After two days of cold, crisp wind blowing in from northern climes suffering much worse than we were, the crowd attending the Palatka Bluegrass Festival greeted a warm, sunny Saturday with eager anticipation and then massive appreciation as a day of wonderful music and generous support for host venue The Rodeheaver Boys Ranch.
Each morning during the festival the ranch serves a sumptuous buffet breakfast to ranch employees and festival attendees. Boys living on the ranch help serve coffee and are a welcome presence for their cheerfulness and helpfulness. Because the attend the local public school, boys at the ranch are not much seen during the first day, but their presence around the grounds working and sometimes stopping to enjoy the music adds the the total Palatka festival experience.
I can think of only a few other bands whose catalogs are so deep and varied that they risk becoming captive to their own historic production, The Gibson Brothers, in twenty years of active touring have created so much original and well-loved material that it's difficult for them to introduce new songs, yet they continue to grow, widen their repertoire and enrich an already nearly historic musical world. Their latest offering, Brotherhood, contains no Gibson Brothers original songs. Rather, it is a tribute to the historic brother duos in bluegrass, country, and rock whose unique harmonies have enriched music through the past half century, or more. They put their own spin on songs by groups you know well, like the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, and the Osborne Brothers as well as other lesser known brother duos. Their first release on Rounder Records, Brotherhood is sure to reach the top of the bluegrass charts, as have their last seven albums.
The Grascals closed Saturday night with a fine performance, responding to shouted requests that could have continued for another half hour after their appointed time. Featuring covers of the Osborne Brothers, who several members toured with, and other early bluegrass as well as fine songs they have selected through the years and popularized (Me and John and Paul, The Famous Lefty Flynn) as well as material written by lead singer Jamie Johnson, the band is always a strong entry. The addition of Adam Haynes has helped reinvigorate the band. The interactions between him and Danny Roberts on the left side of the stage are a delight to watch. Kristin Scott Benson's precise banjo and guitar play is always excellent, and it's a joy to hear her sing, too. Always relaxed and entertaining, the Grascals were well worth staying up for.