Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dumplin' Valley Bluegrass Festival, Kodak, TN - Friday

The rain stopped around dawn and, as the day wore on the skies cleared, the humidity dropped, day people crowded in, and a festive atmosphere prevailed at Dumplin' Valley.  The three silos dominate the site, but the focus of all activities is in the old cow barn, now converted into a comfortable, covered seating area with a simple, friendly stage.  Beginning at noon, the music came from a range of excellent bands culminating with two of the most storied and effective touring show bands in the business.  It would be hard to find a better festival day than Dumplin' Valley offered on Friday, except that Saturday looks like it's going to be just as good.  

Shadow Ridge

Tazewell lies in the easternmost corner of Tennessee where Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee join in the heart of the Appalachian chain. If there's a center of the culture that spawned bluegrass music, it is here.  The members of Shadow Ridge come from this region.  The band is lively and enthusiastic as well as skilled.  Their mix of traditional and more new materials works.  They were a good choice to open the second day of this festival.

C.F. Bailey

Barry Hodges

Scott Powers

Johnny Siler

Cody Bauer

Sound Master Gene Daniel

Balsam Range (with guest Joe Soward)

Balsam Range hits the stage with a level of commitment and energy only seen in the very best of bands.  Currently leading in  the Bluegrass Blog Shadow Poll of the IBMA awards as Emerging Artist of the Year, this band plays with a tightness the suggests they've been together years longer than the four years of their history.  They are so strong at every position it would be a disservice in the space available to point to any individual.  Balsam Range exhibits a range of instrumental versatility ranging from straight ahead traditional bluegrass to jazz-like sounds that stretch the imagination of their listeners to understand bluegrass in new and creative ways.  Hard driving develops a new meaning with this band as its rhythm section leads the beat with a powerful forward motion.  Each individual adds strengths and the ensemble is one of the very best in bluegrass.

Buddy Melton

Ben Surratt

Darren Nicholson

Caleb Smith

Marc Pruett

Heather Berry Mabe

The James King Band

James King has recently been quite ill and is still recovering.  Last time we saw him, he was exhausted from an extremely arduous trip.  A few days in the hospital and an improved diet seem to have had a positive effect on him, and James showed up at Dumplin' Valley in good humor and fine voice.  He sang the songs he's well known for, supported by a band that's been pretty stable for the past year of so.  Ron Spears on Mando has a clear and strong voice, while Tony Mabe on banjo is, perhaps, the best banjo picker James has had in his band since we started following bluegrass, subtle and tasteful while always there.  Bobby Davis on bass backs the band with a rock solid beat.  At the evening performance James introduced thirteen year old Crystal Shipley, who had finished second in Junior Fiddle at Galax this year.  She contributed a spirited fiddle performance.  

James King

Ron Spears with James

Tony Mabe

Bobby Davis

Crystal Shipley

The WDVX Chicken Pays a Visit 
to James' Farm Auction


IIIrd Tyme Out

IIIrd Tyme Out is a storied band in contemporary bluegrass history, having won IBMA Vocal Group of the Year seven times.  This year they are one of four bands in contention for Entertainer of the Year appearing at Dumplin' Valley, along with Dailey & Vincent, The Grascals, and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (says something about the lineup here, doesn't it?).  Their low key personalities coupled with high level musical performance has for years placed them at or near the top of the heap.  Russell Moore's voice remains one of the most recognizable and durable instruments in bluegrass.  IIIrd Tyme Out is always a joy to see.

Russell Moore

Steve Dilling

Wayne Benson

Justen Haynes

Edgar Loudermilk

Backstage with the Chicken

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

Continuing as one of the most versatile and fan friendly performers on the bluegrass trail, Rhonda Vincent delivers first rate entertainment day after day.  At Dumplin' Valley she brought a range of people to the stage, sang some surprising material (who would have expected The Twelve Days of Christmas in September?) and lots of fun and family.  Her voice remains one of the two most recognizable voices around, a model for many other singers.  And no one maintains the high level of personal energy and charisma that Rhonda Vincent does.  Oh...and she's nice, too!

Rhonda Vincent

Hunter Berry

Mickey Harris

Aaron McDaris

Ben Helsen

With Daughter Mrs. Sally Berry

A Dream Moment for Joe Soward

Steve Dilling, Norman & Judy Adams

Visitors from The Netherlands