Friday, February 19, 2010

Palatka Bluegrass Festival - Thursday


The sixth annual Palatka Bluegrass Festival opened Thursday at the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch to clear, cool air, and an unusually brisk west wind.  The fans came out prepared for the weather and eager to hear lots of good music.  They were well rewarded.  The folks who run Rodeheaver have done their usual thorough and professional job.  Rather than risk having band buses mired in the soft earth behind the shed, they've paved it.  Simple and far sighted.  Norman Adams efforts to ease the annual crush to attain the most advantageous seats proved effective, although there are always grumblers.  The selection of vendors has been broadened to include more craft offerings and a pretty broad selection of foods to complement the ranch's gift shop, hamburger stand, and cafeteria offerings of reasonablly priced and well-prepared breakfast and supper.  Adams and Anderson festivals feature strong lineups from the opening note to the closing act in all three days.  It's a formula that's proven itself repeatedly.  Today's opening hit the ground with solid song and melody and built all through the day of excellent music.
The Tennessee Gentlemen

I had never seen the Tennessee Gentlemen before and am glad we had the opportunity. Their varied program of bluegrass, folk, pop, light rock, and blues is an ideal sound to open a day in a mellow, yet energetic, fashion blending Donny Catron's fine, powerful high tenor voice with strong harmonies and first rate instrumental work from all members of the band.  Daniel Grindstaff, substituting at banjo, fitted in seamlessly although he confessed to never having picked with this band before.  Kent Coffey on guitar is a very good flat picker who keeps his focus on the tune while weaving his variations around it with speed and accuracy.  Doyle Catron on bass was always solid and contributed good harmonies.  This is a band that pleases without relying too heavily on the traditional repertoire.  With songs like "Tall Dark Stranger," "Snowbird," and "Carmen" they show plenty of versatility, and Donny's voice is a perfect instrument for gospel entries like "Beulah-land."

Donny Catron

Kent Coffey

Doyle Catron

Daniel Grindstaff

The Crowe Brothers
The Crowe Brothers are a brother duo in the tradition of the Louvin and Wilborn brothers singing traditional bluegrass with fine harmonies and huge enthusiasm.  They have established themselves as an independent band after some years of working with Raymond Fairchild at his home base in Maggie Valley.  Their voices meld well and the overall effect is strong.  In instrumentals like "Earl's Breakdown" and "Bluegrass Stomp" they were particularly impressive.  Backed by Steve Sutton, excellent on banjo, and Darrin Nicholson who also plays his first rate mandolin with Balsam Range, the band is entertaining and enthusiastic, a straight bluegrass band that gives it's audience a good dose of  in-your-face bluegrass music.
Josh Crowe

Wayne Crowe
Steve Sutton

Darrin Nicholson

The Crowe Brothers

The Gary Waldrep Band

The Gary Waldrep Band, originating in the rural Sand Hills region of Alabama, is spreading its wings into new ventures this year, appearing in Canada, New York, and Colorado as well as being featured on the ETA Bluegrass Cruise.  This new recognition is long overdue for the very fine band.  Waldrep brings a combination of fervant gospel music and traditional bluegrass presented with a high entertainment value to his performances.  He is equally adept at Scruggs style banjo and traditional clawhammer and surrounds himself with strong side people.  Mindy Rakestraw on guitar and both lead and harmony vocals is a standout. Stan Wilemon on mandolin has continued to improve in both his picking and his singing. Gary's uncle Ken Townsell and his aunt Donna Townsell both provide strong instrumental support.  His version of "Thomas" is always requested and loudly approved by audiences wherever he appears.

Gary Waldrep

Mindy Rakestraw
Stan Wilemon

Ken Townsell
Donna Townsell

Gary Waldrep

Brindle and Pete

David Peterson & 1946

I haven't been a big fan of Dave Peterson and his band, but today, with some of the finest sidemen available in Nashville, he gave a first rate performance of the kind of traditional bluegrass music his band's name suggests.  Imagine my surprise to return to the shed to see Mike Cleveland sawing away on the fiddle with all his signature enthusiasm, verve, and tone.  Charlie Cushman on banjo remains one of the great banjo stylists, a huge addition to any band he's playing with.  Ron Shuffler on bass is distinguished looking and sounding.  Peterson plays excellent, elaborately figured rhythm guitar and his voice was full and tuneful. Peterson's singing on songs like "New Pair of Glasses" and his encore performance of "Muleskinner Blues" were spot on. Cushman's "Bending Strings"...excellent.  A very good performance from this band.

David Peterson
 Michael Cleveland

Charlie Cushman

Ron Shuffler 

David Peterson

Madison Gibson and Gene Daniel Provide Great Sound

Dailey & Vincent

Dailey & Vincent have made significant personnel changes in their band in order to alter their sound and emphasis in what appears to be two directions.  By adding the bone crushing bass voice of Christian Davis to the band, they have given themselves a new instrument allowing them to more effectively cover the kind of  Statler Brothers songs represented in their Cracker Barrel Statler Brothers tribute album that's making waves in CD marketing.  Further, Davis fits perfectly into their gospel quartets and supports their bluegrass trio with an outstanding added voice and resonance.  Davis touches an emotional chord seldom experienced by bluegrass audiences.  Jessie Stockman, from tiny Deming, New Mexico, is a solid fiddler who will carry his responsibilities well.  The band still relies on the comfortable relationship between Jamie Dailey and Darin Vincent, two veterans who continue to build on the standards they learned from Doyle Lawson and Ricky Skaggs.  Jeff Parker's fine mandolin playing and slightly wacky off the wall humor adds a quality of the unexpected to the mix, and Joe Dean, Jr. on banjo always contributes well.  Having been relieved of bass singing, he can contribute his very pleasant baritone voice where needed.  Both the partners are well aware of the risks they've taken in moving this band, and their decision will almost certainly pay off for them and for their audiences. 

Jamie Dailey

Darrin Vincent

Jeff Parker 

Christian Davis

Joe Dean, Jr.

Jessie Stockman

The Gospel Quartet

Dailey and Vincent

Supper in the Field

Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain 

Carrie Hassler is one of a group of young, largely female, singers whose voices are so good they've decided to allow their best instrument to speak for them and foresaken appearing on stage with an instrument as a prop.  Hassler's powerful and pleasing voice along with her pleasant personality pulls this trick off well, even thought there will no doubt be naysayers who think she should be picking, too.  Thoughtful and fair watchers, however, will notice how many great singers either stop picking when they sing or are, at best, mediocre players.  She has surrounded herself with a tight, hard driving, young band that supports her very well. Nineteen year old twin brothers Kevin and Keith McKinnon carry heavy duty responsibilities on mandolin and lead guitar as well as very good backup harmonies.   Travis Anderson on bass and young Zach Gilmer on banjo complete this excellent band.  This is our first chance to see Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain at a bluegrass festival, and they acquitted themselves very well.

Carrie Hassler

Kevin McKinnon

Keith McKinnon 

Travis Anderson

Zach Gilmer

Carrie Hassler

I Don't Care How Chilly it Gets
I'm Gonna See This Band!

Sherry Boyd - Emcee