Friday, January 23, 2009

YeeHaw Junction - Thursday

Thursday at a bluegrass festival is usually a pretty mellow day. Those of us who’ve come in early can watch new vagabonds arrive, walk around the grounds, jam, and wait for the music to start, usually around four in the afternoon. Once it warmed up on Thursday morning and the heavy frost melted and then evaporated, we got a chance to check out the vendor’s area where we discovered Bill and Maggie Anderson already set up. Bill is that very useful guy at a festival, a certified C.F. Martin technician. He also builds very good instruments, and has returned to an early love, building basses. He had a new Anderson bass on display, and people were playing it approvingly. Bill and Maggie will also perform a mostly gospel set on Sunday. They have recently moved from their long-time home in Ithaca, NY to the mountains of southwestern Virginia, where they’ve become embedded in the regional music community. We also got a chance to jam with our friends Jay and Martha Shepherd, which is always lots of fun and gave both of us a chance to limber up after several days of cold and wet weather layoff.

Bill Anderson

Maggie Anderson

Bill Anderson's Bass

At a little after 4:00 we wandered over to the performance tent, where we heard good sounds. Often a festival doesn’t want to throw one of its better bands at an audience that isn’t complete yet or that hasn’t yet become ready to concentrate on music. That means the opening acts on Thursday are often local or regional bands that truly appreciate the chance to perform, but aren’t necessarily up to the standard of national touring bands. Sometimes, one of these bands provides more than just a pleasant surprise. Backwater, from Ocala, FL, is just such a group. They are a well-established group in Ocala, where they have opened for a broad range of national touring bands and play regular pub gigs downtown, and have toured festivals mostly in Florida. Their sound is a smooth and melodic mix of bluegrass, country, swing, and grassifed rock and pop. Founded in 1984, they are led by Bill Taylor on mandolin, who had a gold record with the Guardsmen for Snoopy and the Red Baron years ago. David Dean on banjo is solid and quite nuanced in his play. Chuck Richolt on guitar and doing much of the lead singing is very solid, with a good voice. Johnny Mason plays bass. The band has a lively and interesting stage presence providing some laughs and plenty of good music. They have a new CD being released soon, which you will be able to purchase through their MySpace page.


Bill Taylor

David Dean

Chuck Richolt

Johnny Mason
The Larry Gillis Band has gone through some more change, mostly for the better, although fiddler Shirley Seim was, unfortunately, not here. Interestingly, mandolinist Travers Chandler, who was a little late, won’t be long for this band, because he’s been hired to play mandolin for Danny Paisley & Southern Grass, who have had renewed success this year with a fine recording and enhanced touring. This is an enormous opportunity for Travers, a fine mandolin player who hasn’t received sufficient recognition. The Gillis band has always featured hard driving, Georgia style bluegrass with a strong emphasis on Larry’s powerful Scruggs style and clawhammer picking as well as his flexible baritone voice. He has been joined by Alex Leach, singing lead and playing lead guitar as well as doing much of the emcee work. Leach, who has a radio show on WDVX in Knoxville, is a welcome addition. So, too, is Evan Rose on rhythm guitar and vocals. Evan, long a strong mandolin player with his family’s band, plays exceptional rhythm guitar and is a strong singer. With Travers Chandler’s leaving, perhaps Evan Rose will get an opportunity to pick mandolin in the Gillis band. The Gillis set was powerful and enjoyable.
The Larry Gillis Band

Larry Gillis

Evan Rose

Alex Leach

Travers Chandler

Rafe Waters

Larry Gillis & Evan Rose
Roger Bass & The Hillbillies features local performer Roger Bass, who is well known to people attending central Florida bluegrass events. His pleasant voice and humorous presentation often features lots of by play with his friends in the audience. He sings mostly classic country standards with lots of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Earnest Tubb. The band supplies adequate support, and the audience knows and enjoys his performances.
Roger Bass & The Hillbillies

Roger Bass

Thursday at YeeHaw Junction suggested that a very good weekend is coming. Sound by Harry Grant is strong and clear. Plenty of people appear to be arriving, but there’s still room in the camping area for people in the area to come. Last night’s chill will be replaced by rising temperatures over the next two days. If you can’t come over, come back to the blog for more each day.
Evan Carl - Emcee