Monday, September 20, 2010

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival - Sat & Sunday

Dew on the ground, a slight haze of dampness in the air, and the sky brightening with promise of a hot Saturday to come greeted us as we awoke.  The day fulfilled all our hopes for it as the pace of the weekend drew to its exciting evening climax.  Dumplin' Valley always features plenty of jamming late into the night, so, after two nights of staying up late to pick, people showed up a little lazily, but when they heard Brooke Aldridge's strong and melodic voice echoing across the grounds, the barn filled up and the day was on.

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Darin & Brooke Aldridge have only been seriously working to penetrate the festival circuit for a little of a  year, having previously focused their efforts on singing mostly gospel music in churches.  They've made remarkable progress, and their self-titled CD has received a lot of attention on terrestrial and satellite radio.  The results of increased touring show in the tightness of the band, whose sound has only improved with seasoning.  

Darin Aldridge

Brooke Aldridge

Eddie Biggerstaff

Chris Bryant

Josh Greene


Darin & Brooke Aldridge 
"He Ain't Ever Done Me Nothin' But Good"
(Double Click to View on YouTube)

Pickin' by the Silos

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Mike Cleveland was, sadly, forced to miss this weekend's performance at Dumplin' Valley due to illness (don't worry, he's fine), but asked to be called after each set so he could hear how it went.  Fiddler Mike Hartgrove of the Lonesome River Band substituted with verve and skill getting a chance to show all his chops, which are substantial.  The rest of this band, in strong contention for the Entertainer of the Year award from IBMA this year, filled the two sets with enthusiasm.  Jesse Brock was hot, as ever, on the mandolin.  Tom Adams' work as emcee, rhythm guitar player, and lead singer was superb. (Wouldn't it be nice if IBMA were to divide the guitar award into hot flat picker and rhythm player?) Marshall Wilborn, back on the road after an illness of his own, was strong, and Jesse Baker got a chance to sing a little more than usual.  Both sets were musically satisfying and effective.

Mike Hartgrove

Jesse Brock

Marshall Willborn

Tom Adams

Jesse Baker

Mitzi Soward - Promoter

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier is almost a perfect example of what an excellent local band has to offer.  The band features fine musicians at each position along with Whaley's excellent song writing.  His songs "Timber" and "The Kings of Orebank" are lovely evocations of youth and childhood that could fit into many bands' catalogs.  Unfortunately, Whaley was unable to resist the urge to inject partisan politics into his rendition of the great gospel song "Working on a Building," using it to milk cheap audience reaction.  

Jimbo Whaley

Roscoe Morgan

Roger Helton

Abbey Sinders

Scott Carris 

Whaley and the WDVX Chicken (Freddie Smith)

Johnnie Daniel at the Sound Board

The Grascals (with guest singer Jaelee Roberts)

In a few short years The Grascals have established themselves as one of the most entertaining and creative new bands in bluegrass.  They are aggressively spreading the music into new areas, singing the National Anthem at the Titans games yesterday and beginning a tour with Hank Williams, Jr. right after the IBMA - WOB national conference at the end of the month.  Their energy, versatility, song writing and selection, and pure love of what they are doing makes them crowd favorites everywhere they go.  This is all done with good taste and genuine reverence for the founders while they keep on adding new music and incorporating contemporary country music sounds to their work.

Jamie Johnson

Terry Eldredge

Terry Smith

Danny Roberts

Kristin Scott Benson

Jeremy Abshire

It's Been a Long Day for Hogan Benson

Janet Smith

Lonesome River Band

When a band is known by its initials (LRB) there's a signal that it has become so recognizable it no longer needs its longer, more formal, name.  The Lonesome River Band has been around for about twenty years, mostly under the leadership of banjo master Sammy Shelor, so good that Shelor Style stands, along with Scruggs and Crowe styles, as recognizable in other banjo players seeking to sound like him.  While the band has endured many personnel changes through the years its characteristic rock influenced bluegrass has only increased in popularity.  Newly installed in the band is Barry Reed on acoustic bass, lending, according to Shelor, a much crisper, more driving sound to the band.  Shelor himself seems to be picking faster and with the same driving authority as always.  Brandon Rickman is one of the premier singer/songwriters in bluegrass, while Andy Ball's singing and picking complement the band very well.  Mike Hartgrove is always reliable on fiddle.
Sammy Shelor

Brandon Rickman

Andy Ball

 Mike Hartgrove

Barry Reed

Sunday at the Kodak United Methodist Church
On Sunday morning we attended the early (traditional) service at the Kodak United Methodist Church where Darin & Brooke Aldridge were providing the day's music.  Pastor Rowland S. Buck presided and delivered a thoughtful, creatively constructed sermon on diversity within the Church.  Darin & Brooke were well received.  It was a warm and friendly way to end our week at Dumplin' Valley.

Pastor Rowland Buck

Darin & Brooke

The three silos looming over the warm, comfortable converted barn stand as a symbol of Dumplin' Valley Bluegrass Festival.  The event has, since its inception, featured first rate bands and a customer friendly approach to producing a festival.  Sound by Gene Daniel Sound is superb.  Freddie Smith of WDVX radio in Knoxville is a fine emcee who keeps the focus on the music and the event, even though he occasionally shows up as the WDVX chicken.

Freddie Smith

On Sunday afternoon we stopped down at the covered porch area where the merchandise tables are placed during the festival to find Joe and Mitzi Soward combing through the feedback forms, paying close attention to the remarks left by those attending the event.  They listen carefully to their customers and work to provide a fan friendly environment where people can have great fun while be assured that their fellow attendees will not intrude on their enjoyment.  Can't beat that!  See you here next year.