Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Darin & Brooke Aldridge Festival - Review

The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Festival at the Catawba Valley Revival site on Coot Williams Road in Cherryville, NC was a gem of a small festival last weekend.  A promotion of John and Linda Hunsucker and located on a spacious field adjacent to their home, the site has all it takes to put on a festival.  They've taken an old corn field and planted it with grass which, despite Thursday night's torrential rains, provided a solid base for heavy use.  There's ample space for dry camping with a convenient and pleasant bath house available containing flush toilets and hot showers.  The performance tent is located in a slight bowl surrouned by plenty of parking, a large vendors area, and a tin roofed shed set up for local churches and other organizations to sell wholesome and tasty food.   There's plenty of space available to expand this festival as it attracts increasing numbers of attendees.

The Coot Williams Site

Food Shed 

Vendors Row

Parking Area
The event took place over three days, starting with a scheduled jam and pinto bean/cornbread supper on Thursday night.  We arrived to find the entire field surrounded by a heavy thunderstorm and were immediately pelted with hail.  We stayed just long enough to make our regrets and hurried home to see if the cat was going crazy and our awning had been blown out.  Neither happened and all was well.

Friday morning kicked off with a golf tournament at the Cleveland Country Club.  That's Cleveland County, NC, not Cleveland, OH, a good distinction.  I'll be writing about why bluegrass musicians should or shouldn't play golf at another time.  Suffice it to say that there was lots of fun on a lovely golf course blessed with a perfect day. The awards luncheon (fancy place, fancy name) was a tasty barbecue provided by Bridges Barbecue of Shelby.  If you notice a red tinge on some of my pictures from this weekend, blame it one the golf.  Oh...those of you familiar with Dr. Tom Bibey and his blog will be interested to know that the noted bluegrass doc/bluegrass musician/golfer showed up for his friends Darin & Brooke and played with enthusiasm if not distinction.



Dr. Tom Bibey (?)

The musical events kicked off on Friday evening with a good selection of local bands being showcased as well as providing an opportunity for many of Darin's students to be seen.  Since I have limited space here, I've posted a Web Album (this link is the key) for parents and friends of the young (and not so young) musicians. I've also included a larger set of pictures of the Catawba Valley Revival Band.  These can be downloaded, printed, e-mailed to friends, or used on line.  If you use them on line, please give me a photo credit and a link to this blog. 

The afternoon was led off by two local bands, Carolina Foxfire and Closer Walk, each providing pleasant music bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music.

Carolina Foxfire

Closer Walk
Harold Simpson

Jennifer Simpson
Darin Aldridge Student Showcase

In addition to being a find instrumentalist, singer, and band leader, Darin Aldridge is a busy teacher.  At this festival he showcased a number of his students. Here are some pictures of a few of them.  Check out the Web Album I've posted here (http://picasaweb.google.com/KeeneValleyGuy/StudentShowcasesAndCatawbaValleyRevivalBand#_) to see some more.


Catawba Valley Music Revival

Linda Hunsucker

John Hunsucker
Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band

The host band for this small festival in their home town, the Darin & Brooke Aldridge band is enjoying a fast-rising reputation based on their new self-titled CD as well as their hard work to develop a broadening fan base.  Originally begun as mostly a bluegrass gospel band, this excellent group is fast gaining national recognition through appearance at festivals and on satellite and terrestrial radio.  While much of their base remains in the church, their excellent music and enjoyable showmanship combine to create a likeable and musically delightful combination.

Darin and Brooke Aldridge

Eddie Biggerstaff
Chris Bryant

Perry Woodie
Josh Greene

Dennis Jones - Emcee and WNCW Radio Personality

On Saturday morning the environment changed from mostly local and low key, to professional bands offering an interesting and exciting variety of music.  The day was warm and sunny, and the music was enthusiastically received throughout the day.  

New Plowed Ground

This trio, led by Cleveland Community College sociology professor Al Dunkleman, offers an interesting a varied program of rather laid back Americana ranging from obscure nineteenth century parlor songs through old time fiddle songs, thirties and forties pop to soft rock and bluegrass.  Al is an able multi-instrumentalist with an engaging voice who is supported by his wife Karen on bass and Dr. Bobby Jones on mandolin and guitar.

Al Dunkleman

Karen Dunkleman
Dr. Bobby Jones

The Harris Brothers
Reggie Harris

Ryan Harris

Whether they play piedmont blues, reggae, rock, pop, or jazz, the Harris Brothers bring the sort of exciting musicality one expects from famous musicians who've achieved acclaim everywhere.  Instead, these two men stay pretty close to their home at the eastern edge of the Smokey Mountains.  The deserve much wider recognition and any Americana or bluegrass promoter will be pleased with one of their performances and crowds love them.  This weekend they augmented their first set by having Ron Shuffler on guitar and adding Darin Aldridge for several songs on mandolin.  Their evening performance featured the Double D combination of Darin Aldridge and Darren Nicholson of Balsam Range.  The crowd went crazy as the two manolinists exchanged breaks and licks in music one might have thought ranged quite far from their native bluegrass, but which suited them perfectly.  Both sets by the excellent band generated huge audience enthusiasm and represented the sort of event that happens at festivals and can never be captured in a recording.

The Harris Brothers & Double D
Ron Shuffler

Balsam Range
Balsam Range is a fast rising bluegrass band headquartered in the bluegrass hotbed of Ashville, NC.  They are blessed and cursed by having so much work near home that they don't have to travel far to work a lot, thus depriving much of the country from hearing their wonderful brand of contemporary traditional bluegrass.  Using much written by members of the band while choosing very carefully from other song writers and traditional material, they are an extremely exciting band to watch and hear.  With lead singers in each bluegrass voice and musicians with range and subtlety, Balsam Range is worth serious attention.  Their recent CD, Last Train to Kitty Hawk is just plain wonderful.  Fiddler and lead tenor Buddy Melton has a powerful voice filled with emotion and honesty.  Caleb Smith on guitar is an intense and skilled flat picker.  Tim Surrett is one of the great unsung bass players. Darren Nicholson on mandolin and Mark Pruett on banjo are top notch, too.  Hear this band on radio and go out of your way to see them if they're appearing at a festival near you.

Buddy Melton

Tim Surrett

Darren Nicholson

Caleb Smith

Mark Pruett

J.D. Crowe & The New South

J.D. Crowe is one of those few bluegrass greats whose play is so recognizable it has been called "Crowe style" and is copied by top banjo players everywhere.  He has been in the forefront of bluegrass music since the seventies.  His Bluegrass Album Band recordings are of historical importance and his album Rounder 0044 is the only album anywhere known by its catalog number.  He still plays with subtle authority that is a wonder to behold.  The band he's surrounded himself with is strong at every instrument.  Ricky Wasson, guitarist and lead singer is very strong is are Dwight McCall on mandolin and Matt DeSpain on Dobro.  Kyle Perkins has recently joined the band on bass.
Ricky Wasson

Dwight McCall
Matt DeSpain

Kyle Perkins
Ricky Wasson & J.D. Crowe

Perry Woodie Smiles

Mike Lane Won the Raffle Quilt
Linda and John Hunsucker with Dennis Jones

The inaugural Darin & Brooke Aldridge Festival at Coot Williams Road was a friendly, warm, and very enjoyable event.  The next festival John and Linda are promoting will be held the weekend after Labor Day.  Put it down on your schedule now and keep an eye out for the lineup as it develops.  Sounds like it'll be another fine one.
Perry Woodie and Mike Ramsey

Darin & Brooke