Thursday, January 31, 2008

Palatka to host strong bluegrass lineup

The next stop on Ted Lehmann's Southeastern bluegrass itinerary is The Palatka Bluegrass Festival, February 7-9 at Rodeheaver Boys' Ranch in Palatka FL near Gainesville. The festival boasts a top-notch lineup with Ralph Stanley, Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson, The Grascals, Blue Highway, Steep Canyon Rangers and lots more.

In this excerpt, Ted anticipates performance by several of the acts:

One of the highlights of the weekend will be Country Current, the U.S. Navy’s touring bluegrass band. Because this band is on active duty in the Navy, they are precluded from making commercial recordings. This means that much of their very high quality repertoire is not as well known as it should be. Lead singer Wayne Taylor is exceptional. Frank Sollivan II is one of the finest mandolin players in the business. Keith Arneson’s work on banjo is elegant and thoughtful and his direction of the band light. This band is not to be missed.

Rhonda Vincent, one of the most reliable, hardest touring, and highest quality performers in bluegrass music. One of her great qualities is the amount off-stage time she gives the rabid fans and new converts who flock to her merchandise table. While she is a known quantity, she never disappoints. I’m eager to hear what Darrell Webb, who has replaced Josh Williams at guitar will add to the mix. He was excellent with Wildfire, and he will surely change the mix as well as continue the excellence.
Ted's full Palatka preview is at his Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books and Brainstorms blog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

End of the road for Fox Family festival

With all the new festival launches this year and every year, we tend to overlook the attrition of older festivals. Here's an example. The Fox Family Bluegrass Festival, which has been a force in traditional music in upstate New York for 18 years, is coming to an end. Since 1990, the festival has brought the best in bluegrass to Old Forge in the central Adirondacks.

In an "obituary" at the festival website, the Fox family siblings (who now perform together as 3 Fox Drive) broke the news to friends of the festival, ending with this acknowledgment to long-time attendees:

"Finally, thank you to all the festival-goers. You have not only become a part of the family, you have helped to define the term. Your support, camaraderie, and love for bluegrass music have not gone unnoticed. We can never thank you enough for hanging in there with us even when it was pouring down rain, or the power went out, or the high for the day was 35 degrees! Each and every year, you came back with smiles on your faces, ready for anything and sat in your chairs on that hill to soak in the sounds of some of the best music that the Adirondack Mountains will ever hear. There will never be a festival quite like this one. It's not something that can be recreated. We thank you, we love you and we'll miss you this August."

I never got a chance to attend the festival but heard great things about it from people I've met at Grey Fox. Sorry to see it go. Best wishes for 3 Fox Drive.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ted Lehmann's Spring tour starts at YeeHaw

Nobody reports on the bluegrass festival scene with as much detail, knowledge and enthusiasm as Ted Lehmann. Plus his photography is outstanding.

Ted's year in bluegrass started in Florida with last weekend's YeeHaw Bluegrass Festival. YeeHaw is one of the many Southeastern regional events that bring out the local fan base to see a lineup of mainly up-and-coming bands, mixed in with some national names. This year Valerie Smith, James King and The Gibson Brothers were among the latter.

Making the rounds at lesser known bluegrass festivals year round, Ted has his ear to the ground on many of the bands who will be making waves at the major festivals in years to come. Some of Ted's discoveries at YeeHaw were Monroe Crossing and Blue Moon Rising.

Here's an excerpt of his writeup on Monroe Crossing (the band's Matt Thompson and Art Blackburn are in the photos). Go to Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books and Brainstorms for all the details.

Friday dawned bright and clear with a cool breeze from the northwest. It promised to be a lovely day filled with great music even if the evening would be cool to downright chilly. Predictions panned out pretty well.

Monroe Crossing opened the day, continuing their high quality performance from Thursday. This band, little known outside the Midwest, deserves a national audience and reputation. Their eclectic mix of classic bluegrass and more contemporary sounds combined with high energy and first-rate musicianship should be pleasing to just about any bluegrass aficionado except the most intransigent, hard core traditional bluegrass fan.

At one point they began with commenting that Bill Monroe is a member of five separate music halls of fame, including both bluegrass and rock and roll, and then used “The Road is Rocky, but it Won't Be Rocky Long" to morph through the original to rock-a-billy, a polka, to the blues. This clearly demonstrated the flexibility and versatility of Monroe’s music for today as well as having something to say about Monroe himself.

Benji Flaming on banjo picked Bela Fleck’s “Whitewater” as well as an incredibly sweet and melodious banjo solo in their second set. Despite his very unusual way of holding his banjo, Flaming is a young banjo player very much worth watching. This band is extremely entertaining, engaging the audience with humor, gentle ribbing and banter.

Monroe Crossing does honor to its namesake, dressing in forties era slacks and the awful painted ties your father used to wear (add a generation or two if you wish), but their music reflects trends and tastes from the thirties until today without seeming forced or mannered. Look for this band and request your local promoter to book them.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wintergrass venues

The Wintergrass schedule published a few days ago reveals new information about the stage venues for the upcoming festival. As reported earlier, a major overhaul of the main festival hotel required reconfiguring some stage locations. Contrary to that item, however, the hotel's roof restaurant will not be used as a venue.

According to a posting by festival co-producer Patrice O'Neill on the Wintergrass message board, a new express elevator serving the newly renamed Murano Hotel's roof restaurant is not yet ready. Instead, a new venue has been added offsite, at the Varsity Grill at 1114 Broadway, a half block from the hotel.

The Varsity will serve as the festival's dance venue, where acts such as Trampled By Turtles and The Duhks are scheduled to rock into the wee hours Friday and Saturday night. The dance stage in previous years, the lower level ballroom of the main hotel, will be used as the regional band showcase room, much as the Copper Creek hotel bar used to be employed. That space has been overhauled and will not be used as a venue this year.

The three other venues—main Pavilion, Urban Grace Church, and Marriott Courtyard ballroom—are unchanged from previous years.

For more detail on The Varsity, check out this report in the official Wintergrass blog.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dancin' Dave's spring schedule

From Dancin' Dave:

Hey fellow music festival lovers....

Although the morning temperature today here in the great northwoods was a balmy -24*F, and the snowpack is just right for cross-country skiing, I'm still thinking about the first festival trip for "Dancin'Dave'sFestivalCamping" in 2008! And it's actually comin' up quickly....

I'll be making a double festival trip to Florida, with back-to-back festivals at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. This is a very sweet venue, made for holding great music festivals.

This will be my first trip to the Spirit of Bluegrass Music Fest. This is a pretty traditional bluegrass festival, and will be held on March 20-28. The lineup includes: Mountain Heart; Lonesome River Band; Cadillac Sky; Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain; Grasstowne; Honi Deaton & Dream; the James King Band; The Doerfuls; The Wilson Family; Southern Lite; Ernie Thacker & Route 23...among others.

The next weekend, March 27-30, will be the Suwannee Springfest, one of my favorite festivals; and one that I've been attending since 1999. Beth and Randy Judy always put on a high-quality festival and this spring will be no exception. The lineup includes: the David Grisman Quintet; Railroad Earth; Donna the Buffalo; Commander Cody; Peter Rowan; Guy Clark; Verlon Thompson; The Waybacks; the Claire Lynch Band; Jim Lauderdale; Acoustic Syndicate; The Greencards; the Infamous Stringdusters; Steep Canyon Rangers; Hot Buttered Rum; Scythian; Red Stick Ramblers; Roy Bookbinder....and many more...this is a hot lineup!

I can guarentee that a comfortable, high-quality campsite will be set up and waiting your arrival if you'd like to attend and camp without all the work of camping. I use only top-notch equipment...the tents are tall and roomy and carpeted and the cots are comfortable. Plus, service is always with a smile! >g<

If interested please check out the respective websites. It's a gas to spend the start of spring in that sweet northern Florida sunshine, diggin' that fine music!
Peace, David

Spirit of Bluegrass Music Fest
Suwannee Springfest

Festival International de Louisiane gets ready

Everyone knows about New Orleans Jazz Fest, which this year returns to a seven-day schedule over two long weekends. Locals and festival insiders know there is another great Louisiana festival 110 miles away in Lafayette that overlaps the first weekend of Jazzfest.

Festival International de Louisiane (FIL) has been running for 22 years, celebrating the region's rich cultural heritage, which drew from French speaking cultures around the world. The festival presents music representing diverse cultural influences--French, African, Caribbean, Canadian, Hispanic and more.

This year's schedule includes almost 200 performances of music, dance, theater and cinema at multiple venues around downtown Lafayette. Musical headliners include Blind Boys of Alabama with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band Horns, Burning Spear, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Babylon Circus, Habib Koïte, and The Duhks.

Torn about attending FIL when Jazzfest is also on? Put together your own multi-festival package, with a few days of each. If you are coming for true Louisiana Francophone culture, you'll have a more authentic experience in Lafayette than at the Race Course Fair Grounds.

Stagecoach readies a cross-country mix

With Goldenvoice making news on the Coachella front, as well as with its newly announced All Points West festival, this is a good time to catch up the lineup news for Stagecoach, the company's country music festival that runs a week after Coachella on the same site in Indio CA.

We covered Stagecoach 2007, its first year, and found it to be an amazing production, but one with a split personality. (See links below for 2007 coverage.) Primarily Stagecoach is a big-time mainstream country music festival, featuring a long list of Nashville's biggest names. Most of these acts perform on the main stage (or Mane Stage as the cowboy-themed festival labels it). Ninety percent of the audience comes for the these artists.

This year, the big Nashville names are Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, The Judds, Carrie Underwood, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins and more. If you listen to mainstream country radio, this is hog heaven.

But the festival has three more stages arrayed around the grounds of the Empire Polo Club. Looking at the lineup, it appears the same kind of genre stage assignments will be used as last year.

Palomino features alt-country, Texas country, and roots rock. This year, look for Shooter Jennings, Michael Martin Murphy, Billy Joe Shaver, The Kentucky Headhunters and more. Some of the big Nashville names also spill over to Palomino, where I expect to see George Jones and Dwight Yoakam.

Appaloosa is bluegrass and newgrass, and wow, there is a stunning lineup of artists set for that stage. Start with the old timers, Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley. Then the next generation: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, J.D. Crowe and Dan Tyminski in his breakout year as a bandleader. Finally, some of the best of the young generation: The Greencards, Cherryholmes, Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Isaacs.

That's a whole festival by itself.

The Mustang Stage is intriguing, holding up the western end in the old definition of country western music. This year's cowboy music lineup is also impressive: Ian Tyson, Riders in teh Sky, Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell and Wylie & The Wild West. In my festival tours, I may see one of these acts during an eclectic roots festival. To see two days of cowboy programming is unusual and refreshing.

I only hope that some of the masses of people who will be swarming the Mane Stage will spread their time among all the stages. If they do, they will find some amazing music that they might like more than they expect.

2007 Articles
• Saturday photo gallery
• Stagecoach runs like clockwork
• Robert Earl's party goes on
• Older, wiser country rockers: Chris HIllman and Richie Furay
• Sunday photo gallery

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Joe Val jump-starts Northeast season

Just as RiverCity and Wintergrass brings bluegrass indoors in the soggy Northwest, Joe Val plays a similar role in the snowy Northeast. The 23rd Joe Val Bluegrass Festival is set for President's Day weekend, February 15-17) in Framingham MA, near Boston.

Headliners for the event are The Seldom Scene, Blue Highway and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. Two years ago, Joe Val won the International Bluegrass Music Association's award for best festival. It is produced as a non-profit event by the Boston Bluegrass Union. See here for a past interview with festival organizers.

Other notables on the lineup include Steep Canyon Rangers, Alecia Nugent, Frank Wakefield, and The James King Band. The festival takes place at the Sheraton Framingham. Rooms at the main hotel are booked, but two nearby hotels have availability. Visit the BBU website for details and ticketing information.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Darol Anger on the youth movement

Wrapping up our RiverCity coverage, I was blown away by the inventiveness and musicianship of Republic of Strings, the instrumental string band led by master fiddler Darol Anger.

I'd last seen RoS in 2006 at Grey Fox, where the band included phenom Rushad Eggleston and had special guests such as David Grisman, in whose band Anger played for many years.

The current edition of Republic of Strings included two young players, Tristan Clarridge on cello (see related post) and 15-year-old Alex Hargreaves, the current national old-time fiddle champ (no, not the junior division), as well as more seasoned musicians Scott Nygaard on guitar and Bryn Davies on bass.

"These talented kids just keep on coming. It is a real phenomenon," Anger told me after Republic of Strings' second festival set on Sunday. "Grisman always said, if you can't beat them, hire them."

"Musically it is a continuation of what has been going on in acoustic music since the '60s," he said, adding that his generation of players "did the heavy lifting" and that "the kids are riding on that wave."

He attributed the bumper crop of young talent—also including the Haas sisters, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and others—to the influential music camps of master musicians like Mark O'Connor and Alistair Fraser, where many of the young players were trained.

"There is an ethos in folk music to look to older players," Anger said, acknowledging his own role as a mentor to young string musicians. "Over time, you learn it is not about the notes or the musical style, but about the people.

"Our music cuts across all boundaries," Anger said of Republic of Strings, but he might also have been referring to his own body of work. In the last year, Anger released a CD of classical compositions with his frequent partner, mandolinist, Mike Marshall, and the pair also produced a collaboration with the Swedish acoustic sensations Väsen.

Anger and Marshall are on the bill at Wintergrass as a duo. Also appearing at Wintergrass will be Väsen, Hargreaves, Jarosz, Clarridge and others mentioned in this item, so look for more cross-generational fireworks in Tacoma.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Video: Del McCoury gets his own festival

I had a chance to sit down with Del McCoury during the RiverCity Bluegrass Festival to get a preview of the first DelFest, which will be held in Cumberland MD on Memorial Day weekend combining bluegrass, jam band and country artists. In the interview, he remembers the early bluegrass festivals where he appeared with Bill Monroe and also reflects on his future and legacy.

Tune Up for Wintergrass

Tune up for the festival with our playlist of two songs likely to be played by each major artist at the upcoming Wintergrass 2008, which takes place in Tacoma WA February 21-24. The lineup and playlist is especially strong in contemporary acoustic and traditional bluegrass, with significant forays into Afro-American roots, gypsy jazz, jamgrass and other styles. Downloads are served by

Ruffo previews Wintergrass highlights

Considering that RiverCity is sort of an upstart festival compared with the better established Wintergrass, coming the following month in a neighboring city, it was something of a surprise to find none other than Stephen Ruffo, one of the Wintergrass partners, working RiverCity as the artist liaison.

There's nobody better for such a role than Ruffo. the personable, silver-maned promoter who seems to know everybody in the business. He allowed that it isn't ideal to have two festivals competing for the same audience, especially with Seldom Scene heading both lineups.

"Both festivals have the mission to further bluegrass, so it's all good," he said.

I took the opportunity to ask Ruffo about the Wintergrass lineup and about the festival theme of "transformation."

"The hotel change was huge," he said, referring to the makeover of the festival hotel following a change of ownership. Gone is the Sheraton Tacoma name (now it is The Murano), but the changes are much deeper than just the nameplate. Positioned now as a boutique hotel, the decor and fixtures were significantly upgraded, and some architectural changes were also made.

The latter necessitated some changes to festival performance venues. The upper lobby hotel bar is no longer available as a stage, but the roof restaurant will now be used. Beds can no longer be removed from rooms for picking suites, but all the usual public jam spaces will be available. Seating capacity is a little less in the main pavilion because different bleachers will be used.

"I'm a guy who doesn't like to buy new pants, I like the comfortable old ones. But, hey, they did a beautiful job with it. People are going to like it," he said.

On the program, Ruffo said he was excited about the special Thursday night show Black and Bluegrass with Laura Love, Ruthie Foster, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and others, exploring diverse early influences to bluegrass music.

The lineup offers plenty of straight-ahead bluegrass, from Bobby Osborne to Michael Cleveland, but Ruffo is most jazzed about the lineup of progressive bands such as The Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still and especially Chris Thile's Punch Brothers band.

"Wintergrass has always been progressive. It is about a morphing of styles, and how that happens organically. We're always going to be a little edgier than a regular bluegrass festival," he said.

Friday, January 11, 2008

RiverCity notebook

Various musicians pulled double duty by sitting in with other bands as well as their own. Ron Stewart, who plays banjo with Dan Tyminski, filled in on fiddle with Rhonda Vincent on short notice when Rage standby Hunter Berry came up lame. Here's hoping Hunter is back on his feet soon.

Marty Stuart came with a partial lineup of Fabulous Thunderbirds and filled it out with the McCoury boys--Ronnie on mandolin and Rob on banjo. The two bands have gigged together before and there was lots on onstage chemistry in Portland, especially the dueling mandos with Ronnie and Marty.

I hadn't realizedthat Chris Eldridge, late of the Infamous Stringdusters and set to debut in Chris Thile's Punch Brothers band, is also a sometimes member of his dad's band, Seldom Scene. And he looked so young in his short haircut and striped shirt that at first I thought he might be a younger brother. Sure enough, it was Critter himself, adding some six-string firepower to the Scene's instrumental attack.

I had forgotten that Bryn Davies holds down the bass part in Republic of Strings. Having missed her since she stepped down from the Rowan-Rice Quartet last year, it was nice to see her trademark moves as she more than held her own with the rest of Anger's virtuoso band.

Ron Thomason and Dry Branch Fire Squad were in fine form, delivering two sets of traditional bluegrass along with a welcome helping of Ron Thomason's comedic monologues. I was familiar with riff on Utah Philips leading into "Orphan Train" and his antiwar commentary introducing "He's Coming to Us Dead," but they are equally powerful in the retelling. The band's Sunday set was all gospel. I buttonholed Thomason afterwards asking for a comment on the Grey Fox site relocation, but he didn't want to say anything on the record.

John Reischman & The Jaybirds impressed with their bluegrass chops but also their sweet original songs, several sung by bassist Trish Gagnon. It turns out that Gagnon, a Canadian, almost didn't make the gig over a visa problem until the festival management asked for help from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden's office.

Filling Rushad's big shoes

I had a chance during RiverCity to chat with Tristan Clarridge, the young fiddle and cello virtuoso who was performing with Darol Anger's Republic of Strings. Tristan fit in the gig between rehearsals and recording with his new band Crooked Still, where he has stepped into the big shoes belonging to Rushad Eggleston, the wild man of the new acoustic scene. [Photo: Tristan Clarridge with Republic of Strings.]

"There will be fewer pink suits on stage, but we'll have the same musical integrity," he said. Clarridge and Eggleston grew up together as musicians, as part of a cohort of string music prodigies, including Brittany and Natalie Haas and Clarridge's sister Tashina, who were nurtured by veteran artists Mark O'Connor, Alistair Fraser and Darol Anger, among others.

"Rushad's cello style started a revolution and many of us are following in his path," Clarridge said. Besides Clarridge's cello, the new Crooked Still includes Brittany Haas on fiddle. Casey Driessen will continue to sit in with the band when available, Clarridge said.

"We offer a big string texture," he said. "I like that there is space for every one to try out new ideas. And I like that we take traditional melodies and play with them."

Clarridge said the new band mates had spent several weeks in December arranging and rehearsing, and that he was flying out from Portland to join the band in a recording studio in upstate New York. The reconfigured Crooked Still begins touring in February, and will have its first big performances at Wintergrass in Tacoma WA in about six weeks.

A California native, Clarridge had resettled in Boston even before joining the Crooked Still, living with five other performers in what he calls a "music house." Besides joining Crooked Still and continuing with Republic of Strings, Clarridge is also part of New Old Stock, a quartet including his sister Tashina along with Wesley Corbett on banjo and Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer.

Tyminski Band steps up on first tour dates

[Adam Steffey and Dan Tyminski at RCBF.]

After a kickoff gig at Nashville's Station Inn on January 2, the spanking new Dan Tyminski Band played its first road dates January 4 and 5 in San Francisco and Portland OR, where I caught their set at of the RiverCity Bluegrass Festival.

The band will be one of the marquee acts on the roots festival scene in 2008. With Alison Krauss doing other projects this year, Tyminski and other members of Union Station have stepped up in this new configuration.

AKUS members Tyminski (guitar), Barry Bales (bass) and Justin Moses (fiddle) join with former member Adam Steffey (mandolin) and super-sideman Ron Stewart (banjo) in the new configuration. Steffey and Stewart each stepped down from prominent roles in other bands to join with Tyminski.

As the band took the stage, it immediately fell into an effortless bluegrass groove. This is not a band trying to invent anything self-consciously new. It's just does what comes naturally, mixing rich vocals and tasteful instrumentals and seeming to embody the essence of contemporary bluegrass.

Some of the songs were not familiar to me and are likely to be featured on the group's forthcoming CD, due in March or April. Tyminski performed some of the material from his 2002 solo CD, including a great rendition of Hank Snow's "Sunny Side of the Mountain." Of course, he told his George Clooney story and offered his hit version of "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Steffey, Stewart and Bales also took turns on lead vocals. Stewart impressed with his breakup song "Ain't Taking You Back No More." For me, the highlight of the set was Steffey's vocal on the AKUS standard "No Place to Hide," reprising his role with the pre-1998 version of Union Station.

The band sounds as if it has been playing together for years, as smooth and mellow as honey dripping off a spoon. Audiences at MerleFest, Stagecoach, Rockygrass and many others will be in for a treat as Dan Tyminski and friends fully grow into their groove.

First-in-the-nation bluegrass at Portland's RiverCity

[Seldom Scene closes out RiverCity on Sunday afternoon.]

The year in roots acoustic music got underway on the first weekend of 2008 with the fourth running of the RiverCity Bluegrass Festival at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland OR.

Among an outstanding lineup of top bluegrass names, the top music headline was the debut of one of the sure-fire new acts on the roots festival circuit, the Dan Tyminski Band, headed by the Alison Krauss & Union Station guitarist and including bluegrass standouts Adam Steffey on mandolin and Ron Stewart on banjo.

Actually, the band's Saturday show was its third official performance, after gigs in Nashville and San Francisco earlier in the week. See the related post for details on the Tyminski Band set.

For a still-emerging festival, RCBF put on an outstanding lineup, featuring top acts Seldom Scene, Tim O'Brien, Del McCoury Band, Rhonda Vincent, Marty Stuart and many more. Styles ran the spectrum of acoustic music from bluegrass gospel (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver) to Texas country (The Flatlanders) to improvisational string-band (Darol Anger's Republic of Strings).

Other standouts included David Grisman Quintet, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Foghorn Stringband, David Grier, John Reischman, Tony Furtado, Bryan Bowers, plus a whole contingent of Pacific Northwest regional bands.

Besides the outstanding lineup, the event impressed me as a full-featured festival experience--with two stages, full-fledged workshop program, kids program, extensive vendor exhibits, attendee jams in halls and lobbies, and a special "jam train" to bring in patrons from Seattle.

Convention center festivals usually lack for charm, and that was somewhat the case here. The main stage and vendor area was set in a dark, cavernous exhibit hall space, but the sound was excellent and the sight lines were fine.

Outside in the soaring glassed-in concourse, the second stage and workshop area had the bustle of an outdoor festival. The convention center central location on Portland's river front, adjacent to the trendy Pearl District, compensated for the otherwise uninspring site.

Unsurprisingly, the weather was gloomy with occasional downpours, but that didn't seem to dampen the mood. The festival promoters did not have an official attendance count, but were hoping to hit about 4000 for the three days, which seemed consistent with my rough estimate of the crowd sizes.

Unlike many festivals, RCBF is run as a for-profit enterprise, though the profit part may continue to be theoretical. It is run by Palmer/Wirfs & Associates, a Portland exhibition producer specializing in antique shows and similar events.

For Christine Palmer and her husband Chuck, it seems to be more a labor of love than a breakthrough business opportunity. The area bluegrass community has embraced the event by volunteering and participating as though it was a non-profit undertaking.

Bravo for a top-notch event whose first-in-the-nation status makes it the bluegrass equivalent of the New Hampshire primary.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2008 Tarahumara Train to feature Hillman and Pedersen

Oh man, this is the music excursion I'd like to book. An alternative to the spate of music cruises, Flying Under Radar Productions puts on exotic Roots on the Rails adventures in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. West. In past years, the Tarahumara Train, which runs out of Tucson to the Copper Canyon region of Mexico's Sierra Madre, has featured folk heroes like Tom Russell and Fred Eaglesmith.

The 2008 Tarahumara Train runs May 15-22 and features two of my musical heroes, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, plus more "friends" to be announced. For boomers like me, Hillman and Pedersen have been part of the soundtrack of our lives, beginning with the Byrds and Burritos and playing key roles in the defining the country rock sound.

Throughout the years, the two of them have paired on numerous projects, including The Desert Rose Band and in a quartet with the Rice brothers. Recently, they have played as a trio with bassist Bill Bryson, and to my ears their music is sweeter than ever.

Roots on the Rails trips are not inexpensive. This one goes for $4750 per person, including all onboard and hotel accommodations, various side trips, plus concerts, workshops and jams all along the way. I don't know if this is the trip of a lifetime, but it certainly will make the 2008 highlight reel.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Industry conference set for San Antonio in June

Following the path of larger industry associations such as the Americana Music Association (AMA), Folk Alliance (FA) and International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the Roots Music Association (RMA) announced its first industry conference and associated music festival, Music United '08.

So far, little information is available about the program and artist lineup, but the association itself has been gaining momentum behind its mission to promote independent artists playing in diverse roots music genres.

Just as RMA has a broad definition of "roots," Festival Preview's broad definition of "festival" embraces all types of musical gatherings. We'll keep our eye on MU08 as part of our coverage of industry conferences. If only we can keep all the initials straight.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Grey Fox looking for new site

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival's Mary Burdette today confirmed recent renewed rumors that the pending sale of Rothvoss Farm will necessitate a move this year to a new location for the long-running event.

"We want you all to know that we are monitoring the Rothvoss Farm situation very closely. While we have not yet received official word that the farm has been sold, we have every reason to believe that it will be sold very shortly. We also believe it will be necessary to move the festival to a new location this year," Burdette wrote in a posting to the Grey Fox discussion board.

Grey Fox and its predecessor event, Winterhawk, has been located at the Rothvoss Farm site near Ancramdale NY, fondly known as "The HIll," since Winterhawk's inception in 1983. The possibility of a sale of the property and the need to move the festival to a different location has been in the air for several years. At the 2006 festival, promoter Mary Doub announced an agreement that would allow Grey Fox 2007 to take place in its familiar location.

Since no such assurance was given during the 2007 festival, today's news comes as little surprise. But it does raise big questions for long-time attendees. How will it be different? How will long-held festival traditions translate to a new site? Will a new site change the character of the event? Already, Grey Fox attendees are weighing in at the discussion board with suggestions and reaction.

The 2008 festival is fully underway, with tickets already on sale and the full lineup announced for July 17-20. All that's missing is a location.

Many festivals have undergone location changes with a minimum of disruption. Grey Fox's well deserved reputation for patron friendliness, as evidenced by today's announcement, should serve it well as it follows through this challenging transition.