Friday, May 1, 2009

Bluegrass on the Waccamaw, Conway, SC - Preview

The Old Peanut Warehouse, Conway, SC
Audience under the Tent

Bluegrass on the Waccamaw will be held at the Old Peanut Warehouse in Conway, SC (fifteen miles west of Myrtle Beach) on Saturday, May 9 from noon until 10:00 PM. This “Free to the Public” festival offers world class bluegrass in a format and at a price (FREE) that should attract bluegrass fans from Charleston to Wilmington to points west for the music and the fun. Promoter Jennings Chestnut, owner of the Chestnut Mandolin Shop in Conway and builder of the well-liked Chestnut mandolin, will be presenting the thirteenth annual festival. Featured national touring bands on Saturday will be Grasstowne, The Larry Stephenson Band, and Lizzy Long & Legacy. A selection of well-regarded local and regional bands will also be featured in this high quality lineup.

Barbecue Supper Friday Night

Jeanette Williams Band Performing Last Year

A delightful feature of Bluegrass on the Waccamaw is the annual Friday night showcase and barbecue dinner catered by local restaurant owner and chef Larry Dickerson. This year’s featured band will be The Darin Aldridge & Brook Justice Aldridge Quintet from Cherryville, NC. Darin and Brooke have recently released a very highly regarded CD called “I’ll Go with You” from Pinecastle Records has been exciting bluegrass gospel fans for about a year and was nominated for a Dove Award. Not limited to gospel music, this band also offers a fine mixture of traditional bluegrass and gospel music highlighted by Darin’s great mandolin and guitar work as well as his fine tenor voice. Brooke (Justice) Aldridge is a new voice on the bluegrass scene and will be making waves soon. Her powerful voice sells a song as well as anyone ever has. Supported by Chris Bryant on banjo, Eddie Biggerstaff on bass, and Perry Woddie on Dobro, this band’s music and song is always fully satisfying. They made their Merlefest debut in April, and were very warmly received. The showcase music is served up with a tasty and varied barbecue dinner. Tickets sell for $25.00 and can be obtained by calling Jennings Chestnut at 843.248.6399. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear great music, enjoy good fellowship, and share a fine meal inside this historic Conway building.

Darin & Brooke Justice Aldridge Quintet

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Eddie Biggerstaff

Chris Bryant

Perry Woddie

Bluegrass on the Waccamaw on Saturday is a special event located in a special venue. The Old Peanut Warehouse in Conway is a very large unpainted building built along the Waccamaw River. A bridge carrying Highway 501 soars over the building and the nearby river walk where jammers congregate, boats stop by, and swimmers loll around and bathe on hot May days. The Warehouse is located in downtown Conway near a variety of local restaurants. Vendors provide food and drink. The bands are located on a raised porch named after South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who once gave a speech from it. Musicians merchandise tables are set along one side. Shade is provided by a good sized tent and the shadow of the highway. The festival grounds are one of the few “Town” locations we visit, and provide a very pleasant location for enjoying bluegrass.

Jamming on the Riverwalk

Waccamaw Riverwalk

This year’s lineup is headed by two very fine and well-known national touring bands. Grasstowne is returning for its third consecutive year. This band, newly formed in 2007, features three of the finest musicians in bluegrass music at its core. Alan Bibey, Steve Gulley, and Phil Leadbetter are at the top of their field as musicians. Bibey is such a fine mandolin player and stylist that Bibey Style mandolin is recognized as a way to play the instrument. He has served with top bands and has always been a top notch player. Steve Gulley, from Cumberland Gap, TN, is, as Dennis Jones says, “A graduate of the Doyle Lawson school of bluegrass,” and has established himself as one of the very finest singers in the business. He was a founding member of Mountain Heart. Phil Leadbetter has been recognized by IBMA as Dobro player of the year in 2005 as well as by SPBGMA in 2009. Together, this trio has been nominated for and given more awards than space permits me to catalog. They are joined by Jason Davis on banjo, one of the very best young traditional banjo players in the business. They have recently been joined by Travis Greer on bass. This band’s second album is about to be released, and they are always a treat to hear. People who know bluegrass music recognize them as one of the very top bands around.

Grasstowne on the Strom Thurmond Porch

Alan Bibey

Steve Gulley

Phil Leadbetter

Jason Davis
The Larry Stephenson Band features one of the purest tenor singers in bluegrass. In songs like “Knoxville Girl,” “For Sale, Baby Shoes Never Used” and “The Sound that Set My Soul on Fire,” his voices touch the heart and the mind of the listener. He’s also a fine Monroe style mandolin player. Recently his band has been joined by Kenny Ingram on banjo. Kenny has just come off a number of years with Rhonda Vincent & the Rage. With Stephenson’s band he has been moved to a central place in the band, where his great banjo play re-creates the kind of sound he once made with Lester Flatt. Michael Feagan, long time member of Larry Sparks’ band, has joined Stephenson recently. I’ll be interested to hear his sound with a different kind of band. Kyle Perkins is the senior member of the group on bass. His solid beat and great tone always contribute to the band. Kevin Richardson on guitar is young, widely experienced, having spent several years with Lou Reid and Carolina, and very effective. Altogether, with Stephenson remaining the center of this fine band, it has improved itself and its sound despite changes in personnel. The Larry Stephenson Band can always be counted on for a good show.

Larry Stephenson

Kenny Ingram

Kyle Perkins

Michael Feagan

Kevin Richardson

Larry & Dreema Stephenson
Proud Parents
Faylon Whysper Sydney Stephenson
Born April 25, 2009

Lizzy Long & Legacy is a Nashville based band that has recently hit the festival trail. Lizzy is a protégé of Little Roy Lewis and Earl Scruggs who have schooled her well in a number of instruments that complement her fine voice. Little Roy will be appearing at Bluegrass on the Waccamaw with Lizzy. Her twin sister, Rebekah, plays bass in her band. Other members of the band are Doug Flowers and Rickey Rakestraw. She recently released a recording featuring herself on several instruments as well as Little Roy and Earl Scruggs. That’s pretty high cotton. It’s a new and young band that deserves attention and may make its mark in the next few years.

Lizzie Long

Little Roy
Lizzy with Mentor Little Roy Lewis

The Snyder Family Band is a vehicle to showcase two truly remarkable youngsters. Both thirteen year old Zeb Snyder on guitar and his lovely ten year old sister Samantha on vocals and fiddle are prodigies. Their father, Bud, provides the beat on bass. Both are regulars in contests in North Carolina where they are regular winners, too. I’ve seen Zeb sit on a stage with Steve Kilby, Kilby’s wife, Ron Block, and Uwe Kruger holding his own in a guitar jam. He plays a Wayne Henderson guitar he won in a guitar competition. His work should be allowed to stand for itself. After hearing him play, you won’t be saying, “He plays really well for a thirteen year old.” Rather, you’ll just say, “He’s a hoss!” Samantha plays the fiddle really well. She’s increasingly comfortable in the jam of a bluegrass band and will only get better. While her voice is still young, she carries the tune with a maturity beyond her years. I’m eager to hear her voice develop. I know where her fiddling’s going and it will be a joy to watch. Oh, did I say these kids and their parents are really nice people, too?

Zeb & Samantha Snyder

Zeb Snyder

Bobby Hicks & Samantha Snyder

Flatt City is a very solid regional band from Charlotte. Their music relies on traditional sources while bringing newer influences to bear. We’ve seen them before and look forward to hearing how their sound has developed in the past eighteen months. Jimmy Stone & The Southland Boys is a local group who know their stuff and are entertaining. The Bluegrass Strangers will be playing at least one set as well as providing the sound. Fiddler and teacher Robert Napier will bring some of his fiddle students to show their progress.

Jimmie Stone

A series of instrumental workshops will be provided by Alan Bibey, Steve Gulley, Robert Napier, and Phil Leadbetter. It’s not often that folks get a chance to attend workshops by musicians of this very high quality. Last year the workshop tent was enthusiastically filled by devoted fans seeking help or insight into their instruments.

Jennings Chestnut and Family

Dylan, Willie, Amanda Lynn & Ginger