Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Berryville Bluegrass Series' January Show - Review


We've been attending the Berryville Bluegrass Series in Berryville, VA for about four years. It's been a distinguished series of shows presented previously in the Berryville Middle School and now moved to the magnificent auditorium in the handsome new Clarke County High School. The auditorium features excellent site lines, comfortable seats, wonderful lighting, and good, warm sound qualities. Berryville has been a convenient stop for us as we begin our winter sojourn in the South, and it has also presented consistently satisfying shows by good bands. Unfortunately, this program featuring The Larry Stephenson Band and a scratch band called Plan B, which always performs with zest and high entertainment values, is the penultimate production put on by Frank and Cyndy Jurney. The series will conclude on February 8th with a concert featuring Shenendoah Drive opening for Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. Hundred of people who regularly attend these concerts will miss them, as will we. 

In the Green Room
Frank Jurney

Rickie Simpkins

Larry Stephenson

Dudley Connell

Clarke County High School Auditorium

Frank Jurney - Promoter/Emcee

The Larry Stephenson Band

Larry Stephenson possesses one of the purest, clearest, and most striking tenor voices in bluegrass music. After nearly twenty-five years of touring with his own band and several years with noted Virginia bands previously, his voice never seems strained or forced while, over the years, its timbre and depth has only become more fully developed and mature. He has surrounded himself with both experience and youth, creating a small, but powerful group which projects a lot of complex and pleasing sound. Kenny Ingram is an old master of the banjo who has found new vitality with the Stephenson band, adding both wonderful traditional solo virtuosity but an always tasteful and restrained backup style which could serve as a model for any younger banjo player. After many years of not showing his voice in bands, he also adds a first rate harmony baritone.  Colby Laney brings a fine touch as a flat picker and sings both harmony and lead with quality. Danny Stewart, Jr., on bass is unobtrusive and provides the strong, percussive beat of a fine bass player. This is a fine band that deserves wider attention than it gets.

Larry Stephenson

Kenny Ingram

 Colby Laney

Danny Stewart, Jr.

Kenny Ingram with Bobby Osborne's Vega

Danny Stewart, Jr.

Larry Stephenson & Colby Laney

Kenny Ingram & Larry Stephenson
  

The Faces of Intermission







Plan B Rehearses

Plan B
 
Plan B was formed when the Gibson Brothers were forced to cancel a couple of years ago. Formed with Virginia stalwart Larry Stephenson, who was already on the bill,members of Seldom Scene, and the deeply experienced and excellent Rickie Simpkins on fiddle, the band was a terrific hit filling a deep hole. They also provide several interesting sound opportunities. Few bluegrass bands carry both a Dobro and a fiddle, while performing without a banjo. This one carries it off in such a way that the first time I noticed the absence of a banjo was while I was writing this blog entry. Another treat came with the markedly contrasting yet absolutely pitch perfect blending of two quite different tenor voices. Stephenson and Travers are both excellent and different. Meanwhile Ronnie Simpkins is a dynamic and interesting bass player whose bass voice should get more of an opportunity to be exercised. Then there's that vital and continuing force of Dudley Connell. A dynamic force on the bluegrass world for nearly two generations, Connell continues to sing with both verve and subtlety while contributing a level of energy and enthusiasm few people thirty years his junior can manage. It was a fine concert.

Dudley Connell

Rickie Simpkins

Larry Stephenson & Ronnie Simpkins

Fred Travers

Ronnie Simpkins

Fred Travers

 Dudley Connell

Plan B - I Know What it Means to Be Lonesome - Video

Altogether, this was a very satisfying event, and a fitting beginning for our first 2014 show. We'll be sorry to see these concerts end next month.