Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival - Weston, VT

The Seth Sawyer Band

The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival will kick off its eighth four day season on June 26, 2008 at the Weston Recreation Area a mile or two north of the picturesque village of Weston, VT off Greendale Road. This delightful, small festival will feature the strongest lineup in its history. National bands are led by The Dan Tyminski Band and include The Gibson Brothers, Dan Paisley & Southern Grass, and David Parmley & Continental Divide. Supplementing these bands will be local and regional bands, many familiar favorites at this annual get together. Although the park offers no hookups, camping spaces will be a premium. The gates open first thing Thursday morning, and wise campers will arrive early.

Camping at Jenny Brook
While the Weston Recreation Area has no water or electricity, it is not without its charm. There’s a pond on the premises for children to swim in, a playground area, and a tennis court used for basketball during this festival. The views of the surrounding hills are lovely and the air bracing and refreshing. This year Jenny Brook is being held a week later than it has historically been held. The site, the crowd, and the Sawyer family make this a family friendly event. Hosts Candi and Seth Sawyer’s two young sons, Mathew and Adam, are listed as co-hosts, are very much in evidence, and are truly part of the charm of this event. Candi’s valiant battle against multiple sclerosis and Mathew’s medical history are an integral part of this festival, making it a celebration of their struggles as well as a testimony to their love of the music. Seth Sawyer is a gifted songwriter as well as singer, whose contributions to the festival are quiet and very important.
Dan Tyminski

Adam Steffey
Jenny Brook bills itself as a traditional festival and tends towards booking traditional bands. This year two of the headliners are among the hottest traditional bands on the circuit and offer an interesting contrast. The Dan Tyminski Band has come together for a year while Allison Krause is on tour with Robert Plant and Union Station is on hiatus. Tyminski and Barry Bales, also from AKUS, have joined with Ron Stuart on banjo, Adam Steffey (on leave or having left Mountain Heart) on mandolin, and Justin Moses on fiddle. This band has garnered lots of attention and rave reviews from those who’ve seen them. They’re a straight ahead bluegrass band playing familiar songs and ones that sound familiar, even if they aren’t. Tyminski, a native of Rutland, VT, has a familiar and well-liked voice. He has lead a musically first rate band into the most desirable venues right out of the box. Getting him at a small festival like Jenny Brook is a real coup. Each of the individual players in the Dan Band, as it has come to be known, is at the top of the profession in acclaim as well as in terms of national recognition.

Ron Stuart

Barry Bales

Justin Moses

Dan Paisley and Southern Grass (Publicity Photo)
An interesting contrast will be between the Dan Band and Dan Paisley & Southern Grass. The Paisley band has long been a favorite at this festival and in the northeast. They, too, are a straight ahead, traditional bluegrass band playing some of the best covers of any band in the business as well as some compositions of their own. While together for a long time, first under Dan’s late father Bob and more recently under Dan Paisley’s leadership, this band comes from southeastern Pennsylvania where their performances have been centered. In the past year they have ranged more widely to great acclaim on the forums and the bluegrass press. They’ll be performing at Nashville’s historic bluegrass venue the Station Inn this October. Two Paisley brothers and two Lundy brothers along with Don Eldreth, Jr. on mandolin combine to present traditional bluegrass and benefit from having years of playing together.

Dan Paisley and Southern Grass

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson
The Gibson Brothers will be appearing on Saturday and then again with their sister Erin on Sunday. While their national reputation continues to grow with their appearances spreading across the nation and their new CD Iron and Diamonds rising in the charts, New Englanders continue to feel a sense of ownership in this great band, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Jenny Brook. Their Saturday evening set is often the highlight of this festival. On Sunday the band will be appearing with their sister Erin Gibson LaClair, whose sweet voice and tight harmony blend so well with her brothers. The Gibsons have been touring hard this year, spreading their brother harmonies and musical arrangements, calling on influences from bluegrass through country to rock music to create their own unique sound. This sound challenges the edges of bluegrass without ever going outside the acceptable limits of this genre. In some ways, they define the way to further develop bluegrass music without being revolutionaries. Neither progressive nor traditional, they’re merely superb.

Erin Gibson LaClair with unidentified accompanists

David Parmley
David Parmley and Continental Divide is a band with deep southern roots and a strong western influence. David Parmley, an original member of the renowned Bluegrass Cardinals, which moved from California to Virginia in the mid-seventies, formed the present band in 1994. This band will be at Jenny Brook on Friday. Look for first rate music from an accomplished band.

Jenny Brook always offers plenty of local and regional talent. The friendly voice of Smokey Greene will be heard again this year. Now well into his seventies and engaged on a long farewell tour, Smokey sings old country songs with the emphasis on Ernest Tubb and humorous songs of his own composition. Fans request favorites like “I Don’t Look Good Naked Any More” and “Waltz around Texas with You.” Smokey has a very pleasant baritone voice accompanied by his own playing on the guitar. Family and Friends is a band composed of members of the Rolf family who usually sing on Thursday evening. They also own and operate the Danby Four Corners Store selling quality acoustic instruments. They sing old time country and Linda’s compositions. The Seth Sawyer Band performs several times during the festival. They’re very solid. Seth’s song for Candi “Green Mountain Girl” vies for recognition as the quintessential New England bluegrass song. The Sawyer Family Band, featuring Candi and the Sawyer’s two sons Adam and Mathew will also perform.

Smokey Greene

Family and Friends

Amy Gallatin and Roger Williams

Ben Pearce (Amy Gallatin)

Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters leads the regional bands coming to Jenny Brook. Gallatin’s pleasing voice and spritely appearance on the stage coupled with Roger Williams’ very fine Dobro playing and Ben Pearce on mandolin provide an enjoyable mix of bluegrass, country, and western songs. A transplant from the west, Gallatin is based in Connecticut. Her band has not previously appeared at Jenny Brook. Attendees will receive a very pleasant surprise. We haven’t heard White Mountain Bluegrass, The Old Time Bluegrass Singers, or Acoustic Blue yet. The first two are veteran bluegrass bands who play festivals in New England during the summer. White Mountain Bluegrass also has a regular weekend gig at Applecrest Orchard Farms during apple harvest time in the fall. The Old Time Bluegrass Singers claim musical descent from Joe Val. They play New England venues. Acoustic Blue is a younger band whose web site and MySpace page suggest they play their own material as well as covers. Jenny Brook is very good about showcasing bands many people may not previously have heard. It’s always good to get to hear new bands, and sometimes one really sticks out as a surprise. Those are bands worth highlighting and supporting.

Acoustic Blue (publicity photo)

Candi and Mathew Sawyer

Adam Sawyer

Seth Sawyer
Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival succeeds because the Sawyers have learned how to put on a festival, a cadre of hard working volunteers returns year after year to support their efforts, there are plenty of opportunities for field jamming, the vendors provide a variety of tasty foods, and the fans love the festival and respect the grounds. It’s truly a family friendly event where children are able to roam the grounds safely. Mike Robinson, widely known, along with his wife Mary, for his Sunday bluegrass gospel jam and his ministry to bluegrass, will emcee the event. He does a thoroughly professional job.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken