Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Carolina Road Homecoming - Saturday - Review

The second day of this two day celebration of music, family, and friends featured lots of bands in hour long single sets. The music continued to vie with socializing for attention as increasing numbers of people took time to visit with friends, jam, and network. After Chris Jobe & Jordan opened with a reprise set from Friday, The (augmented) Crossroads Gospel Duo took the stage with, surprise, bass player Lorraine Jordan, on stage and performing at an unaccustomed early (for her) hour. Crossroads Gospel was joined by several guests, filling out their sound.

Crossroads Gospel Duo - Augmented

Lorraine on Bass (a new and unsuspected talent)

Steel Magnolias offered a pleasant and interesting contrast to your everyday bluegrass band. Until quite recently, with the exception of the notable Coon Creek Girls, bands featuring a full (or almost full) set of women have been rare. Steel Magnolias does a creditable job playing and singing their own singer/songwriter compositions as well as strong covers. Their cover of "Snow Bird" was excellent, with fine harmonies. Judy Arquette's meditation on her "starter marriage" was a moving piece.

Steel Magnolias

Damascus Ridge followed with a rather too long gospel set.

Damascus Ridge

Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion returned to the Saturday stage with another rousing set of excellent covers. This band exemplifies the best in local/regional bands. All its members have maintained day jobs throughout their thirty-six year history. By making this choice, they opted for security and a fine local reputation. Had they chosen to seek to go national, I'm convinced they would have had a long and storied history. Musically and for entertainment value, they equal or surpass many national touring bands, while always staying close to their North Carolina roots.

Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunions

Mike Aldridge

Dave Turnage

Friday Emcee Dennis Cash in live radio interview
Buddy Michaels, Saturday Emcee

Sami Butler & Kendall Sykes

Code Blue
provided a very solid set of traditional bluegrass. Good instrumentals, plenty of high energy pace, and enjoyable stage presence make this band a good choice for promoters seeking to fill the middle of their lineups.

Code Blue

Paul Anderson

E.T. Firter

Michael Beaver

Bud Finch

George Thomas

After an afternoon performance by Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road (more about them later) the afternoon was brought to a conclusion by Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass. Paisley had a few difficult years while making the transition from playing in his late father's band to making Southern Grass his own. That transition has now successfully concluded and, aided by a new recording contract with Rounder Records, Paisley's band has emerged on the national scene with award nominations and lots of air play on satellite radio. Paisley's strong, rugged, emotion-filled voice is not one that everyone takes to immediately. My respect for his work has increased steadily with familiarity. His sound is unique and makes a significant contribution to bluegrass music in this age of sweet voices and smooth playing. The addition of Travers Chandler on mandolin has added his strong mandolin and voice to the group. Danny's brother Michael on bass is very strong, providing a wonderful beat and exciting play. Brothers Bob Lundy on banjo and T.J. Lundy on fiddle are among the best. In the end, though, it's Danny Paisley's voice and personality that dominate this band.

Danny Paisley & Southern Grass
Danny Paisley

Travers Chandler

Michael Paisley

Bobby Lundy


The Paisley Band

It's worth putting in a word about emcees at festivals. This event featured four experienced and able emcees. Brenda Lawson and Dennis Cash managed the event on Friday, while Sherry Boyd and Buddy Michael took on the job on Saturday. The position requires much more than merely announcing bands. A good emcee keeps the entire event on schedule, highlights vendors and moves the audience towards them, and keeps the focus on the bands. Sherry Boyd, familiar to festival goers as the voice for the many Adams & Anderson festivals is simply the best. She doesn't hesitate to control the audience by suggesting listening over talking and leaving the performance area to smoke, and she always keeps it pleasant. She does her homework and never makes herself the center of attention. For Sherry, it's all about the music and never about her.
Sherry Boyd

Sherry Boyd greeting a Fan

Supper break provided us just enough time to join some friends for dinner at The Cutting Board, a good steak house adjacent to the Burlington Ramada Inn. Boasting excellent steaks and, from the looks of it, a great Jambalaya as well as one of the tastiest and freshest salad bars I've seen in years, this moderately priced restaurant offers good food and service. We returned to the Ramada's convention hall to the traditional bluegrass music of Roby Huffman & the Bluegrass Cut-ups. Huffman has been performing since the mid-fifties. Well into his seventies, his big smile and strong, high lonesome voice work for bluegrass audiences. His son, Jeff, is a fine flatpicker who plays beside his Dad, sings goof family harmonies, and can pick the tar out of guitar. We've also heard him substitute with Al Batten.

Roby Huffman & the Bluegrass Cut-ups

Roby Huffman

Jeff Huffman

Meanwhile, back in another room in the convention center, the jamming and socializing continued.
Shiela Talbert chats with Ben Greene

Josh Goforth and his Family

And Always Plenty of Jamming

Don Dilling and Irene Lehmann

And meanwhile, back in the concert hall, Carolina Sonshine was presenting its characteristic show of blugrass gospel music, well-sung Country Gentlemen covers, and comedy. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Hobo Joe was able to appear in voice only. Danny Stanley's fine vocal impersonations were well received.

Carolina Sonshine

Danny Stanley

Dennis Cash
Wayne Ratley

Dennis Cash, Danny Stanley, & Tom Langdon

Tom Langdon's in-laws and spouse
watching him perform

Danny Stanley & Jerry Butler back stage
Big Country Bluegrass has been performing traditional bluegrass from their base in Virginia for many years. Founded by Tommy and Teresa Sales in the 1980's, the band presented a lively set of bluegrass with strong singing and musicianship. I'd never seen Lynwood Lunsford, on banjo, before even though I was familiar with him from his participation on the Bluegrass-L forum. He's a monstor banjo picker and much younger than I expected. Any band with Johnny Williams in it can be counted on for strong rhythm guitar and good singing. Jeff Michael on fiddle and lead vocals was strong.
Tommy Sells

Teresa Sells

Lynwood Lunsford

Jeff Michael

Johnny Williams

After another fine set by Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass, Lorraine Jordan returned to the stage for the final performance of the day. In keeping with the spirit of the event, Lorraine began by reprising several of their most requested songs. Parents of all the band members were recognized from the stage as well as the officers of the Carolina Road fan club and many of the volunteers who had contributed in large and small ways to the success of the festival. Lorraine, generous and relaxed at the end of her festival, led with humor and grace as she highlighted the quality of members of her band as well as her respect and affection for them. Other musicians, who have substituted for absent band members recently joined the band on stage. A highlight was the double fiddle work of Josh Goforth and Josh Green.

Lorraine Jordan

Mike Wilson, John Wade, Dennis Cash, Jerry Butler

Josh Goforth

Josh Green & Josh Goforth

John Wade

Ben Greene

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

The next Homecoming Festival will be held November 6-7, 2009 due to scheduling issues. This event will celebrate the 10 year reunion of all the available members who have played for Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road during the history of the band. The list of present and former players in Carolina Road is long and distinguished. Former members of Lorraine's band play with a number of bands, who will be performing at this gala event. Plan now to attend this event, which will be held at the Ramada Inn - Burlington again.