Friday, June 6, 2014

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival 2014 - June 26 - 29: Preview

The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival in Tunbridge, VT has become one of the jewels among bluegrass festivals held in New England, if not the entire country. We have watched for the past decade as the Sawyer Family have carefully nurtured and built it from a small festival held in a town park into a major event filling the Tunbridge World's Fair Grounds with wonderful music, campers galore, hot and slow picking, and every other nicety you'd want to include in a comprehensive bluegrass festival.  Running from June 26 through the 29th, the fun actually starts on Tuesday when the gates open at noon. On Wednesday evening festivities begin with an always tasty covered dish supper and then a country music dance and show featuring the Clem Hawkins Memorial Band, composed of Jenny Brook favorite BearTracks augmented by Eric Gibson on the electric guitar. The music begins on Thursday at 10:00 A.M. and continues until Sunday afternoon.

The Lineup
The Gibson Brothers

IBMA Entertainers of the Year in 2012 and 2013, the Gibson Brothers have appeared at every edition of the Jenny Brook Festival. They will be here this year for two days, Friday and Saturday. The band, once known as a regional favorite has become one of the most important national bluegrass bands, best known for their performances of their own excellent songs and as a brother duo. Expect lots of material from the soon to be released new album of their interpretations of bluegrass and precursor brother duos. As headliners for the entire festival, these performances are not to be missed.

Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin' McCourys are the members of the Del McCoury band without Del, whose performing schedule has become increasingly restricted. In recent years, the McCourys have expanded their musical interests and their reach into performances with non-bluegrass groups like the electric gospel group The Lee Boys and famed jazz band The Preservation Hall Dixieland Band. Ron McCoury has been named IBMA Mandolin Player of the year eight times, while Jason Carter is four time Fiddle Player of the Year. You never know where fiddle great Jason Carter might show up. Individually and as a band, the McCourys may be one of the most recognized and award winning bluegrass bands of all time. Jeff Autry will be playing guitar for the Travelin' McCourys at Jenny Brook. Their appearance represents a great opportunity to see one of the all-time great bluegrass groups.

Lonesome River Band

The Lonesome River Band has been notable in bluegrass for over thirty years, yet it's as fresh as this morning. Sammy Shelor, winner of the $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass & Banjo, remains the heart of this acclaimed band, playing LRB's great work from the eighties and nineties along with adding newer works, especially material composed by singer/songwriter/guitarist Brandon Rickman. The Lonesome River Band will close Thursday night with a bang.

The Boxcars

Ten time IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year Adam Steffey leads The Boxcars, who have been named instrumental group of the year three times. The band is one of the musically finest groups around. We saw The Boxcars last week at Strawberry Park, where they performed one of the most relaxed and entertaining sets I've every seen them present. Almost immediately after this show, founding member John Bowman announced he would be leaving the band to devote full time to his preaching and musical ministry. It will be interesting to see how the Boxcars solve this problem, which could turn into an opportunity.

Audie Blaylock & Redline

Audie Blaylock has been a favorite at Jenny Brook for several years with his hard driving, traditional bluegrass and the massive talent of fiddler Patrick McAvinue. Audie has had a couple of personnel changes since last year, which make this year's performance very interesting, as he seeks to keep offering the high quality he has shown in recent years. Audie's career spans time spent with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys to the Michael Cleveland era. Now, fronting his own band, he continue to chart his own way with distinction.

James King Band

James King's latest CD Three Chords and the Truth was nominated for a Grammy Award this year. Known everywhere as The Bluegrass Storyteller, his "sad and pitiful" songs are heart wrenching to both his audience and, frequently, himself as he sings them. James has recently been facing some serious health issues, but he's been released from the hospital and has every intention of appearing at Jenny Brook on Thursday.

Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy will close the show on Sunday again this year as well as perform early on Saturday afternoon. The band is alway entertaining for both its music and its hijinks. Mike Andes song writing (both serious and novelty) and Chris Sexton's fiddle are only part of the action. The addition of very young and very good Jesse Smathers on guitar and vocals has improved the overall band significantly. With Nothin' Fancy you always know you can appreciate, enjoy, and get a few food laughs. That's really quite an achievment.

The Chapmans

The Chapmans, four brothers and their dad, come from the show-me state of Missouri. And they've shown lots of people with their combination of traditional material and cutting edge interpretations. We haven't seen them in several years and very much look forward to re-acquainting with them and their music.

Feller & Hill & the Bluegrass Buckaroos

Tom Feller and Chris Hill bring many years of experience as both performers and high quality sound men to the bluegrass stage with their new band Feller & Hill and the Bluegrass Buccaneers. Their background clearly carries a mid-western influence, as Tom is related to the Holt family of Boys from Indiana fame and Chris played with the band. Their appearance on the bluegrass horizon was not impulsive as they carefully planned their debut performances and CD. They are touring widely now, bringing their deep love of bluegrass music to festivals across the country.

Spinney Brothers

The Spinney Brothers, Rick and Alan, have gone from being visitors from Nova Scotia to a popular regional band, to becoming a serious International band touring throughout the U.S. They stand today as strong candidates for being named IBMA Emerging Band of the Year in 2014. If they were to win, they'd be the first international band to win an award. Their polished performances and combination of traditional bluegrass and classic country have won fans everywhere.

Zink & Company

Corey Zink and his re-constituted band have become regional favorites throughout New England. His strong baritone voice resonates across any bluegrass field.

Michelle Canning & Rough Edge

Michelle Canning is a graduate of the Jenny Brook Kids Academy and the founder of the Grass Seeds showcase stage here. She's currently a student in the traditional music program at Morehead State University in Kentucky. I'm eager to see and hear what two years away at college have done to her music. Her band provides her with strong support, and they've recently added Shaun Batho on guitar.

Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing

Last year at Pemi Valley Bob Amos approached me and gave me a copy of his new CD. On the way home we listened to it out of politeness the first time and then again, because we enjoyed it so much. I'm looking forward to hearing Amos, his daughter, and the band live at Jenny Brook this year. Formerly lead singer for national touring band Front Range in the 1990's and early 2000's, Amos has returned with vengeance.

The Seth Sawyer Band

Host band, The Seth Sawyer Band will  open the festival on Thursday morning and play appear once again on Friday.  Seth's strong singing and wonderful song writing are a feature of this locally popular band.

Promoter - Candi Sawyer

Cedar Ridge

Cedar Ridge comes from around Saratoga, NY and has been around since 1990. They play at festivals and other events in the region. Cedar Ridge won its way into Jenny Brook when it one the fans choice at a Jenny Brook fund raiser last winter.

Gospel Sing & Jam with Mike and Mary Robinson

Jenny Brook Kids Academy - Aaron Foster, familiar to all Jenny Brook regulars as a kid who grew up learning to pick at Jenny Brook and as a graduate of the Kids Academy is a kid no longer. Now a rising senior at East Tennessee State University majoring in Business Administration, he is also a part of the bluegrass program, where all accounts say he's doing extremely well. At Jenny Brook, as Director of the Kids Academy, Aaron has resurrected a program that nearly died. You can pre-register and get more information here.

Aaron Foster

The Bluegrass University - Tony Watt has been building The Bluegrass University for the past couple of years. I've watched it mature and become more organized as it has developed. Lessons and classes will be offered for all levels of instrumental. Instructors in the University are some of New England's best musicians and teachers. Prices are reasonable, and times are convenient for people who want to learn and attend theshows. Sign up now or attend the free preview on Friday afternoon at the Gazebo Stage.

Tony Watt Teaching Guitar Class

The Grass Seeds Gazebo Stage -  Michelle Canning hosts the Grass Seeds Stage as a place for bands and individuals to showcase and for a band competition, the winner of which will perform on Sunday on the Main Stage. A good opportunity for local bands and those who want to be bands to try out their stuff in public. Michelle's band Michelle Canning and Cutting Edge is also in the festival lineup.

The Jenny Brook Theater returns again this year, as do last season's very popular children's activities, held near the rear of the site.

Accommodations -Jenny Brook offers several alternatives for people who don't own their own camping equipment or rigs. Rental trailers are available through Mekkleson RV in Montpelier, VT delivered to a site for the festival at a cost of $735 for any available size. Both the Comfort Inn and the Super 8 in White River Junction, VT offer a special Jenny Brook rate. Contact them directly. Of course, camping is, for many people, the preferred way to attend a bluegrass festival. The Fairgrounds sets the prices for electric (20 amps) hookups and water. The price of $25/night is a pass-through. People arriving early enough to select their sites have a choice of waterfront (along the river) or various other prime sites for jamming and camping. Jamming continues 24/7 at Jenny Brook. There is no quiet camping area provided. Study the Jenny Brook Web Site carefully for complete information and pricing.

Tickets: The early bird ticket prices are over now. You can get further information about ticketing here or order tickets on line by clicking the picture on the Jenny Brook home page.

How to Get to Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival
Place your address in the o and

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival is a full service event with something for just about everyone. Once again, Candi Sawyer has assembled a top-notch lineup of local, regional, and national bands. There are plenty of activities for everyone. Come to every show, jam 'til your fingers fall off, get some lessons, attend a workshop, or jam with a national band at the sugar shack. Its all there. Hope to see you there.