Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival - Sunday and Assessment

When we woke up Sunday morning, the rain was clearing out and a warm sunny day was promised.  By nine, when Clyde Proch, the very capable emcee who announced the entire festival, convened the traditional bluegrass gospel jam, the day promised to continue fine for the rest of the day.  The weather held until a light rain shower came along to slightly dampen the closing act, about which there will be much more down the page.  Turns ou, the weekend was favored with excellent weather - warm, sometimes hot, and sunny days and cool, but not cold evenings.  The faucets got turned on at night a couple of times, but were conveniently turned off in time for the music each day. 
Bluegrass Gospel Jam

Clyde Proch led the gospel jam, which was well-attended and enthusiastically sung and played.  He kept to the familiar old songs and offered a brief, ecumenical prayer giving thanks for the weather, the festival, and enjoining participants a safe trip home when the left.  


The Hemingway Brothers

The Hemmingway Brothers are a Maine-based traditional bluegrass group specializing in covers of Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, and other first generation bluegrass bands.  They played a set a day for three days, filling important segments of the bill.  Their work was solid, if un-spectacular featuring appropriate tempos and representing their models well with good singing and picking.

Kip and Dale Hemingway

Bruce Hobart

Hunter Webber

John Sparrow

Carrie and Aaron

Jenny Brook Kids Academy

Each year Tony Watt, well known as both a teacher and player throughout New England, spends three days preparing the Jenny Brook Kids for their stage appearance on Sunday at around noon.  The kids academy is an excellent approach to continuing to bring young people under the bluegrass tent.  It's something of a disappointment that more of the young people attending the festival didn't take the time to participate.


Tony Watt

Here's the key to a Picasa web portfolio of the Jenny Brook Kids

The Gazebo Stage and the Jenny Brook Choice Award

This year young banjoist Michelle Canning very capably ran the Gazebo stage where young performers and bands were invited to showcase in a competitive setting with the winner being invited to perform a set from the main stage on Sunday.  Last year very few people performed at the Gazebo stage, but this year Michelle recruited, papered the festival with fliers, put up a schedule board, and ran a very effective stage.  The result was about a dozen individuals and bands competing and quite a good band coming to the fore on Sunday.  Hot Mustard, a new bluegrass band given strong leadership by veteran banjo master Bruce Stockwell and his wife bassist Kelly Stockwell, aided by an arts grant to him and Bill Jubett put together a first rate band.  Congratulations to all involved in this worthwhile project.

Hot Mustard Performing on the Gazebo Stage

Michelle Canning

Michelle Canning Introduces Hot Mustard on the Main Stage

At many festivals we attend, I like to identify a band that particularly surprised me for its quality and attractiveness.  Often it turns out to be an un-heralded local or regional band I'd never heard before.  In this case I must confess that Bruce Stockwell has been my banjo teacher, and I've written about his performances, primarily with his brothers, before.  Hot Mustard is a bluegrass band he, Kelly, and Ben Jubett have put together that's been performing in Vermont and New Hampshire for a few months.  With April Hobart bringing a fine bluegrass voice to the mix, and luthier Adam Buchwald on mandolin, Hot Mustard presents a program of older seldom heard songs, very good instrumentals, and new material together to create a very good blend.  Regional promoters should seek this band out. 

Bruce Stockwell

April Hobart

Bill Jubett

Adam Buchwald

Kelly Stockwell

Brenda Mathews and Daughter Candi Sawyer
 Photo by Kelly Gibson

Candi's Surprise Guest
Seth Sawyer & Painful Memories
Holding an audience on Sunday at a four day bluegrass festival presents festival promoters with a seemingly insurmountable problem.  Many festivals we attend schedule a strong, popular band for Sunday hoping to attract or hold the audience through Sunday closing.  Often it proves to be of no avail.  In the promotional material for the festival, Candi Sawyer announced a "Grand Finale Surprise."  Towards the end of the Gibson Brothers' wonderful set on Saturday evening, Leigh Gibson announced that on Sunday their band would act as Seth Sawyer's back-up band for a performance of his songs.  This announcement proved to be a strong enough attraction to hold a couple of hundred more festival goers than have stayed at Jenny Brook in previouse years.  They were treated to a first rate closing.  

Seth Sawyer

Seth Sawyer is a very talented song writer whose tunes have been recorded by David Davis, The Pine Hill Ramblers, and The Gibson Brothers.  His often sad and heart rending songs tell stories that he conveys with feeling and conviction with his very fine lead tenor voice and solid rhythm guitar.  Because he performs too infrequently and often with a pickup band, he often doesn't receive the showcase he deserves.  Through the generosity of his friends the Gibson Brothers (Painful Memories) he performed a selection of his best work to several hundred people who stayed to hear the combination.  Seth's work deserves much wider hearing, and many bands could benefit by adding a couple of his songs to their set list.  

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Joe Walsh

When the Sawyers decided to move the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival from their previous location at a town park in Weston, VT to the Tunbridge World's Fair Grounds in Tunbridge, VT, they took on a pretty big risk.  The fairgrounds are an hour futher north and were unfamiliar to many of Jenny Brook's loyal fan base.  The move has proven itself to be a stroke of genius.  The fairgrounds are locaed conveniently close to two Interstate highways, provide many water and electric sites at reasonable prices as well as hot showers and flush toilets. The venue is nestled in amongst lovely surrounding Vermont hills at the foot of a tiny rural village along a brook that's convenient for wading  on hot days.  The fairgrounds staff picks up many of the chores often taken on by volunteers at other festivals. (Nevertheless, more volunteers are needed.  If you wish to volunteer to work at Jenny Brook, drop a line to Candi Sawyer at the e-mail address on the Jenny Brook web site.)  The new site has allowed the festival to grow and to provide a more complete and satisfying experience for all.  From the opening Pot Luck Supper on Wednesday evening to the closing performance by Seth Sawyer and Painful Memories, the tenth anniversary edition of the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival was a resounding success.  See you next year.

The Gibson Brothers - Callie's Reel