David Davis and the Warrior River Boys offered their usual very high quality two sets. Hailing from Alabama, Davis plays straight up Monroe style mandolin. His clear, fast picking is nearly flawless, and he complements it with a fine mid-range tenor voice that easily slips into falsetto when necessary. Robert Montgomery, a neighbor of Davis’s has joined the band on banjo. He plays very good breaks and backup, serving as a good addition to the band. Long-time bassist Marty Hayes’ voice blends very well with Davis’s as they showed so ably on a Louvin Brothers duet in their second set. Paul Priest on guitar sings very well, plays strong rhythm, and offers quality flat picking. Owen Saunders on fiddle is one of the best. His laconic style belies powerful playing and tasteful backup. One of Davis’ strongest songs is a recounting of the death by friendly fire of Stonewall Jackson at “Chancellorsville.” This is an essential work for fans of Civil War songs, much better musically than, say, the “Ballad of the Rebel Soldier.” Another strong song “Gold Watch and Chain” examines the small rewards for a life of hard work. Davis and his band are important parts of the bluegrass world and much deserve wider recognition and play.
Bluegrass Parlor Band
The Walker brothers – Cory and Jarrod – have moved beyond amazing because of how well they play “for their age” and have emerged as top notch pickers. Younger brother Tyler, still only twelve, has joined the parlor band on rhythm guitar, but showed his vast potential with a couple of breaks. Cory, who tours with Sierra Hull, has joined the ranks of the finest young pickers in a universe populated with very good banjo players. In the past year his stage presence and singing have grown to complement his great picking. He has taken over leadership of the band, keeping it integrated and moving all the time. Jarrod, age fifteen, the quieter and less expressive of the two, picks his mandolin with sure confidence and great skill. His breaks, often reminiscent of Alan Bibey’s work, are clear, precise, fast, and interesting. Both boys are outgoing and personable to boot.
Blue Moon Rising offered two sets. Initially, I was less than impressed by this group. They have emerged for me as one of the finest young bands. I think the reason for this lies more with me than with them. Blue Moon Rising comes on stage quietly and begins their set without fireworks or fanfare. As their sets continue, it becomes increasingly clear that they are just flat terrific. Irene saw this much before I did and has encouraged me to continue to listen to them and to allow myself to grow. Original members Chris West and Keith Garret both are superb writers, singers, and pickers. This is a pretty difficult combination to beat. Joined recently by Dustin Jenkins on banjo, they have continued to improve. Their new bassist, Harold Nixon, brings broad experience to the band at this often overlooked instrument. The band plays traditional bluegrass with a contemporary sensibility. Their songs have become a staple on satellite radio and their performances are polished and highly professional. Like the members of Grasstowne, this fine band will continue to impress those who recognize really good bluegrass music presented without relying on showiness or flash. Chris West and Keith Garret contribute many of the original songs for Blue Moon Rising. Songs like “Jeffrey’s Hell,” “When the Mountain Fell Down,” and “Papaw Taught Me” are wonderful songs and belong in the standard repertoire sung by other bands and by field pickers.
The Larry Gillis Band contributed another solid set, once again demonstrating this reconstituted band’s happy combination and quality.
Larry Gillis and Evan Rose
Friday provided a fast paced and enjoyable day which will hard to top on Saturday.
Becky Buller and Valerie Smith