Monday, September 9, 2013

Coot Williams Road Bluegrass Festival, Cherryville, NC - Review

Then Coot Williams Road  Bluegrass Festival is set in rural Lincoln County, NC just north of the small town of Cherryville and within easy distance from Shelby, Gastonia, and Charlotte, as well as other towns in south-central North Carolina. It's set on a former small farm with an attractive bowl providing a good setting for the tent with vendors nearby and a fairly elaborate food shed staffed by friends and local churches just a few hundred yards up the hill. Sadly, the attractive setting and good combination of local and national bands have failed to attract a significant audience.  National bands, all returning from previous years, were strong and gave very solid performances. Nearly absent from previous years was the emphasis on showcasing young local bands to encourage youth to engage in playing bluegrass music.

Timber Ridge Bluegrass Gospel Band

Timber Ridge is a local band which played pleasant gospel and classic bluegrass standards - a good opening band.

Dave Shull

Keith ?

Keith Fortenberry

Richard Shull

The Food Shed

Fret High

Fret High offered good pace and enthusiasm. A solid local band that brings some entertainment value with it. Good harmony singing.

Josh Greene

James Torrence

Brandon Rowe

 Robert McIntosh

Morris Herbert

Vendors Row

Gospel Plowboys

The Gospel Plowboys are a first rate gospel bluegrass band with fine musicians and harmony singing who give their message effectively in song. They dress and sing with their message in mind and do so effectively. 

Mike Jenkins

Andrew Brown

David Murph

John Goodson

Mike Jenkins

The Grascals

The Grascals, formed from as a former house band at the World's Famous Station Inn in Nashville and hit the ground running, achieving immediate acclaim and success. The continue to do hard touring and first rate entertaining while playing a combination of good covers and topical new songs that both get the blood flowing and and touch the heart. 

Danny Roberts

Terry Smith

Jeremy Abshire

Kristin Scott Benson

Terry Eldredge

Jamie Johnson

At the Grascals Merch Table


On Saturday the weather continued warm and pleasant right into the evening. The bands began with an unusually good band playing in the open stage and continued at a high level for the entire day. The people continued to stay home.

Extreme Measures

Bassist Mike Street once played with the Virginia's Bass Mountain Boys, and this band is just returning to the bluegrass world after a hiatus of several years. In order to get their name out again, they decided to play in the open stage. Good idea, and they acquitted themselves well.

John McMillan

 Kevin Street

Mike Street

Jennifer Street

Dennis Long
Nu Blu

Nu Blu has moved from being an ambitious local and then regional North Carolina band to being an up-and-coming band which tours nationally and internationally. It has shown constant growth and improvement over the years. The interactions in the band are relaxed and enjoyable, with the two able sidemen, Austin Koerner on mandolin and Levi Austin on banjo, taking part in the fun. Carolyn Routh writes good songs and interprets them well as well as playing an able job bass. Front man Daniel Routh plays solid rhythm guitar and is a good flat picker. He ably provides close harmony to his wife.  They presented a likable band persona and showed themselves very well at Coot Williams.

Carolyn Routh

Daniel Routh

Levi Austin

Austin Koerner

Bill Yates & the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band

Bill Yates was a member of the Country Gentlemen for many years and has toured with this "tribute" band pretty much since Charlie Waller's death in 2004.  Mike Phipps, the lead singer in the band, has a voice that bears a remarkable resemblance to Waller's. I'm not a great fan of "tribute" bands, preferring to listen to CD's and view the originals on video. Given that preference, this band does a good job paying tribute to Waller's many years of performing.

Bill Yates

Mike Phipps

Rick Briggs

Dave Probst

Mark Clifton

Eric Troutman
Carolina Foxfire

Carolina Foxfire, under the tutelage of Max Neal, grew out of the Catawba Valley Youth Revival and had a number of able beginning musicians cycled through the program. It was therefore, a delight to see four veterans of the Youth band appear again as Carolina Foxfire after several years absence. They have all continue to improve as instrumentalists and they will soon grow into their voices. Meanwhile, their covers of LRB, IIIrd Tyme Out, and Balsam Range are enjoyable material. 

 Jeremy Green

Max Neal

Mason McConnell

Tyler Leonard

Colin Ryan

The Harris Brothers

The Harris Brothers are a duo based in Lenoir, NC who have long been a local secret for their virtuoso playing of a broad range of music: blues, rock, country, gypsy jazz, and bluegrass. They defy genre classification and entertain thoroughly. They've recently made their debut at the World Famous Station Inn in Nashville and are extending their geographical range. They deserve to be heard much more widely. 

 Reggie Harris

Ryan Harris

The Harris Brothers with Darren Nicholson (Balsam Range)

Darren Nicholson

Mike Lane & Rick Dancy

Photographer Mike Lane at Work

Balsam Range

Balsam Range has been nominated for seven awards at the upcoming IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC later in the month. Formed only seven years ago when five pickers from mountainous, rural Haywood Country, almost to the Tennessee border. They play bluegrass with a driving, exciting twist, incorporating elements of rock and blues into their driving sound. With four fine singers, they can vary their sound to meet almost any need. Each member is a superb individual picker and a fine band player. Without a personnel change since their founding, the band is as tight as tight can be.  It would be a surprise if they don't come away from the Awards show with some trophies in hand.

 Marc Pruett

Tim Surrett

Buddy Melton

Darren Nicholson

Caleb Smith Playing a Smith Guitar

It's a mystery why more people don't turn out at the Coot Williams festivals. The site is lovely, and not too difficult to find, although more signs and a more aggressive publicity program would surely help.  This year's lineup offered a good combination of local and national bands with plenty of good music on each day. Consider coming out for the next Coot Williams Road Bluegrass Festival next fall. Keep an eye on their web site for this and other events.