Friday, January 25, 2013
YeeHaw Junction 2013 - Thursday
When we arrived at YeeHaw Junction early on Tuesday afternoon, there were several campers already here and the big blue and white striped circus tent was in place. Nevertheless, it was clear that a bluegrass community was assembling in a ritual that goes on week after week in many parts of the country. The promoters and volunteers were hard at work lining out the grass under the tent for seating, parking campers as they arrived, getting vendors into place, and attending to the myriad of details that must come together for a festival to work. By Wednesday afternoon, a good portion of the crowd had already arrived in time to enjoy the annual barbecue for which promoters Keith and Darlene Bass provide the meat and we all provide dozens of tasty dishes (and a few stale or rancid ones from the back of the refrigerator) for a covered dish supper.
Darlene Bass Open the Barbecue
Bluegrassers Know How to Eat
...And Some Know Better Than Others
By Thursday people are ready for music. The sound team has put arrayed the mics and speakers, the seats are mostly in place, the vendors are ready to provide food and merchandise, the bands begin to arrive, and at noon the music starts.
Jerry Butler & the Blu - J's
Jerry Butler has assembled a group of very solid young pickers to surround him and help provide the sound that displays his fine bluegrass voice and love for the traditions, particularly exemplified by Lester Flatt, who he impersonates with remarkable fidelity. Jerry has played with several good bands over the years and improved them wherever he was. He has found the right people to work with and over the past several months they have jelled into an entertaining, relaxed, and tight group which provides first rate covers, strong originals, and good entertainment. They work hard and deliver value.
Hagar's Mountain Boys
Since they were founded several years ago by Ricky Stroud, the Hagar's Mountain Boys have made substantial changes. Now, with Stroud gone, they have become a bluesier and louder band featuring the father/son duo of Mike and Blake Johnson. It looks like they're in for more changes in the future. Meanwhile, their bluegrass offers intense visits to bluegrass standards along with a folk and blues sound.
When the Roys first appeared on the bluegrass scene, released a recording, got good airplay, and quickly obtained sponsorship and a large tour bus, many long timers in bluegrass asked where the band had come from and how had they progressed so rapidly. Those questions are no longer being asked as the Roys, with two years of hard touring behind them and a very strong, young band supporting them are emerging as a first rate entertaining and musical band presenting their own new material, bluegrassed country standards, and plenty of traditional bluegrass. Brother/sister duo Lee and Elaine Roy are playing and singing with increased confidence and competence. They have become comfortable on the stage, related well to their audience, and enjoy what they're doing and who they're doing it with. The sidemen in the band are strong. Clint White is animated and subtle on the fiddle. Harry Clark's flat picking is fast and accurate. Matt Downing's banjo provides both leads and backup with strength, and Royall Massatt is a fine bass player.
Nothin' Fancy has been in existance for nearly eighteen years with a remarkably low turnover in personnel and a high degree of reliable entertainment and musicality. They present a carefully crafted program of material ranging from humorous novelty songs and serious love songs written by mandolinist Mike Andes to a broad range of Country Gentleman covers and carefully chosen material both classic and contemporary. They feature silliness (banjoist Mitchel Davis), musical and verbal playfulness (fiddle master Chris Sexton), sex appeal (bassist Tony Shorter) and strong harmony and flat picking (new addition Justin Tomlin on guitar) along with Andes' versatility. This is one of the few bands around that can present four full sets over two days at a festival without any repeats. They deserve more attention from IBMA, which has pretty well ignored them, but have garnered many awards at SPBGMA as fan favorites. Chris Sexton can draw better tone with greater variety from a fiddle than nearly any other fiddler. This band works hard, enjoys its work, and deserves lots of recognition.
Chris Sexton & Mitchell Davis
Justin Tomlin & Tony Shorter
It was a good start for a good festival. Promoters Keith and Darlene Bass work hard and provide good value. They've increased their reach as a major provider of small to medium sized festivals. With the festival scene seemingly in transition, keep an eye on them over the next few years.