The Next Best Thing features Sally and Tensel Sandker, students at East Tennessee State University along with a strong supporting group of three young, enthusiastic, and energetic musicians. Fresh out of the box and new on the festival circuit, these two young women are learning their trade and having a great time during their summer break from college. The band largely plays covers of traditional bluegrass songs, as befits a group learning its chops. The sisters are working hard on developing an amusing onstage sibling rivalry as part of their show as well learning how to motivate an audience and provide support and encouragement to their band mates. Brent Burke on Dobro, Colby Lanty on lead and rhythm guitar as well as harmony vocals, and Robert Trapp on banjo all provide strong, able support to the band's leaders. Sally Sandker plays rhythm guitar while Tensel plays bass. The two alternate lead and harmony vocals with quick and easy flow. While still developing as performers, they show promise and should continue to learn and grow.
Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show present a program that's bluegrass with a touch of western swing leavening in it. When the old fashioned radio microphone labelled KSBC is placed in center stage and Karl comes in his suit, spats, and derby hat, you know there's going to be interesting entertainment. He has surrounded himself with young, interesting musicians who support the band with enthusiasm and drive. His corny good humor and folksy manner recall the radio programs of the late forties and fifties, while his band's work on the single microphone shows an intricate choreography that keeps the show moving along and every instrument heard cleanly and with precision. Good family fun and music.
The Gibson Brothers have been on the road and recording together for about twenty years. During that time they have developed a highly amusing and never nasty sibling byplay that draws their fans in and which they obviously enjoy. This light, and often joyful, interchange complements the wonderful music they produce, much of it their own, the rest chosen very carefully from a range of sources. Their current CD "Ring the Bell" has proven itself to be popular with audiences, thus increasing the problem they encounter. How can they find enough time to introduce their new music while continuing to play the dozens of fan favorites in their song catalog? Wouldn't every band like to have this problem. Saturday's performance at Jenny Brook showed the band at its very best. Eric and Leigh were in fine form, as they ribbed long-time bass standout Mike Barber about his receding hair line. Clayton Campbell's fiddle becomes sweeter and more soaring at once. Joe Walsh is a real find with his fluid mandolin style. Can't say enough.