Friday, June 4, 2010

Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival - Thursday

The Setup Begins

Thursday at Strawberry Park often involves lots of waiting and watching as folks roll in and the excitement builds toward the 6:00 P.M. opening act.  This year, all that was mitigated by having our friend Dr. Tom Bibey visiting from North Carolina.  His visit jumped up in importance as the proof copy of his soon to be published novel The Mandolin Case arrived, much to his excitement.  We stopped in at the campground office to find that the package containing his book had already arrived.

 Dr. Tom Bibey Recieves the First Copy
The First View

Irene Was One of the First Signers

Junior Sisk Signs The People's Mandolin

The day became special for Dr. B and thus for us as we watched his joy at completing ten years of work on his novel as well as launching the Traveling People's Mandolin, which will also be passed to its next recipient here at Strawberry Park.  Since this is Dr. B's first trip to a northeastern festival and his introduction to the bluegrass community here, it's all a pretty big deal. 

Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters
Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters opened Strawberry Park this year as they have for many years.  Her clear and well-modulated voice blends well with her musical and life partner Roger Williams on Dobro.  Her song "Immigrant Eyes" about her grandfather is a masterpiece that other pickers should learn.  She brings energy and enthusiasm to the stage with her bluegrass flavored country sound.  Guest fiddler Kimberly Ludiker, a member of Della Mae, was excellent.  J.D. Williams, Roger's son, on mandolin did a solid job and Eric Levinson on bass, who returns to the band after an absence, was strong, too.  

Amy Gallatin

Roger Williams

J.D. Williams

Kim Ludiker

Eric Levinson

The Farewell Drifters
The Farewell Drifters' Americana sound offers an enjoyable blend of singer/songwriter originality with a range of themes, tempos, and sounds from pure melody to enthusiastic jam.  They're young, and their themes bespeak the interests and concerns of their age group.  Their music is highly engaging despite a somewhat unfortunate stage diffidence that can come across as off-putting.  Despite this, the audience responded warmly and supportively. Instrumentally The Farewell Drifters are strong at every position.  Zach Bevill continues to develop as a very solid lead singer.  The change to Christian Sedelmyer on fiddle, replacing the banjo, is an excellent musical choice for this essential mellow and highly listenable band.

Joshua Britt

Zach Bevill

Clayton Britt

Dean Marold

Christian Sedelmyer

Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice

Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice has undergone two major lineup changes in the past few months, leaving some concern among his fans. Not to worry, this band just keeps on getting better! Jason Davis on banjo continues to grow and mature in his approach to his instrument, blending very well with this band while still managing to stand out on his breaks.  Greg Moore, on fiddle, is a recent acquisition from the James King Band.  With Junior he gets to show a much wider range of play and more than lives up to the challenge.  Members of the band tell me he's helping push them to new heights.  Jason Tomlin's vocals and mandolin play have continued to become increasingly subtle and expressive as he gains in confidence and experience.  Tim Massey, Junior's cousin, on bass has been a steady source of strength to this band and throughout Junior's career.  As a bass player and singer he is extremely valuable; as a song writer, he's indispensable.  Junior himself has long been recognized as one of the premier traditional lead singers in bluegrass.  Early on, there was some question about his taking on the role of front man.  Those concerns have been totally allayed.  Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice is on a steady upward path to much wider acclaim. At Strawberry Park a large Thursday audience remained despite a brief rain shower to hail his performance and demand an encore.
Junior Sisk

Tim Massey

Jason Tomlin

Jason Davis

Greg Moore

I may have a surprise to add to this space later today, but I'm experiencing technical problems.  Meanwhile, look for daily reports here for the rest of the weekend.  The weather has dawned bright and clear, and it looks like we're gonna have a good 'un.