Monday, September 16, 2013

Mountain Song Festival, Brevard, NC - Friday Review

The Mountain Song Festival was held for the eighth year on Friday and Saturday, September 13th & 14th. It featured, once again, the sort of creative programming that proved more than satisfying to the near sell-out crowd on Friday evening followed by a full-scale packed house sellout on Saturday. The superb lineup featured  a full range of bluegrass and bluegrass related and derived music to satisfy the most rigorous taste delivered by superb musicians. Mountain Song Festival is held in the magnificent Whittington-Pfohl  Auditorium on the campus of the Bravard Music Center, which is offers a first-rate music camp program during the summer months. The auditorium is an open sided music shed featuring comfortable plastic seats, unobstructed sight lines, and superb sound. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, providing expansive space for those wishing to sit on the lawn and for a variety of food, craft, and cause vendors. 

The Line Forms Early

Early Arrivals Checking Out the Scene

The Steep Canyon Rangers

Host band The Steep Canyon Rangers have become a powerhouse. They feature fine lead singing from Woody Platt, whose father (an architect) designed the auditorium, and harmony singing from all the rest of the Rangers in different configurations depending on the needs of the song. Graham Sharp on banjo and Mike Guggino on mandolin have continued to grow and develop instrumentally, each becoming a standout. Charles Humphrey is a master of the bass, as both a rhythm and solo instrument. This weekend Mike Ashworth was added as a full time member of the band on percussion, playing a Cajon derived instrument he calls a box kit. It facilitates the addition of subtle and effective rhythm which adds to their sound while never overwhelming.  When Nicky Sanders on fiddle arrived in their second or third year the band added fine, Berkelee trained, fiddling. During the ensuing years, they've discovered Sanders' inner showman and clown, an ingredient that was missing from the early band and has served to make them the complete entertainment package, even without musician, comedian, author, actor Steve Martin, with whom they tour each year. 

Woody Platt

 Graham Sharp

Charles Humphrey & Mike Guggino

 Nicky Sanders

Mike Guggino

 Charles Humphrey

 Mike Ashworth

 Fox Fire

Formerly a rock band, this group of teeners acquired a banjo player and became a rock-centered bluegrass band in, they claim, the tradition of the Avett Brothers & Munford & Son.  Appearing between sets on Friday, they're enthusiastic and developing, showing a good deal of promise.It might help to add a knowledge of classic bluegrass to their antecedents.

 Aaron Aiken

Clint Roberts

Jt Linville

Barrett Davis

 Tim & Molly O'Brien with Rich Moore

Tim and Mollie O'Brien toured as a popular duo for some years, although now Molly is less often seen on the music circuits. Meanwhile, Tim, whose career extends back for nearly forty years, including his membership in the classic band Hot Rize, now in the studio cutting their first new record in years. His repertoire long ago reached beyond bluegrass into the wide ranging and undescribable music world called Americana, where he has earned a Grammy award for his solo album Fiddler's Green, been named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year (1993, 2006). Hot Rize was named IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 1990. His recent recordings with Darrell Scott are simply magnificent. Singing together, the brother sister vocal blend of the two is without peer. Rich Moore, Mollie's husband of more than thirty years, adds strong guitar backup as well as humor and grace to make this trio a don't miss attraction. They have recently recorded a Roger Miller tribute album, along with other members of their extended family. Unfortunately, a too large portion of the audience was busy socializing and eating during the early portions of their fine performance and missed much of it.

 Tim O'Brien

Mollie O'Brien

Tim & Mollie O'Brien

Rich Moore

Martin Anderson - Emcee
WNCW-FM 88.9 

Family Time

Ain't Technology Great!

 The Carolina Chocolate Drops

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are not only a highly entertaining band, they provide music fans with an insight into the black roots of much American music, reaching back to the African origins of the banjo and through the age of minstrel music in the mid-nineteenth century and Jim Crow in the twentieth. They present their material in a warm, humorous, friendly, and direct fashion which could only upset the most bigoted music fans. They are an old-time string band featuring banjo, guitar, fiddle, bones, mandolin, cello, and more in a pleasing and always entertaining mix.  Rhiannon Giddens' lead singing and fiery fiddle combine with her winsome good looks and sly humor to reach out to and touch any audience. Dom Flemmons smiles and glares and jokes in a constant whirlwind of motion and music. Hubby Jenkins on guitar, mandolin, and open back banjo is more serious, but equally as virtuostic on his instruments and with his voice. Leyla McCalla, of Haitian descent and coming from New Orleans add the haunting, mellow tones of the cello to the sound, giving it a contemporary edge to go with the old time emphasis. This band connects to its audience with an immediacy that is simply stunning. They provide and unforgettable, can't miss attraction to any event where they perform with their old music so deeply influenced by their roots in North Carolina's Piedmont region. 

Rhiannon Giddens

 Dom Flemmons

Hubby Jenkins

Leyla McCalla

 Rhiannon Giddens sings with her sister Lalenja Harrington

 Dom Flemmons

Leyla McCalla

Hubby Jenkins

Dom Flemmons & Rhiannon Giddens

I Am a Country Girl - Video
Carolina Chocolate Drops