Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Houston Fest 2013: Saturday - Review

Saturday at HoustonFest dawned chilly and damp with a cold mist filling the air. This is bad juju for cameras, so not many early pictures, although during the day the sky lifted with the sun breaking through around 3:00 PM, although the spirit of the event wasn't dampened and the music was always good.

Still House 

Still House is a group of Virginia men, most of whom play or work with other bands, too. They've upped the ante since adding Chris Harris, formerly with Larry Cordle's Lonesome Standard Time, to the band. They play well-crafted covers of contemporary and classic bluegrass as well as their own work. This is a band with much potential and worth keeping an eye on.
Stacy Grubb Band

Stacy Grubb can sing and write! She sings well enough to effectively cover Alison Krauss and her own songs are affecting and well performed. Centered in West Virginia, she has a strong, mountain voice that carries pop/bluegrass overtones.

 Stacy Grubb

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Chase Joyner

Eric Hardin

Brandon Davis 

Wolfe Brothers Band

The Wolfe Brothers Oldtime String Band was recently named  Old Time Vocal Group of the Year by the Appalachian Cultural Music Association.  The band features traditional string band songs as well as their own compositions along with very strong singing.

Jerry Correll

Dale Morris

Casey Hash

Donna Correll

The VW Boys

While there were band performances going all day on the Main Stage, the focus of Saturday at HoustonFest was on young performers at the subsidiary stages around Felts Park. The Firehouse Stage and the Camp Houston Stage were sites for workshops and performances all day. Located close enough together to make for easy access, yet angled in such a way that sound from the other stages did not pose a major problem, they were where the action was.

 The Snyder Family Band

Samantha and Zeb Snyder have moved from being cute kids, to young prodigies, to seasoned performers without losing their huge appeal. Their range has been increasing as they seek new ways to challenge themselves musically. Zeb's singing voice has improved significantly and his instrumental versatility is broad and deep. Samantha, still has a youngish, although maturing voice. She plays several different fiddle styles with grace and skill.  On Saturday they introduced some superlative swing material I hadn't heard before as well as playing with a number of other musicians in interesting ways. Their performances are always informed by significant musical intelligence.

Samantha Snyder

Zeb Snyder

 Workshop/Generation Bluegrass Project
Alex Edwards, Samantha Snyder, Eli Smith, Zeb Snyder, Spencer Strickland

Samantha Snyder & Eli Smith

With the Church Sisters

Houston's Heroes Workshop

Jon Lohman, Director of the Virginia Folklife Program, moderated the Houston's Heroes workshop featuring four musicians who were instrumental in Houston's rapid development in bluegrass and with the banjo. Each described, with humor and affection, Houston's persistence in establishing himself with them and his friendly confidence in his own ability to benefit and contribute to the relationship. The picture that emerged of Houston Caldwell throughout the festival was of a young man of passion, intent on accomplishing much, always encouraging others to live up to the standards he held for himself, and exhibiting energy, persistence, humor, and belief in himself and his values.

Sammy Shelor

Steve Barr: Houston's First Banjo Teacher

Ron Block

Sierra Hull

Loose Strings

Rhonda Vincent Cooks with Chef Paul Farrar

 The Four Virginia Luthiers
Jimmy Edmunds, Wayne Henderson, Gerald Anderson, Spencer Strickland
Virginia Luthiers with
Helen White & Daniel Greeson

The Houston Caldwell Music Scholarship is a major recipient of funds raised through the festival and contributed from various sources, including the annual Reso Summit in Nashville. It provides individual scholarships to young musicians which may be applied to tuition for workshops, camps, or private lessons. The program also provides grants to non-profit traditional music programs.

Houston's Scholarship Band

Jared Boyd

Daniel Greeson

Ben Marshall

Brandy Miller

Catherine Connor

Danielle Yoder

JAM Program

JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians, Inc.) receives funds from the Houston Caldwell Music Scholarship Program as well as a number of other sources. Affiliates throughout the Appalachian region teach traditional music and provide resources to teachers wishing to include it in their programs in the form of lesson plans, curricula, and more. Helen White is the President and founder of JAM.

In the Picking Zoo
The Multi-Generational Nature of Traditional Music 

Jam in the Petting Zoo

The Church Sisters

Savannah Church

Sarah Church

 Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull provides an excellent model for young musicians seeking to pursue a career in music. She has moved from being a precocious young musician to performer as a seasoned artist in her own right while not neglecting her education. Always a delightful young woman, she has surrounded herself with young, able musicians who complement her fully. Ron Block has been a long-time friend and mentor.

 Sierra Hull & Jacob Eller

 Ron Block

Justin Moses

Jake Stargell

Cody Walker

The Caldwells
Kenneth, Hayden and Tess 

2013 Houston Caldwell Scholarship Recipients

Jared Boyd
Jacob Greer
Daniel Greeson
Karissa Haden
Tony Hicks
Zebulun Hicks
Emily Long
Lindsey Nale
Silas Powell
Jeffrey Roten

Lonesome River Band

The Lonesome River Band is thirty years old and, arguably, stronger than ever. Sammy Shelor has recently received the Steve Martin prize for excellence in banjo and bluegrass as well as the IBMA banjo player of the year for the unprecedented fifth time fourteen years after his last win in a time when there are more superior banjo players than ever. Brandon Rickman and Randy Jones are both superior lead singers. Mike Hartgrove is hugely seasoned at fiddle while Barry Reed is a wonderful bassist. It's always a pleasure to hear this band bringing great bluegrass with a strong country and rock influence.

 Sammy Shelor

Mike Hartgrove

Randy Jones

Brandon Rickman

Barry Reed
The evening closed with performances by Rhonda Vincent & the Rage and classic country singer Gene Watson as the closer.  For us, when the sun set it became too chilly, so we headed for home, knowing we would soon see Rhonda again.

HoustonFest is much more than a celebration of a life too soon taken from us. Houston Caldwell's life represents much that is good and fine about American youth. He had an abiding passion for life, music, patriotism, and friendship, all of which are alive today at this festival because of the verve and style with which he lived.  The festival is an ideal place for bluegrass and oldtime fans to see the future of the music featured. If you're the kind of fan who likes to be able to say you saw performers when they were just kids, this is a wonderful place to see them. Galax is an historic location for up-and-coming musicians, and HoustonFest goes a long way to further this tradition.