Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The Stockwell Brothers on the Newfane Common
Windham County Courthouse, Newfane, Vermont
Union Soldier Guards the Common
Folks Gather on the Common
The Stockwell Brothers
Al StockwellBruce Stockwell is a shy, almost reclusive man, who grew up near Putney, VT with his two brothers Barry and Al playing bluegrass music. He went off to Yale where he seems to have successfully resisted Ivy League cool and irony. I'm told he majored in English, but insofar as I know him, it's pretty clear he majored in banjo and minored in rock and roll, both of which he has played throughout New England for more than thirty years. (Department of full disclosure: Bruce has been my banjo teacher off and on for five years. He always seems glad to see me, even though I'm at best an indifferent student.) The Stockwell Brothers play events like the barbecue on the village common in Newfane or the crafts fair in Troy, NH, and are well-known an welcome throughout the region. Their sound is bluegrass/folk leavened by a delightful funky sound on Bruce's banjo. Bruce, who won the prestigious Merlefest banjo contest in 2005, professes to be a pure Scruggs style guy, and that's what he teaches, but his play is inventively jazz and rock informed and his work along the entire neck of his new Neat banjo is expressive, fast, accurate, and inventive. Brother Barry, on guitar, has a fine folk voice. Brother Al, on electric bass and bluegrass mandolin, provides musical variety and strong harmonies. An afternoon with the Stockwell Brothers is always an enjoyable musical experience.
Wading Pool on a Chilly AfternoonNorth by Northeast, as Yankee a name as a bunch of New Englanders could possibly conjure up. So far, they have had few bookings, but the personnel is strong and they should be a welcome addition to the thriving New England bluegrass scene as a hard core traditional band. Samples of their sound can be found on their MySpace page.