Monday, July 28, 2008
MACC - Saturday: And it All Ends with a Bang!
Saturday at MACC (Musicians Against Childhood Cancer) had it all - great performances, hot weather, a little rain (very little), and a hard time finishing because no one there wanted it to end. The day started off with a performance by the MACC Children's Band. This large group was so impressive that I'll be posting a separate web album with pictures of these talented and attactive kids within a day or two. Meanwhile, here's one picture, which will have to do for now.
Kenny and Amanda Smith
Amanda Smith's lovely voice and Kenny's superb flat picking for both gospel and secular music offer listeners a solid performance each time out. Supported by a strong band of very young musicians, they deliver good value.
It's tempting to say Bradley Walker suffers from muscular dystrophy, but suffers just isn't the correct word because Bradley doesn't suffer. Bradley is afflicted with this crippling disease and he triumphs over it. Watching Bradley sing from his wheel chair offers inspiration for everyone, but what quickly becomes most important is that this delightful and engaging young man can flat out sing. In the end, it's Bradley's wonderful baritone voice and the deep emotional contact he makes with his audience that really counts.
Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time
Larry Cordle is one of those legenday performers who's so busy as a songwriter he doesn't perform often or widely. His soulful lyrics and energetic performance light up an audience. Cordle's list of writing credits is too extensive to go through here. His band, consisting of regular members and equally able fill-ins supported his singing at the highest level. Cordle's music spans from bluegrass through a variety of country styles, but the band at MACC was pure bluegrass.
Since it was founded a little over eighteen months ago, Grasstowne has established a reputation for elegant bluegrass performance. Their instrumental work is almost without peer and Steve Gulley's voice among the very best in bluegrass. The band has reached the second round of IBMA nominations in thirteen categories and bears close watching in the next few months. Jason Davis looks like a good dark horse in the banjo category, while Alan Bibey has been too long overlooked for his distinctive mandolin style.
Ronnie Bowman & The Committee
Ronnie Bowman's seemingly ageless face and beatific smile belie his many years spent with top bands like the Lonesome River Band and Lost & Found. In recent years he has excelled as a singer/songwriter, but his bluegrass chops are genuine and his performance at MACC was superb. He performs with grace and style.
The Harley Allen Band
A quick look at Harley Allen's web site explains why he isn't seen too often on the bluegrass circuit - he's just too busy writing great country songs. That's good for Harley, but too bad for bluegrass fans, as his act is amusing, filled with good music, and a treat for anyone who gets to hear him sing and see him work. The son of fabled bluegrass star Red Allen, Harley more than carries on the tradition.
Randy Kohrs & The Lites
Randy Kohrs, whose roots are deep in bluegrass, clearly wishes to expand his appeal to a broad range of audiences. He clearly signalled his intention to this pretty conservative audience by bringing the only drums of the festival on stage. As always, his set was intense, fast paced, and professional. That Kohrs wishes to broaden his audience can hardly be criticized. That some fans won't be open enough to condone changes in band configuration and sound from performers is something they will have to examine in themselves.
MACC Auction to Benefit St. Jude
The Steel Drives
In the year or so since the Steel Drivers have come to public consciousness, they have blazed a path of soulful, R&B based bluegrass designed to appeal to a younger generation of bluegrass fans while still hoping to retain a more traditional audience. Their reception at MACC suggests they mostly succeed. Chris Stapleton's voice is complemented by Tammy Rogers startling fiddling and remarkable harmony. Their sound further blurs the distinction between alternative country and bluegrass sounds.
The MACC Opry
Each year Darrel Adkins brings in great songwriters like the remarkable Carl Jackson, Shawn Camp, and Jerry Salley (who because of a family illness was unable to participate this year), Larry Cordle to take the stage with first rate bluegrass performers. Together they meld the work of great songwriters to the sound of great musicians to provide a rousing finale for the the event. Here's a selection of pictures from the Opry.
Nightime Appearance by MACC Children's Band