Monday, September 22, 2014

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival - Thursday: Review

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival in Kodak, Tennessee has developed into one of the very good, small to moderate sized events that draws a loyal crowd devoted to listening and participating in bluegrass music. It's the first festival we have attended since school began, so the audience tends to be a little older and less active than some we attend in the summer. But Dumplin Valley is noted as a pickers' festival with plenty of action going on all over the grounds at all hours. From Johnny Adams' open jam which includes pickers of all ability levels at about nine o'clock each morning several jams lasting late into the evening, there campground rings with music even when the stage shows are going on. Meanwhile, this year's lineup appealed to a range of bluegrass fans without a bad one in the bunch. Here's a look at some of Thursday's highlights.

Johnny Adams (mandolin) Leads a Jam
Under the Silos

Adams & Loudermilk

Dave Adkins and Edgar Loudermilk are beginning to pull off a very difficult task, which is marrying two different styles of singing and playing into a cohesive whole developing their own distinctive style and vibe. Adkins sells a song with his voice, his body, and his infectious enthusiasm. Loudermilk brings thoughtful plaintive songwriting and solid singing in several different voices. The band backing them has many strengths, is versatile, and musically satisfying. Altogether, the band is beginning to work on really drawing itself together.

Dave Adkins

Edgar Loudermilk

Andrew Crawford

Jordan Rice

Curtis Baumgarner

Glen Crain

The Little Roy & Lizzy Show

Little Roy Lewis and Lzzy Long continue plying the festival circuit with a combination of the ever popular Lewis Family material culled from sixty years of playing gospel music together and newer songs, many of which are written by the multi-talented Lizzy. They have added able young flat picker Tyler Biddix to the mix, supplying a much needed contemporary flavor to their music. Old fans are eager to here their traditional humor and other material,while those new to their act should understand they are seeing one of bluegrass music's most revered comics still practicing the almost completely lost baggy pants comedy of early bluegrass music. My apologies to the capable Nathan Stewart, whose picture I missed.

Tyler Biddix

David Hevner

Little Roy Lewis

Lizzy Long

Little Roy & Lizzy

Great Fried Pies

The Dumplin Valley Signature Silos

 Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice put on the sort of strong show has that has become expected of them, filled with traditional music, even when its new. Junior, whose influences are largely the work of the Stanley Brothers and the Johnson Mountain Boys remains one of the very best tenor singers around. A change is in the offing as long-time bassist Jason "Sweet Tater" Tomlin leaves to join a new band. The very able bass player Kameron Keller will be joining the band soon. Meanwhile, Jason Davis, who is also a veteran, despite still being short of his thirtieth birthday by a few years, is overcoming his natural shyness and even smiles on stage these days. Jamie Harper, on fiddle, and Jonathan Dillon on mandolin are both solid in their roles.

Junior Sisk

Jamie Harper

Jonathan Dillon

Jason Davis

Jason Tomlin

The Vocal Trio
Dillon, Tomlin, Sisk

Stage B

Located in a quiet corner of the campground near where the artists vehicles are parked, Stage B, hosted by Leon Johnson and his lovely wife Elaine, provides a respite where musicians and friends can meet, relax, eat, and enjoy each other's company. As Leon says, "Stage B is just a tarp and some chairs until a festival starts, and then magic happens." We were honored to be invited to Stage B this year for the first time, enjoying the food and fellowship found in what has become a tradition at a number of festivals. 
Leon hosting at the Supper Buffet

The Sign-In Banner
There are Many Illustrious Bluegrass Names 

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier

Jimbo Whaley, who these days makes his living selling, can sell a song as well as the best in the business. One of the founders of Pine Mountain Railroad, a successful touring band formed in 1998 and sponsored by a sausage company, was successfully led by Whaley for several years before he returned to his home in Pigeon Forge to go into business. Greenbrier, although it play relatively few dates is filled with very fine professional musicians who've decided it's a good idea to eat and feed their families. Roger Helton on banjo, guitar, and whatever else is needed is excellent. Matt Leadbetter is one of the finest Dobro players there is. It was a delight to see young and able Abby Sinders has returned to this fine, and underheard, regional band that performs too seldom.

Jimbo Whaley

Matt Leadbetter

Roger Helton

Scott Carris

Abby Sinders

Jimbo Whaley

At the end of his show, Jimbo stepped forward to accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after some weeks of seeing it as more a stunt than a worthy effort that has raised over $100 million for what is sadly an orphan disease. He was deeply moved by the plight of a woman he knows who's afflicted with the disease. Before stepping into a plastic tub on-stage, he challenged all professional bluegrass musicians in America to do the same. Joe Soward did the honors.

Jimbo Getting Dunked

The Audience Outside the Barn 

 Cordle, Jackson & Salley

Take three of Nashville's most prominent songwriters, each of whom is also an accomplished performer, who have penned more bluegrass and country hits than can easily be counted and put them on the stage in an informal setting to share their music. That was the concept first pioneered, as far as I know, by Darrell Adkins, promoter of Musicians Against Childhood Cancer, held annually in Columbus, OH in July. Since then, Cordle, Jackson & Salley have become a travelling road show popular at festivals around the country. Each writes distinctive, tuneful, and moving songs that burrow into the mind and captivate listener's imagination. Carl Jackson is a Grammy award winner whose songs are played everywhere in both bluegrass and country music. "Erase the Miles" may be the best musician's road song there is. Larry Cordle, whose band Lonesome Standard Time is one of the best, writes both story songs and message pieces. His "Murder on Music Row" is a standard to two genres. Jerry Salley's work has won awards in gospel music, bluegrass, and country music. His songs have been recorded by Elton John, included in church hymnals, and recorded by country music hall of famers. They're truly a distinguished and powerful group who put on a great show. We also celebrated Carl's sixty-first birthday with a cake large enough to be shared with the audience.

Carl Jackson

Jerry Salley

Larry Cordle

Happy Birthday, Carl!

Robin Arnold & Carl Jackson

At the Merch Tables

A full schedule and a fine lineup contributed to an unusually good Thursday suggesting that what was to come would continue to build. It sure did!