Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival 2014 - Friday: Review

Jamming at the McNabb - Crumley Compound

Wherever you wander at Dumplin Valley, there's music in the air. Organized jams are everywhere. Step under the tent to listen for a while, or bring your instrument and sit in for a while. Perhaps the most distinctive element of the bluegrass culture lies in the high number of fans who are musicians themselves. It helps form a bond where all that's known about a person is that they can sing a song, pick, or otherwise contribute to the mix. You may be standing next to a banker or a bum, but all you know is that the person picks. Regardless of whether the pickers come to the stage show sometimes or not at all, their contributions are real, recognized, and important. I try to find others to pick with who are my level or even a good bit better, but who welcome people into their jam. Last weekend, I tried to pick for at least a few minutes every day and found that playing with others helped me improve faster than I thought it would. I'm a convert.

Donna Ulissee & the Poor Mountain Boys

Donna Ulissee's warm, mellow voice highlights her own wonderful songs accompanied by stories about how the songs arose to produce a genuine and interesting performance. Recently she has presented here narratives with a very effective instrumental background building into the song itself even more effectively. We have watched Donna move from being a relatively uncertain performer who had toiled behind the scenes as a contract song writer and demo recording performer for many years, into smooth, polished performer who reaches out to audiences in ways that draw their appreciation. She's surrounded herself with a strong band, featuring the excellent harmony singing of her husband Rick Stanley as well as a corps of Nashville session musicians whose work is always crisp.

Donna Ulissee

Rick Stanley

John Martin

Tony King

Greg Davis

Bill Baldeck

The James King Band

The great James King has been ailing. His voice is not at the top of his game, and he tires easily. Nevertheless, his spirit is undimmed and he continues to thrive on performing the great material for which he is known, both the Stanley Brothers covers that brought him to prominence, and the story songs like Echo Mountain, The Bed By the Window, and Thirty Years of Farming that continue to bring tears to his eyes and those of his audience. At present, only Merle Johnson remains from the band he's toured with for the past few years, so a good deal of his effort is focused on teaching his band as he moves into the uncertain future. A national treasure.....

James King

C.J. Lewandowski

Merle Johnson

Eddie Lovelace

Dylan Scott

Emcee Freddy Smith Shows Up
with the WDVX Chicken

James King & Eddie Lovelace

In the Barn

Edrah and Paul Williams Stopped By for a Visit

Volume V

Glen Harrell has been in bluegrass for most of his life and toured with Marty Raybon and David Davis. This year his own band, Volume V, has received well-deserved nominations for Emerging Band of the Year and Recorded Gospel Event. Glen's singing and fiddle play are both very solid, and he has surrounded himself with a young, energetic, and creative band, recently joined by Colby Laney. 

Glen Harrell

Patton Wages

Harry Black

Colby Laney

Chris Williamson

Promoters Joe & Mitzi Soward with Grandaughter Eliza

Balsam Range

This has been a breakout year for Balsam Range, nominated for IBMA awards in four categories: Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year, as well as Buddy Melton's nomination for Male Vocalist of the year. They sing and play with power and conviction. They include many original songs and very carefully selected covers in their material which includes southern rock, Jim Croce, and Bill Monroe. Quite a range. The band has four lead singers, giving it a versatility rarely found.  Their content is characterized by songs the require thought while demanding careful attention. The wall of sound they create, with the able assistance of sound man John Holder, is unequaled in bluegrass today. Their ensemble presentation features no stars, just a completely satisfying musical experience. 

Buddy Melton

Darren Nicholson

Tim Surrett

Caleb Smith

Mark Pruitt

Buddy Melton

Wesley Soward Places Camera for Stop Action

Greg Davis Just Restin'

Promoters at Dumplin Valley
L-R: Mathan Holt (Plains Bluegrass, Auburn, AL), Mike Garlock (Brantling Bluegrass Festival, Sodus Bay, NY), Tanya Jones & Cindy Pinion (Pinion-Boxcar, Chatanooga, TN) W.a Pate, Jill Holt, Bertie Sullivan (Two Rivers Bluegrass Festival, Leeksville, MS, Joe & Mitzi Soward, Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

Rhonda Vincent has appeared at all but two iterations of Dumplin Valley. With her capacity to draw fans, she's one of the important factors leading to the growth and success of this festival. As important as her voice is to bluegrass, one of the distinguishing characteristics of Rhonda Vincent is her dedication to her fans. No performer we're aware of attracts more people to her merch tables or stays longer meeting and greeting each one than Rhonda does. He ability to give her complete attention to the person she's talking with is a feature that makes her beloved to her fans, many of who travel good distances to see and hear her sing. By slotting true virtuoso, stars in their own right, to her band, she not only maintains one of the best ensemble bands in the business, but get to rest her voice enough to sing at top quality. Her skillful blending into her bluegrass performances of the country music she also loves is appreciated by most bluegrass fans.

Rhonda Vincent

Hunter Berry

Mickey Harris

Aaron McDaris

Josh Williams

Brent Davis


Aerial Photo of Dumplin Valley