We went over to the Big Lick site to catch a few of the Open Mic bands after setting up camp in the Uwharrie National Forest Arrowhead Campround. After a couple of months hearing local bands and open mics in Florida, we had forgotten how impressive even inexperienced North Carolina bluegrass bands are. We were most impressed by The Charlottetown Collective, playing its first ever gig. If they continue to develop, they will demand serious attention in the not too distant future. Brandon Henson on banjo is a real standout. A young, local band, whose name I've lost, also showed promise.
College Drive has benefited from an additional year of working together, which shows across the board. Nicole Brand, is a standout as a singer, fiddler and band emcee. She exhibits the kind of personal magnetism you look for in a band along with playing the most difficult bluegrass instrument of them all.
The Spinney Brothers, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia's current gift to the U.S., played four sets over two days, one of which was a last minute substitution for the ailing James King. Their music represents a good mixture of traditional music in both country and bluegrass genres mixed with traditional sounding new bluegrass songs by the likes of Tom T and Miss Dixie Hall and Mark "Brink" Brinkman. They are always professional and thoroughly prepared. They were well-received at Big Lick and have experienced increased popularity since being signed by Mountain Fever records. They've been nominated for several IBMA awards.
Joe Mullins has the best band he's had since I've been watching him. Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers have added Dwayne Sparks as lead singer a couple of years ago. His addition has added the necessary high quality vocals. Randy Barnes came on providing his always reliable bass beat. Now the pieces have fallen into place with fiddler Jason Barie added, and getting the opportunity to shine of fiddle after some years of mostly background work. Mike Terry, solidly reliable on vocals and mandolin is the only remaining member of the Radio Ramblers. Meanwhile, the band appears to be having more fun than they ever have, both on and off-stage. Good show.