Saturday, January 03, 2009

New site for Festival Preview

Hello festival-goers,

Festival Preview has recently gone through a major site upgrade and will now be posting festival news for all genres on the new beta version of The roots section of the new site can be found here. Come sign up at the new site and join in on the fun!

Jessica Bailiff
Publishing Associate
Festival Preview

Friday, January 02, 2009

Claire Lynch in East Hartford January 9 - Preview

Claire Lynch

The Clair Lynch Band will appear at the East Hartford Cultural Community Center in East Hartford, CT on Friday, January 9th. Doors open at 7:00 PM, and the concert begins at 8:00. Tickets are pegged at $15.00 in advance and $20.00 at the gate, and plenty of seats are still available. The band, a quartet whose bluegrass sound is laced with a delightful variety of musical signatures, is noted for its musicality and its excellence. Roger Moss, Director of Parks and Recreation in East Hartford, CT promotes a series of Americana events as a part of the East Hartford Community Cultural Center winter program of concerts and films. Roger tells me the concert hall seats 298 without a bad seat in the house and featuring outstanding acoustics. Easy parking for the event is available and the hall is just off an interchange of I-84. Directions to the East Hartford Cultural Center can be found here. Tickets can be ordered on line here.

With two feet planted firmly in bluegrass, Claire Lynch’s interests and versatility take her comfortably into country, Americana with a tinge of jazz, swing, and blues in her compositions and her performances. Her career, spanning thirty-five years, includes stints with several bands and working as a house singer/songwriter with Universal-Polygram where her name appears on 160 projects, if I’m counting right. She’s been nominated for a couple of Grammies and was named IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997. Many of her songs are immediately familiar to bluegrass fans as is her youthful, clear, and expressive voice. Her signature songs include the recent hit “The Day that Lester Died,” “Hills of Alabam’”, and the yearning “Kennesaw Line.” Her version of “Wabash Cannonball” gives the entire band a chance to strut its stuff while always staying true to the great country original made famous by Roy Acuff.

Spending the early part of her life in Kingston, NY, Claire Lynch moved to Alabama at age twelve. She worked with a band, took time off to raise a family, and along the way worked as a song writer and session vocalist. Her songs have been recorded by Patty Loveless, Seldom Scene, Kathy Mattea, and the Whites, while she has appeared on albums with EmmyLou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and others. She achieved prominence with the Front Porch String Band, which, after a time, disbanded as bluegrass bands do, and later founded the Claire Lynch Band with many of the same members. Recently, her kids grown and fledged, she has moved to Nashville for the convenience of being in the center of the music scene. While there have been changes in personnel, the current band is as strong as any she has had.

Jim Hurst

Jim Hurst, a long-time band mate, is one of the monster guitar pickers in music as well as being a fine banjo player. Hurst, while active in music, for many years had to continue providing for himself and his family as a truck driver. When his wife urged him to move to Nashville and take on music full time, they did and he did. Jim Hurst was named IBMA guitar player of the year in 2001 and 2002. His career had been broad and varied with stints in jazz, country, and bluegrass. Hurst is not merely a spectacular guitar player, he’s spectacularly tasteful, too, reflecting his debt to Doc Watson as well as to Tony Rice. Jim is on his second go round with Claire, having taken a period to tour and record with Missy Raines to high critical and popular praise, before they both returned to the Claire Lynch Band. Missy has since left the band again to form Missy Raines and the New Hip.

Jim Hurst

Mark Schatz
To replace Missy Raines, Claire has turned to two time IBMA bass player of the year, Mark Schatz. A graduate of Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia with additional study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Schatz has had a distinguished career in bluegrass, acoustic, and country music on acoustic and electric bass. He’s played with Bela Fleck as well as the Tony Rice Unit. He played bass with Nickel Creek until they disbanded and has since been touring with the Claire Lynch Band. On stage, Mark is a dynamic figure in his bass play as well as when he steps out from behind his instrument to clog. As musical director of the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, an internationally acclaimed dance group, he has many outlets for his creative urge.
Mark Schatz

Jason Thomas
Jason Thomas, on mandolin, fiddle, and vocals, brings an added versatility to the band. Born in North Bay, Ontario, Jason has been based in Florida as a full-time musician since finishing college in Missouri. In addition to his work with the Claire Lynch Band, Jason plays with several bands in Florida. His play on both mandolin and fiddle adds enormously to the strength and versatility of the band. He’s a quiet yet dynamic presence in this very strong band.

In a telephone interview, Claire spoke expressively and enthusiastically about her band, its personnel, and the joy she takes in performance. All these qualities are clearly evident in this fine band. Friday, January 9th might be chilly outside, but the concert hall at the East Hartford Cultural Community Center will be warm and filled with joyous song provided by these dynamic performers. Don’t miss it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jeff Coffin Join s Dave Matthews

Woodwind wonder Jeff Coffin will be splitting his time between his regular gig with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and the Dave Matthews Band. From Jeff's Website:

There have been many people asking and, yes, I will be joining Dave Mattews Band starting in 2009. I am honored to be asked to be part of such a fantastic group of musicians and people and am looking forward to making some great music! Thanks to all the many for their support and encouragement. See you out there. peace, jc

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The mellow scene at Kate Wolf

The just finished 13th Kate Wolf Memorial Folk Festival may just have been the best one ever, despite the pall of smoke in the air, the result of the fire situation in Northern California, including Mendocino county where the festival is held.

Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, home to several festivals over the course of the summer, provides a lovely venue, with a natural music bowl, a wooded riverside location, unlimited camping, and convenient location right off the main highway.

Besides the fire concerns, gas prices and the economy could have impacted attendance and enthusiasm, but both seemed to be more than healthy. I don't have any attendance figures, but I can tell you that the music bowl was filled on Saturday and Sunday nights. The most desirable Riverside camping was well gone before I arrived Friday afternoon, but my party was perfectly happy set up in the field, especially since I now have a good canopy.

If you don't know, the atmosphere at Kate Wolf is even more mellow than other California roots festivals. Lucy Kaplansky sang "Peace, Love and Understanding," and that is basically the operative philosophy. Smoke if you want, but do it under the tree. Swimming is clothing-optional at one end of the river, but be respectful of the family area.

Speaking of Kaplansky, a New York City singer songwriter, couldn't get over just how relaxed a scene it was. Ani DiFranco. who closed Kate Wolf as her second stop on a brief California swing after a Disneyland gig the night before, said she was relieved to be in a place where she heard the name of Utah Phillips all day.

The festival was dedicated to Phillips' memory after the festival regular recently passed away. Utah's spirit, as well as that of festival muse Kate Wolf, seemed to lend the weekend's proceedings with a deeper significance than just thousands of people sharing a musical experience on a beautiful California early summer weekend.

And if the overall experience was enjoyable, the festival's music program was divine. Everybody has their own taste. For me the highlights were the Aussie invasion (The Waifs and Greencards), the opening night pairing of Keb' Mo' and Taj Mahal, and the lovely duet set with Kaplansky and John Gorka. I'll write about all that and more in some subsequent posts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brian Wilson to open Newport Folk

The newly eclectic Newport Folk Festival announced that former Beach Boy and composer-producer Brian Wilson will headline the festival's traditional opening night concert at The International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino on Friday, August 1, 2008 in Newport, RI.

The facility is a historic place in the history of tennis and of old Newport, and is used twice a year to host the first night of both the Newport Folk and Jazz festivals. The separately priced gala concerts lend an air of history and elegance to the festivals. For Wilson, Newport will be a marquee stop on a full summer tour.

After the opening show, the festivals' Saturday and Sunday programs are held at nearby Fort Adams State Park. The festival also added a prominent name to the main stage lineup with singer-songwriter Steve Earle performing as a duet with alt-country singer Allison Moorer, who is also his wife.

The seniors chorus Young@Heart, recently featured in the documentary film by the same name, has also been added.

Monday, June 23, 2008

TBF Festival Notebook

By Donald Frazier

Coming down out of the workaday world into any four-day festival in a remote resort location is bound to be more than a change in scenery. But in the case of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, it’s an especially long, strange trip.

Festivarian Nation. More, perhaps, than any music event in America, this one positions itself as a sort of gathering of the clans. The festival website overtly says this is an annual reunion of a basically-cohesive group of music fans bonded by the culture of the festival. In the old days that meant lots of tie-dye and Indian bedspreads; now we can add dreadlocks and all-over tat’s. On the upside, it means this is an especially friendly event to attend, with sharing, caring, and narely a contrary word. On the downside, it means ‘most everybody here is already with a largish group of friends and family. Town Park, the site near the stage, is full of large emplacements comprising several tents, covered communal areas, and lots of loving if sometimes-silly décor (see photos). These groups come here every year, sometimes for decades.

Tent City. You can’t just show up in this tiny and tightly-controlled town, ticket in hand – it takes a good amount of foresight and planning. Forget about a hotel room – the few here are quite expensive, booked a year in advance and, besides, you miss out on the Festivarian vibe of it all. But finding a plot big enough for your tent in Town Park means arriving much earlier in the week. One Festivarian reports making the seven-hour drive from Denver after work on Monday, staking his claim, then driving back all night in time to be back at his law firm in time to start on Tuesday morning (”Good we have showers!”). Most parties will delegate one member to come here early and hold down the fort while the others plod through their day jobs until they can arrive on Thursday.

As for the others, refugees often have it better. There’s a large, grim commercial campground several miles down the road where you almost expect UN peacekeeping forces. We also saw more than a hundred people bedded out
in the open, in 40-degree weather on chaise lounges and such near the main gate. No, they weren’t on line for tickets. This is where they were, uh, ‘sleeping’.

Baby, you can drive my car. But not here. All of the friendliness of this event evaporates when it comes to parking your vehicle. A handful snare car camping passes. But the town bans all nonresident parking for the duration of the event, complete with a smiling but stern checkpoint on the one entrance to Telluride where they grant you enough time to unload and get out. Get out where? They say there is parking available off site. They do not say it is many miles away. Do not try for the ‘Carhenge’ lot – though closer, the lines for the shuttle bus are truly daunting. Better is Mountain Village – much farther away, but you get a fun ride to town center on the ski gondola, awesome by night.

Don’t bogart that air. Even the veterans on the Festival preview staff were amazed at the continual, thick wafting of herbal celebration over the festival grounds. No need to bring you own stash – just breathe deeply. In the campgrounds, however, serious alcohol is the party aid of choice, as we learned when a neighboring Festivarian offered up a solid belt of Jameson’s Irish – before breakfast.

Up the Creek. The finale of Sam Bush’s set on Saturday night featured everybody on the Festival program they could squeeze onto the main stage for a long, shoulder-to-shoulder version of Cripple Creek. The song has a distinct feel of a navigable body of water about it, like some murky Appalachian tributary of the Ohio. Perhaps Festival Preview is being cantankerous about this. But the real Cripple Creek in southern Colorado is a rocky gulch with, much of the year, not enough water to float a soapdish let alone a moonshiner’s rowboat. Just pointing this out.

Visa problems spoil Béla's African workshop

Some of the most immediate performances in Telluride took place far from the main stage. Living up to its mission to advance the form, this festival every year conducts a number of clinics and competitions to discover new talent, showcase new ideas and pass on skills to a new generation. For example, Saturday morning saw Michael Harnick and Bobby Wintringham expound upon the fine points of instrument construction with the precision of any exacting craftsmen.

For the next event, Bela Fleck was to appear with Senegalese kora master Boubacar Diabete. Fleck, a demanding scholar of music, has over the last several years become increasingly interested in the African origins of American roots music, conducting projects with the likes of Diebete and Senegalese superstar of Afropop, Baaba Maal. Throw Down Your Heart, a documentary of his travels and collaborations in Africa, is being screened at the festival. More to follow.

But it was not to be. Diabete, like so many African musicians over the last several years, was kept out of the United States by mysterious visa and passport complications. Such complications have always plagued African musicians. But they have skyrocketed after 9/11. Officially-condoned bigotry toward Muslims convinced many musicians they were not wanted here. Even prominent and well-known African musicians such as Salif Keita and Kanda Bongo Man have been flatly denied permission to enter the United States or seen their efforts grow vastly more complicated and expensive. Others, such as Maal, began to travel with only a small entourage rather than the complete stage show they had offered.

Certainly one element of these troubles was tumultuous internal politics of many African nations, such as the protracted civil war in Zaire. (Which is why we hardly ever see any soukous in the United States anymore.) But a far larger factor has been the antipathy of the current regime in Washington toward black artists with a Muslim heritage. Never a fan of cultural diversity, the Bush administration has since 9/11 has in its actions and with its surrogates shown a suspicion and even hostility towards of cultural influences that are not Christian, white, and allied with its geopolitical purposes.

The main one of these purpose, of course, has been to whip up war fever towards Islamic societies. Cultural exchange and the understanding it brings might make it hard to demonize them, and make us less likely to accept lies about weapons of mass destruction.

Thus the events of the harsh world outside penetrate even this sylvan bubble of privilege for those who live here and good times for those of us who visit. But there may be a silver lining. On the walk from Elks Park stage to the festival grounds, political volunteers were signing up new voter registrations. And they were not doing so for the party currently in the White House.

Skaggs-Hornsby and Leftover Salmon top Friday at TBF

By Donald Frazier

It was a night of star turns in Telluride as Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby, the omnipresent Sam Bush, and the tight ensemble of soloists in Leftover Salmon took the stage in a flurry of high virtuosity on every instrument in the bluegrass arsenal, from fiddle and dobro to banjo and mandolin.

Ricky Skaggs took it one step further, unveiling a new piano-based sound. And this is no honky-tonk percussive upright or an electronic keyboard, but the full-throated grand piano of Bruce Hornsby. The effect: layers of warmth and texture that imparted a jazzy sweep and structure to even the most familiar tunes. Add The Kentucky Thunder's ability to produce a roomful of sound with a handful of instruments, and the effect was the bluegrass version of a symphony.

As one of the legends of Telluride where it was born several years ago in the serendipitous combination of two undermanned bands, Leftover Salmon brought two of everything, with battling solos in fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. Technical and self-referential? Perhaps - but only if you expect introspection and revelation from these songs. In their hands, even the most familiar songs in the canon such as 'Shuckin' the Corn' became an enthusiastic demonstration of the form and its varieties that infected the audience with the artists' joy in playing.

Sam Bush brings a whole lotta Led to Telluride

By Donald Frazier

Perhaps it’s too soon to name the high point of the festival season. But the peak of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival took place at precisely 9:37 p.m. Saturday night of the Summer Solstice, when Sam Bush swung from a jazz fusion violin homage to Jean-Luc Ponty into a Celtic fiddle improv that segued, with a vast collective gasp from the crowd of thousands, into Whole Lotta Love.

Prancing and weaving about the stage, he showed us what it would have been like if Jimi Hendrix had played the violin. Led Zeppelin started out, surprisingly enough, as a Celtic roots revival band. But it takes an energetic music scholar like Sam Bush to demonstrate the bloodlines connecting bluegrass with its forebears and everyone else who followed, even big-hair rockers. One onlooker even expected him to set fire to his fiddle.

The entire evening was like that. A lengthy version of Bob Marley’s Freedom laid down the right reggae beat, but his treatment of the classic was anything but a druggy ganja reverie. In his hands, it gained a propulsion and urgency that made it new. John Oates – yes, that John Oates – sat in for classics such as Maneater. Even the standards kicking off the set forged the new direction that Sam Bush was thinking of when he conceived The New Grass Revival some years ago.

Like so many of the acts here, the Yonder Mountain String Band traces its lineage to his seminal act from the seventies. No Expectations, the center of their set earlier on Saturday, was not simply a countrified version of the Rolling Stones classic. True to its roots as an homage to Robert Johnson, it attained a wide range of tone and feeling reaching deep into the Delta Blues. This is in keeping with Yonder Mountain’s mission: with one foot in the conventions of bluegrass and another in the free-wheeling, eclectic experimentation of the jam band movement, they seem to be putting levels of personal expression into a style that used to prize form over feeling.

The Frames closing set took the program far beyond anything a bluegrass purist would recognize. Leadman Glen Hansard, familiar to Americans as the star of the Academy Award winning film Closer, traces his musical roots to the street buskers of Dublin. Moody, contemplative, and at times even turgid in the mode of The Cowboy Junkies, this Irish act exposed a vein of astringent romanticism as far as possible from the lively moods of a bluegrass event. Music from the underground clubs of a rainy country, here in a high country box canyon.

Sam Bush’s Led Zeppelin moment was so electrifying that the next day, Canadian folk-rockers The Duhks, when called upon for an encore, tried out their own version of Whole Lotta Love with wheeling and soaring violins. It capped off a decidedly non-bluegrass morning: the Duhks, with Cajun, Gospel and even Latin grooves; and the patriarch of country soul, Grammy-winning Solomon Burke. Not a mandolin in sight.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ryan Adams and Ani DiFranco anchor Thursday night at Telluride

By Donald Frazier

As a number of high-profile commercial festivals command attention this summer, the Big Daddy of bluegrass events continues to draw thousands to its Rocky Mountain home of 35 years, the once-funky and now-tony Telluride, Colorado. More than any other event, this one positions itself as keeper of the flame for the ongoing evolution of this musical form.

Headliners include Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, Leftover Salmon, The Yonder Mountain String Band, Hot Rize, Arlo Guthrie (!), and the artistic founder of this event, the venerable Sam Bush. But opening first night, featuring Ani DiFranco and Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, demonstrated two threads pulling bluegrass in new and different directions.

Time was, an urban and edgy artist like DiFranco would not be at the TellurideBluegrass among all of the old-timey pickers. But times change, forms evolve, and now a new generation of bluegrass fan has emerged with less loyalty to the past but an appreciation for the authenticity of experience they find here. From the looks of it, they found what they want in her terse, moody set that broke through the angst with shouts and yells of pain and passion.

Meanwhile, Ryan Adams delivered a highly proficient, even slick performance that got the crowd to its feet but would have been equally at home in a conventional rock arena.

Closer to the bone, the next morning Bela Fleck presented a series of duets with a wildly diverse set of partners, from Bryon Sutton (guitar), Sam Bush (violin) (not mandolin), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Abigail Washburn (banjo) and Edgar Meyer, a standing bassist of extraordinary attainment in classical music as well.

Best, he then turned in a solo set inspired by his study with masters of African music such as Toumani Diabete and Baaba Maal that has been made into a new documentary, Throw Down Your Heart. Fair to say that this, also, would not happen in the old days. Same later on, when Telluride veteran Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce gave a rousing clinic of what happens when you interpret bluegrass through the prism of reggae, Tex Mex, and rockabilly. This, from a disciple of Bill Monroe.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mather negotiations are back on track

Following the outcry that resulted from news that Strawberry Music Festivals could lose its lease for Camp Mather, the City of San Francisco-owned camp in the High Sierras, the festival revealed Friday that negotiations are back on track. An open letter from Strawberry management said that the festival and city Recreation and Parks department are now in agreement on the terms of a new lease.

"While this process is not over and there are several very important steps that remain, Strawberry Management is optimistic that a final agreement will be reached given the progress made to date," the letter read.

The lease must pass muster by the San Francisco City Attorney and gain final approval in a Recreation and Parks Department Commission meeting on August 18. If all goes well, the Strawberry community can celebrate 10 days later when the Fall 2008 festival opens for what otherwise could have been the last Strawberry at Camp Mather. —Dan Ruby

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pastures of plenty

By Jimmy Carlisle

It’s less than a month till the large field overlooking the Okemah golf course and the distant hot and cold water towers will be transformed into Pastures of Plenty, which will hold the main stage for the 11th annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, also known as WoodyFest (July 9-13, Okemah OK).

That's the stage where Judy Collins (yes, the Judy Collins, in answer to one of the festivals message board writers) will be closing the festival with her performance on Saturday night. She will have come full circle with this performance, having performed at the benefit for Woody Guthrie back in 1968, where she sang "Union Maid" and "Deportee."

Collins once said that after hearing Woody she stopped playing classical music on the piano and took up the guitar. Thank goodness she did, because without her hearing Woody we would not have had her version of songs such as "Both Sides Now," "Send in the Clowns" and countless others she has blessed us with. And now 37 years later she is playing in Woody’s home town, and she may even check out the Crystal Theater, where Woody once played and watched an occasional movie.

The theater is the festival's second main stage and the site of the Wednesday night opening show with the one and only Country Joe McDonald doing his Woody Guthrie tribute show, a one-man two-act play using Woody’s words and music.

There is some sadness this year. The festival recently lost one of its true stars, the godfather of red dirt music, Mr. Bob Childers, who passed away in April. There will be a special benefit show in his honor at the famous Cains Ballroom in Tulsa Tuesday night before the official start of this year’s festival. It will be a night to honor Childers and the great music he has left us with. If you are in the area, it will a show you will not want to miss.

Check the festival web site to find out more info and a complete lineup of the artists.

Another special guest this year will be the original Left Lou, who was Woody’s partner on KFVD radio in Los Angeles. On Friday, at Lou’s Rocky Road tavern will be Lefty Lou’s story time. It was on Lou’s back porch that Woody penned Oklahoma Hills while waiting on Lou to get ready. It’s a treat to have someone who worked so close to Woody come and share her experiences.

Friday night will also feature a special performance called Remembering Phil Ochs, hosted by the folk singer's sister Sonny Ochs and featuring Jimmy Lafave, John Gorka, The Rangers and many more. Phil of course was a protest singer who left his mark in the music world with such songs as "Power and the Glory" and my favorite, "Love Me, I’m a Liberal." What better way for the festival to honor the man than in Woody’s home town in a pasture just outside of town, full of music fans in the middle of an Oklahoma night with the full moon overhead. Who knows who might come on stage to join in the tribute to a true icon of the 1960s (maybe the FBI will even show up). This is destined to be a show that will be talked about for years to come.

Okay, gas is at an all-time high, but this year is shaping up to be an especially memorable festival. Do yourself a favor and come join the festivities in the Pastures of Plenty.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Strawberry fest acknowleges site uncertainty

By Dan Ruby

Strawberry Music Festivals today acknowledged the truth of rumors that the festival is in danger of losing its lease for the idyllic site where the event has been held twice a year since 1984.

In a detailed email posted to several lists, Strawberry management laid out the issues involved in the lease negotiations with the City of San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for the property. The tone of the message was not particularly hopeful, but the message said the festival would make every effort to reach a settlement before August 18, which appears to be a deadline set by the festival so that it has sufficient lead time to make plans for a move if necessary.

The email also confirmed that the festival has been exploring the purchase of a property in nearby Mariposa County that is said to possess many of the characteristics of the Camp Mather location. The email said the festival would consider a more distant move if a "spectacular" venue presented itself, but seemed to imply that the preference is to stay in the same general vicinity.

It also plainly stated that the festival has every intention of continuing whatever the outcome of this issue, refuting rumors that management would shut down the festival rather than undergo a move.

Once before, Strawberry and SF Parks Rec went to the mat before reaching a new four-year deal. A letter writing campaign by Strawberry-goers was thought to have been helpful in that case, and now the festival has asked fans to contact city officials with their comments. Full information and addresses to write to are posted on the festival home page.

As I posted here earlier this week, a move like this will be a wrenching experience for the Strawberry faithful but other festivals have executed site changes with relatively little pain. An example is the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, which will debut its new site next month in upstate New York.

Strawberry management is to be applauded for its open communications with fans on this matter. If a move becomes necessary, this kind of advance warning to its fans will reduce the inevitable outcry when it is finally announced. One way or another, it seems there will be a resolution on or before the August deadline.

Strawberry Park finishes on a high note

By Ted Lehmann

Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival finished on Sunday with four very strong performances surrounding the delightful on-stage debut of this year’s Kids Academy. After a short rain delay and some mugginess on Saturday night, the day dawned misty and a little muggy but quickly cleared into a warm, dry, sunny day – perfect for bluegrass.

The morning’s music opened with Dry Branch Fire Squad’s traditional gospel set. Now, considering that it’s Dry Branch Fire Squad and Strawberry Park is in New England, you might expect something quite different than you would find a bit further south. And different it was, although filled with respect at the same time.

Nature and the power of God’s creation remained before the audience with Laurie Lewis’ very fine set. Lewis’ lovely voice blended with Tom Rozum or Scott Huffman in close harmony explores lost love, the beauty of the outdoors, lost friends, and more.

The Grascals have been busy on the festival circuit and in the recording studio for about three years now. They have made a couple of personnel changes, first adding Aaron McDaris at banjo and recently replacing Jimmy Mattingly on fiddle with Jeremy Abshire. McDaris took over with barely a ripple. Abshire is a fine fiddler with lots of life and enthusiasm to him. The Grascals present a lively and fast moving show that’s entertaining and musical at once.

How many festivals save one of the all-time great bluegrass bands for closing on Sunday afternoon? Not many, but Strawberry Park does. What’s left to say about the Lonesome River Band. Sammy Shelor, four time IBMA banjo player of the year, has established his own style as a standard for others to emulate.

These are excerpts from Ted's full report, available here with original photography.

Jenny Brook Bluegrass preview

By Ted Lehmann
The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival will kick off its eighth four-day season on June 26, 2008 at the Weston Recreation Area a mile or two north of the picturesque village of Weston, VT off Greendale Road. This delightful, small festival will feature the strongest lineup in its history. National bands are led by The Dan Tyminski Band and include The Gibson Brothers, Dan Paisley & Southern Grass, and David Parmley & Continental Divide. Supplementing these bands will be local and regional bands, many familiar favorites at this annual get together. Although the park offers no hookups, camping spaces will be a premium. The gates open first thing Thursday morning, and wise campers will arrive early.

While the Weston Recreation Area has no water or electricity, it is not without its charm. There’s a pond on the premises for children to swim in, a playground area, and a tennis court used for basketball during this festival. The views of the surrounding hills are lovely and the air bracing and refreshing. This year Jenny Brook is being held a week later than it has historically been held. The site, the crowd, and the Sawyer family make this a family friendly event. Hosts Candi and Seth Sawyer’s two young sons, Mathew and Adam, are listed as co-hosts, are very much in evidence, and are truly part of the charm of this event. Candi’s valiant battle against multiple sclerosis and Mathew’s medical history are an integral part of this festival, making it a celebration of their struggles as well as a testimony to their love of the music. Seth Sawyer is a gifted songwriter as well as singer, whose contributions to the festival are quiet and very important.

Jenny Brook bills itself as a traditional festival and tends towards booking traditional bands. This year two of the headliners are among the hottest traditional bands on the circuit and offer an interesting contrast. The Dan Tyminski Band has come together for a year while Allison Krause is on tour with Robert Plant and Union Station is on hiatus. Tyminski and Barry Bales, also from AKUS, have joined with Ron Stuart on banjo, Adam Steffey (on leave or having left Mountain Heart) on mandolin, and Justin Moses on fiddle. This band has garnered lots of attention and rave reviews from those who’ve seen them. They’re a straight ahead bluegrass band playing familiar songs and ones that sound familiar, even if they aren’t. Tyminski, a native of Rutland, VT, has a familiar and well-liked voice. He has lead a musically first rate band into the most desirable venues right out of the box. Getting him at a small festival like Jenny Brook is a real coup. Each of the individual players in the Dan Band, as it has come to be known, is at the top of the profession in acclaim as well as in terms of national recognition.

This is an excerpt from Ted Lehmann's full Jenny Brook preview, available here with complete lineup analysis including original photography. Thanks Ted.