The Biscuit Burners
The gates open at 5:00 PM on Friday with several local bands featured and The Biscuit Burners headlining the evening. This band has appeared at major Americana events such as Merlefest, Springfest, Bonnaroo, and Rockygrass, and more. Based in Weaverville, NC, they combine plaintive Appalachian sounds with a range of bluegrass, Americana, jazz, and even East Indian sounds. Their instrumentalists include innovative Dobro player Billy Cardine, who also plays a multi-string Indian instrument, lovely fiddler Oddessa Jorgenson, superb flat picker Dan Bletz, and the vocal and spiritual leader of the group, Mary Lucey, who has also written much of their material. Their performance level is both challenging and exciting. The Biscuit Burners will also perform at 1:00 PM on Saturday. Jim Gaudet and the RR Boys play at 7:00 and again on Saturday. Gaudet’s web site describes him as an experienced singer/songwriter who has had a solo career and now returns with an acoustic trio. His bio looks interesting to me, and I look forward to hearing him perform. Cuts on his web site make his music sound interesting and lively. Adrenaline Hayride has a limited web presence, and I haven’t heard them play, but the description makes it sound as if they’re worth hearing. Chris Leske on banjo is a former winner of the World Banjo contest at Winfield, KS. Craig Vance on guitar has played with Doc and Merle Watson and toured internationally with Bill Keith. Dave Bevins has appeared with the Lonesome River Band and won contests on Dobro. While contest winners and ensemble players often differ in their skill sets, this band promises to be lively and interesting. The evening will be opened by weekend emcee Diz Dizacomo will lead off both days with Diz & Friends. His show is entertaining and offers good listening.
Saturday at Otis Mtn. is filled with good music and offers a wide variety of styles and sounds. Festival host band Big Spike leads off after Diz & Friends welcoming set, at 11:00 AM. Big Spike is a traditional bluegrass band that gives very good account of itself. They also gather around a fire pit in front of a traditional Adirondack lean-to for after hour jams and participate in workshops. Otis Mtn. has two workshop stages where interesting and useful workshops are presented during the day. As of this writing they are not yet set, but, in the past, we’ve seen Tony Trischka, Phil Leadbetter, mandolinist Barry Mitterhof, and Sam Bush do great workshops at Otis in an intimate and enjoyable setting. The Biscuit Burners play a second set at 1:00 on Saturday, followed by Blue Moon Rising. Coming from Kentucky and Tennessee, the members of this fine band are the real thing. Singer/songwriter Chris West on lead guitar and vocals and Keith Garret on mandolin and vocals share emceeing duties and singing, each providing fine harmonies for the other. Dustin Jenks on banjo is a very solid Scruggs style picker. Harold Nixon on bass lays down a rock solid beat and contributes interesting and intricate breaks on his big doghouse. The songs deal with traditional subject matter in a modern context. West’s song “The Hanging Tree” is an eloquent and arresting song in which the singer vows to bring down the tree that’s been the instrument of death through generations of tragedy. “Aunt Bertie’s Wingback Chevrolet” by Garret reminds everyone of their love for old cars. This band delivers one great original song after another.
Cadillac Sky and the Greencards are both headliner bands that exchange lineup placement in their afternoon and evening sets. Each brings a unique contemporary sound to bluegrass and Americana music. Cadillac Sky is the owner of one of the worst web sites in music. It loads slowly and is difficult to navigate. If you’re interested in learning something about them and sampling their music, check out Cadillac Sky’s MySpace page. Despite their web presence, Cadillac Sky is a not to be missed progressive band that delivers high intensity, rock tinged bluegrass music that generates excitement in audiences who stay to hear them. Bryan Simpson on mandolin and lead vocals is lively and upbeat. Mike Jump plays both rhythm and lead guitar and sings lead, providing a maturity and providing balance. Ross Holmes on fiddle is terrific as is Andy “Panda” Moritz, one of the most interesting bass players to watch in the business. Matt Menafee, on banjo, has been mentioned recently in Banjo News Letter in the same sentence as banjo phenoms Chris Pandolfi, Noam Pikelny, and Greg Liszt. This puts him in rare company. The band is based in Texas and comes from a range of musical backgrounds that makes their music interesting and sometimes surprising. They fit easily into the varied format of the Otis Mtn. festival.
The Greencards are a trio of musicians who came to this country about four years ago as a bluegrass band, found themselves in the musical hot house of Austin, TX, and morphed into a bluegrass, jazz, blues Americana band that has found wide acceptance in a variety of festival and concert settings. Australian Carol Young, on electric bass and soulful vocals, is in many ways the heart of this band. Her voice has range of sound and emotion, moving from low down dirty to joyful singing out. Young is more than supported by countryman Kym Warner on mandolin and, of all things, bouzouki and Brit Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle and viola, both of whom sing, The Greencards give great value. Billing themselves as a trio, they have also added seventeen year old Jake Stargell, a flatpicking wizard, to their ensemble, making them a truly formidable band, a band to be listened to and cherished.