Monday, February 28, 2011

Bluegrass and Social Networking

The following essay is a lightly edited version of a piece I wrote for the Welcome Page of the California Bluegrass Association's web page

The film “The Social Network” has been nominated for eight academy awards and has won forty-nine other awards including three Golden Globes. Estimates of the number of Facebook members range towards the 600 million level, and it's been estimated the 46 percent of Americans belong. In bluegrass we can communicate with each other and become friends on List Servs (Bluegrass-L, Flatpicker-L, and many more I've never heard of) and forums like the Hangout group (banjo, reso, fiddle, mando) as well as many other instrument specific groups exist. Many web sites provide the opportunity for members to blog, post, and become “friends.” The opportunities for social networking are nearly endless. Many readers of this blog are certainly also active in a variety of social networking venues. So, two questions arise? How does social networking affect us as individuals? How can we use social networking to promote bluegrass, the music we love?

A few weeks ago a beloved member of the bluegrass community died after a long battle against cancer. We only met Tina Aridas, a frequent contributor to Bluegrass-L and publicist for her partner's band, James Reams & the Barnstormers, one time, at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival in E. Hartford, CT. Tina was already quite ill, but had pulled herself together to be “Up” for the weekend. We (that is my wife Irene and I) spent a good deal of time chatting with her during the weekend. I had “known” Tina for several years, however, as a highly intelligent, thoughtful, and funny advocate for James' band specifically and for bluegrass more generally. She took consistently liberal positions and argued them forcefully without ever being annoying or overly confrontational. In her public and private interactions, she was thoughtful and generous. When she died, the outpouring of affection for her on the Bluegrass-L showed genuine grief at her loss and compassion for her family. Her obituary was carried on the Bluegrass Blog the day after she died. The speed with which the news traveled and the power of the response say a great deal about the power of the Internet and social networking to spread information and provide support for others.

On the other hand, the world of social networking has the capacity to inflict both pain and damage. Coincidentally, a small furor erupted on the “L” the same day Tina Aridas died. I prefer to deal with this issue more elliptically. Suffice it to say that on one of the List Servs, a fairly frequent contributor raised an issue about a very well-known and popular member of two high profile, influential bands. His comments were strongly enough expressed and thoughtlessly enough presented that the target felt it necessary to respond sarcastically and powerfully. There followed a number of posts, most of which supported the injured (insulted) person. Now this incident is more important because of what happened than who it happened to. The important element I want to emphasize is the power of words. Words have power! They can soothe and they can maim. They can console and hurt. They can be used to frame an argument or to provoke a quarrel. Words need to be used with concern and skill in order to achieve worthy goals. They can be used, as we've seen in so much of our discourse during the past several years, to hurt without benefiting...anyone. The biggest risk in social networking lies in the ability of people to use anonymity, or at least distance, to achieve goals that are at best non-productive, and at worst...dangerous.

Social networks have such potential for misuse because they can achieve so much good. Their greatest asset is their ability to reach thousands, or even millions, of people with relative ease and low cost, an essential for bluegrass, where money is scarce in good times. When a band, an organization, or a person takes the time to make connections between web sites, Facebook pages,Twitter, iTunes, Reverb Nation, and the range of other online outreach sources available today, it's quite amazing to see the impact these combinations can have. At present the Gold Standard is The Bluegrass Legacy, founded and run by Henri Deschamps out of Valle Crucis, NC. Begun only about two years ago, The Bluegrass Legacy has amassed something just under 28,000 “Like”s on its fan page. Henri tells me this number of people who've pressed the Like button yields about 2.3 million appearances on web pages each month. Let's assume that only ten percent of those people seeing The Bluegrass Legacy go past on their own Facebook pages clicks on it. That's about 230,000 actual page views a month, huge for bluegrass.

The two bands which have shown the greatest media penetration, and, by the way, success, in the past couple of years have been Daily & Vincent and The Grascals, I'd like to bypass them for a second, because in each case they've been able to put together impressive media teams to support them. (People who attended the case study session Daily & Vincent held at IBMA in September will know that the saving, planning, and risk taken on by the two principles to put their team together was huge, but, for now, I want to focus on another band.) The Wilson Family Band, located in Folkston, GA has widened its outreach and begun accumulating a national audience through the hard work of twenty year old Clint Wilson and his mother working to marshall their web presence in all the venues mentioned above. Put that together with a lovely family sound as a band, and the very fine song writing of young Clint, and you have a band making an impact which will be seen to grow over the next few months and years. Clint's song, “Second Best,” on the new Blue Moon Rising CD is getting significant air play on XM/Sirius.

A little over four years ago, I decided I had something to write about, and blogging represented a way to say it. I was pretty unformed about what the limits would be, but I started a blog. After about two years, my blog, as it focused more on bluegrass music was being read by, perhaps, fifteen hundred people a month. At present, I've posted 590 times and been viewed roughly 350,000 times. People I meet face-to-face or on line say they like what I do. As a direct result of writing my blog, we've been welcomed (and sought after) at increasing numbers of festivals (most of which we pay to attend), my articles are being published by Bluegrass Unlimited, CBA has honored me with a monthly column, and I'm sometimes asked to write for other outlets. A year or so ago I started a Facebook page, and last Fall, Henri Deschamps walked me through starting a Facebook Fan Page. At present the fan page has 2100 odd fans and is, according to Facebook Insights, seen on about 73,000 screens a month. That's pretty widespread impact for a bluegrass fan who takes pictures and writes. One of the strengths of the approach that's been developing has been that the blog, my Facebook page, and Ted and Irene's Most Excellent Bluegrass Adventure Facebook Fan Page are pretty highly integrated, each feeding the other. And it's fun!

Social Networks have enormous power to help people in bluegrass to increase our outreach, to find and develop people who want to listen and, perhaps, even pick. This power can help us, particularly if we see the music as being inclusive and look at it from a longer perspective. I've never been to a festival where every band appealed to me. Some we hear are not very good. Others are good at what they do, but don't raise a level of enthusiasm within us. Still others grab us by the throat, draw us to their merch table, and demand further hearing. Who knows which ones we listen to today will be heard by anyone in forty or fifty years. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, social media have expanded the bluegrass universe and will continue to delight, disappoint, challenge, and encourage us to find new limits and ways to express our love of music. Social media can only help in this effort.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival - Folkston, GA - Preview

Entrance to Newell Lodge

The Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival will run on March 11 and 12 at Newell Lodge in Folkston, GA.  Featuring three excellent emerging national bands, a well-established regional band, and two more local groups, this new festival represents a good stopping off place for snobirds on their way north as well as bluegrass fans from North Florida and Georgia to experience well-produced bluegrass music in a comfortable setting with high end production values.  The facility has constructed a fine new stage and provides a local snack bar.  Other vendors have been recruited.  Robert Wilson and his son Clint, who have wide experience in performance and sound production are producing the event for the owners of Newell Lodge. 

The Stage

The stage is located in a pleasant grove of live oak trees providing plenty of shade as spring begins to turn south Georgia warm. 

Newell Lodge currently offers plenty of room for dry camping and a dump station. By the scheduled October festival, mnagement expects to have water and electric sites available. It also provides six comfortable cabins for rental.

Newell Lodge Cabin

The Bathroom Cabin

 Several campgrounds are located within a comfortable distance for people planning to attend The Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival.

The Performers
The Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival represents a first effort by new promoters.  As such it is choosing to offer a modest one and a half day program featuring emerging bands of great promise as well as some local bands well-known to bluegrass fans in the area.  
Darin & Brooke Aldridge

It's hard to believe this delightful duo has only been on the road for a couple of years. During that time they have garnered increasing amounts of attention by releasing two well-received CD's, appearing with Kyle Cantrell on Sirius/XM radio for a Track-by-Track program, showcasing at IBMA, appearing at major festivals, and being nominated for a range of awards.  Darin Aldridge toured while still quite young with fabled The Country Gentlemen as well as with the Circuit Riders.  Fittingly, he met Brooke Justice in a church where they were both singing.  Their musical fit turned into a romance; they've been married a little over two years.  They've surrounded themselves with a very strong band of accomplished musicians, capping this off with the addition of Rachel Renee Johnson on fiddle last fall.  This is a don't miss band whose personal love shines through their singing as deeply as does their religious faith.

Rachel Renee Johnson

 Eddie Biggerstaff

Perry Woodie

Chris Bryant

Blue Moon Rising
Blue Moon Rising was recognized as an up-and-coming band when it won the Emerging Artist of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 2005.  The band released several well received CD's including "This Old Martin Box Guitar," which is well on its way to becoming a standard.

This Old Martin Box Guitar - Blue Moon Rising - Video

While being a band that maintains a limited touring schedule, Blue Moon Rising has achieved widespread fan approval.  In the past year, the three members left the band for other opportunities, leaving founder Chris West to decide whether to continue or not.  He decided to go on, and here's what he says, "The new band kinda magically came together just at the right time and the new record is the one that I'm most proud of. The new members retain the band's signature sound while forging new ground.  West is one of the finest singer/songwriters in bluegrass today.  We particularly like his song "The Hanging Tree," but there are so many it's hard to pick one.

Chris West
 Facebook Profile Picture

Facebook Profile Picture

Monroeville formed several months ago as a spin-off from another band.  Since then they have created significant buzz, showcasing at IBMA and appearing on national television.  While quite young, the six men in the band have considerable experience in bluegrass showing high levels of energy and commitment.  Here's a video sample of their work:

This is a band that looks to have a significant future.  You want to be one of the people who can say, "I saw them when they were fresh out of the gate and knew then...."

The Wilson Family Band
  Facebook Profile Photo
We first saw the Wilson Family Band five years ago when Katie and Clint were children singing with their Mom and Dad at the Spirit of Suwannee Bluegrass Festival near Live Oak, FL.  Irene brought them to my attention saying, "You HAVE to see this band."  As usual, she was right; I was captivated.  Since then, the children have grown and matured, while the band has gained recognition in the southeast while extending its range into the Carolinas and as far to the northwest as Louisville, KY.  Katie has bloomed as a fiddler while Clint is becoming recognized as a song writer of unusual promise.  The band is a festival and church favorite in North Florida and Southeast Georgia and has gained a strong following in the Myrtle Beach area, too.

Robert Wilson

Melissa Wilson

Clint Wilson

Katie Wilson

 Bruce Sheriden

Tomorrow's News
Facebook Profile Photo

Tomorrow's News began life as a family band primarily oriented to bluegrass gospel music, where they continue to devote much of their energy.  However, driven by the interests and enthusiasms of seventeen year old Kalyn and her younger brother Bryce, they have broadened their repertoire, adding southern gospel and pop influences as well as changing personnel and becoming increasingly professional.  Look for Kalyn Hall and Clint Wilson to sing together during the Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival, too.

Victor & Malieka Hall



Trinity River (The Harris Family)  and Mill Train, both local bands from southeast Georgia will also be appearing.  Here's ticket information for the Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival:

Friday: $15
Saturday: $25
Weekend: $35
*Weekend Advance: $30

*Call 912-496-2838 or email to order advanced tickets.
*Until 3/1/11

How to Get to Newell Lodge

View Larger Map 

Newell Lodge is a small, comprehensive resort in Folkston, GA with an emphasis on horseback riding and serving as a convenient destination or getaway location.  Owners Kay and Harvin Carter have enlisted the efforts of Robert and Clint Wilson to produce the first of what proposes to be two annual festivals at their facility.  Their initial effort is promising and deserves the support of bluegrass fans. Because of its convenient location, snowbirds beginning to head home might want to consider a night or two's stop here on their way north, while local people will find it convenient and attractive.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey - Book Review

Serge Storms, the fast-traveling escape artist serial killer who is the protagonist of this thirteenth in a series of crime novels set in Florida, provides readers with an unlikely guide to the wonders of a fast disappearing culture in a state consumed with development and seemingly unconcerned with its own preservation. At one point in this picaresque flight through Florida's back-waters and under-side, Serge comments to Coleman, his alcoholic drug addict sidekick, “Florida is a theme park, and the theme is weirdness.” For those of us who travel off the beaten track in Florida, Electric Barracuda provides vivid snapshots of places representing the old Florida that people who live and visit on the tourist-flush coasts or who consume theme park culture probably won't recognize. From Kissimmee, a beat down suburb on the lower end of Orlando, to Cedar Key, Pine Island, Myakka River State Park, and the hidden treasure of Chocoloskee, Dorsey takes his character to places most Florida visitors prefer to miss. The greatest gift of this book is to recognize that places like these still exist in Florida. I suspect that if I read the twelve preceding novels, I'd get to visit Micanopy, Live Oak, Chiefland, Perry, Arcadia, and other towns in central and coastal Florida that still look like places time forgot, but which retain their flavor and charm, or lack of it.

According to Wikipedia, Dorsey is often compared to the John D. MacDonald, the master of the Florida detective novel, and Carl Hiaasen, a crime novel satirist who covers the Florida waterfront from the east coast. Dorsey's character seems more at home on Florida's west coast, probably because Miami couldn't stand two such chroniclers. Nevertheless, Dorsey's voice originates in very different narrative traditions than do those of either MacDonald or Hiaasen. MacDonald's character, Travis McGee was very much in the hard-boiled detective tradition, while Hiaasen's world of madcap satire retains sufficient contact with reality to make his rage recognizable. Dorsey, who I suspect is a few years younger than Hiaasen, sounds like a literary survivor of the drug induced and rock soaked seventies, presenting his characters in an MTV fast-cutting style which hardly provides time for a glimpse of his characters before they move on to their next outrage. In Serge Storms there is no hint of an inner life or a rational motive to be found.

Most writers of serial fiction provide some hints of their characters' provenance in each volume to help orient new readers. In Electric Barracuda Tim Dorsey has Serge compose a rap in the blog he's writing on his stolen lap top for the thousands of people following his adventure's on line, in which he seeks to establish Serge and Coleman's essential innocence, despite their being on the run for multiple murders of no-doubt deserved malefactors. In a sense, Serge Storms is one of the bottom feeding scavengers who keep the waters clean for the rest of us to swim in. His many fans, both fictional and literary, no doubt view him as such. The bumbling investigators, along with the crazed television bounty hunter, an ex-wife, and a couple of mysterious others are seeking him for their own reasons, some of which have to do with bringing him to justice, not always official. This all leads to a merry madcap romp through southwest Florida....oh, but I'd prefer to avoid cliches in my own writing.

Tim Dorsey

Serge makes many observations about life in Florida which ring true to anyone who's spent much time navigating the highways and byways there. He remarks on his blog, “You know how sometimes you need to change lanes to make a turn? And you hit your blinker, but in the Sunshine State that's the official signal for the jack-off behind you in the next lane to speed up and close the gap so you can't get over? Not actually a fugitive tip. Just burns my ass.” he writes in his blog. (63-64) Serge provides many such tips for fugitives, like him, to effectively navigate the state. One chapter, called “Cyberspace” a four-and-a-half page collation of smarmy adolescent humor disguised as an acid trip without a paragraph break left me wondering who the audience for this book is and asking “Do cyberspace denizens read books, too?” The combination of adolescent bathroom humor, drug induced paranoia, sometimes spot on vignettes of Florida locales like Cedar Key, observations on popular culture and films like No Country for Old Men (“I need a device like that.”) seem aimed at the same people who think Judd Apatow's films are hilarious. The writing has an MTV sensibility filled with flashes of insight, and a likability level roughly the same as “Jersey Shore” or “Real Housewives.”

When I read a novel, it's important to me to find something I like about at least some of the characters, some quality that draws me to them and helps me care about them and their situation. It's also nice to encounter some sort of moral compass in the writer's view of the world being created. George Pelecanos, Dennis LeHane, James Lee Burke, and, yes, Carl Hiaasen as well as John D. McDonald, the father of Florida detective fiction, all achieve this. What I find in Dorsey is the anger at what's being done to the state without the moral compass, which is most crucial for satire to be effective. It must cross the line from humorous riffs to truly making the point, while doing so without preaching. The central point, for me, came when Serge accomplished the murder of a banker stealing from everyone and commented, “It's only socialism if the money goes down, not up,” before finding another gruesome way to dispense with a despicable person. In most good novels, a point arrives where the narrative drive of the piece creates a tension between reading to the end NOW(!) and needing to put the book down to reduce the dramatic tension. In Electric Barracuda, that point never arrived for me.
Electric Barracuda is published by William Morrow and is available from Tim Dorsey's web site, the publisher, and all online sources in print as well as electronic editions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Joe Val Sunday & Final Assessment

Throughout the exciting and stimulating three days of the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, sponsored by the Boston Bluegrass Union, I was frequently reminded of those wonderful summer camp reunions I used to attend during Christmas break when I was a kid.  Friends from camp I hadn't seen since summer or, sometimes, for many years would come back to the gymnasium of a school on Central Park West in New York City for a day-long reunion. The day always resonated with warm greetings, screams of recognition, hugs, and good talks.  Add great music from the stages, in the workshops, and in every nook and cranny the hallways could provide and you have Joe Val, perhaps the strongest indoor festival we've ever attended, and certainly one of the best overall.

The Bluegrass Gospel Project
The Bluegrass Gospel Project began as a one shot gospel show for First Night in Burlington, VT about ten years ago.  Their music uses a range of tunes from a variety of gospel music traditions in an honest presentation.  They give festivals an excellent opportunity to open a Sunday program while also performing in churches and community concert series.  They're worth and good look.  

Kirk Lord, Gene White, Jr., Steve Light

Jim DiSabito, Colby Creham, Paul Miller

Holding a festival on the weekend of President's day allows a Sunday program lasting a whole day.  Thus, a festival whose music begins after work on Friday can offer a comprehensive program.  Joe Val uses its site very well, taking advantage of the spaces a moderate sized convention facility provides.  The banquet hall, meeting rooms, hallways, other public spaces are all fully used, comfortable for a crowd of somewhere around 1000 people.  The hotel permits people staying there to bring coolers, so many attendees were able to provide themselves with food and drink, reducing cost and adding to the sense of being at an open event.  Joe Val is a fan friendly and a performer friendly event.

The Larry Stephenson Band

Larry Stephenson finally won some of the recognition due him when he won an IBMA award for Recorded Event of the Year.  He's been a hard working solid performer on the road for over twenty years.  His signature tenor voice and able Monroe style mandolin play are always well-crafted and thoughtfully presented. Kenny Ingram has been a huge addition to his band on banjo, returning to singing for the first time in years.  Ira Gitlin, director of the Joe Val Kid's Academy, especially commented on the strong guitar work filled with solid content of Kevin Richardson. Jim Stewart has recently joined the band on bass, making a solid contribution.

 Kenny Ingram

Kevin Richardson

Danny Stewart, Jr.

 The Joe Val lineup offers performers selected from the best New England has to offer as well as an excellent and varied assortment of national bands. Traditional bands like Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Joe Mullin & the Radio Ramblers, and the Larry Stephenson band provided connections to the sounds of the originators. Transitional bands like The Boxcars and The Grascals connected to the origins of bluegrass while offering new and original work.  Tony Trischka & Territory and  Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen suggested top knotch directions we might be looking for the best of bluegrass to head.

Robin & Linda Williams
 Robin Williams

Well known to people who listen to Prairie Home Companion on public radio, Robin and Linda Williams & Their Fine Group present an always interesting and entertaining combination of old-time, folk, and country, gospel and bluegrass and including their own often humorous compositions.  They were a real delight. 

Linda Williams

Jim Watson

Chris Brashear

One of the most delightful elements of Joe Val for me grew out of the decision to program bands which were highly musical while not insisting on strict adherence to bluegrass.  The only other venue we've seen Robin & Linda Williams, a duo we're used to hearing on Prairie Home Companion, before this past weekend has been Merelfest.  It was a treat to see and hear them up close.  The Whites brought their gospel and country roots to the audience to great effect.  Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein, with their smooth and melodic coffee house sound and vibe were a real treat.

Gerry Katz, who's largely responsible for the programming reached out to showcase top-knotch bands on the main stage as well as exciting new-comers on the Showcase Stage downstairs.  Three bands stood out for me.  We've been seeing and following Hot Mustard for nearly a year, and were happy to see this band get a main stage performance at a major festival.  They'll be at others this summer.  Gerry used the musical resources of Berklee College of Music very well, with The Berklee All-Stars and Chasing Blue standing out. 

The Joe Val Kids Academy
Ira Gitlin - Director

Directed by Washington-based banjoist Ira Gitlin and assisted by an able staff of musicians who share the ability to play well and to teach, The Joe Val Kids Academy assembled on Friday afternoon for several hours a day of practice and instruction at a variety of levels of performance.  They took the stage for their show on Sunday afternoon, greeted by the enthusiastic approval of their parents and a larger audience than many such efforts generate.  Perhaps the strength of the Sunday afternoon lineup contributed to this strong attendance.

Lining Up to Take the Stage
 People wishing to see a large selection of photos from the Kids Academy performance can use this link to access a portfolio I've posted at Google Albums. Here's the link:

Della Mae

I like to highlight bands which I see as a surprise to me that I've never seen before or to point to a more familiar group making a breakout performance.  Della Mae, which we've watched develop and improve over the past year or so and who were impressive at Art of Sound in Shelby, NC back in November broke out in a big way at Joe Val.  This is no longer a novelty band composed of women performers. It's a first rate BLUEGRASS ifs, and, or buts.  Now based in Boston, Della Mae draws its pickers from coast to coast. They hit the stage with energy, sing and play with expertise and enthusiasm, selling every song.  While this was, sadly, Avril Smith's final performance on guitar with the band, Celia Woodsmith has brought a strong voice with huge range as well as much energy to the group.  The band plays its own originals as well as bluegrass classics and is strong at every position.  They're a can't miss attraction which can be included in the lineup at any music festival to good effect.
Grace Van't Hof

Kimber Ludiker

Jenny Lynn Gardner

Amanda Kowalski

Goodbye Avril Smith

Hello Celia Woodsmith

Each year Joe Val gives several Heritage Awards to New England bluegrass performers, promoters, and media personalities who have helped promote and have contributed to bluegrass music throughout its long bl history in the region.  I often have to chuckle when we're in the South and people ask, "Is there any bluegrass music where ya'll come from?"  Joe Val (1926 - 1985) himself was a working man from Massachusetts who fell in love with Bill Monroe's music. Peter Rowan has called him "the Bluegrass voice of New England. Pictures of Heritage Award winners for 2011 appear in my account of Saturday at Joe Val.

Sunday Sing-Along Gospel Service

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Many people view Junior Sisk as the finest traditional bluegrass singer around. His slightly nasal, strong tenor voice cuts through to a listeners heart with his traditional sound, strongly influenced by The Stanley Brothers and The Johnson Mountain Boys, the great band of his youth.  He's played with great bands and now has grown into fronting his own band with humor and grace.  He has surrounded himself with first rate musicians. His programs feature wonderful old sounding new songs by his Dad, Harry Sisk, and his cousin, Timmy Massey, who plays bass in the band and sings close tenor harmonies. Billy Hawk has returned on fiddle, filling the hole no one else has occupied so successfully since he left.  Jason Tomlin on mandolin and Jason Davis on banjo contribute just the right tone.  Here's another group festivals looking for good traditional bands who don't rely on covers for their material should seriously consider.

Timmy Massey

Billy Hawk

Jason Tomlin
Jason Davis

 Timmy & Junior
Joe Val features the widest range of workshops I've ever seen anywhere.  All day workshops at the master and beginner-intermediate levels were offered on Friday with people like Tony Trischka and Phil Leadbetter leading the way.  Hour-long workshops on Saturday and Sunday kept four rooms filled all day long.  Stan Zdonik told me he had fifty-seven workshops scheduled, but I think he later added a couple.  The Boston Bluegrass Union is dedicated to education, and their major festival is a constant demonstration of this commitment.  Vendors tables were busy every day, too.


The Grascals

The Grascals are only six years old, as a band, but have brought their exciting combination of classic bluegrass and country music seasoned with new material and a level of enthusiasm and skill hard to match anywhere to new audiences while touring with major country acts and appearing on television and at NACAR tracks among other places.  Growing out of being a pick-up band of seasoned session and backup players who came together at the World Famous Station Inn in Nashville, they were recognized as Emerging Artist of the Year in 2005 and Entertainer of the Year the following two years.  Kristin Scott Benson is three time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year.  Singer/Songwriter Jamie Johnson's "I Am Proud" is a moving tribute to the children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, to which the band has dedicated the song's royalties. This band is always exciting and entertaining.

Jamie Johnson

Terry Eldredge
Danny Roberts
Terry Smith

Kristin Scott Benson

Jeremy Abshire

Joe Val is, indeed, a superior production. The weekend was filled with highlights for us - musical and personal - as we luxuriated in the rich environment The Boston Bluegrass Union creates here each year.