Saturday, August 6, 2011

Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival - E. Hartford, CT - Fri

Although the weather maps foretold scattered heavy showers, they seem to have scattered elsewhere as we enjoyed just enough cloud cover to keep the heat of the day from being over-hot with not too much direct sunlight to guard against.  The music throughout the day was varied and interesting, with the Steep Canyon Rangers provided the day's musical highlight, with Nicky Sanders' encore rendition of the fiddler's national anthem Orange Blossom Special giving us all a lesson in what a great fiddler can deliver.  The song contest winners sang their songs, with the winning song  by Andrea Aspenelli and Jason Borosoff to be worked up for the band contest on Sunday.  Mountain Heart's volume tended to drown out their musical versatility and overall excellence.  Let's go the festival.


Statuesque twin sisters Sarah and Maria Fitzmaurice were very much strengthened from their showcase appearances at IBMA last fall.  They were tighter, more melodious and more varied in their presentation, which ranged from their own country inflected compositions to some good bluegrass covers. Their close sister harmonies are often lovely. It's sad for bluegrass and wonderful for this engaging band that they'll be heading for a stellar career in country music, but I'd like to see them keep their feet in bluegrass, too.

Maria Fitzmaurice

Sarah Fitzmaurice

 Brandon Snellings
Mike Simms

Aaron Malone

Sarah Fitzmaurice & Aaron Malone

Wayne Bledsoe - Emcee

Danny Paisley & Southern Grass

Danny Paisley's voice is an acquired taste, and I've caught it.  Sometimes it seems a bit piercing, but the combination of his soulful delivery and just-right song choice make his very traditional sound come alive for many.  Coming from the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, right on the Maryland line, he has carried forward the legacy of the band his father started about fifty years ago and added much new material while keeping the rough sound of bluegrass's early days.  His eleven year old son Ryan, now traveling with the band on mandolin, promises to continue to keep the legacy alive.  It's really nice to see Danny's brother Michael and long-time band mate Bobby Lundy with the band, as well as young Spencer Mobley getting a chance to tour with a national band.

Danny Paisley
Doug Meek

 Michael Paisley

 Bobby Lundy
Ryan Paisley

Spencer Mobley

Danny Paisley Workshop with Guest
Joe Singleton

Steve Ide - Thanks for the Camera Loan

Larry Blansky - Long-Time Staff Photographer

 Song Contest Winners w/Roger Moss
Andrea Aspenelli & Jason Borosoff on left

Happy Birthday, Roger - Fifty is Nifty

Roger Moss

Steep Canyon Rangers

Because of their very high profile tour and two excellent recordings as backup band for Steve Martin, people tend to forget that The Steep Canyon Rangers are an exceptional band in their own right.  Featuring strong musicianship in every position and excellent writing from at least three of their members, they dominate the stage when they're on and communicate genuineness to their fans at the merch table.  Woody Platt's strong voice provides lead singing while trios and acapella quartets are always strong.  Nicky Sanders is beyond excellent on fiddle, a genuine candidate for IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year.  When SCR plays near you, don't hesitate going to see them for themselves,  You won't be disappointed. 
Nicky Sanders
Graham Sharp & Charles Humphrey
Woody Platt

Mike Gugginno

Graham Sharp & Charles Humphrey
Woody Platt & Guest Jim Hurst

Nicky Sanders giving a lesson

Jim Hurst & Louisa Branscomb
Gail Wade at Kids Academy

Barbara Shaw, Vickie Baker, Frank Shaw

 Mountain Heart Workshop
Mountain Heart
Mountain Heart over the past few years has transformed itself into a strongly rock oriented jam band with a much broader audience while adding keyboards and a distinctly bluesy sound with singer Josh Shilling.  They remain as instrumentally powerful and vocally strong as their history shows.  When moved to do so, they can still deliver bluegrass material they've been known for.  At the same time, their move towards southern rock is exemplified by Josh's excellent delivery of "The Ride," an anthem to Hank Williams.  I guess I'd continue to enjoy much more of their show if their volume didn't blow me out of my seat.  Their rendition of Darrel Scott's "With a Memory Like Mine" never ceases to move me.

Aaron Ramsey
Jake Stargell
Barry Abernathy

Jason Moore

 Jim Van Cleve & Barry Abernathy
Josh Shilling

 Jason Moore