Sunday, September 28, 2008
Denton Farmpark BGF - Saturday with Pics
After two days of drizzle and rain, Saturday began with fog that lifted by noon starting time. Later in the day the sun actually came out for a while; the afternoon and evening were warm and pleasant, the music, especially from the three featured bands, sublime. The day began with two regional bands playing almost solely Gospel bluegrass.
Touch of Blue
Grasstowne and its members have been nominated for four' IBMA awards this year - Emerging Artist of the Year, , Dobro Player of the Year (Phil Leadbetter), Song of the Year (Steve Gulley with Tim Stafford - "Through the Window of a Train), and Instrumental Album of the year for Jason Davis' album "Steppin' Out"+. Unfortunately, Alan Bibey has again been ignored for the mandolin player award consideration. This band, though less than two years out of the box, has established a reputation for musical excellence while creating their own signature sound growing out of the merging of three established stylists with two young, charging sidemen. Jason Davis, on banjo, though still only 20 years old, is showing signs of emerging as one of the current crop of very fine young banjo players. Gulley, Leadbetter, and Bibey have each been long recognized as top stylists in the field. Jayme Booher, a longtime member of his family band, has recently added his solid baritone voice to his fine bass beat. On Saturday Grasstowne was very well received by the knowledgeable audience at Denton.
Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
Mike Cleveland has established himself as one of the very finest fiddle players in bluegrass. Five time IBMA fiddle player of the year, Cleveland is nominated for a sixth consecutive award this year. In addition, Flamekeeper has been nominated for Instrumental Group of the Year. Cleveland's powerful, exciting fiddle playing is ably suported by Todd Rakestraw's strong voice and rhythm guitar, a very fine banjo player whose name I missed (someone - please help me here), and the seemingly ageless and always excellent Marshal Wilborn. Jesse Brock, one of the young mando tigers, is filled with energy and interesting licks while moving about the stage. Michael's "Lee Highway Blues" is one of the bluegrass classics.
Blue Highway has been together as a touring band with no substitutions for fifteen years. This must be some kind of record. Consider that well over 100 people played for Bill Monroe as Bluegrass Boys. The band has had a storied career performing a great deal of their own material written by Wayne Taylor, Tim Stafford, and Shawn Lane. Each member of the band has received wide recognition. This year Blue Highway has recieved nominations for six IBMA awards including song of the year, album of the year, instrumental group of the year, and instrument nominations for Rob Ickes on Dobro and Tim Stafford on guitar. Their album "Through the Window of a Train" (see my review here) has a reflective tone about it that suggests that these men are gaining a larger perspective on the world they write about as they mature. Even though Blue Highway has a storied past, their future remains bright and exciting.