Monday, May 9, 2011
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver BGF - Denton, NC - Sat & Assessment
A bright warm morning promised a wonderful day filled with fine music and plenty of festival fun. The Denton Farm Park is one of the most versatile sites for a festival we've found. There's nearly endless camp sites available close to the stage and further away in both sunshine and shade. Jamming continues all day and late into the night as attendees chose which bands to interrupt their own playing to hear. A wide array of vendors supply plenty of food choices, although my favorite is Nancy's Fried Pies, particularly the sweet potato pie, which is a southern delicacy to die for. Under camper awnings there is always a party going on. The covered music shed assures a dry venue for listening to the music, although folks attending should be sure to bring cushions to soften the wooden benches. All told, this very well-established bluegrass festival can be counted on to offer great music and a good time.
The Little Roy & Lizzie Show
Little Roy Lewis has been touring as a bluegrass musician for over fifty years. The Lewis Family Band was one of the most important bluegrass gospel bands on the circuit, an innovator in television and recording as well as festival performance. Now, with his parents gone and his sisters ailing, Little Roy continues to tour with his adopted daughter Lizzie Long. For many years Little Roy would only sing gospel lyrics. Now, he continues to sing some of the old Lewis family material while adding a solid dollop of traditional bluegrass to the mix. Lizzie, who learned her chops at his feet and later with lots of help from family friend Earl Scruggs, developed into a multi-instrumental performer. She now has assumed the emcee role within the band, freeing Little Roy to continue with his brilliant comedy as well as entertaining play. I found myself wondering on Saturday night what it would have been like to have his energy and foolishness in class and then let it go. He's a genius as a clown and has brought joy to the stage for half a century, but, sadly won't receive the recognition he deserves as a musician.
Little Roy Lewis
Photographer Mike Lane & Lizzy
Sierra Hull & Highway 111
Sierra Hull has finished her two years at Berklee College of Music in Boston and received her diploma. She has stretched herself and grown as a musician and a person, bringing new depth and range to her already brilliant mandolin play. We last saw her in November, and she's a stronger and more complex player now than she was then. There's no telling where she'll go or how far during the next several years. Meanwhile, she's surrounded herself with gifted, able musicians. Clay Hess, a veteran of Ricky Skaggs' band as well as other strong gigs, continues his fine flat picking as well as taking on some vocal chores to relieve Sierra of the full load. Young Christian Ward, a Californian, is excellent on fiddle, while Jacob Eller brings an element of humor along with his fine bass playing. Still searching for a permanent banjo player, no band could do much better than the versatile Justin Moses. Meanwhile, in addition to her superb mandolin play, Sierra's singing voice continues to gain color and depth.
New Found Road
We've watched New Found Road transition from a gospel band to an edgy progressive band featuring the plugged virtuoso mandolin play of Joe Booher. Tim Shelton remains one of the most electric vocalists in bluegrass, singing bluegrass and some strong country work with songs by John Denver and Glenn Campbell. New Found Road did double duty at Denton serving as back up band for country singer Joe Diffie touring as a bluegrass vocalist in support of his new CD. They proved their versatility by serving up two very different kinds of music in their four sets.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver put together four sets of different music over the last two days of the festival they've hosted for 32 years. The band stays fresh, at least partly by rotating promising young musicians through. Jesse Baker, the most recent addition, showed some skills we didn't know he had as he did a pitch perfect impression of Lester Flatt's singing in addition to his pyrotechnic banjo play. As he took the mic and the guitar up, Doyle Lawson put on the banjo and we got to see him playing an instrument he hadn't much played in public since his days with Jimmy Martin. Mike Rogers, a recent addition to the band does very well on high tenor, blending beautifully with bassist Cory Hensly and Doyle in the vocal trios. Josh Swifte, on Dobro, add his strong bass voice for the acapella quartets. Jason Barrie continues to do excellent work at fiddle while Carl White, on drums, comes to the mic for comedy bits with Doyle and for some singing, too. This is a versatile and highly entertaining band noted for its discipline and enjoyable hijinks.
Jesse "Lester Flatt" Baker
The Gibson Brothers
The Gibson Brothers new CD has risen to number two on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts after only two months on the list. Recognition of their unique sound combining wonderful song writing and a signature brother sound that can't be matched today have finally begun to garner for them the national reputation that twenty grinding years on the road have earned them. The band is tight and frequent performing only improves their sound. They are deeply penetrating North Carolina, working large and small venues across the state. If you get a chance to see them in any setting, be sure to avail yourself of the opportunity.
The Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Bluegrass Festival at the Denton FarmPark was a huge success. Fine music, a spacious and delightful venue, good vendors, and fine weather combined to create a festive atmosphere that gave a good name to the word festival. We'll be back again next year. We'd like to thank the Loflin family and Doyle Lawson for the courtesies extended to us in our stay at Denton FarmPark.