Monday, September 23, 2013

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival 2013 - Saturday: Review & Assessment

Saturday at Dumplin Valley dawned overcast, soon turned to a drizzle and then became a full-on rain, which continued into the early afternoon, turning the roads wet and putting something of a damper over the day. But bluegrass folks are a hardy bunch, and the Dumplin Valley facility is well positioned to continue the event in relative comfort when it rains. The barn is almost leak free, and the space allows the body heat of several hundred people to keep it relatively warm. A shade tent between the barn and the vendors' area provides additional protection from the rain. As noon approached, the excellent team of Tom Kelley on the house board and Jay Isenburg on the stage for Stellar Vision & Sound were ready to go, continuing to present the wonderful sound which they had offered all weekend. It's rare that any sound company gives an audience such clear and understandable lyrics along with a warm and accurate sound while not overpowering the ears. Stellar Vision & Sound is a first class sound production company.

The Roys

 The Roys, a brother/sister duo backed by a trio of young, able, and enthusiastic pickers opened Saturday with pluck and energy despite the rain pounding down on the barn's tin roof. The results of their marathon touring over the past few years shows in their vastly increased confidence and effective overall performance, both in singing and in stage presentation and presence. They've come a long way and are showing an increasing ability to make contact with and to capture their audience. They mix bluegrass standards with a good range of songs they've written themselves and selected from other contemporary writers, effectively presenting a bluegrass sound slightly tinged with a country vibe. Lee and Elaine are an earnest pair who reach out to their audience. Erik Alvar recently joined the band on bass and showed a fine sense of rhythm and added a strong solo sense with bow and hands. Young Daniel Patrick has relaxed and become much stronger on banjo since we last saw him at Pemi Valley. Clint White remains a standout on fiddle.

Lee Roy

Elaine Roy

Clint White

Daniel Patrick

Erik Alvan

 Clint White & Lee Roy

Bleeding Orange in the Early Afternoon

Stage B - A Dumplin Valley Mainstay

Flatt Lonesome

Flatt Lonesome is a very young and attractive band originating in Callahan, FL and recently having moved to the Nashville area for further seasoning and access to wider markets. With its eldest member a grisly twenty-three, this band is eager to please while still seeking a band personality. Their background is in gospel bluegrass, and much of their original repertoire remains in that sub-genre, while they also offer a range of classic bluegrass covers. They've received a lot of attention recently, and are candidates for IBMA emerging artist of the year. Twins Buddy and Charli Robertson with their older sister Kelsi constitute the core of the band.

Kelsi Robertson Harrigill

Buddy Robertson

Charli Robertson

Dominic Illingworth

Paul Harrigill

Michael Stockton

At the Merch Table

 Morning Jam at W.a. and Rhonda Pate's 
Hospitality Tent

Rhonda Pate

The Crowe Brothers

 The Crowe Brothers, coming from Maggie Valley in North Carolina's western-most Haywood County, a fertile brewing ground for great bluegrass pickers, have a unique, raw, traditional sound that grows on listeners not accustomed to it and satisfies those wishing to preserve a strong body of authenticity in bluegrass music. Brothers Josh and Wayne Crowe provide the singing with their close harmonies. Wayne has effectively attached a tamborine to his bass, while holding a brush in his picking hand. This device adds to the rhythm section of this very strong four piece band featuring excellent musicianship at each position. Steve Sutton is a standout on banjo.

 Wayne & Josh Crowe

 Josh Crowe

 Wayne Crowe
Steve Sutton

 Bryan Blaylock

 Wayne & Josh Crowe

The Rain Stopped and the Sun Broke Through

 Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Junior Sisk has been reaching new heights of popularity during the past year or so. His combination of admiration for the sound and songs of the the Stanley Brothers and other early bluegrass legends combines with mostly wonderful new songs with an old sound to them along with a pace few bands can equal with such clarity. Junior has one of the premier high lonesome sounds left in bluegrass music as baritone singing continues to take precedence. After a lengthy search, young Jonathan Dillon joined the band on mandolin, bringing speed and accuracy with him.  Jason Davis continues along his quiet route as one of the premier banjo players around, while Billy Hawks, playing another new fiddle, knows just what to do with that instrument. While Junior's voice is often applauded, it would be a great mistake to overlook his fine work as a rhythm guitarist. The always animated "Sweet Tater" Tomlin adds animation to the group.

Junior Sisk

Jonathan Dillon with Billy Hawks Looking On

Jason Tomlin

Billy Hawks

Jason Davis

Barney Fife Visits Emcee Freddy Smith

The Lonesome River Band

The Lonesome River Band continues along its road of providing a rock tinged bluegrass that excites and stimulates audiences. By reprising material from its long history and adding new material, particularly the work of lead singer/songwriter Brandon Rickman, the band retains its own tradition and while always seeming fresh. Led by five time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year and winner of the Steve Martin Prize Sammy Shelor, LRB is one of the finest closing acts in bluegrass.

Sammy Shelor

 Brandon Rickman

Mike Hartgrove

Randy Jones

Barry Reed

 Special Guest - Joe Soward

Brandon Rickman

Sammy Shelor

Despite its relatively small size, Dumplin Valley remains one of the best organized and most varied small festivals we attend. Very jammer friendly, there are both open slow jams and some of the best more selective jams we've heard anywhere. Joe and Mitzi Soward are gracious and welcoming hosts, who have standards and keep them, thus assuring that standards of behavior are maintained and that everyone has a good time. The site handled an annoying rain storm very well. The full service sites and water/electric ones are level and spacious. There's plenty of room for rough camping.  If you haven't been to Dumplin Valley, it's worth considering for next year. See you there.