Monday, March 19, 2012

Top of Georgia Bluegrass Jamboree - Saturday & Assessment

The Babes of Bluegrass
St. Patrick's Day

Saturday at the Top of Georgia Bluegrass Jamboree at the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia combined the joy of a lovely spring day with deeply felt community concern for Balsam Range's Buddy Melton, who would be undergoing major surgery on Sunday and one of the finest lineups to be found at a small festival anywhere. Where else could bluegrass lovers get the opportunity to hear The Gibson Brothers, Blue Highway, Balsam Range, and Audie Blaylock & Redline?  The setting, surrounded by mountains with the sun shining, grass greened up ready for mowing, and the trees in bloom provides a perfect environment for enjoying the music and the fellowship of a festival without the weather risks this time of year always presents.

Audie Blaylock & Redline

Audie Blaylock, brings the right voice and plenty of  enthusiasm for his traditional sounding music in which he uses classic bluegrass combined with plenty of traditional sounding new songs. The young, able musicians who work with him provide drive and inventiveness. Patrick McAvinue on fiddle has lost the awkwardness that characterized his early work with this band and become a seasoned and inventive performer. Russ Carson on banjo, though young, is excellent. Reed Jones, almost invisible in the lighting here, is solid and strong.

Audie Blaylock

 Russ Carson

 Patrick McAvinue

Audie Blaylock & Redline - Whispering Waters - Video

The Harris Hawk

Curtis Blackwell & the Dixie Bluegrass Boys

Curtis Blackwell has been in bluegrass music a long time. He was a Blue Grass Boy with Bill Monroe and was recently recognized as a Bluegrass Legend at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, KY.  He's performed nationally and continues to offer up traditional bluegrass in the north Georgia region. His band is characterized by seasoning and skilled enthusiasm.

Curtis Blackwell w/ Sam Cobb on Bass

Vic Blackwell

 Chuck Nation

 Eddie Hoyle
Curtis Blackwell & the Bluegrass Dixie Boys - Dark Hollow

Behind the Conference Hall

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers were musically tight and personally relaxed as they gave the audience the top of their game in two great sets.  When Eric asked the audience how many were seeing them for the first time, about two-thirds of the audience raised their hands. Nevertheless, the list of requests for Gibson Brothers favorites more than filled the time allotted for their second set.  The Gibsons are, perhaps, the hottest band currently touring the bluegrass circuit, having garnered major awards at both IBMA and SPBGMA this year. They're headed for a four country European swing in May. Their fine singing of a catalog mostly written by either Leigh and/or Eric or well-selected originals from other contemporary writers is combined with material from traditional bluegrass to make a superb program. Their spontaneous on-stage wit and brother banter adds to the fun. I couldn't get a good picture of Clayton.

Eric Gibson

 Lee Gibson

Mike Barber & Joe Walsh

Gibson Brothers - The Open Road - Video

Lynn & Brenda Butler
Lynn & Brenda Butler arrived at Top of Georgia with fresh from Rural Rhythm Records recording of "Life Goes On," the second compilation CD coming from Musicians Against Childhood Cancer, the annual July event in Columbus, Ohio raising funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. The CD will be available from the thirty-nine bands appearing on the two-CD set at festivals around the world for $20.00 as well as on line and other markets. Rural Rhythm has released a single, "Life Goes On," which is available here.

Blue Highway

Blue Highway is another great band much of whose music comes from within the group. They've been making bluegrass history with great songs and a relaxed, humorous approach to performance that pleases fans and critics alike.  Rob Ickes, on Dobro, has won more Dobro Player of the Year awards than can be counted. Shawn Lane and Tim Stafford are wonderful song writers who present their work very well. Wayne Taylor on bass is one of the top lead singers in the business, while Jason Burleson is unobtrusive and indispensable on banjo and mandolin.  With a new CD "Sounds of Home" containing eleven originals songs from the band, on the market and fresh material in their act, Blue Highway remains a Don't Miss act.

Wayne Taylor
Shawn Lane
Rob Ickes

Tim Stafford

Jason Burleson

Blue Highway - Sycamore Hollow - Video

Green Room Jam

Jane Tomlin - Promoter
Buddy Melton Update

The emotional center of this weekend's event was the impending major surgery to repair Balsam Range lead singer and fiddler Buddy Melton's face and skull from the farm accident he experienced on Monday.  Balsam Range, as host band at The Top of Georgia Bluegrass Jamboree, performed four fine sets with substitute tenor Eddie Rose filling in. Nevertheless, the level of concern was high as Melton's surgery was moved up to early Sunday morning. Late information, availabel here, confirms the success of the surgery.  After the official events were over, Tim Surrett led a brief prayer service in support of Buddy.  During the festival, Caleb Smith twice sang the award winning Trains I've Missed, usually sung by Buddy Melton, with both deep emotion and high skill. It seems an appropriate ending to this post.

Balsam Range - Here's to the Trains I've Missed - Video