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Saturday, February 20, 2010
Palatka Bluegrass Festival 2010 - Friday
The Performance Shed
Rodeheaver Boys Ranch
The Palatka Bluegrass Festival is held on the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, located a few miles south of Palatka, Florida, and serves as a major fund raiser for this organization which provides a home for about fifty boys whose parents, for one reason or another, are not able to care for them. When the Ranch decided it wished to sponsor a bluegrass festival as a fund raising device, they decided to do it in a first class fashion. They built what is now an over 500 space campground to provide water and electric hook-ups, a long, covered shed to contain a large audience protected from the rain, a gift-shop/snack bar, and other amenities to make sure that attendees would have a first rate experience at the festival. They also reached an agreement with Adams and Anderson to promote the events. The ranch's foresight and its relationship with the premier east coast promoter of bluegrass events has created a first rate experience. While fund raising is very much a feature of this marvelous festival, it is never so much in evidence that it becomes annoying or overbearing. Perhaps the best advertisement for the good the ranch does is the boys' presence around the campus on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, when they are through with school. Their pleasant interactions with the fans, hard work helping with festival chores, and enjoyment of the change in routine all attest to the good work the Ranch does.
On Friday the weather warmed and a slight overcast promised that all the warmth would not escape as the sun disappeared in the evening. The music continued at its high level with a full slate of high quality bluegrass bands.
The Bluegrass Brothers
No one would ever call the Bluegrass Brothers slick. They play raw, direct, and seemingly almost primitive bluegrass music...but...their repertoire is more varied than one might think at first glance and they have worked up their act to present themselves as just what and who they are. You might think they had just stepped up from jamming at their trailer out in the field, but think again. This is a professional band that knows its audience and gives them the hard driving traditional sound they want to hear.
Steven and Donnie Dowdy
Special Old-Time Guests
The Steep Canyon Rangers
The Steep Canyon Rangers, who have been on tour in support of Steve Martin and his award winning bluegrass CD, make a marked contrast to the Bluegrass Brothers when programmed back-to-back, establishing a statement about the range of sound and sensibility available to bands choosing to stay within the traditional sound and format of the music. Presenting almost entirely music written within the band, they are polished and always perform in suits. The band came together in college and all live in or near the tony Blue Ridge town of Asheville, NC. Their music is intelligent and exciting to listen to, and their mostly single microphone choreography well done and traditional. All are polished musicians, and Nicky Sanders is a standout on fiddle, bringing classical training and exceptional vivacity to his instrument. Woody Platt's voice is a first rate bluegrass instrument and is complemented well by Graham Sharp's bass/baritone. Mike Guggino and Nicky Sanders both supply excellent harmonies. This band has been spreading its wings and is likely to show up at high end Americana festivals as well as bluegrass festivals and in concert halls.
Charles Humphrey III
The Merchandise Tent
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
The Doyle Lawson College of Bluegrass Knowledge continues to send its graduates out to populate or start other bands while bringing in new recruits to fill its ranks. As the 2010 festival season opens, Doyle has a relatively young bunch that's still developing into the tight and disciplined group that has always characterized his bands. Dale Perry, deeply experienced, strong at banjo and possessing a deep and resonant bass voice has returned to Quicksilver. Jason Leek,who has joined the band on the bass and doing tenor harmonies, looks like he'll become the center humorous attention for his small stature and high voice. Corey Hensley, singing high leads and playing the guitar has continued to settle in well. Josh Swift has matured in his role on dobro, playing with assurance and strength. Jason Barie, one of the best fiddlers in bluegrass, continues to be a rock and shows some unexpected talent for physical comedy. There were moments in Friday night when what appeared to be spontaneous, ad-libbed comedy was genuinely funny. As this new edition settles in, Doyle's band will round into its usual blend of tradition, faith, comedy, and good music that has guaranteed it a faithful audience despite its numerous changes.
The Gospel Quartet
Gene Daniell - Sound Man Extordinaire
Rodeheaver Snack Bar
J.D. Crowe & The New South
A frequent feature of Adams and Anderson festivals is the inclusion of important figures from the early days of bluegrass. J.D. Crowe cut his first record in 1956 and played banjo with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys through the late fifties and into the mid-sixties. In the 1980's, fearing the loss of the great contributions of the first generation of bluegrass pickers, Crowe formed The Bluegrass Album Band and brought people like Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Doyle Lawson, Bobby Hicks, and Todd Phillips together. While the members were considered to be progressive players, this band was dedicated to preserving bluegrass history. While his career has spanned more than fifty years, Crowe can still coax sounds from a banjo that few can equal. When the band plays old standards, they still sound fresh and original, a trick not all traditional bands can pull off. Dwight McCall, on mandolin and vocals, Matt DeSpain, on dobro, and Kyle Perkins, on bass, all make significant contributions. Ricky Wasson's clear baritone voice with a bit of bass growl in it and consistent flat picking adds to the mix.