Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival 2014 - July 31 - August 3 in Thornton, NH - Preview

Meadows, riverside, woods camping in the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains surrounded by an unobstructed view, the Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival nestles into the New Hampshire countryside while delivering established and emerging national bands as well as some of the best bluegrass New England has to offer, from traditional to cutting edge. The Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival will run from July 31 - August 3, 2014 at the Sugar Shack Campground in Thornton, NH.  Featuring a large and varied campground with a variety of camping venues, a lovely performance area nestled in a bowl which provides excellent acoustics, and the Pemigewasset River flowing in the background, Pemi Valley offers an ideal location for a weekend of bluegrass music.

The Lineup
The Gibson Brothers

Twice IBMA Entertaines of the Year and loyal to their New England and northern New York roots, the Gibson Brothers are always most at home and entertaining when performing for their home crowds. Their brother harmonies, their evocative and heart-lifting song writing, and their entertaining patter make up a complete package. Incidentally, their workshops are almost always full to overflowing. A couple of week ago they signed a recording contract with Rounder Records, for whom their first release will be an as yet to be named album paying tribute to the brother duos who have provided them with such inspiration.

Gibson Brothers Workshop

The Lonesome River Band

The Lonesome River Band is unique and somehow familiar, too. Maybe that's because so many bands seek to emulate their sound and don't come near to it. Driven by the powerful style of Sammy Shelor and always distinguished by fine musicians at each position, LRB offers it all. Shelor is five time IBMA banjo player of the year and was recently awarded the $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in banjo and bluegrass. While they may be familiar to you, their allure never palls.

Balsam Range

Five men from rural Haywood County in westernmost North Carolina, Balsam Range has recently released its fifth CD in the brief seven years they've been together as a band. Powered by the driving banjo of Marc Pruett (above) they are each fine musicians, but the ensemble effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Balsam Range is on the way to establishing a record of accomplishment that few bands can claim, and with each recording they continue to raise the bar. They've only recently begun appearing regularly in New England, so don't miss this opportunity to see them at Pemi Valley.

Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy is one of the most entertaining bands on the bluegrass circuit. It continues to amaze me that they receive so little attention when awards come around at IBMA. From serious material with social content, through fine interpretations of Country Gentlemen standards to singer/songwriter Mike Andes' novelty songs, they bring a lot to the table. Fiddler Chris Sexton brings classical training to bluegrass fiddle with elan and good humor. It's always a treat to see Nothin' Fancy.

Flatt Lonesome

Flatt Lonesome is a relatively young and inexperienced band that has shown marked improvement as it works its way up through the ranks of bluegrass bands. They've recently released their second recording.

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards has been touring in folk, country, and bluegass mix for about fifty years. He has been a popular and versatile singer/songwriter as well as an actor and producer. Welcome him to Pemi Valley.

Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing

Yesterday we listened again the Bob Amos & Catamount Crossings' newest CD, Sunrise Blues, and were again both deeply satisfied and happily entertained. With more than a decade passed between his highly successful band Front Range and this new one, Amos, whose earlier work we are not familiar with, yet, emerges as a mature, thoughtful, singer/songwriter with tremendous range of subject matter, melody, and emotion to call upon. In performance, the band is as one finely tuned instrument in the service of the song...a genuine accomplishment. Performing with his daughter Sarah, a senior at New College in Florida, only enriches the sound as the their voice blend and intertwine through a series of lovely songs. Amos' song "Mr. Beford's Barn" brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it, and the band's interpretation of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" is lively and inventive. Bob Amos & Catamount appeared at Pemi Valley on Thursday last year and have earned their Saturday slot.

Sarah Amos

Zink & Company

Corey Zink has found a niche for his very pleasant baritone voice. As primarily a country singer, he and his band present primarily country classic music to a bluegrass audience hungry for it. It works well for him and his audience, where his renditions always are welcome.

Crunchy Western Boys

A New Hampshire band, The Crunchy Western Boys play a contemporary mix of folk,  bluegrass, and Americana music including lots of originals from within the band. Come along for the fun.....

Newfound Grass

Newfound Grass calls upon deep roots in bluegrass, country, jazz, soul, and rock to create a sound uniquely their own, playing from traditional bluegrass to progressive with a modern twist. A New Hampshire band, they play mostly in the region. Steve Abdu and Craig Engle are now also promoters of the festival, Sue Marsden having retired from active management, but still very much a part of the festival as a volunteer.

The Seth Sawyer Band

The Seth Sawyer Band is familiar throughout the region. Known largely for Seth's fine song writing which features several songs that have been recorded including at least one by the Gibson Brothers. Bass player for the band, Candi Sawyer, is also the promoter of the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Fesitval.

One of Many Jams

Washington County Line

Washington County Line plays a variety of traditional and contemporary bluegrass. They won the 2011 Jenny Brook band contest and play mostly in nearby northern New York and New England.

Lonely Heartstring Band

The Lonely Heartstrings Band emerges from the red hot Boston music scene with what they characterize as a "new acoustic" sound. Rooted in the Beatles, their acoustic representations of Beatles' music strikes an interesting note. They released their first recording in September of 2013 and deserve a good listen.

The Performance Area at Pemi Valley

Hot Mustard

Hot Mustard is composed of two couples, Bruce and Kelly Stockwell from Putney, VT and Bill and April Jubett from Ringe, NH. An unusual bluegrass band in that they feature dual (not duel) banjos on many of their numbers, the band plays traditional bluegrass verve  and imagination as well as more contemporary material. 

Crab Grass

This Cape Cod based bluegrass band comes from Cape Cod and plays mostly in New England. 

Smokey Greene

Smokey Greene, who continues playing and touring even in his mid-eighties is a bluegrass and country music legend throughout New England, New York, and Florida. His combination a classic country hits and contemporary novelty songs is well-loved. 

Mike and Mary Robinson's Gospel Sing & Jam will open Sunday morning's program. A popular and, for many, inspiring feature at festivals up and down the East Coast, bring your instrument to their sing.

Craig Engle, co-promoter of The Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival tells me the band selection has been widened, adding both national bands and a greater variety of local and regional ones. Such additions should help make an already attractive festival held in a wonderful site even more of a draw.

The Details

Tickets: For the first time, tickets to Pemi Valley may be ordered online through Ticket Leap, making the process of getting tickets still easier. You can order here and get more information about using Ticket Leap here through watching a video Steve Abdu has prepared. A general overview of ticket choices and camping facilties can be found here. Extensive information and photos of the various camping opportunities available at the Sugar Shack Campground can be found here. Click on the interactive campground map on the Pemi Valley site to get a better idea of the choices available. Here's an overall map:

Campground Map

The numbered campsites have been increased this year at Pemi Valley, making it easier to reserve specific sites. There is strong demand, and reservations for this fine festival are recommended. 

Activities: Well known regional fiddler and teacher Ellen Carlson will be directing the Kids Academy at Pemi Valley this year. A three day program designed to introduce and improve children's skills with bluegrass music, Kids Academies throughout the country have helped maintain and spread the word about bluegrass music widely. Further information and a sign-up form are available here.

Ellen Carlson

The Bluegrass University

The Bluegrass University, under the direction of (Dean) Tony Watt is becoming increasingly more effective and popular as it shapes its offerings and adjusts based on greater experience and feedback. With a faculty of experienced performers who also are fine teachers, this year's staff at Pemi Valley is sure to please. More information can be found here or on Tony Watt's web site here. If you're a beginner who wants to become involved in playing bluegrass music or an intermediate player wishing to improve, the Bluegrass University is sure to help you along. 

With the Pemigawassett River running alongside the campground, there are numerous opportunities to swim, tube, kayak, canoe available or fish. Bring your own equipment, or rent from a local vendor in Thornton. A water park is available about thirteen miles north in nearby Lincoln for those who wish to leave the festival site.

The open meadows and woods of the Benton's Sugar Shack Golf & Camping provide plenty of room for children to play and romp.

A variety of alternative lodging opportunities is available within a reasonable distance. Here's a list.

How to Get to the Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival
put your location in the o to get directions

We came to Pemi Valley for the first time last year to see the Gibson Brothers and stayed to enjoy this fine festival. We're looking forward to attending the whole even this year. You come, too!!