Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival 2014 - Friday: ReviewBrother

On Friday the sky had cleared, the sun was as hot as the music, and a large, enthusiastic day crowd arrived to bolster the already large resident (camping) audience. Activities increased as the Kids Academy and the Bluegrass University had there organizational meetings, and workshops began. For those who came to the stage, the performances were high quality...fully enjoyable. It was surely hot enough for many people to take to the river for a swim or to relax at their campsites taking advantage of both natural and created shade. It was the kind of bluegrass day promoters and fans dream about.

Bluegrass University Band

The Bluegrass University has evolved out of Tony Watt's desire to spread bluegrass music wider and wider audiences through jamming and learning. The Bluegrass University involves a loose collection bluegrass musicians known for their teaching and playing throughout the region. The Bluegrass University provides small group instruction to beginners and early intermediates at several festivals in New England. This year they will be, in addition to their work at Jenny Brook, holding classes at Pemi Valley, and Thomas Point Beach. Tony wrote me to say, "The Bluegrass University classes are true hands-on, intensive learning experiences. Students have described the class as drinking from a fire-hose, and usually leae with tonds of stuff to work on for the rest of the summer."  If you want to improve your skills and knowledge, a few hours spent with these musicians is worth your time and money. The prices are exceptionally reasonable, and the instruction is excellent.

Tony Watt

Bruce Stockwell

Sam Stambler & Kelly Stockwell

Mary Maguire

Bronwyn Keith-Hines

Sound Man Harry Grant

Zink & Company

Zink & Company is a bluegrass band with a very strong classic country lean to it. Corey Zink has a fine baritone voice, interpreting country songs with zest and enthusiasm as well as bluegrass classics. Audiences like his liveliness, aided and abetted by John Roc on mandolin and Larry Neu on banjo. There's plenty of humor to go around. All this fits well into my thought that many bluegrass fans are more frustrated classic country adherents who don't get enough of their favorite music and have settled for bluegrass. Thus, when a band plays classic country well, fans at bluegrass festivals are happy. Zink & Company plays it well, without drums, pedal steel, or electric instruments.

Corey Zink

John Roc

Larry Neu

Ray Evans

Cory Zinc

The Spinney Brothers

The Spinnet Brothers, with Rick on banjo and Allan on Guitar singing most of the lead vocals in a pleasant baritone voice, have been touring together for over twenty years, making a major impression in the U.S. for the past three or four. They live in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and have been making a major impression at bluegrass festivals in Canada and the U.S. Their music is a sprightly combination of bluegrass and classic country, both covers and originals, which they choose carefully to reflect their style and values. Home and family are frequently featured in their work. Recently bassist Terry Poirier joined the band on bass, injecting a much needed note of spontaneity into their highly polished show. Their schedule looks like they'll be appearing at the Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC during IBMA's World of Bluegrass in early October, good recognition for a solid band.

Rick Spinney

Allan Spinney

Gary Dalrymple

Terry Poirier

The Spinney Brothers

On Friday afternoon, WCAX Television in Burlington, VT paid a visit to the Jenny Brook Festival. Reporter Shelby Cashman did a first rate job of capturing the sounds and sites of the festival as well as interviewing Candi Sawyer and both Eric and Leigh Gibson. Here's the story as it appeared Friday night on WCAX-TV.

The Chapmans

The Chapmans, three brothers from Missouri touring with their father, appeared for two days at Jenny Brook, sharing their varied and interesting.bluegrass take served up with lots of good humor and fine picking. When we last saw the Chapmans, their music concentrated more to the quite traditional end of the music, although their father Bill Chapman told me they appeared locally in a much wider range of genres. They have worked hard at re-imagining their sound to include these influences while remaining solidly in the bluegrass pocket. I thought I even recognized some small hip-hop influence in one of their songs. A very touching song of theirs  commemorated the economic and psychological support given the by the Children's Miracle Network while they placed a collection box on the front of the stage. The march of audience members to the front was impressive.

John Chapman

Jeremy  Chapman

Jason Chapman

Bill Chapman

Ron Stewart Workshop

IBMA's 2011 Banjo Player of the Year, Ron Stewart conducted a banjo workshop on Friday afternoon. There were workshops going during the day on both Friday and Saturday covering a range of subjects from playing particular instruments to song writing, singing, and effective practice. Workshops are a particularly popular component of northeastern bluegrass festivals, and Jenny Brook had its share of good ones.

Alan Bartram & Candi Sawyer

Bass player Alan Bartram of the Travelin' McCourys is the only known musician to have attended the first Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival in 2001 at the town park in Weston, VT and the fourteenth event at Tunbridge. It was a nice reunion.

The Fans for the Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers

If the Gibson Brothers have a home festival, Jenny Brook is it. They play here each year, this year for two days. Emcee Mike Robinson noted that for folks in the North Country (that includes upstate New York and portions of New England) people have long known what the International Bluegrass Music Association has recognized in the last two years by naming the Gibson Brothers as Entertainers of the Year. Shannon Gibson, the boys' mother was here again this year as was Mike Barber's wife Andrea, always dancing on the edge of the crowd. People come down to the show to see the Gibson Brothers who don't show up for much else. They always get a special show characterized by a band who loves performing for them. More about this in the next blog entry.

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Jesse Brock

Clayton Campbell

The Gibson Brothers

Gibson Brothers Fans

Brian Fitzpatrick

The Fifty-Fifty Girls

During the first three days of Jenny Brook, Pat and Julie, with the help of their young friend, patrolled the spacious Tunbridge Fairgrounds soliciting for the Fifty-Fifty raffle. Their hard work proved extremely rewarding for both the festival and the individuals who won. Twice the pot exceeded $1000 for the winners.

The Travelin' McCourys

Last time we saw The Travelin' McCourys (about three years ago), a band composed of the Del McCoury band without the patriarch and with a variety of guitar players depending on who's available, they still seemed to be struggling to establish a band identity, to find a sound that would distinguish them. Not to worry. The Travelin McCourys have emerged as an exciting and distinguished band in their own right and will only improve as they consolidate, particularly when they find a regular guitarist, who need not be a spectacular vocalist. They played original material by fiddler Jason Carter (reigning and four time IBMA fiddle player of the year) and bassist Alan Bartram, songs that were distinctive and laden with meaning. Rob McCoury play a couple of pieces from his new solo CD and spectacular flat picker Jeff Autry chimed in with wonderful breaks and a song from the deep classic bluegrass repertoire. Ron McCoury, eight time IBMA mandolin player of the year, was at his lightning fast best, while his singing and speaking voice sounds eerily familiar. This is indeed a band to be reckoned with, and I look forward to the next time we see them.

Rob McCoury

Ron McCoury

Alan Bartram

Jason Carter

Jeff Autry

The Chapmans Watching the Travelin' McCourys
It's always interesting to see who watches

The Boxcars Host the Sugar House Jam

Each evening at Jenny Brook, after the final main stage performance, a bluegrass band hosts a jam at the Sugar House. The band and those who bring instruments play together and individual pickers are invited to come up and sing a song with what will probably be the best back-up band they ever encounter. The Boxcars did a fine job getting people to step forward to perform as well as leading a large group of pickers, singers, and watchers in singing familiar bluegrass tunes. A great way to end the eveing.

More coming.....