Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rockahock Bluegrass Festival 2013 in Lanexa, VA - Friday

 Friday morning at Rockahock dawned clear and sunny and only continued to improve all day. The sun shone brightly, while there was a slight, but perceptible, hint of autumn in the air. As I drove to the other end of the campground to take my shower, I realized that it had filled up, and there was a bustling sense of anticipation for the coming day. A perfect day signalling a day of music presenting four bands, each with a distinctive style, yet appealing to nearly everyone who was there. Couldn't ask for much better with an emerging and promising young bluegrass band, an older master of traditional bluegrass, 2013's IBMA Entertainer of the Year, and a refreshing alternative band playing classic country.

 Open Stage

Pit Master Rick Hines Whiskey Hill Barbecue
Hard at Work

The Morning Prayer

And the National Anthem...Well Sung

David Adkins & Republik Steel

 Dave Adkins is an exciting young performer very new to the bluegrass scene. His first recording was released in February 2013 by Rural Rhythm and somehow doesn't manage to catch the excitement he delivers in live performance, although some of his raw energy is present even there.  Live, he's a whirlwind of energy and musical talent exploding into the place where he's performing.  Surrounded by an instrumentally strong band helping to support the strength of his singing, he remains very much at the center, his voice ranging from a low, bluesy growl into an excited (and in tune) shout out. While the strong influence of rock and blues is clear in his singing, he appears to still be most comfortable performing classic bluegrass covers and a good deal of very familiar gospel music, while his rendition of Dave Loggin's Please Come to Boston is superb. I look forward to his finding more of his own material and adapting other work to his unique and quite pleasing style.

Dave Adkins

Matt Cruby

Kenny O'Quinn

 Danny Ray Stiltner

Wesley Wolfe

Dave Adkins

At the Merch Table

 Can You Spot the Bean Bag

A '57 Chevy Golf Cart

 The Malpass Brothers

Although not particularly to my taste, the Malpass Brothers do a terrific job of interpreting classic country music from the 1950's and 60's to an audience, many of whom grew up on that very popular genre. Sadly, I wasn't a fan of those singers then and continue not to be a fan of covers of their work. I was busy listening to the music of the folk revival of that period as well as the somewhat later Outlaws, who emerged in the sixties and early seventies.  But that's what differences in taste are all about. Meanwhile, the Malpass Brothers, who have been opening for Merle Haggard around the country, do a great job with their material. Dressed in 1950's style with high pompadors, they sing and play multiple instruments with a solid back-up band. The get the audience to their feet and dancing, generating plenty of excitement while providing a fresh change of pace.  

Chris Malpass

Taylor Malpass

Clyde Maddox

Chris Malpass, Sr.

 Dennis Daniels

The Malpass Brothers

Sunset at Rockahock

The Larry Stephenson Band 
with Sweet Brenda Lawson

The Larry Stephenson Band will soon have been in existence for twenty-five years, and Larry himself spent several years traveling as a member of Bill Harrell's classic band as well as The Bluegrass Cardinals. He is a member of the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame.  His silver clear tenor voice remains young and vibrant as he sings from his vast catalog of secular and gospel hits. The addition of veteran Kenny Ingram, who cut his teeth with Lester Flatt & Nashville Grass and Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys, has reinvigorated Ingram's banjo playing and allowed him to sing his fine harmony as well.  East Tennessee State bluegrass graduates Danny Stewart, Jr. and Colby Laney complete the band on bass and guitar. Each makes a considerable addition to this powerful four piece ensemble.

Larry Stephenson

Kenny Ingram

 Danny Steward

 Colby Laney

The Vocal Trio
Larry Stephenson, Kenny Ingram & Colby Laney
Larry Stephenson

Jamming During Supper Break

I Can't Miss This One...

 The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers walked away from the IBMA Awards Shows in Raleigh two weeks ago with four awards (Song of the Year, Song Writer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year), all deeply satisfying to this well-established upstate New York musical team. Furthermore, they have established a firm beachhead in North Carolina, and if this appearance is any indication, extended it to Virginia, too. Since at least half of the audience raised its hands when they were asked how many people had seen the Gibson Brothers before, I had a little concern about how they would be received. Not to worry, however, as they received a standing ovation and two encores. I'm a little amazed at how quickly the Gibson's can win over the slightly skeptical audience after having seen them so often on their home ground. Chalk one up for authenticity and spontaneity which shines through in everything they do. The audience very much enjoyed and "got" the sibling rivalry, which so clearly comes across as a close and caring relationship.

Leigh Gibson

Eric Gibson

Jesse Brock

Mike Barber

 Clayton Campbell

 The Gibson Brothers

 Full Moon Over Rockahock