On Thursday, Paul Williams and the Victory Trio lead of at noon. Williams is an old-timer in bluegrass who has written hundreds of bluegrass gospel classics. He does a limited touring schedule these days, and it will be a treat to see him. A characteristic of Adams and Anderson promoted festivals is their fealty to early bluegrassers. At the other end of the spectrum, the brand new band Dailey & Vincent will be performing. Jamie Dailey spent the last several years singing lead and doing comedy for Doyle Lawson while Darrin Vincent (Rhonda’s brother) has been with Ricky Skaggs’ group Kentucky Thunder. These two very accomplished sidemen have joined together to form one of the two new bands creating a great deal of buzz this season. Other bands on Thursday are James King, Gary Waldrep, The Grascals, and Blue Highway. I’m told that Blue Highway is releasing a new album with several great new songs by Tim Stafford.
Danny Roberts and Terry Eldridge (The Grascals)
Friday opens with Carolina Sonshine, a mostly gospel group which has stepped up in the last couple of seasons. Danny Stanley has a fine baritone voice and does comedy bits and voice impressions. Steep Canyon Rangers can be relied on for a first rate performance. We’ve never seen the Isaacs Family, but have heard their work and expect them to be excellent. The Gibson Brothers, one of the finest bands on the bluegrass circuit today will offer songs from their new album Iron and Diamonds which will be released in a couple of months. Their work is always of the highest quality, featuring the tight harmonies of Eric and Leigh Gibson and unique musical quality that catches the ear and the spirit. Doyle Lawson, featuring several new band members, is always reliable. Goldwing Express will be there, too.
Dr. Ralph Stanley
As this festival began with one of the first generation bluegrassers, it will end with one also. Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will close the festival with one long set on Saturday evening. Leading up to this closer will be Nothin’ Fancy, a mainstay at this festival, and Marty Raybon & Full Circle, who we have also never seen before, but whose work as we’ve heard it on XM radio is first rate. The Lewis Family, hobbled in recent years by the illness of one of their members, still features one of bluegrass gospel’s prime attractions, banjo player and clown extrordinaire Little Roy Lewis. One of the highlights of the weekend will be Country Current, the U.S. Navy’s touring bluegrass band. Because this band is on active duty in the Navy, they are precluded from making commercial recordings. This means that much of their very high quality repertoire is not as well known as it should be. Lead singer Wayne Taylor is exceptional. Frank Sollivan II is one of the finest mandolin players in the business. Keith Arneson’s work on banjo is elegant and thoughtful and his direction of the band light. This band is not to be missed. Rhonda Vincent, one of the most reliable, hardest touring, and highest quality performers in bluegrass music. One of her great qualities is the amount off-stage time she gives the rabid fans and new converts who flock to her merchandise table. While she is a known quantity, she never disappoints. I’m eager to hear what Darrell Webb, who has replaced Josh Williams at guitar will add to the mix. He was excellent with Wildfire, and he will surely change the mix as well as continue the excellence.