Origin:
Indiana, USA
Decades:
1950-present

Randal Bays (born 1950) is a fiddler, guitarist and composer. The American-born Irish-style fiddle and guitar player first gained international recognition through his recordings and performances with Co. Clare fiddler Martin Hayes in the early 1990s. He began playing music at the age of eight and was widely known as a fiddler in the U.S. long before recording with Hayes as guitar accompanist. Born in Indiana in 1950, Bays relocated to the Pacific Northwest as a teenager and has made his home in Oregon and Washington since then. His musical life included serious study of the classical guitar, prior to taking up Irish fiddling in the 1970s. At the time, he lived in Portland, Oregon, and was strongly influenced by fiddler Kevin Burke and guitarist Mícheál Ó Domhnaill.

Since then Bays has recorded and performed with many of the leading Irish traditional musicians, including James Kelly, Martin Hayes, John Williams, Aine Meenaghan, Dáithí Sproule and James Keane. He now tours mostly as a solo performer and in a duo with South Carolina guitarist Davey Mathias. He's also a member of the traditional Irish band Fingal, which he founded in 2006 with Dáithí Sproule and James Keane, releasing their debut album in 2008 on the New Folk Records label.

Don Meade wrote in "The Irish Voice" (New York, Jan. 2001) that Bays is "still best known to many for his beautiful guitar accompaniment on fiddler Martin Hayes' early recordings, [but] Randal is himself a marvelous fiddler, one of the best in the country."

In 1995 Bays began releasing his own albums under the Foxglove Records label, which he founded, including "Wind on the Water", "Pigtown Fling", "Out of the Woods", "The Salmon's Leap", "House to House" with Roger Landes—voted best traditional album of 2005 by the Irish Times--"Overland" with Dáithí Sproule, "Katy Bar the Door", and in 2009 he released "Dig with It", with Canadian guitarist Dave Marshall accompanying. The album also features Bays' son Willie Bays on one track. The title is derived from the last three words of Digging, a well-known poem by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

Bays is also the co-founder with Dan Paulson of the Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp where students engage in six days of intensive classes, concerts, discussions and sessions, in a wooded setting adjacent to the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Washington state. In 2010, the site for the camp moved to Roche Harbor, on the north end of San Juan Island.

The Cork Examiner, the second largest newspaper in Ireland, deemed Bays "a rare beast, a master of both the fiddle and the guitar", and Fiddler Magazine said he is "among the best Irish style fiddlers of his generation."