Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fox Family Bluegrass Festival - Preview

The 18th Annual Fox Family Bluegrass Festival will take place August 9 – 12, 2007 in Old Forge, NY. The Fox Family’s home is in the Adirondacks, even though they have relocated to Nashville. Fronted by the wonderful voice of Kim Fox, this band continues to host a traditional bluegrass festival. Accommodations are limited and the camping is rough. There are no hookups and the nearest shower requires a drive of several miles. Old Forge is located here, in the southwest corner of the massive Adirondack Park, close to the New York Thruway and I-81. The Adirondack Park, a six million acre state park, is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, a vast tract of woods, mountain, and lakes. Because many people harbor stereotypes about New York, few recognize that this magnificent wilderness lies with only a few hours’ drive of millions of people in the northeast and the Midwest.

IIIrd Tyme Out

Headline bands, in addition to the host band Fox Family, are IIIrd Tyme Out, Jr. Sisk & Rambler Choice, reunited and on tour, and The Gibson Brothers, one a local band but now a national band of growing popularity which retains its loyalty to the local festivals that booked them when they weren’t so big. It’s hard to tell just now who will turn up with IIIrd Tyme Out. Founded and fronted by Ray Deaton, Bassist and premier bass singer, has announced he is leaving the band and The Bluegrass Blog announces here that Edgar Loudermilk has replaced him. Deaton originally said he would stay the season, but has moved up his change. Mandolinist Alan Perdue has been replaced by mandolin master Wayne Benson, which will add considerable depth to the band. Russell Moore is a long-time standout on vocals and rhythm guitar. Steve Dilling has been with the band on banjo for sixteen years. He’s struggling with distonia, but an injured Dilling is still better than most banjo players. All-in-all, despite their recent changes, IIIrd Tyme Out should continue as a very strong band. It’s always interesting to see how a changing band develops. Watch them on stage as they discover new ways to present their music through the addition of new musicians.

Jr. Sisk has long been one of the premier voices in bluegrass music. When Blueridge broke up as Alan Bibey left to help form Grasstowne and Alan Johnson moved on to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (side note: Isn’t it interesting how many bands have former Quicksilver players and how this particular festival features several of them?) Jr. Sisk reconstituted Rambler’s Choice and began to tour with them. This group made one recording with Rounder in 1998. Junior, a resident of Virginia, played with the Lonesome River Band in their early days as well as with Wyatt Rice & Santa Cruz. His distinctive high lonesome tenor and solid rhythm guitar have added depth and character to every band he has played with.

Sarah Jarosz is a fourteen year old mandolin player who lives in Austin, TX. She has received a lot of recognition in IBMA’s effort to promote younger artists. There are a lot of young, female mandolin players out there just now. Sierra Hull and Jessica Lovell are just two of a growing number. Sarah Jarosz has joined this group. If half of Sarah’s professional friends on her MySpace page have seen and heard her, she’s likely to be worth your time, too. Aiophe Donavan of Crooked Still offers quite a comment.

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers of course need no introduction to readers of this blog. Simply put, we believe this group is among the premier bluegrass bands in the nation. As their national recognition increases, they have lit up audiences from Yakima Washington to Myrtle Beach. No longer a regional band, the Gibsons originated in Ellenburg Depot, NY, only a few miles south of the Canadian border, but their characteristic brother harmonies and very strong instrumental support are without peer. Watch Eric Gibson, who is one of the few lead singers who picks effectively while singing. He has yet to receive adequate recognition for his fine banjo work. Listen to brother Leigh, whose voice blends with Eric’s as only brothers can. Both brothers write wonderful songs and their background and taste has led them to create new bluegrass sounds from classic country and rock and roll. Bassist Mike Barber, mandolin player Rick Hayes, and fiddler Clayton Campbell add depth and taste to this superior band. The variety of their sounds, harmonies, and keys takes them beyond bluegrass while never straying very far from their roots.

A huge revelation that comes almost every time we attend a local festival is the reminder that there are so many fine bluegrass bands around. While people think of New York as urban and ethnic, the state is home to many bands rooted in country and bluegrass music. These bands are well-represented at the Fox Family Festival.

Local bands include The Atkinson Family, whose delightful music, much of it written by father Dick ]Atkinson, combines country and bluegrass with a northern New York tone that fits right in here. His song about losing the farm should be a classic. The review in Bluegrass Unlimited noted, “Tearin’ Up the Line is a stellar production that will surely generate many new friends for the group.”

The Dalaney Brothers describe themselves as a contemporary bluegrass band that has played around New York State for the past 25 years. Over the years, they have recorded five albums. Recently they replaced two longtime members for medical reasons. The New York Times named Full Spectrum as one of the top ten local releases in 2000.

Sweet Cider describes itself as “ rooted in vocal harmony, attention to arrangement and original material. They now perform their own style of acoustic music with that ever-present bluegrass flavor. The Northeast Country Music Association has named them CMA bluegrass band of the year several times, and they have been inducted into the NE CMA hall of fame as well as receiving other awards. They hail from Rotterdam, NY along the NY Thruway.

Miller’s Crossing is a Long Island bluegrass band whose sound, according to the cuts on their web site, is traditional southern. Their lead vocalist has a pleasant voice and instrumentals are strong. “Miller’s crossing prides itself on the original material eachmember brings to the band’s repertoire. They strive to play bluegrass music the way they feel it, and the result is a fesh outlook on the music while not getting to far away from its roots.” The McCarthy/Paisley Band from Elbridge, NY advertises itself as featuring traditional Americana and contemporary folk music.

Off the Wall’s entry at ibluegrass says, “Blending folk, bluegrass and traditional country into a unique, no frills sound that lends itself to the works of John Prine, Guy Clark, Tim O'Brien and the Seldom Scene, as well as the works of more obscure songwriters. Add to that, strong vocals and tight harmonies, you have the makings of enjoyable music that tells the story of lifes journey.” They come from central New York.

Bill Knowlton and Lisa Husted will emcee. Tickets are $75.00 for the entire festival, including rough camping. Day passes are $20.00 for Thursday, $30.00 a day for Friday and Saturday, and $15.00 for Sunday. Gates open for camping on a first come, first served basis at 10:00 AM on Wednesday and there is no reserving of spaces for others. A dump station and showers are available nearby, but there are no amenities for campers on the site. This festival has one of the most interesting and varied programs for young people of any bluegrass event, showing their interest in and concern for children’s enjoyment and providing alternatives for parents wishing to give their children a good time. For additional information, check out the Fox Family Bluegrass Festival’s web site.

Some pictures for this post were taken from band web sites. I will remove them immediately upon request.