Sunday, June 3, 2012

Strawberry Park 2012 - Saturday

The Strawberry Park audience is a hardy lot. It rarely happens that you can get through four days at Strawberry Park without rain, and it's equally unusual for it to rain enough to drive the festival indoors. It rained early in the morning, and by noon it was still raining intermittently, but that didn't deter to fans from coming to see the opening set by the Kruger Brothers or becoming increasingly present as the weather improived. Although the sun never really make an appearance, it became warmer and drier as the day progressed, and by  later afternoon one could really enjoy the  performances and the environment of this very good festival. Thank goodness for the tradition of performing two sets, since it made it possible for all the groups that wouldn't be heard on Sunday to get at least one dry set in on Saturday.


Monroeville continues to improve with its fusion of traditional hard driving bluegrass and more progressive material written within the band. Daniel Salyer is a first rate song writer and an arresting singer. Matt Muncey is animated on the mandolin, playing and singing with strength. Matt Flake is a fine fiddler who brings humor to the group. Travis Hougk (Dobro) and Zane Petty (banjo) anchor the band most capably on either end. Eli Johnston, on guitar and vocals, brings strong picking and fine songwriting to the mix. He's an excellent addition the this very enjoyable band. Keep your eye out for this band.

Matt Flake

Daniel Salyer

Eli Johnston

Matt Mncey & Eli Johnston

Travis Houck
 Zane Petty

Matt Muncey

Cia Cherryholmes Atkisson (guest)

Stetson & Cia

Recently married, the duo of Cia & Stetson made a strong impression with their singer/song writer presentation of their own songs. Stetson is an imposing figure with a strong baritone voice. Cia, removed from the high energy gyrations of the family band Cherryholmes comes across as a more subtle and lyrical singer than we've seen before. Their set on the main stage was dominated by songs of longing and lost love, two elements that seem totally missing from this attractive couple's life. Look for Stetson on the Field & Stream outdoorsman competition on television soon.

The Kruger Brothers

The Kruger Brothers presented two luminous sets of their almost classical combination of folk, mountain, bluegrass interpretations which present us to ourselves from the perspective of a group that first understood the American experience from the outside and the internalized it.  Their music makes us look at ourselves through their eyes and enormous hearts. Listening to a Kruger Brothers performance, concert is almost a better word no matter the venue, transcends time and place as it seeks and finds the human heart. Leaving Strawberry Park to play at Doc Watson's funeral and Sunday, they kept our minds focused on the contributions and unique humanity of the recently gone singer. What a treat, despite the sadness.

Jens Kruger

Uwe Kruger
Joel Landsberg

 Jens Kruger

 Jim Beaver - Emcee

The SteelDrivers

The SteelDrivers have become a better band in the past couple of  years. With Gary Nichols singing and playing guitar and Brent Truitt adding his experience and breadth on mandolin, their work is more melodious and less raucous. Nichols is capable of the gravelly blues sound, but also brings a warm singing voice appropriate to a wide variety of songs.  Tami Rogers, whose fiddle work has never been better, can allow her very fine (and sweet) voice to combine more lyrically with Nichols and bassist Mike Fleming. Richard Bailey's work on the banjo blends rather than dominates, helping to create and maintain the SteelDrivers characteristic band.  I find myself enjoying their performances more each time I see them.

 Richard Bailey

Tami Rogers

Brent Truitt

Gary Nichols

Mike Fleming
 Tami Rogers & Mike Fleming
Dailey & Vincent

Dailey & Vincent arrived almost unnoticed, delivered their always well-received program of gospel, bluegrass, and country music, and disappeared pretty quickly afterwards. By insisting on presenting one longer evening performance this very fine and highly entertaining band is risking losing the personal contact with their fan base so characteristic of bluegrass bands. Regardless, their carefully choreographed program brought the audience to its feet and elicited several enthusiastic encores,

B.J. Cherryholmes 

Jeff Parker

Christian Davis

Jesse Baker

Jamie Dailey

Darin Vincent