Saturday, June 4, 2011

Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival - Friday

Strawberry Park on Friday opened chilly and bit breezy, but clear and bright.  The day warmed and by noon warm clothes began to come off as the audience took advantage of some of the first sun they'd seen in weeks.  The music continued bright and warm through the entire day with sound provided by CobraSound really excellent.  These people know how bluegrass should sound.  In addition to the ampthitheater shows, workshops on the workshops stage were superior.  One couldn't ask for a better day at a bluegrass festival, and today looks like it'll be just as good.

Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa

Wayne Taylor's performances and his recordings combine the essence of what I look for in a band. Wayne has one of the best lead voices in bluegrass and combines it with wonderful original song writing filled with thoughtful looks at slices of life that almost always ring true.  Emory Lester on mandolin and harmony vocals brings virtuoso mandolin play and strong singing to the mix.  Kene Hiatt on bass is thoughtful and varied in his work, as is banjo picker Mark Delaney.  This full sounding bluegrass quartet offers a very full sound and solid performance every time out.
Wayne Taylor

Emory Lester

Mark Delaney

Kene Hiatt (at Workshop)

Like all three of the workshops I dropped in on during the day, Kene Hiatt was teaching, helping, and supporting the people who attended in their search to become better at their instruments.  He listened well, gave relevant examples, and demonstrated with clear, simple playing.  Along with his band mates, Wayne Taylor and Emory Lester, he gave a first rate workshop. Later in the day both Kimber Ludiker and Ron Stewart did the same with their instruments.  Workshops are an important component of good festivals.  Fans value the opportunity to learn from and question the workshopper and many musicians truly enjoy teaching as part of their calling.

Wayne Taylor and Emory Lester back up Kene

Della Mae
Whenever a band experiences changes, questions are sure to be raised.  With two people gone from the band we saw at Joe Val, this was certainly true.  From almost the first moment the reconstituted Della Mae hit the stage, such questions were allayed. Lead singer Celia Woodsmith, whose experience includes a good deal of time spent in a rock band, brings a clear, bluesy voice that comes from deep in her chest.  There isn't a hint of the wispiness now so popular in female singers. Courtney Hartmann, a young guitar student at Berklee College, is a fine flat picker, currently filling in and doing more than a fine job.  Jenni Lyn Gardner, who moved from Nashville to be a part of this Boston-based band, is strong, although she complained her voice was affected by the pollen.  Her mandolin work is excellent.  Amanda Kowalski on bass also acts as emcee. She's one of the liveliest bass players around, picking great solos.  Rounding our the group is Kimber Ludiker, currently national champion fiddler, who combines wonderful fiddle play with fine harmony singing.  During the evening performance she challenged audience members to find a member of the audience having more fun than the band.  There were no takers.  The word that kept coming to my mind as I listened to Della Mae was "muscular."  This is not a girly band, although they never lose their femininity.  Promoters should book this band before they can no longer afford them.

Celia Woodsmith

Amanda Kowalski

Kimber Ludiker

Jenni Lyn Gardner

Dancing Lady

The Boxcars

The Boxcars threw down two more excellent sets. John Bowman's luminous solo singing and the band's excellence show through in every performance.  Ron Stewart's workshop was a model of thoughtful analysis and helpful suggestions.  Because I covered their performance yesterday and they'll be spending two days at Jenny Brook later this month, I'll leave it at that. No one should think my short reporting this morning has anything to do with any lack of respect for this talented and exciting band.

Ron Stewart at Workshop

Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters

Amy Gallatin continues to be a valued regional performer while exhibiting a world class voice.  She may be better known in Europe than she is in other regions of the United State, and that's too bad.  Her clear voice and thoughtful choice of material complimenting her voice is superior. Her partner, Roger Williams, on Dobro is a person people outside New England don't recognize, but whose music many have heard on record.  Their singing fits together like a glove (beware of cliches, Ted!). Roger's son J.D. Williams has grown into his role on mandolin and harmony singing, making genuine contributions. Eric Levinson on bass carries the beat and improvises interestingly on his instrument. Kimber Ludiker, when she joins this band helps lift it to the next level.  

Amy Gallatin

Roger Williams

J.D. Williams

 Eric Levinson

 Kimber Ludiker

Jim Beaver (emcee)
Dela Mae Rehearsing

IIIrd Tyme Out

IIIrd Tyme Out with Russell Moore remains, after nineteen years on the road, one of the most entertaining and musically fulfilling bands anywhere.  With their mixture of bluegrass, gospel, and some more contemporary pop-sounding songs, they are varied, tuneful, amusing, and musically excellent.  Russell Moore has, over the past eighteen years, been named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year three times.  This must be a record for vocal longevity.  IIIrd Tyme Out, with this appearance, returned to New England after several years absence, and they were more than warmly welcomed with a goodly crowd remaining late for the closing performance.

Russell Moore

Steve Dilling

Wayne Benson
Justen Haynes

Edgar Loudermilk

Kimber Ludiker's Workshop

Taylor, Kim, & Gale

Dailey & Vincent

Now well into the festival season, Dailey & Vincent continue to bring their ninety minute show to festivals, always garnering the largest crowds of the day to thunderous applause.  Their carefully written and rehearsed presentation is a crowd pleaser combining their mixture of gospel fervor, fast-paced bluegrass standards, material from their Cracker Barrell hit CD The Music of the Statler Brothers, and a good dose of sometime corny humor.  Their tiring schedule never seems to diminish the energy and enthusiasm they bring to each performance.

Joe Dean
Jeff Parker
Jesse Stockman

Christian Davis

Darin Vincent

Jamie Dailey

We had a pretty exciting day. It was particularly satisfying for mandolin aficionados with three great and differing stylists in Adam Steffey, Emory Lester, and Wayne Benson showing their stuff.  Still more excellence coming from Strawberry Park for two more days.