Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dancin' Dave's Merlefest: The jams

By Dancin' Dave

Merlefest '07 featured some outrageous Watson Stage jam sessions! The first closed the Thursday show, and featured John Cowan as the host. Artists included Tut Taylor, all the gals from Uncle Earl, Pete Wernick, Sierra Hull, Tara Nevins and probably other artists that I don't recall. It was my first glimpse of Sierra...I had seen a YouTube clip of her jammin' with Sam Bush when she was 10 years old! She's now all of 15 or maybe 16 and looks as if she has a bright future in the acoustic music field.

On Friday Bela used his time slot to host a "strength in numbers" kind of get together....he was joined by Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Byron House, Luke Bulla, Tony Rice and Bryan Sutton. How do YOU spell "outrageous"!!!? I don't know how the threesome of Bela, Jerry and Sam can possibly get any better but somehow they seem to always be able to raise the bar from year to year. And Bryan Sutton always astounds.... This set was probably my favorite of the festival....and it's not easy to pick one out!

Oh wait...maybe the "new generation superjam" could be my favorite...! >g< This happened on Saturday morning and was hosted by Leonard Podolak, of the Duhks, who took his sweet time weeks before the show by not letting anyone else that would be involved know that it was comin' down! In fact, on Friday night I had the pleasure of teaching Aoife O'Donovan, of Crooked Still, how to two-step in the Dance Tent, and she told me that nothing had been worked up at that point in time....and the next morning those youngins' nailed it!!! (despite the early hour...>g<)

Besides the Duhks and Crooked Still, the other groups involved were Uncle Earl and the Infamous Stringdusters. The jam started with all of them on group's song would be played by everyone, with the members of the group in the foreground. As the song changed into a different group's song the members of that group would emerge to the foreground.....and on and on. It was a spectacular opening number, to say the least!

The jam continued with four or five artists doin' a song that they had just worked up together backstage and while this was goin' on the other musicians were forming their own impromtu groups backstage and doin' the same. The result was a super eclectic collection of tunes and songs played by these young musicians who are quickly becoming "stars" in the acoustic world. It truly was a "superjam"!

And of course there was the 20th Anniversary Jam that I had wrote about earlier....seeing as how it did include that mini-NGR-reunion! (still get goosebumps thinking about that; and to dream about a full reunion is an ongoing thought for me). Of course Sam Bush was the host of this jam....Doc Watson is of course the Main Man at this festival, but Sammy, in my mind anyway, is the focus musician in that so much of the music centers around his visions of the directions of the acoustic music scene for the last 35 to almost 40 years now!

I had the two of them in my binoculars while the jam was getting set up and Sam was cracking Doc up with his comments and questions; at one point Doc laughed and exclaimed: "I only heard one recording of that in all my years..."....and I believe that whatever the song was was the first or second tune played by them. (at that point the jam consisted of Doc, Sam, T. Michael Coleman, and Jerry Douglas) Anyway...was that my favorite jam? >g<

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