Saturday, February 21, 2015

Palatka Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Friday: Review

Friday and the Rodeheaver Boys' Ranch opened clear, bright, and...cold, with temperatures hovering in the high twenties. I don't think this is the coldest it's ever been in Florida, but the chill has been persistent and the wind biting. In the sunshine it's pretty bearable, but anywhere in the shade, one gets chilled very quickly. Nevertheless, a good crowd is here and ready to listen to the music and help support the Ranch.

Penny Creek Band

We saw Penny Creek at YeeHaw Junction and were impressed there. Happily, they were eager to showcase here at Rodeheaver and were scheduled for a piece of the hour set aside between 11:00 and 12:00 when showcase bands are presented. Despite the cold fingers and tuning difficulties attendant to an early start, they again acquitted themselves well, showing their entertaining musical and personal mix. Their music ranges from Bill Monroe through some very fine second generation covers to western swing and beyond. This band should be watched and nurtured.

Susan Garrett Pounds

Isaac Taylor

Chris Paganonni

Bo Frazer

Susan Garrett Pounds

Vendors Row

The VW Boys

The VW Boys offer bluegrass festivals an amusing and musical interlude that can be a welcome relief from band after band. Featuring television promoter and personality Tim White (Song of the Mountains on your local PBS affiliate), "Fat" Albert Blackburn, and Dave Vaught in a program of magic, humor, and song, the show gives what it advertises. The band can offer a welcome change of pace while staying right in the traditional groove.

Tim White

Dave Vaught

"Fat" Albert Blackburn

Golf Cart Corral

Dry Branch Fire Squad

In an interesting bit of scheduling Dry Branch Fire Squad, the venerable old time - bluegrass band featuring Ron Thomason's topical/historical/hysterical humorous commentary on life in America as seen through his own unique lens paired with primitive gospel music, Hazel Dickens anthems decrying inhumanity, and deeply moving hymns to patriotic understanding. Thomason.s wry commentary is popular across political perspectives and age groups, a unique presence in this niche age. The band is filled with quality and the patience needed to stand by enjoying hearing material they've heard frequently. The band, well-loved in venues as diverse as Palatka, Gettysburg, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, has a nearly universal appeal.

Ron Thomason

Dan Russell

Tom Boys

Brian Aldridge

Ron Thomason

Bob Jeannin and the Flier Table

Soaking Up the Sun

The Boxcars

With the great Adam Steffey recuperating after shoulder surgery (an occupational hazard), the Boxcars appeared with a most solid fill-in while multi-award winning Ron Stewart functioned as a very capable band emcee as well as carrying the bass vocals, each of which he accomplished with skill and seeming confidence. The Boxcars repertoire features a strong representation of classic covers combined with loads of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Keith Garrett's mournful and arresting songs. Aaron Ramsey is a standout mandolin player whether he's functioning on the edge of edgy or in the traditional pocket. Gary Hultman, who joined the band at Jenny Brook last summer, is maturing into his role on Dobro. It's hard to remember he's still a student at ETSU. This is a terrific band, especially for connoisseurs of traditional and traditional sounding music. 

Ron Stewart

Harold Nixon

Gary Hultman

Aaron Ramsey

Jesse Baker Watching
It's always interesting to watch musicians watching

Sherry Boyd and the Audience

In the Audience

The Jimmy Fortune Trio

It would truly be a cheap shot to stereotype former Statler Brothers lead singer Jimmy Fortune's tour as a "and then I wrote" collection of nostalgia. Of course many of his older songs are present, but he's still writing, full of energy and current musical creativity, and surrounding himself with young attractive musicians pushing him to further heights. Fortune hits the stage with energy, sings with gusto, and reminisces about the past while looking forward. John Mayer, on banjo and guitar, is a future star just rounding into musical maturity. I've been watching him for several years, with each new appearance providing pleasant surprises. Keep an eye on John. Meanwhile, Sydni Perry, fresh off a tour as fiddler and backup singer with Patty Lovelace, sang and played with grace and poise. She too bears watching. Last year I wasn't looking forward to Jimmy Fortune's appearance, this year I was eager to see it, and well rewarded. 

Jimmy Fortune

John Meyer

 Sydni Perry

Jimmy Fortune 


Dailey & Vincent

Dailey & Vincent brought their eight piece, high-concept show band to Palatka for a rousing closing show. As always, the show was fast-paced, focused on a variety of tastes and preferences while continuing their strong strand of patriotic and religious fervor. Filled with talented musicians and accomplished entertainers, they meet the needs of festival and concert goers wherever they go. Despite Jamie Dailey's illness (he was unable to fulfill a commitment to appear in a Doyle Lawson reunion show here last night), the Dailey & Vincent show continued to entertain almost everyone with it's sometimes over-the-top pace and energy. Jimmy Fortune joined the band at the end for a reprise of some of his greatest hits, including one of my favorites, The Class of '57, two years before I graduated from high school. Elvira was playing in the background as I headed for bed.

Jamie Dailey

Darin Vincent

Jeff Parker

Santa Claus Shows Up
Told You It Was Cold!

Jesse Baker

Christian Davis

Bob Mummert

Seth Taylor

B.J. Cherryholmes

The Gospel Quartet

 Jimmy Fortune with Dailey & Vincent

The Moon with Venus and Mars
Photo by Debbie DiFulvio