Sunday morning at the Tennessee Fall Homecoming dawned overcast and threatening, but the weather brightened as the day progressed. Nevertheless, the backstage fire in the huge fireplace provided welcome warmth. All festival promoters are plagued with the spectre of Sunday. Attendees, whether they're camping on the premises (not available at the Museum of Appalachia), staying nearby, or driving from homes in the area, often reach the end of the weekend with other priorities which draw them away from the event, no matter how powerful the lineup or attractive the surroundings. While headliners drew large crowds to the main stage and stage 2, the parking lot told the tale of reduced Sunday attendance. This was too bad, because Sunday offered lots of prime music as well as continued excellence from the vendors and demonstrators in the museum buildings.
Paul Williams' long career began with a stint with Jimmy Martin and now is totally devoted to singing gospel music in a clear, strong tenor voice with deep conviction. His fans love to hear him and anyone with an ear to hear can perceive his excellence, whether they share his faith or not.
I often hear from people that they know local bands or, better still, jam bands out in the field that are better than the bands they hear on stage. This is a nice legend, which generally doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier is an excellent band which, perhaps, proves the rule. Led by the dynamic Jimbo Whaley and the more phlegmatic, but equally excellent banjo player Kipper Stitt, both founding members of Pine Mountain Railroad, the band also features the superb multi-instrumentalist Roger Helton and talented Dobro player Matt Leadbetter as well as Scott Carris on bass, this band has it all - fast pace, entertaining patter, excellent musicianship, and first rate original songs. If you get a chance to see them, take advantage of it, because they don't travel far from their base in Pigeon Forge, TN.
This Ohio-based family band is impressive on a number of fronts. Their instrumental work is exceptional while their vocals improve as they age. They take chances with their musical choices, including covers of contemporary bands as well as classic bluegrass. Two of the kids (John on Guitar and Ann Marie on mandolin and fiddle) are currently enrolled in demanding engineering programs at Ohio State while they continue to pursue musical excellence. The youngest member, Gary, is a fine banjo player who also is continuing in public school. Father Mark Jackson wisely stays in the background. The kids are engaging and inventive.