Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Busman's holiday for Uncle Earl's Gellert

Even though the breakout old-time band Uncle Earl was not in the MerleFest lineup, fiddler Rayna Gellert, who lives in nearby Asheville, came to hang out and jam with her many friends who were performing. (MerleFest was one of the few major roots festivals Uncle Earl is not playing this season. I've already seen them at Wintergrass and Old Settler's, and will catch them later this summer at Grey Fox and Rocky Grass.) I had a chance to sit down with Rayna for a short chat.

"Hey, I'm on vacation," she said. "It is really fun just to attend and hang out and see so many friends."

The band did one set here last year as a last-minute fill in, but has not yet been slotted as a featured band, which seems to me to be an oversight on the part of the MerleFest bookers, considering that the "gearls" are getting headline billing at so many other festivals. I wondered whether having a local connection can actually be a disadvantage.

Gellert said she didn't think so, and anyway that Uncle Earl is usually thought of as a Colorado band, despite several members living in North Carolina and Tennessee. "We're from all over, but we think of Lyons (Colo.) as our spiritual home," she said.

I had seen the band a week earlier at the Old Settler's Music Festival in Austin, where they played three sets as an ensemble, while member Abigail Washburn also performed twice in a duo and they reconnected with former member Sharon Gilchrist, who sat in with Uncle Earl as well as playing in Peter Rowan's several configurations.

"Festivals have been really huge for us. At this point, it seems like that is mainly what we do. We like to work hard when we do a festival," Gellert said.

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