Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday at YeeHaw Junction provided another day of warm weather and fine music. I'm going to focus on the two new bands that appeared here on Saturday as well as taking some time to look around the grounds a bit. The forecast called for thunderstorms and high winds, and we did get the wind early on, but the rain never came, and late into the evening it remained warm enough to permit jammers to pick and others to listen dressed in t-shirts or light fleeces. Two new bands arrived to inject added energy into the mix. Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, familiar to this audience, returned from their Caribbean cruise with a new configuration and renewed energy to lay down two extremely entertaining and enjoyable sets. Hard Ryde, a Canadian band which had been on Smith's cruise, was new to the audience and to me. This is a very strong band which was well received and deserves to be heard more frequently here in the States.
As readers of this blog know, I like to highlight a group we've never heard that surprises me for its quality and sound at a festival. Here at YeeHaw Junction, the Canadian band Hard Ryde takes that distinction hands down. Billing themselves as Canada's premiere bluegrass band, their music encompasses a variety of styles and genres, including bluegrass, old-time, country, and jazz. From their first few chords, I knew their performance would be interesting and enjoyable. Combining traditional covers with plenty of new and band originated songs, Hard Ryde offers a diverse and easily accessible program of first rate music. I look forward to seeing them more frequently south of the border.
Promoters Victor Hall and Keith Bass
Emcee Evan Carl
Promoters Bass and Hall
Valerie Smith brings and unusual background and style to her band and her work at bluegrass festivals. With a degree in Musical Theater, she sings, dances, moves, and sell her songs like a Broadway show stopper. Along with that, she brings a winsome and pleasant stage personality and a range of musical choices to the performance. All this comes together to make Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike a very enjoyable package providing a change of pace and elevating the energy level whereever they perform. Singer/Songwriter and talented mult-instrumentalist Becky Buller melds perfectly with smith. Her striking red hair and lithe movement on stage complement Smith's look and sound while blending personalities and sound. Ernie Evans has brought strong instrumental work on three instruments, at least, as well as good vocals to the band. The recent addition of Rebekah Long on bass is a welcome addition. She's a first rate bass player and fits into the animated and lively performance this group offers. Liberty Pike delivers a huge sound for a four piece band and presents a show that goes far beyond a simple performance of songs. They use a range of material that maintains high interest and generates genuine enthusiasm from the audience.
Valerie, Becky and Ernie
Around the Festival
Marty - The 50/50 Lady
Mike and Mary Robinson - Bluegrass Evangelists
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday at YeeHaw Junction was warm and very pleasant. What appeared to be a good day crowd appeared and camping rigs continued to arrive. The festive environment and good music continued throughout the day. The slight overcast held the warmth a little later into the evening. It's always a good thing at YeeHaw Junction when the evening temps keep from falling into the downright chilly zone. New, and in one case, unfamiliar bands arrived and others performed for a second day. Today's post will focus more on photos than commentary with bands covered yesterday, while I'll have some thoughts on the three new bands appearing.
Highway 41 Rehearsing in the Field
On Vendor's Row
The Larry Gillis Band
Rehearsal in the Wilson's Bus
The Wilson Family
Robert and Melissa
Nothin' Fancy been in existance for nearly sixteen years with personnel changes only at bass. Such longevity signals not only a level of quality achieved by few bands, but a group of musicians who enjoy working together and growing as a band. Under the leadership of Mike Andes, who writes much of their original material, the band is one of the most entertaining and amusing groups on the circuit, reprising favorite bits while continuing to seek to tweak older ones to keep them fresh and enjoyable. Their Country Gentlemen covers, relying on Andes' mellow baritone voice, are excellent. Their extended comic bits, with Mitch Davis on banjo always playing the injured victim and Chris Sexton using his classically trained fiddle to provide musical jokes throughout the performance, are favorites of the audience. Bassist Tony Shorter and tenor Gary Faris add to the fun and the high quality.
Mike Andes and Tony Shorter
Gary Faris, Mike Andes, and Mitch Davis
Steve Dittman Bids Farewell and Thanks His Audience
The Bluegrass Brothers
The Bluegrass Brothers originated as a jam band at festivals in Virginia and have worked hard to become a hard working, blue collar, rough-edged, and enjoyable band playing covers of bluegrass standards and more recent material. They are always high energy, and their picking and singing have consistently improved over the past couple of years. They are a crowd pleasing favorite at many festivals. Their version of "Grandfather's Clock" in which three members of the band take turns on the bass always works well.
Victor and Steve Dowdy
Victor, Donnie, and Steve
Robert Dowdy and Billy Hurt, Jr.
Men of the Week
C.J. Lewandowski and Men of the Week is a SPBGMA midwest regional award winning traditional band from Missouri looking remarkably like Carl Shifflet's Texas-based group. Emcee and lead singer C.J. Lewandowski plays guitar and balances on one foot like Shifflet, but without the moon-faced charm. Gerald Jones was a standout on fiddle. At least some of the audience responded by coming to the front to dance.