If you have been reading this column for any length of time, you may be aware that I’m very partial to Celtic music, especially when it’s made with bagpipes included. So bands like Enter The Haggis, Seven Nations, and Mackeel (a band that my wife and I discovered when we honeymooned on Prince Edward Island) have always been high on my all-time favorites list.

Well, there is a new addition to that list and it’s one that’s based right here in Maine, and it goes by the name Bailey’s Mistake. It’s made up of Travis T. Cote on vocals, tin whistles and bagpipes; Rob Babson on vocals and bass; Dean Clegg on vocals and percussion; and Troy R. Bennett on vocals and guitar — and it was Mr. Bennett I called recently, when he was in Buxton at his father’s house, to find out more about his new group. You see, he’s also in the Half Moon Jug Band and I was pretty sure I had chatted with him when that group performed in Gardiner quite a while ago, in fact, I led off this interview with that inquiry.

Bennett: Yeah, we’ve talked before, although I can’t remember when it was. I think maybe it was when we played as part of the Waterfront Concert series there in Gardiner.

Celtic band Bailey’s Mistake members from left are Travis Cote, Dean Clegg, Troy R. Bennett and Rob Babson. Eric Worthley photo

Q: That sounds about right.
Bennett: Yeah, maybe for that … we’ve worked for Mike Miclon a bunch of times in different capacities at Johnson Hall and wherever else he’s been for the past 20 years. And the Half Moon Jug Band is still going on, but I’ve always played Celtic music my whole life, kind of on the side with some group or other, and Bailey’s Mistake is the most serious project I’ve been involved with; at least in the past 10 years — this kind of music, anyway.

Q: Well, you’ve touched a chord in me with this group. I’m a huge fan of pipe-driven bands like Enter the Haggis.
Bennett: We’ve gotten to know the bass player from Enter the Haggis really well. He lives in Lewiston-Auburn — Mark Abraham — he’s the house sound guy at Cadenza in Freeport which is how we know him. We’ve played there a bunch of times.

Q: Now when we were setting this interview up you were telling me some things about your new band and I think you said something about a possible album by Bailey’s Mistake — are you working on that?
Bennett: We will be in the fall, we’re all set to get into the studio then; we’re going to play some shows in the summer. I’ve known everybody who I play with in this group forever including the piper. I knew him when he was first old enough to get into a bar — he used to come up and sit in with me and a fiddle player I used to play with.


Q: Was he piping back then?
Bennett: He was, he didn’t have his pipes in the bar, he brought a tin whistle in his pocket. He always had a tin whistle, but he’s been piping since he was a little kid; and so over the years I got to know him and we’re always joking, “We should have a band someday. How come we’ve never started a band?!” He just turned 40 last fall and I thought, “You know, if we’re going to do this we better do it now!” So we started working on it last fall and it’s like a little miracle or revelation, it’s like, “Wow, this sounds really good!”

Q: Did you have to adjust your playing for the new project?
Bennett: I learned to play guitar behind pipes, which was really interesting. I did that all winter, wood shedding my guitar technique and how to play with bagpipes. They’re a crazy instrument in that they can only play nine notes.

Q: How’s the songwriting going?
Bennett: We’ve got a whole handful of our own songs that we’ll record in the fall and put out a record, and hopefully next year we’ll be at a bunch of Celtic festivals. The response has been, as they say, overwhelming in that we’ve gotten so much positive feedback over what we’re doing.

Q: Understandably, for sure!
Bennett: A lot of people, like you, feel strongly about that, especially in Maine. There’s such a strong Scotch-Irish set of roots here and Travis and I both have it. When you play this Celtic music and the pipes light up, something happens in people: they feel the tug and pull of their ancestors. And maybe the music is really old, maybe it’s not. It just sounds really old. Iit has an effect on people’s spirit in a good way, we’ve found as we play.

Q: Have you ever played up at Somerset Abbey in any configuration?
Bennett: Yeah, I was sort of a bass player-for-hire with a blues band there last year which was how I first learned about the place. We were just blown away by the beautiful facility. It’s unassuming from the outside but you get in there and it’s lit beautifully and the people could not have been nicer to us, and the crowd was just on their feet all night long.

Q: Sounds like it was a pretty good first impression.
Bennett: Yeah, I can’t wait to go back out there, for sure.


Q: Just out of curiosity, what group hired you as a bassist for that show?
Bennett: I was sitting in with a band called Matt & The Barnburners. Matt is a real character and he’s a great guy to play with, so I’m just a hired gun with that band.

Q: Well, what can folks expect from your new band there at the Abbey?
Bennett: It’s Celtic music but it’s with a North American little rock ‘n’ roll flair. I don’t think we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band but we do have drums and electric bass, so we try to keep most things lively. With every song we do you can either sing along to a chorus or you can dance to it, one or the other, there is really nothing in between. We’re really into getting people involved in the music somehow by singing along or dancing: there are only two choices. There’s no free ride in this kind of show (chuckle).

Q: Can you give me a little tease about a possible album? I’d love to have something to play repeatedly.
Bennett: (Laughter) We’ll be recording by the fall and hope to have something out before Christmas.

Q: OK, that would be cool! And now, my final question. Is there anything, Troy, that you’d like me to pass on the folks reading this feature?
Bennett: Oh, just that we’re very happy to play outside of Portland (laughter). That’s where I live, that’s where we’re based, but getting out to these venues like Somerset Abbey where it’s like a gem that a lot of people, in my area, wouldn’t think of it. … I didn’t know it was there, but it really has those people we want to play for the most: people who are ready to make a whole evening of it — have dinner, have a drink and join us in this music.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at luckyc@myfairpoint.net if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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