Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival - September 18 - 20, Kodak, TN - Preview

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival runs from September 18 - 20 in Kodak, TN on a former dairy farm converted to a full service campground and event center by promoter/owners Joe and Mitzi Soward. The site is conveniently located just north of the East Tennessee resort towns of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, offering unparalleled access to entertainment, resort discount shopping, fine food. The beautiful Smokey Mountains and Smokey Mountain National Park are visible on the horizon. There's a Cracker Barrel Restaurant and a Bass Pro Shop store within a couple of miles. We try to get to the Lodge Cast Iron Cookware and the Coleman Outlet every time we come to Dumplin Valley. Oh,,,Did I mention there's also a great bluegrass festival at Dumplin Valley? Well, take a look at the lineup and facilities, and make up your mind.

Morning Jam by the Silos

The Lineup
 The Little Roy & Lizzy Show

Little Roy Lewis has been performing on bluegrass and gospel music stages for over sixty years, first with the Bluegrass Hall of Fame band "The Lewis Family" and now with his protege, multi-instrumentalist Lizzy Long. His brand if humor hearkens back to vaudeville and the very early days of live television. Their presentation is deeply traditional and still relevant with thousands of people relishing hearing and seeing them,

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice 

Junior Sisk was named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 2013. His long suit is his impassioned championing of traditional bluegrass, particularly as practiced by the Stanley Brothers, but he also introduces lots of new material which only sounds old. His tenor voice is one of the best, and he's often under-rated as a rhythm guitarist. He's added strength and youth to the instrumental side of his band, Jason Davis is one of the finest banjo players around. Jason Tomlin has announced that he's leaving the band to join a project with his brother, but I don't know if that will have happened by the time of Dumplin Valley.
Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier

Jimbo Whaley, one of the founding members of Pine Mountain Railroad, is a perfect example of the kind of fine national quality performer who has forsaken the road to remain closer to his family and pursue more steady sources of income. Kipper Stitt, Roger Helton, and Matt Leadbetter are standouts in this better than good local band, which continues to work regularly in the Pigeon Forge area. 

Adkins & Loudermilk - New to Dumplin Valley
Dave Adkins

We had seen Adkins & Loudermilk in abbreviated sets and without their complete band, but a few weeks ago we saw the whole band through two complete sets....Wow! I had expressed concerns about these two very different artists in personality and style being able to find an approach that effectively melded their strengths, but it's happening. Flatpicker Andrew Crawford and Dobro man Glen Crain contribute significantly. Combine this with Adkin's big voice and enthusiasm and Loudermilk's thoughtul songwriting and deep experience, and you get a band that's rapidly developing into the first ranks.

Edgar Loudermilk

Cordle, Jackson & Salley  

Winners of Grammy, IBMA, and Dove awards, Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, and Jerry Salley bring literally hundred of familiar bluegrass, country, and gospel songs they've written or co-written to the stage along with impeccable musicianship and enthusiasm in presenting them. Often accompanied by Val Storey, one of finest singers on the Nashville scene, this group has been performing with some other accomplished Nashville studio musicians at the Station Inn every Monday as the "Classic Country" band New Monday. This repeat performance at Dumplin Valley will be a real treat.

Audience Under Cover in the Barn

 Volume Five - Glen Harrell - New to Dumplin Valley

Volume Five is one of those bands that's been toiling in the wilderness as it builds its fan base and creates a distinctive sound and style. Their work has paid off with a 2014 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year nomination, which is richly deserved, as well as Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year. The band's cover of Shawn Camp's "That's Not the Grandpa That I Know" is superb. They perform a strong mix of original material and suitable covers in both gospel and secular music. This Mississippi-based band, most of whose members originate in Georgia, will be well worth your hearing.

Donna Ulisse & The Poor Mountain Boys

Donna Ulisse is a talented singer/songwriter with her feet firmly planted in both bluegrass and country music. Her wonderful voice and sparkling personality combine with her thoughtful songwriting to tell compelling and often inspiring stories of her love of the mountains, her faith, and her thoughts on life and loving. Reliable and truly personable, Donna is a nominated for IBMA Gospel Performance of the Year this year. 

James King 

James King has been encountering health problems recently, which have caused the partial dissolution of what I thought was the best band I ever heard him have,  Nevertheless, his voice can still wind itself around a song, drawing raw emotion from tales of love and loss. Since he's playing on the same day as Rhonda Vincent, we can all hope they will sing a song together. That always results in a kind of special magic. Despite the difficulties that life throws at James, one can only wish him well as he regains his health and maintains the magic of his ability to tell magical stories in song.

Balsam Range  

Balsam Range comes from just across the Smokey Mountains in the extremely rural Haywood County, NC. Over the past seven years the band has produced five notable recordings, while building a large and expanding fan base. This has culminated this year in IBMA nominations for Instrumental Group of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year as well as a nomination as Male Vocalist of the year for fiddler Buddy Melton.  The band's repertoire includes carefully chosen songs adapted from rock, folk, and gospel as well as bluegrass tunes of unusual depth. With four singers, they are varied vocally as well as instrumentally. Balsam Range has emerged onto the national scene while carefully building its brand of highly recognizable material. 

Buddy Melton

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage 

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage are a welcome fixture at Dumplin Valley. She always brings her A game with her, although it's hard to find her off her game. With her latest CD "Only Me," six songs on each of two disks, half country and half bluegrass and all quality, Rhonda has been adding increasing amounts of country music into her bluegrass performances just as bluegrass audiences are acknowledging their hunger for "real" country. Son-in-Law Brent Burke on Dobro has added to the versatility of her superb band, and Josh Williams voice and guitar are always welcome. Rhonda is nominated for IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and award she has won seven times.  Some years we see Rhonda quite frequently, but this year, despite her usual busy schedule, we haven't been quite so lucky, so we're looking forward to seeing her band at Dumplin Valley.

The Campground

The Bankesters - Emily, Alysha, Melissa - New to Dumplin Valley

During the past couple of years it's been a delight to watch the Bankesters continue to develop into what has become an excellent band. The voices of the three sisters (Melissa, Alysha, and Emily) have matured (and continue to do so) as they have learned to take maximum advantage of their sibling sound. Emily's singing of  "When I'm Gone (The Cup Song)" is a standout. With their parents Dorene and Phil, who both add vocal versatility to the group, and Melissa's husband Kyle Triplet on banjo and mandolin, this band is truly stepping up.

Darin & Brooke Aldridge  

We've been fans and friends of Darin & Brooke since before they were married as they developed a vocal sound, a style, and a lovely union. Growing together out of their love for each other and their faith, they have formed and continue to develop a fruitful and always developing band. Darin is a creative musical explorer, never afraid to seek out and develop a new twist to a traditionally based but thoroughly inventive style. Brooke is blessed with one of the most recognizable voices in bluegrass, her voice is uniquely her own with depth and timbre and extraordinary volume. Darin blends his light baritone voice well with Brooke's, and his guitar playing is always strong. On the mandolin, however, he belongs at the top with the current greats. Darin & Brooke are nominated for Gospel Recorded Song and their CD "Flying" is nominated for Best Graphic Design.

The Spinney Brothers 

The Spinney Brothers have worked hard and campaigned throughout North America for the past several years as they've expanded their presence and influence outwards from the native Nova Scotia. This year, their efforts are being rewarded with IBMA nominations for Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year with Mark Brinkman's "Grandpa's Way of Life." I can't find another international band so honored. The Spinney's are another bluegrass band either helping create or capitalizing on the close cousin's relationship between bluegrass and country music. Allen's clear, solid baritone voice works very well in either genre. Terry Poirier on bass has been a welcome addition to the band.

Sideline - New to Dumplin Valley

Sideline developed out of a group trying to fill down-time in their individual schedules. It has proven, however, to be more popular and in demand than they anticipated. This has led to several changes, the latest being Darrell Webb's decision to leave the band to devote more time and energy to his own band, which is showing huge improvement itself. On the other hand, Skip Cherryholmes has decided to resign from Lou Reid & Carolina to devote more time to Sideline, which may be the best cover band in the business right now. It remains to be seen whether they'll be introducing more original material in their mix. Regardless, Steve Dilling is an amusing and engaging band emcee, while Jason Moore and Greg Luck are strong, too. You'll enjoy Sideline.

Steve Dilling

Lonesome River Band 

The Lonesome River Band is simply one of the best closing bands in all bluegrass. Familiar as much of their material is, the band is as good as ever, perhaps better, at delivering it. Sammy Shelor is at the top of his game, the band's singing and playing are terrific. They deliver!

The Details

Tickets: The time limit for getting a pre-season discount on tickets has passed. For information on tickets or to order them, go here. Tickets now are $30 a day or $85 for the whole festival. Bluegrass is a huge bargain.

Camping and Other Lodging - Usually by this time, all water and electric sites have been rented, but there usually is some space available for rough camping. Call 865-397-7942 for further information or email at Since this is a major resort area, there are many lodging choices. You can get further information from the Sevierville Area Chamber of Commerce.   

Jamming - Jamming is encouraged at Dumplin Valley and a jam can be found in the campground at almost any time. Take a look around.

Vendors: There are always a number of food and craft vendors available. This year there will be an ice cream vendor and one offering fried pies, a southern delicacy. There's always barbecue and foods as well as craft vendors and instrument supplies.

Johnny Adams & Lamar Moss 

In the Pavilion Early in the Week

Johnny Adams


W.a and Rhonda Pate's Hospitality Tent & Jam

How to Get to Dumplin Valley
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See You There!