Monday, September 17, 2012

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival 2012 - Saturday & Assessment

Bluegrass festivals at some point in the weekend take on a life of their own. There's a spirit of excitement, anticipation, and festivity. Despite the fact that a substantial portion of the crowd was distracted by "THE GAME" between Florida and home team Tennessee, the joy of great bluegrass sustained the event. One friend quipped to me, "You don't HAVE to watch SEC football, you could stay home and watch New Hampshire vs. Bucknell." Nevertheless, modern cell phone technology made it possible for diehard fans to both watch the game and glory in the music. I won't mention the outcome. The music contained it all - a showcase band, good regional bands, and a unbelievably fine selection of national bands, each contrasting with the other while maintaining the largely traditional musical emphasis of Dumplin Valley.

Trinity River Band

Trinity River Band, performing as an open mic band before scheduled hours, is a Florida based, gospel oriented band which has shown remarkable improvement through extensive touring, mostly in the west. 

Lisa Harris

Sarah Harris

Josh Harris
 Mike Harris

 Shadow Ridge

Shadow Ridge is a traditional regional bluegrass band delivering its music in an honest, straightforward fashion. It does a solid and enjoyable job.

 Roscoe Morgan

C.F. Bailey

Johnny Siler

Barry Hodges

Cody Bauer

Barry & Geraldine Hurst
Twice annual visitors to the U.S. from the United Kingdom, Barry and Geraldine are members of the Staines Folk & Bluegrass Club in England. They're delightful folks who enjoy their visits to our shores and have attended Dumplin Valley several times. Welcome!

Jerry Butler & the Blue J's

A friend of ours once said, "Jerry Butler has improved every band he ever joined and the bands have never been as good again after he left." Jerry has a fine, supple voice to deliver bluegrass songs along with a killer impression of Lester Flatt.  His band has, sadly, undergone too many changes since he released "Haulin' Grass" after forming his band. The current young group is enthusiastic and skilled and deserves the attention of fans and promoters. 

Jerry Butler

Barron Rogers

Derek Vaden

 Lee Chapman

Photo by Joe Soward

Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice
Junior Sisk

Junior Sisk has put together a band and developed a sound that highly distinctive and deeply traditional at the same time. This is a neat trick, and Junior has accomplished it with skill, dedication, and hard work.  He acknowledges his debt to his heroes while presenting their music as well as songs he, his father, and friends have written which echo the great second generation musicians in new and tuneful settings. Jason Davis on banjo has emerged as perhaps the finest traditional banjo player on the bluegrass circuit today. Never flashy and preferring to speak with his instrument alone, he excites with his accurate and fast play. Chris Davis on mandolin has brought a lively personality and fine voice to the mix, while Billy Hawks and Jason Tomlin bring depth and versatility to the band. Over the years Junior has successfully overcome his reluctance to be the spokesman for his own band, and brought humor and poise to a job didn't naturally take to. Perhaps the best traditional band on the circuit today!

Chris Davis

 Jason Davis

Billy Hawks

Chris Davis, Jason Tomlin, Junior Sisk

A Visitor Drops In

Chris Davis

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers are at the top of their game. Their catalog is deep and they're bombarded with requests for favorite songs wherever they perform. They put people in the seats, and those fans are loyal, driving long distances to see the many times a year. Their honest, direct, and funny patter between songs tells the story of a couple of brothers who have benefited from a life of hard work and loving discipline. The subtle power of their story telling songs captures and moves people wherever they play, proving that bluegrass is a national phenomenon rather than a regional or narrow genre.  Joe Walsh on mandolin is supple, fast, and creative, bringing creativity, intelligence and power to the instrument. Clayton Campbell's soaring solos and deeply emotional backup play punctuate and draw out the essence of each song. Mike Barber on bass is under-rated, always delivering the beat that drives the band. Nominated this year for IBMA entertainer of the year, the Gibson Brothers make entertainment personal and real with every performance. 

 Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Clayton Campbell

Mike Barber

Joe Walsh

The Gibson Brothers with Young Fan

The Gibson Brothers - Railroad Line - Video

The Lonesome River Band

The Lonesome River Band is celebrating thirty years in existence this year with the release of three abbreviated CD's called "Chronology" in which they have re-recorded some of the great trendsetter songs of their long career, mostly under the inspired leadership of Sammy Shelor. At Dumplin Valley, LRB gave its usual fine performance augmented by a guest appearance by the great Bradley Walker, who was at Dumplin Valley for two days. He came on stage to sing one guest song remained for several more by acclamation from the audience and love and respect from the band. Sammy responded with some of this finest banjo play we've seen. It was an inspiring ending to a wonderful evening and festival.

Sammy Shelor & Brandon Rickman

Mike Hartgrove

Randy Jones

Barry Reed

 Bradley Walker

Brandon Rickman

Sammy Shelor

Lonesome River Band w/Bradley Walker - I Never Go Around Mirrors

Final Assessment

 Joe and Mitzi Soward have worked hard and successfully to take a farm property with lots of potential and turn it into a first-rate festival park and burgeoning commercial campground. Their barn facility holds a good sized crowd and an outside tent provides further protection from both sun and rain. They've created a friendly environment and developed a loyal and welcoming clientele by treating their audience like adults and programming a distinctly traditional but varied lineup. If you haven't been to Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival yet, you should put it on your schedule.

Joe Soward

Note: It's important to add that Irene's work as a photographer and videographer is increasingly present in this blog. Her skill allows us to cover an event ever so much more thoroughly. Less visible is her input as both a line editor and thoughtful voice in reining me back when I'm tempted to go a step too far.