We've heard people complain about half an hour or so being put aside for festivals to feature Kids Academy performances. If you're so inclined, remember that the future of bluegrass music may depend on these kids having good instruction and early performance opportunities. Precious few young musicians are growing up on the farm and taking up acoustic instruments at Grandpa's knee any longer. This year Tim St. Jean and his spouse Vicki Baker led a team of four other counselors in working with twenty or so kids for the weekend. These people give up their daytimes at the festival to work for the future of bluegrass.
Back at the stage, Tony Trischka kicked off the day with his Banjo Spectacular band featuring Noam Pikelny on the second banjo. Young Michael Barnett, having graduated from high school on Friday, more than ably took on the fiddle chores, while Michael Daves, another young picker, sang lead and played a fine guitar. But as might be expected, the focus was on the marvelous
banjo work of Trischka and Pikelny. Several times during the performance, a glance of surprised appreciation would pass between the two, as if to ask, "How in the world did you possibly do that?" Seeing and hearing this incredible banjo work was worth the price of admission.
After the Trischka set, Dale Ann Bradley hit the stage. Dale Ann has lost a lot of weight, but not an ounce of her voice. She still has the best pipes in the business. Supporting her on fiddle was Meghan Lynch, who provided strong fiddle and pleasing harmonies.
Dry Branch Fire Squad presented their usual combination of "aggessively traditional" music leavened by Ron Thomason's alway well-aimed satire. They've added new material and continue to be one of the most entertaining and few thought provoking acts in all bluegrass. Thomason has a carefully cultivated and sharply honed wit that pierces without hurting and skewers without killing.
Laurie Lewis finished up the afternoon session. Her lovely brand of love songs and nature music mixed with just enough humor brings a California sensibility and lilt to bluegrass. Her voice is wonderful and the level of cooperation and friendship in her band, The Right Hands, which has been together for years, is obvious and real. Tom Rozum on mandolin sings both harmony and lead. Craig Smith is one of the best on banjo. Scott Huffman sings well and is a first rate flat picker on guitar, while Todd Phillips on bass is unobtrusive and strong. Her song, "Your Eyes" is catching, worth buying an album for. "Bury Me in Bluegrass" is a touching song with several meanings. "A Hand to Hold" is a deeply affecting song dedicated to Charles Sawtelle. All told, her set was one of the highlights of the festival.
Sorry about not having pictures of Doyle's excellent set. I'll cover the Grascals today. The sun is rising, it's going to be warm, and Sunday at Strawberry Park should be great. LRB is the closing act.