Fever
5. Steve Curran’s Jig / Connaught Man’s Rambles / Ten Penny Bit
6. Lost Little Children
7. Stand To Your Glass
8. The Bluenose
9. Lonesome Boatman
10. Lonely Sailor
11. Once More A Lumberin’ Go
12. Boys Of Blue Hill / Rights Of Man / Harvest Home Hornpipe
13. A Sailor Ain’t A Sailor (Last Shanty)
14. Fiddler’s Green

I recommend you do two things - buy their CDs and see them live.
The CDs are only $15 each, which includes shipping and handling.

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Order CDs Here

Bill Engelhardt
3205 Birchton Road
Ballston Spa, NY 12020-2039
(518) 885-4726

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E-mail Contact - Bill Engelhardt


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Many musical artists and groups are active in their communities. Some perform before faithful fans on a regular schedule each week or weekend. They are independent musicians as compared to those music industry big names. We often think of the big name groups because we are exposed to the marketing blitz. I have had the opportunity to hear a number of independent performers with Capital Celtic. Some are just starting out and are perhaps a little rough around the edges and some are so outstanding I wonder why they have not entered into the "Big Time" music industry. Perhaps you have experienced the same? Perhaps you know of a new artist or group that you believe has talent that would be enjoyed by others? If so send me a CD and Bio and we will feature them on The Capital Celtic Network. - EEHealy


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