Friday, January 18, 2008

Snobird & Cracker Bluegrass Reunion - Preview

The Snobird and Cracker Bluegrass Reunion held at Craig’s RV Park seven miles north of Arcadia, FL provides a very pleasant interlude between the much larger and more ambitious events at YeeHaw Junction and Palatka. When we were last at Craig’s two years ago, they were in the process of upgrading and improving their already more than adequate performance area. This smallish park serves as the event headquarters for the Southwest Florida Bluegrass Association, where monthly weekend jams are held. Craig’s also hosts an annual bluegrass homecoming in March and another in the fall. The bluegrass camping is all rough camping, but hot showers are available in the main park, only a short walk away. Snobird and Cracker runs from January 31st through February 2nd.

Cadillac Sky
This year’s lineup highlights Cadillac Sky and The Chapman’s. Each band will be performing over a two day period, allowing fans to get a good dose of their music as well as plenty of chances to interact with band members. Both bands lean toward the progressive end of the bluegrass spectrum and have forged enthusiastic young audiences. Cadillac Sky recently endured an unpleasant and controversial incident when they were asked to leave a festival in Arkansas. Nevertheless, their popularity continues to grow and they weathered the situation well They are very animated and offer a terrific show. The Chapmans bill themselves as “America’s Favorite Dysfunctional Bluegrass Family,” although the three brothers have to work pretty hard to appear dysfunctional while working with their taciturn father Bill. Both bands put on a very good show and will contribute substantially to an enjoyable weekend festival.

Bill Chapman

The "dysfunctional" Chapman Brothers
Web sites and MySpace (a digression) – I want to digress for a few words about how bands present themselves occasioned by Cadillac Sky and the Chapman’s web presence. Increasingly, bands are relying on their MySpace sites to become their web voice. The opportunity to present a big slice of their music, use lots of annoying visual backgrounds, and accumulate a myriad of “friends” and comments is more valuable to them than their desire to communicate useful and important information. The other day I went to a Blue Moon Rising’s MySpace site and found the background to be so cluttered, busy, and obtrusive I honestly couldn’t read the information to use it for this blog. Both Cadillac Sky and The Chapman’s have made their web sites very difficult to navigate and to use for genuine informational purposes. I suspect this is being done to appeal to a particular audience. Nevertheless, when it becomes difficult to explore a band’s schedule, learn about their band members, and communicate easily with them, the web becomes a problem rather than a facilitator. Perhaps the fact the MySpace is free is a mitigating factor, but there’s no substitute for good taste. End of rant.

The Wilson Family Band

The Wilson Family Band would never even think of billing themselves as dysfunctional, nor would anyone else. They come from rural Folkston, GA, just east of the Okefenokee Swamp, where father Robert owns a lumber company. This is a family band that truly enjoys being together as a family making music. Robert and his wife Melissa have been in and around bluegrass for years and have brought daughter Katie (12) and son Clint (18) as happy, well-adjusted kids who love making music together. They never fail to please the audience. Recently they have been presenting very effective workshops, too. Their mix of gospel and secular tunes along with Katie’s sparkling personality and the parents’ huge pride in their kids is clear. Clint also appears on banjo with Ernie Evans and Southern Lite.

Robert Wilson

The two promoters of Snobird and Cracker are each part of bands that will be playing at their festival. Alan Colpits of the SWFBGA plays for Swinging Bridge and agreeable and easy to listen to band. Ernie Evans and Southern Lite, similarly, do a creditable job. Recently, Cory Walker has been playing banjo with Southern Lite, bringing one of the most exciting young banjo players in the country to this band. Both bands play twice during the weekend, as does Roger Bass and the Hillbillies. The Generations Bluegrass Band appears primarily at the Pine Island Elks Lodge in addition to Snobird and Cracker. Finally, Tyler Williams and the East Tennessee Bluegrass Band and Smokey Greene will be performing. Tyler Williams has a great voice and is a real crowd pleaser. We’ve heard him as a guest with other great bands and are looking forward to seeing him with the college bluegrass band. Smokey Greene is an old-timer, now in his mid-seventies who has been popular in the northeast and Florida for many years. His mellow singing voice, skillful guitar work, and humorous songs draw a loyal and appreciative group of long time fans wherever he appears.

Tyler Williams

Snobird and Cracker is an enjoyable small festival. There is lots of pretty high quality field picking going on there throughout the weekend. Mike Robinson and Mary Robinson, for those staying over until Sunday, will be leading their gospel sing. This is a good stop on your bluegrass trail.

Smokey Greene

Matt Menefee (Cadillac Sky)

Clint and Katie Wilson