Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coot Williams Bluegrass Festival - Cherryville, NC - Review

In these difficult times many small bluegrass festivals have been forced to fold their tents as audiences seem to be choosing to attend those start-studded events that deliver a higher proportion of headliner acts that seem to offer more bang for the buck.  Linda and John Hutlinger have a different idea that they believe will work for them.  The Coot Williams Road Bluegrass Festival is located on a lovely dished property that provides plenty of room to accomodate future growth.  Meanwhile, John and Linda devote themselves to producing a festival that seeks to support the development of bluegrass music for their region's youth while offering sufficient brand name talent to attract small, but enthusiastic crowds.  This one and a half day festival features lots of bands selected from the four county area west of Charlotte and east of Ashville along the NC/SC border.  Located just outside Cleveland County, the home of Earl Scruggs, there's plenty of bluegrass played in the area and a good selection of local and regional bands to select from. Evan headliners Darin & Brooke Aldridge on Friday and Wayne Taylor on Saturday originated nearby.

Kevin Richardson & Cutting Edge

Friday afternoon at Coot Williams opened with Kevin Richardson & Cutting Edge.  Kevin is well known as the talented flat picker in Larry Stephenson's band, but here he had his own band, which acquitted itself well, playing a range of classic bluegrass covers as well as a few originals by Richardson.  This band earned its way into the lineup by winning last week's battle of the bands at Coot Williams road.  

Kevin Richardson

Scott Burgess

Chris Ward

Milan Williams

Bill Yates & Linda Hunsucker

Cross Ties

Joe Dempsey

Scott Loman

Alan Langlish

Jimmie Coffee

Carolina Foxfire

Carolina Fox Fire is a spin-off from the Catawba Valley Music Revival Band composed of more advanced players from this group.  They signaled the seriousness of their efforts by opening with the challenging and haunting Jerusalem Ridge followed by a cover of Balsam Range's Caney Fork River.  This is tough stuff for a young band.

Tyler Leonard

Mason McConnell

Jeremy Green

Max Neal
Deeper Shade of Blue

Coming from the Monroe area, just east of Charlotte, this experienced regional group began several years ago mostly presenting gospel music and has widened its repertoire over the years.  The recent addition of Frank Poindexter on Dobro has further improved their already good sound.  Lead singer Troy Pope's voice has deepened into a useful instrument. 

Troy Pope

Jim Fraley

Brian Hinson

Jason Fraley

Frank Poindexter

Josh Greene - Just Hangin' Out

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

This superb duo perfectly fits the objectives of The Catawba Valley Revival program, a local duo making huge waves on the national stage.  Darin and Brooke had to drive about five miles from their new home to appear at Coot Williams, and their drive enriched that of everyone else who came on Friday night.  We've seen the band at large and small festivals this summer, and will see them three times more before we head home for the holidays. Whether they're performing at a storefront church or a large north eastern bluegrass festival, you can count on this band to give its all. 

Eddie Biggerstaff

Perry Woodie

Chris Bryant

Darin, Eddie & Brooke

Unspoken Tradition

Growing from a group of music students working with Darin Aldridge, Unspoken Tradition came together at a local underground jam at a place called the Bomb Shelter.  In the past year or so they have grown as a band, produced a CD, and begun playing gigs.  In the past year they've become increasingly tight while reaching out to play more difficult music.  They show some promise if they're willing to keep at it.

Blake Putnam, Zane McGinness, and Audie McGinnis

Lee Shuford

Saturday opened with gray skies and the promise of rain, and it did rain for a while in the morning...pretty hard.  Then it stopped, but continued threatening for several hours, but the temperature was comfortable, and the large circus tent provided plenty of cover.  A little rain doesn't deter the determined bluegrass crowd.  The Saturday lineup continued the theme of local bands augmented by a couple of well-known show bands and a superior bluegrass band playing contemporary new songs as well as classics from the bluegrass repertoire.  

Bluegrass Tradition

Bluegrass Tradition earned its way into the lineup by coming in second in the previous weeks battle of the bands held at Coot Williams Road.  
       Darrell Simons                                                                                             Perry Huskie             


          Daniel Martin                                                                                            Greg Deal

Alan Connors

Catawba Valley Music Revival Youth Band

In many ways this band is the reason for the Coot Williams Festival.  The Catawba Valley Music Revival is a non-profit charity devoted "preserving and protecting live music" in its region.  The Youth Band is one of the most visible outcomes of this festival, along with the encouragement of local bands through the Battle of the Bands.  The young people in this group continue to develop under the direction of Max Neal, and as one who sees them only occasionally, I enjoy the enthusiasm they exhibit. 

T. Ray Cook

Mason McConnell

Tyler Leonard

Elizabeth Hollifield

Colin Ray

Cane Creek

Cane Creek

Coming from Anderson, SC, Cane Creek epitomizes much of what a local bluegrass band can be.  Featuring five able musicians who sing and play both classic bluegrass covers and original material from several of its members, this band is entertaining and personable.  They communicate a love for the music and for making music together.  Sometimes they  achieve a haunting sound many bands would aspire to emulate, while at others they present driving music that gets feet tapping and puts smiles of the audience's faces.

Steve Snelgrove

Bill Sanders

Jeff Rose

Nan Harvell

Mark Harvell

Harold and Sharon Bess's Ice Cream
GoldWing Express

I've been critical of the GoldWing Express in this blog before, and continue to be so.  Within the first five ten minutes of their set, Bob Baldridge, spokesman for the group, managed a race joke and a bathroom joke to signal the level of taste that could be expected from this band.  He also manages to insert his politics into the act, particularly where he supposes it will be well received.  Despite this comment, though, I must admit their act seemed somewhat toned down this time around, and GoldWing Express can often be counted on to put customers in the seats who enjoy their "Branson style" show and coarse, belittling humor.  I also want to recognize their generosity in encouraging youthful members of the Catawba Valley Music Revival to join them on the stage and to perform with them. 

Bob Baldridge

Steven Baldridge

Paul Baldridge

Shawn Baldridge

Stanley Efaw

Bill Yates & The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band

Tribute bands, at their best, are only a pale reflection of the groups they wish to emulate.  Bill Yates spent many years as bass player and harmony singer for Charlie Waller & The Country Gentlemen.  He's a good band host and keeps the show moving along.  Mike Phipps' impression of Charlie Waller's voice is eerily on target, and the band's renditions of Gents' favorites (Matterhorn, Redwood Hills, Two Little Boys, and others) are similar enough to represent a more than adequate tribute.  I found myself, however, to be yearning to hear what the band could produce should they decide to sound like themselves. 

Bill Yates

Mike Phipps
Mark Clifton

Dave Propst

Dave Smokes

Terry Pearson
Kevin Church

Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa

Wayne Taylor has formed a better than fine band built around his voice and songs that stands for itself.  Taylor's excellent singing and song writing set a standard for traditional sounding bluegrass featuring new songs, many of them composed by Taylor himself.  He has an excellent baritone voice and supports himself well with both his rhythm guitar and flat-picking.  By teaming up with Emory Lester, one of the best on mandolin, he has created a musical group worth hearing.  The experienced Kene Hyatt on bass is very strong in setting and maintaining a strong beat and excels on bass solos.  Young Lee Marcus has grown into the band since he joined them about five months ago and has matured as a banjo player.  His taste and tone are very good, and the timing of his fill licks superb. Wayne Taylor's just released CD "Out in the Middle of Nowhere" contains nine original songs by Taylor himself and his friend Dave Parker.  They continue his record  of penning excellent work.  I also particularly like his cover of Bob Dylan's complex "I Want You."  This independently produced CD is available from his web site or at his performances.  Wayne will be showcasing and in evidence at the IBMA World of Bluegrass later this month.  His performance at Coot Williams was committed, passionate, expert, and convincing.

Wayne Taylor

Emory Lester

Lee Marcus

Kene Hyatt

Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa
In the Heart of Caroline

Wayne at the Merch Table with Tyler Leonard

Irene Lehmann

I particularly want to thank Irene for her ongoing contribution to this blog. Her photographs are appearing here with increasing frequency as her patience with the camera pays off with some fine shots.  Furthermore, her support of my efforts in putting up with the time I spend and providing editorial input and thoughtful balance to my own worst instincts help make this work better than it ever would have been without her.  

Irene with Angie & Eddie Biggerstaff