Saturday, March 6, 2010

Leadbetter & Bennett Tour Florida

Phil Leadbetter

Richard Bennett

Last night at Sabal Palms Bluegrass Festival in Palmdale, FL (look for an overall review of this event early next week), as the chill air gripped the audience and a group unknown to many attendees took the stage, too many people went home to their RV's and missed what was, perhaps, the best bluegrass band to appear at this festival.  Phil Leadbetter, former IBMA Dobro player of the year and recently a principal in Grasstowne,  and Richard Bennett, singer guitarist who has played with J.D. Crowe and the New South as well as other bands, took the stage with a pickup band consisting of members of the Bluegrass Parlor Band, and blew the remaining audience away.  Leadbetter and Bennett, who will be holding workshops in Florida over the next couple of days, have announced a new band with Don Rigsby that is currently developing its repertoire and seeking dates for the remainder of 2010 and for 2011.  The band they are building sounds ambitious, and, if last night's performance is any indication, should be a powerhouse.

The Leadbetter - Bennett Band
Over the next two days, Leadbetter & Bennett can be seen holding workshops at the following Florida venues.
Saturday, March 6
Naples, FL
Fred's Diner (Workshops)
(239) 287-2035

Saturday, March 6
Estero, FL (Concert)
Miromar Outlets
(239) 287-2035

Sunday, March 7
St. Petersburg, FL (Workshops)
Modern Music Workshop
(727) 678-9948

The band appearing at Sabal Palms last night featured the Walker brothers (Cory and Jarrod) as well as Jimmy White from the Bluegrass Parlor Band.  Cory Walker, banjo player for Sierra Hull and Highway 111, just home for Spring break at Middle Tennessee State University has been well known beyond his native Florida for several years.  Last night he showed some chops I hadn't seen before playing some of Phil's flashier compositions as well as exceling, along with brother Jarrod on mandolin, on David Grisman's "E.M.D."  Jarrod, heading off to college next year, continues to develop and impress as a mandolin virtuoso worthy of close watching.  In addition to being excellent musicians, both Walker brothers are engaging young men: open, thoughtful, and real.  Jimmy White on bass provided his usual very solid and unobtrusive but effective work.

Cory Walker

Jarrod Walker 

Jimmy White
Richard Bennett has a look and sound quite reminiscent of Tony Rice.  His work on "Ginseng Sullivan" and "Freeborn Man," both vocal and instrumental was truly excellent.  His rugged, blonde good looks don't hurt him on stage, either.

Richard Bennett
Phil Leadbetter stills stands at the top rank of Dobro players.  He's also a very funny man who used his humor well to introduce the band and to provide amusing bridges between many of the songs.  His work from earlier solo projects fit well with the band's overall effect.

Phil Leadbetter
Last night's performance, especially considering the band had not had significant time to work up their material, demonstrated depth and subtlety, capturing and entrancing the audience members who remained to hear them.  Watch for more information about this band as it develops and begins to appear around the country.