Saturday, February 22, 2014

Palatka Bluegrass Festival 2014 - Friday Review

The weather on Friday at Palatka opened grey and threatening and then got worse, turning into a drizzle, a shower, and then a deluge as tornado warnings threatening just southwest of us flashed on cell phones everywhere. The rain reached a crescendo during the performance of the Primitive Quartet, and I'll refrain from inferring any heavenly interference in their fine performance. The rain moved on, the day remained muggy with, as evening settled in, a slight chill to the air, but never became unpleasant enough to reduce the enjoyment of a good crowd who showed their loyalty and sense of discovery as band followed band through the afternoon and evening. Despite the damp weather, we had another good day at The Rodeheaver Boys Ranch.

Open Stage - Grey & Lilly

The Stevens Family Band

The Stevens Family Band, consisting of seven members of a family of twelve from the hills of West Virginia, bring enthusiasm, passion, and deep religious fervor to their energetic performances. Mother Nancy always comes on stage to offer a couple of gospel songs and youngest son Thomas is brought for a song, but the core of the band is the father J.W. on banjo surrounded by four kids. They've attracted a strong following here in northern Florida and, I'm certain, gained some new ones with their performance and presence here on Friday.

J.W. Stevens

Nancy Stevens
Tommy Stevens

Sam Stevens

Luke Stevens

Sissy Stevens

Ben Stevens

Gilbert Nelsom Teaching Wernick Method Jamming
and Giving Lessons

Goldwing Express

With Pop (Bob Baldridge) ailing, the three Goldwing Express sons carried on with their typical humor, appealing to many avid fans who turn out regularly to see and hear their performances. 



The Primitive Quartet

The Primitive Quartet has spent more than forty years on the gospel trail singing in churches, conventions, bluegrass festivals, and wherever else they can spread God's word through song. They offer a theology and style which strongly appeals to the sort of audience that Palatka attracts and stands for. They are personable and effective. 

Randy Fox

Larry Riddle

Jeff Talbert

Norman Wilson

Mike Riddle

Reagan Riddle

...And the Rain Came Down in Buckets

 The Gibson Brothers

It's always a joy to watch people who, haven't encountered the Gibson Brothers before, discover their music, their charm, their playfulness, and their intelligence. No band in bluegrass, perhaps in the wider world of music generally, may have any greater combination of these qualities nor display them with more grace and authenticity than they do. A near capacity crowd, despite the threatening weather, gave The Gibson Brothers Band standing ovations after both of their sets. As is their custom, they continue to test and preview their next recording, a tribute album to other brother duos through the last seventy or eighty years, many preceding the bluegrass era. On Friday they sang the Everly Brothers'  "Bye, Bye Love," the York Brothers' "Long Time Gone" also recorded by the Everly's and the Louvin Brothers' Childish Love." This project is a sure winner, and will be much anticipated by the time it appears. Irene often works the Gibson Brothers' merch table when we're where they appear. She reported a large number of people who had never heard them before buying one or more of their CD's and says this is a typical response. People who've never encountered them before relate to them almost immediately, even though much of their music may be unfamiliar. Meanwhile, those who know them well never tire of hearing and seeing more.

Leigh Gibson

 Eric Gibson 

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Jesse Brock

Mike Barber & Jesse Brock

 Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire Squad has been a headline bluegrass band for forty years. Ron Thomason was there at the first bluegrass festival in Fincastle, VA and has stayed in the center of bluegrass ever since. The band offers a wonderful change of pace at any festival, featuring Ron's offbeat sense of humor and his marvelous storytelling combined with the band's earnest sound hearkening back to the early days of mountain music while remaining contemporary at the same time. Thomason's dry wit has amused and provoked listeners to some serious thinking over all these years, despite their sporting his "thought repellant" hats.

The Many Faces of Ron Thomason

 Brian Aldridge

Dan Russell

Tom Boyd

 At the Merch Tents

 The Seldom Scene

Each member of The Scene had a storied career with other notable bands before coming on board in the nineties as earlier members left or, in the sad case of John Duffey, died. That is with the exception of banjo player Ben Eldridge who has been with the band since its beginning in 1971 as a basement jam. Ben, even with a sore back, continues the tradition of musical innovation this band created with its infusion of folk and rock into the hitherto mountain and country oriented world of bluegrass. For those of us who came late to the party, the present band IS the Seldom Scene, even as we recognize their rich history and ground breaking tradition. Fortunately, unlike their name, the band is more frequntly seen in locations further away from their home in Washington, D.C. as the band is more populated with full-time musicians. It's always a treat and a pleasure to see The Seldom Scene.

Ben Eldridge

Ronnie Simpkins

Dudley Connell

Fred Travers

Lou Reid

More coming on Monday.