Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mountain Song Festival in Brevard, NC - Preview

The Steep Canyon Rangers will host The Mountain Song Festival to be held on Saturday, September 13th at the Brevard Music Center in Brevard, NC. Boasting as strong and interesting a line-up as a one day event could offer, this festival can be said to be without headliners as every performer on the bill is a headliner. In order of appearance, the festival features The Steep Canyon Rangers, Cherryholmes, Tim O’Brien, and Sam Bush. Except for Bush, each band will perform twice. The Sam Bush Band will close the day with a ninety minute set beginning at 8:30 PM. Tickets cost $40.00 and can be purchased at a number of outlets as well as on-line. For more information click here.

The Whttington-Pfohl Auditorium at the Brevard Music Center is an 1800 seat open air, covered auditorium that is also the host of a wide range of other musical activities in the summer. Located on 140 acres of in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the center contains 145 buildings used for lodging, practice, and rehersal purposes. The auditorium has lawn seating as well plenty of first come, first served seating. According to the center’s web site, sound and light are state of the art. There is no camping on the festival grounds; dogs and alcohol are prohibited. There is plenty of camping available in the region.

Steep Canyon Rangers

Woody Platt

Charles Humphrey

Mike Guginno

Graham Sharp

Nicky Sanders

As host band, The Steep Canyon Rangers will open the program. Nominated for two IBMA awards this year (Album of the Year, Gospel Performance of the Year) this band, formed at the University of North Carolina in 2001 was named International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Emerging Artist of the Year in 2006. Their youth, energy, and ambition belie their commitment to acoustic bluegrass music with a contemporary twist. They are an extremely engaging aggregation of professionalism and enthusiasm.


Sandy Lee


Cia Leigh



Molly Kate
Cherryholmes, too, have emerged as one of the leading bands in bluegrass and Americana music since their formation as a band in 1999. Their story is well known. After the tragic death of one of their children, Jere and Sandy Lee Cherryholmes removed themselves and their family to the desert in Arizona. Looking for an activity to help hold the family together in the face of their grief, they chose music. A music teacher, she introduced the family to bluegrass instruments and they began attending and appearing at local festivals in Arizona and California. People with experience and clout began to notice them and they quickly emerged as a rising band. Named IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 2005. Cia Cherryholmes on Banjo was named SPBGMA Banjo Player of the Year for the past three years, and the band was named Entertaining Group of the Year in the same years. Their entertaining mix of traditional bluegrass, Celtic airs, and new sounds with a hint of rock sensibility compliments their energy to create a highly entertaining band. Recently they have appeared more in concert settings, colleges, and large auditoriums than at festivals, bringing their unique brand of music to a wider and more diverse audience.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O’Brien has long been one of the most popular and revered figures in bluegrass, folk, roots, and Americana music. Beginning his career with the ground breaking bluegrass group Hot Rize over thirty years ago, O’Brien has forged a now legendary career. Currently touring in support of his solo album Chameleon, O’Brien won a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy award in 2005 for Fiddler’s Green. He also has won two IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and Hot Rize was the first recipient of IBMA’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1990. A look at his discography suggests the range of interests his life has followed. Few performers have the presence and stature to carry a solo performance before the vast audience at Merlefest. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, after appearing all over the festival, O’Brien not only appeared, but triumphed. Tim O’Brien is one of those “Don’t Miss” performers who comes around all to frequently.

Sam Bush Band

Scott Vestal

Byron House

Stephen Mougin
The Sam Bush Band will close the Mountain Song Festival with a long set beginning at 8:30 P.M. Bush has been a groundbreaker in bluegrass music for over thirty-five years. As founder of the New Grass Revival in 1971, he brought the sounds and sensibility of rock music into bluegrass, changing its core and direction forever while always paying due respect to the fathers of bluegrass music. With John Cowan’s magnificent tenor voice and bass stylings, Bela Fleck on banjo, and Pat Flynn on guitar this group still sets the standard for what is now called “progressive” bluegrass. The list of ground breaking musicians with whom Bush has performed in many styles of music is truly astounding: Mark O’Conner, Jerry Douglas, Lyle Lovett, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, EmmyLou Harris, and more. Despite the fact that Bush often plays an electrified mandolin and appears with a drummer in his band, he was chosen as IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year in 2007, an event he also hosted. The list of artists on whose albums Bush has appeared constitutes a who’s who of contemporary bluegrass and country performers. His present band, featuring Scott Vestal on banjo, Byron House on bass, Stephen Mougin on guitar, and Chris Brown on drums doesn’t have a hole in it. Each member is a top musician as a soloist and contributes to the distinctive ensemble sound of this band.

The Brevard Music Center is within a comfortable drive of Atlanta, Knoxville, and the Greensboro/High Point area. The festival is probably without peer considering both the lineup and the location. Tickets are still available.