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.

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