Thursday, May 29, 2008

Strawberry Spring latest 2008 fest to get soaked

Attendees at last weekend's Spring Strawberry Music Festival are remembering this year's event as "Drizzleberry." The event offered some great musical moments, according to posters on the festival's email list, but many fans missed them while seeking refuge from the coldest and wettest Strawberry festival in recent memory.

Strawberry is just the latest 2008 festival that has offered less than hospitable weather. Among other wetter-than-usual events so far this year were Langerado, MerleFest, New Orleans Jazzfest and Lake Eden Arts Festival.

Weather is always an unpredictable factor at outdoor music festivals. Experienced attendees come prepared for possible storms, and festival audiences are notoriously good at shrugging off bad weather and letting the show go on.

That said, 2008 is off to a particularly stormy start. Festival producers are protected by the "rain or shine" policy that most adopt, but with so many big new events on the docket for this summer, promoters, artists and fans alike are hoping for blue skies ahead.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson to be inducted

The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame will honor acoustic music greats Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson as its first inductees in a ceremony and concert June 13 at the Walker Center at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro NC.

The organization was created in 2006 to recognize musicians and others who have contributed to the musical heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area was a “melting pot” of international music influences that merged into American country music styles.

Besides Watson and Scruggs, others to be honored include The Carter Family, Tommy Jarrell, Dolly Parton, David Johnson, Ralph Rinzler, Ralph Epperson, Wayne Henderson and Sam Love Queen, Sr.

The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame will be housed in the Wilkes Heritage Museum located at 100 East Main Street, Wilkesboro, NC. Tickets for the event are available from the Walker Center.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Judds reunion leads superstar lineup at Stagecoach

The local Palm Springs newspaper The Desert Sun offers comprehensive news, reviews, photos and more from last weekend's Stagecoach festival. Among a high-powered lineup of country music stars, the highlights were probably the reunion concert by The Judds and a rare performance by The Eagles. Until Saturday, Naomi and Wynona had not performed together since 2000.
Desert Sun's Stagecoach coverage

Photo by Omar Ornelas of The Desert Sun

Friday, May 02, 2008

Michigan Mountain festivals cancelled for '08

Citing financing issues with its festival venue property, Silver Ridge Music Festivals announced cancellation of the two festivals—Mountain Country Festival and Mountain Rock Festival—it had scheduled this summer in Farwell MI.

Silver Ridge had run a successful debuts for the two festivals last year at the former ski resort after making significant property improvements including a main stage amphitheater. A second stage was under construction for this year, and partial lineups including headline performers had already been announced.

Details of the financial problems are sketchy. Here is the full text of the announcement at the Silver Ridge site: "The 2008 Mt Country Music Festival has been postponed for this season. Please stand by for further information. All of us at Silver Ridge are committed to restructuring the financial affairs of our venue just as soon as possible. We believe at this point in time it will take a minimum of at least 60 days.....possibly more. We understand this is a frustrating experience for ticket holders vendors, bands, and media alike. The management of Silver Ridge is committed on a bi-weekly basis in providing updates to the general public as to how this process is proceeding. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and ask for your continued cooperation and patience as we work through this process."

While the cancellation does not seem to be related to ticket sales, it does clear the calendar of competing regional rock events. The big new Rothbury festival takes place two weeks earlier and 100 miles away from Mountain Rock.

DelFest lists late-night shows and "playshops"

Filling out the program for the first DelFest, coming May 23-25 in Cumberland MD, High Sierra music announced the schedule of late night shows and artist "playshops."

Late night programming is a popular feature of jam-band festivals, and the opening night midnight show offers a full cast of top jammers—Jon Fishman, Drew Emmitt, Billy Nershi, Tyler Grant and other special guests—playing with Ronnie and Rob McCoury, followed by a full set by jam-band Railroad Earth.

Saturday and Sunday nights begin at midnight with The McCourys and Friends All-Star Jam, with follow-up sets by Mike Garris & Area 51 and The Davisson Brothers, respectively. Late night shows are held in an intimate indoor room and require a separate ticket for admission.

Artist "playshops" are a trademark feature of High Sierra Music Festival, the flagship event of DelFest producer High Sierra Music, which will import that concept to DelFest with interactive artist sessions in the fairground's Multipurpose Building throughout the festival weekend.

Playshop artists include the mandolin duo of Ronnie McCoury and Drew Emmitt, Billy Nershi and Tyler Grant of the Emmitt-Nershi Band, songwriter Ronnie Bowman, former Phish drummer Jon Fishman, multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg, and the trio of McCoury, Fleck, and McCoury.

In addition to the mentioned artists, the main stage schedule includes Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley, Keller Williams, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Sparrow Quartet, Punch Brothers, Steep Canyon Rangers and many more. Visit the DelFest website for complete details.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

MerleFest wrapup

Following are highlights from Ted Lehmann's full review of MerleFest 2008. Thanks for the thoughtful and timely coverage, Ted.

Once again, for the twenty-first year, Merlefest presented a varied, interesting, exciting, engaging, diverse, and frustrating program of American and, increasingly, world music.

This year the weather threatened throughout the festival. Fortunately, the clouds and threat of rain kept the grounds comfortably warm in the evening right through the festival. The loud and wet thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon provided relief from direct sunlight and heat, leaving muddy grounds but no real surprises for Merlefest veterans. By Sunday afternoon, a steady rain had developed leaving precious few people to enjoy the much anticipated Dan Tyminski Band’s closing set.

While the crowd seemed smaller to me than in the previous two years, this is purely subjective judgment. Festival officials tell me that their preliminary estimated total attendance was 76,900, slightly down from last year’s 79,000, but quite good considering the threatening weather and the price of gasoline.

Musically the festival provided many more highlights than disappointments. In no particular order, I’ll point out some of my (our) highlights and disappointments. All judgments are completely my own and Irene’s, and I am happy to have anyone disagree with me, but this is a report on our Merlefest. Yours is likely to have been completely different....

One of the great joys of Merlefest is always the unusual combinations of musicians brought together in jam situations. Girls for Merle was a perfect example of this on Saturday afternoon. Imagine Alison Brown, Sierra Hull, Laurie Lewis, Rhonda Vincent, Missy Raines, Claire Lynch, and Sally Van Meter appearing on stage at the same time.

Ralph Stanley showed up for a performance with Doc Watson, David Holt, and T. Michael Coleman. Tim O’Brien appeared at the Creekside Stage with The Infamous Stringdusters for a delightful set. Mando Mania on Saturday afternoon put some of the greatest mandolin players in the world on the stage at once. Tony Williamson hosted Darin Aldridge, Mike Compton, Sierra Hull, Rebecca Lovell, Barry Mitterhoff,James Nash, Tim O’Brien, Tom Rozum, and Sam Bush in an hour-long jam.

Other highlights for me included The Infamous Stringdusters with sets on three major stages on two days before heading off for an appearance at The Grand Ol’ Opry and then a trip to Europe. Blue Highwayhad a fine set on Friday afternoon.It’s easy to take this great band for granted, since they’ve been together without a change for fourteen years. They remain fresh and lively presenting music that manages to be cutting edge progressive while paying due deference to the founding musical ideas of bluegrass music. Laurie Lewis and her band had a very good, strong set on the main stage on Thursday and then followed it up with great courage, taking the stage right after a big thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon.

A major highlight for both Irene and me was the performance of Pete Wernick and Flexigrass. Pete has assembled a band composed of drum, bass, vibraphone, clarinet, and banjo as well as his wife Joan singing in a pop style I had no idea she had the voice for. The music, a sort of jazz-bluegrass fusion was pleasant to the ear and challenging to senses unused to this instrumental combination

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were a minor hit last year, earning them an opportunity for complete sets on the Watson Stage, Americana Stage, and Cabin Stage. Their main stage set also featured Joe Thompson, an elderly black fiddler who had deeply influenced their development. It provided a terrific hour of entertaining musical history.

Two sets of young comers let bluegrass fans know the music isn’t only for traditionalists.Sierra Hull and Highway 111 featured the sixteen year old mandolin virtuoso along with young Cory Walker on banjo. Hull also appeared in Mando Mania and Girls for Merle, keeping her busy all weekend. The Lovell sisters, a trio of fine young musicians, were also in frequent evidence. Ruthie Foster, a fine young blues singer from Texas, made a brief appearance on the Cabin Stage, where she quickly captured the audience.The Alison Brown Quartet with Joe Craven put on a great set on Sunday morning.

Grammy winner Tim O’Brien’s solo set on the main stage, multiple Grammy winner Doc Watson everywhere, and the final set of the weekend played by Dan Tyminski were all very fine and lived up to expectations.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend for us was the performance of The Circuit Riders. Members of this band were the core of The Country Gentlemen at the time Charlie Waller died. In both their major sets they showed their potential for bluegrass stardom.

There were, of course, bands we didn’t much enjoy. Recognizing this as a matter of taste, I still want to mention a few we found less than satisfactory. Old Crow Medicine Show, a band we had looked forward to seeing, seemed loud and un-melodic, not offering much of interest to us. Similarly, Donna the Buffalo, who we have come to loath, were simply loud and misplaced on the Watson stage late afternoon slot.

The Avett Brothers are loud and undisciplined, although they have a loyal following. Peter Rowan has long outlived his hippy base and needs a new act.I can’t quite understand the musical marriage of Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs, an act which gives lip service to bluegrass history while playing often interesting rock with Hornsby at the Steinway Grand, an instrument that seldom graces the Watson stage. Finally, The Sparrow Quartet, featuring Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck, Casey Driessen, and Ben Sollee played a too long set of discordant modern music, much of it in Chinese, that legitimately belongs in the Felt Auditorium of Lincoln Center, but which drove [away] much of the audience.

New Railroad Earth Release Announced

Railroad Earth
Amen Corner Website
Launches April 29th, 2008

Railroad Earth and SCI Fidelity Records are pleased to announce the
launch of the new website for the forthcoming Railroad Earth studio
release, Amen Corner - in stores nationwide on June 10th, 2008!

The website features streaming audio & video, photos of the band in
the recording studio, news and other information, all centered around
the release of Railroad Earth's remarkable new album.

The first single from the album, "Hard Livin," will be available for
free download, and we'll be updating the site regularly with new
songs, as well as videos of the band recording information
on how to purchase Amen Corner!

Stay tuned for news about online listening parties, webcasts , and
special content only available through this site!