Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mountain Song Festival 2013: Saturday - Review

Wish I had taken this one - Thanks to Brevard Music Center

Saturday dawned sunny and warm and stayed that way most of this wonderful day of music and togetherness at the Pfohl-Whittington Auditorium on the campus of the Brevard Music Center

The Outdoor Offices

Early Morning Ease

Festival Merch

John Fenty - Co-Promoter

The morning quiet before the storm is always a good time. Sound checks allow bands to help the sound folks set the board at its best. Coffee back stage is hot and it's still pretty quiet as the sense of anticipation for the day grows. When the gates open, there's a charge for the "best" seats, with decisions needing to be made between the best vantage points and the best sound. Avid photographers to the front, those wishing to get the best sound find seats near the center about half way back. Sun worshipers and those with small children set up on the lawn on either side of the auditorium. It's a nice time at the festival.

Emcee Dennis Jones - WCNW-FM 88.7
Dennis Has a Unique Photographic Perspective

Shannon Whitworth - Sound Check

Co-Promoter Woody Platt
Soaks Up Some Early Rays 

Just the Right Seats!

Balsam Range

 Balsam Range is the country cousin to the home town Steep Canyon Rangers in Brevard. Coming from just across the Smokey Mountains in the extremely rural Haywood County, NC centered on the paper making town of Canton, this band lights a fire of music and enthusiasm wherever they perform. All members of the band come from within a ten mile radius in the center of the county. That isn't to say they're not all deeply experienced, though. Marc Pruett earned a Grammy award while playing with Ricky Skaggs. Tim Surrett toured for years with the Isaacs. The others all performed with various bands playing all kinds of music locally and regionally. The result is a deeply experienced band which has not had a change a personnel change since it was founded. Another result is seven IBMA nominations for 2013. 

 Buddy Melton

Marc Pruett

Tim Surrett

Caleb Smith

Darren Nicholson

Tim Surrett

Balsam Range - They're Burning Georgia Down - Video

Sing Along from the Sidelines

Packed House for the Opening Act

 Green Consciousness - Recycle Center


Dennis Jones & Marc Pruett

Dennis Jones of WNCW-FM (88.7) in Spindale, NC is one of the most deeply experienced, knowledgeable, and thoughtful emcees around. He should be holding workshops in how to make good introductions, highlight the sponsors, and focus the audience on the vendors. He's a good guy, too.

Dennis Jones

Steve Martin & Marc Pruett Talk Banjos

 and Pose

Shannon Whitworth

Shannon Whitworth is a pop/rock/folk singer-songwriter whose smooth, pleasant, somewhat sultry voice soothes and intrigues. Playing guitar, open back banjo, and ukelele depending upon the needs of the song, she performed a number of her own songs with skill and warmth. Her band showcased her in fine fashion as well as contributing their own quality performance skills. Solid indie rock guys with loads of experience, they helped feature Whitworth quite solidly. With three CD's to her credit, she deserves increased attention. Oh...she's Mrs. Woody Platt, too.

Shannon Whitworth

Barrett Smith

 Seth Kaufman

Matt Smith

 Michael Ashworth

Woody Joins in for a Song

 Shannon Whitworth

Shannon Whitworth - High Tide - Video

Shawn Camp

 Shawn Camp is one of the most prolific song writers working in Nashville as well as an incredibly dynamic performer. "I didn't know he wrote that one" is a common reaction to seeing him in performance. He's written with and for just about everyone - Guy Clark, Loretta Lynn, John Scott Terrell, Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, Blake Shelton, Josh Turner, George Strait, the Gibson Brothers, and more. His song "That Ain't the Grandpa that I Know" is pure country that translates beautifully into bluegrass.  He's surrounded himself with some of the top sidemen in Nashville to create an exceptional band staffed by men who are each stars in their own right. Guthrie Trapp is spectacular on electric guitar. Chris Henry, no mean song writer himself, is a fine mandolin player. Larry Attamanuik has played drums with some of the best. Mike Bub, five time IBMA bass player of the year and a nominee this year, is the go-to bass man in Nashville. Jimmy Steward is terrific on fiddle and dobro, while Camp himself is no mean fiddle player either. This performance was a standout of this fine festival. Bluegrass festival promoters looking for something a little different from an established and legitimate bluegrass musician should seriously consider booking Shawn Camp.

Shawn Camp

 Guthrie Trapp

Jimmy Stewart

Mike Bub

Larry Attaminuik

Larry Attaminuik & Mike Bub
The Rhythm Section 

Shawn Camp - That's Not the Grandpa That I Know

Shawn Camp

Moon Shine Babies

The duo of Suzanne Schitt and Jerry Trapp performed on the side of the stage between acts on Saturday. They presented tuneful songs in a pleasant fashion, performing in what is always a difficult situation with the audience on the move and noisy. They deserve better. 

Bèla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

For thirty-two years, starting with the New Grass Revival, Bèla Fleck has been astounding fans and attracting new ones with the creative intelligence he brings to the banjo, once considered a lowly folk instrument.  Fleck's questing musical spirit and uncompromising artistic integrity combine to create a body of musical achievement unparalleled among musicians whose roots go deep into bluegrass. His musical and personal involvement with Abigail Washburn, to whom he is now married and parents of young Juno Fleck, has served to enrich the content and deepen the emotion in his work, which has often seemed a little heady to me. They played music growing from Washburn's Chinese experiences, more rootsy material, and an extended excerpt from Fleck's new concerto for banjo and orchestra. T'he appearance put Bela Fleck in a new and much more accessible light for me.

Bèla Fleck

Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn

Bèla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Fleck & Washburn with Special Guest Steve Martin

Tailgating in Brevard

Bèla Fleck & Tim O'Brien

The Steep Canyon Rangers & Steve Martin

The Steep Canyon Rangers' professional lives took on a new and exciting direction when they began touring with Steve Martin. They became a part of an entertainment juggernaut unusual in the bluegrass world. The upshot of it has been a new stature in the broader world of entertainment as well as increased recognition within bluegrass music, where they were named IBMA entertainer of the year in 2011. Working with Martin has driven the Rangers to greater precision and skill while providing them with audiences they never would have dreamed of reaching. Furthermore, the association has introduced bluegrass music to new and more diverse audiences. Martin has become a much better banjo performer as the instrument became more than a prop in his comedy act. Watching him over the two days of The Mountain Song Festival, it became completely obvious that Steve Martin is a serious musician with a deep and abiding interest in the banjo and where its unique sounds come from.

Woody Platt

Steve Martin

Steve Martin & Nicky Sanders Duet

Grand Finale
The Steep Canyon Rangers 
Steve Martin, Bèla Fleck, Tim O'Brien

Mountain Song Festival was a thoroughly satisfying experience, musically diverse and yet united in a theme of bluegrass related and derived music. The bands were wonderful, the audience large and appreciated. The absence of Cynthia Platt, Woody's mother, was noted by several people, and she will be much missed in Brevard.  This is an event that music fans should seek out and attend. It will be worth your while both from the time spent at the festival and additional time taken to explore the surrounding town of Brevard and the Smokey Mountain National Park.