Monday, February 25, 2013

Palatka 2013 - Saturday & Final Assessment

Saturday at Palatka dawned warm and breezy. The humidity promised a warm evening, if the rain held off. Jammers were out across the campground. We had already seen two wonderful days of bluegrass music and there was a sense of anticipation looking forward to the day's lineup culminating with the appearance of 70's and 80's country singer Gene Watson, whose career seems to have been resurrected through performing at bluegrass festivals. The schedule for the day would be somewhat re-organized to fit the long final set as well as the appearance by the Stevens Family Band inserted in the late afternoon.

 Tony Holt & the Wildwood Valley Boys

Tony Holt's traditional bluegrass band features much material from his father Aubrey Holt's fine band The Boys from Indiana as well as good material selected from a large bluegrass catalog. Michael Cleveland made an unannounced guest appearance with the band, lifting them to new heights. Furthermore, the size and enthusiasm of the Palatka audience seems to have affected each of the bands performing there this weekend, raising them to new levels of excellence.

Tony Holt

Aubrey Holt

 Michael Cleveland

Jeremy Blankenship

 Daniel Martin

Tom Patrick


Customer Friendly

Family Friendly

Little Roy Lewis & Ron Thomason

Ron Thomason - Dry Branch Fire Squad
He's Coming to Us Dead" 

A Visit from Little Elvis Lewis

Dry Branch Fire Squad and Friend

Ranch Concessions

Sue Cantrell

 The Moron Brothers

The Moron Brothers are a side-splittingly funny bluegrass duo who tell stories and jokes, sing novelty songs, and pack a gently punch with their off-beat humor. While a serious note lies under the surface, the two do their best to hide it.  Mike Carr and Mike Hammond, Lardo and Burley, have fashioned a highly enjoyable novelty act growing from a Firehouse jam in their native Kentucky. Their sometimes biting humor never hurts while it consistently entertains. It works and it's fun.

 Burley Moron

Lardo Moon

On Vendor's Row

The Little Roy & Lizzy Show

The Clown Prince of Bluegrass, Little Roy Lewis effectively recalls us of bluegrass's roots in minstral shows, baggy pants, and vaudeville. He's a whirling dervish of an entertainer. He had his seventieth birthday a day after this performance. I remember seeing him for the first time at Pickin' in the Pasture in Lodi, NY and wondering what in the world I was seeing. I know now and appreciate more what he achieves each time I see him. Able side-people Al Hoyle, Lisa Hoyle, and Nathan Stewart know what the show's about and remain quietly in the background, except for their solo performances, doing the necessary work to help highligh the principals.

 Little Roy Lewis (Bill Gaither Style)

Lizzy Long

Al Hoyle

Lisa Hoyle

Nathan Stewart

 Little Roy

 Scotty Bolen on the Sound Board

I mentioned Scotty Bolen to the promoter of another festival. Simply put, he remarked, "He's the best"

Little Roy & Emcee Sherry Boyd
 The Stevens Family

The Stevens Family Band, a formerly gospel bluegrass band going mainstream, was inserted into the Palatka schedule, disrupting the break and the schedule while lengthening an already long day. The Stevens Family Band has a web site which can be found here, but only through the Internet Explorer search engine. 

J.W. Stevens

Ben Stevens

Luke Stevens

Sissy Stevens

Nancy Stevens

The Golf Cart Brigade

Lizzy Long & Friends

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

There's lots of news about Rhonda Vincent. A month or so ago she asked Josh Williams to rejoin her band, and Josh took the difficult step of giving up his own band and taking a job with Rhonda as a featured side man. It's a good deal all around. Rhonda gains sideman who's one of the best male voices in bluegrass and also a superlative guitar player. Josh gets a level of job security he didn't enjoy while fronting his own band. Rhonda's band has become more versatile and entertaining with each of the changes she's made over the past few years. Her son-in-law to be, Brent Burke, is one of the fine young Dobro players, sporting a recent degree in bluegrass music from ETSU as well as a distinctive sound which works in a range of solo opportunities while helping fill out an already full sound. Hunter Berry has joined the family while being a mainstay of the band for eleven years. Aaron McDaris on banjo is quietly excellent. Mickey Harris continues with his fine bass play and harmony singing. Vincent's repertoire is so deep her shows never become repetitive. A certain bird made a surprise appearance to once again attempt to disrupt Josh's singing.

 Rhonda Vincent

Josh Williams

 Mickey Harris

 Hunter Berry

 Aaron McDaris

 Brent Burke

Talent Counts

 Josh Williams Get a Repeat Visitor

I Knew Lizzy Was Behind This

Josh and Friend

Raffle For the Boys

In the end, the Palatka Bluegrass Festival is a fund raiser to support the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch which so ably hosts it.   Fifty boys, from age six or seven into their teens, live and are cared for on the ranch at any one time. They live in family-style homes and attend the local public schools. They work on the ranch, study, and learn, play and pray.  It's a wholesome environment presided over by loving and caring people. The ranch has developed the camping area into a comfortable place to camp, the porta-potties are always kept clean and pumped out, there's a new toilet facilty near the camping area. The ranch has continually updated its facility as the festival has grown. This year's crowd appeared to be the largest ever. There's another one held in October which deserves support, too. 

 Carlton Spence with Development Director Jeff King

Gene Watson & the Farewell Party Band

Country singer Gene Watson closed out the weekend with a ninety minute set during which he sang many of his hits from a generation ago and a couple of very effective duets with Rhonda Vincent, with whom he's also recorded. His show was warmly received by the packed out house.

Gene Watson

 Rhonda Vincent & Gene Watson

Adams and Anderson festivals have become the gold standard for commercial bluegrass festivals. The lineups are carefully and thoughtfully developed and they are very well attended. Sound provided by John Holder's Blue Ridge Sound is wonderful. It's clear, resonates well, not too loud, and always presents each band as it should be heard. The site holds a large crowd comfortably, although some seats have limited visibility. The provision of two jumbo-trons help alleviate this problem. Ranch concessions and vendor offerings are varied and tasty. This year's festival appeared to be the best attended yet. We've already renewed our reservations for next year and suggest you put the Palatka Bluegrass Festival on your schedule.