Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Thursday & Friday: Review

Jam Camp

Several years ago, Pete Wernick (Dr. Banjo) decided to expand his Jam Camps, held in conjunction with several bluegrass festivals across the country, into a network of Wernick "Style" jam classes held by independent, approved contractors. Due to his commitment to the current Hot Rize tour, Pete was unable to be at Gettysburg this year. Ira Gitlin, a long-time assistant in Pete's camps, a certified Wernick teacher, and a well-known teacher and performer in his own right, ably led the Gettysburg jam camp this year with the assistance of Wernick style teachers Patsy Cline and Heidi Olsen. Seventeen people attended this satisfying camp which was held during the four days preceding the festival, culminating with a stage performance at the festival opening.

Ira Gitlin

Ira Gitlin

Caught Again with My New Love (Our First Anniversary)

Practicing Harmony
Ira, Irene, Heather, Rick

 No S on this Chest - Ira Gitlin

Remington Ryde

Remington Ryde, host of an increasingly successful festival in Centre Hall, PA, near State College, pretty much stuck to bluegrass music and presented a solid opening show.

Ryan Frankhouser

Richard Egolf

Gregory Moore

Billy Lee Cox

In the Campground

Mike Cleveland - Interview

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Mike Cleveland has had a national reputation since Pete Wernick put together a band including Mike, Chris Thile, Cody Kilby, and others. He has since been named IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year nine times. His current band features new, young banjo whiz nineteen year old Gaven Largent as well as a more familiar crop of players who've been with Mike for several years. Nathan Livers is strong and reliable on mandolin, while Josh Richards is a first-rate lead singer. Tyler Griffith on bass drives the beat. Mike has become an increasingly able and sometimes funny band emcee. Two good performances on Friday....

Michael Cleveland 

Josh Richards

Nathan Livers

Gaven Largent

Tyler Griffith

Bridget Powell

Tim Finch - Emcee

Blue Highway

Blue Highway, one of the most consistently productive and innovative bands on the bluegrass circuit for twenty years, showed up at Gettysburg relaxed and ready to have and give a  good time. I know they gave one, and from all appearances, they had one, too. There's something about Gettysburg that does that to bands, whether its the audience, the setting, or the great sound from Southern Audio, bands give their all here, and are rewarded for it with appreciation and recognition. 

Jason Burleson

Rob Ickes

Shawn Lane

Tim Stafford

Joe Cornett - Retired Promoter of Gettysburg

Hogslop String Band

The Hogslop String Band is a highly energetic old-time string band serving to remind knowledgeable bluegrass fans of the musical forms from which their music grew. Their rousing brand of music, which at the old barn dances repeated itself endlessly as folks danced themselves into a stupor, brought the Gettysburg crowd to its feet. They're a delightful change of pace band.

Casey Meikle & Gabe Kelley

Casey McBride

Kevin Martin

Graham Sherrill

Dailey & Vincent

While their ninety minute show did not close the Thursday night show, the big Dailey & Vincent production dominated Thursday evening at Gettysburg. With top singers and instrumentalists in every spot, and a fast-paced show including bluegrass standards and newly composed material, country songs, a large component of gospel music, and material from their Statler Brothers Cracker Barrel album. The show is carefully produced, taking advantage of the abilities and strengths of each member of the band. Both Jamie Dailey and his musical partner Darren Vincent run a tight ship, within which Jeff Parker operates with his own brand of off the wall humor and fine mandolin picking and singing. Christian Davis has always contributed a southern-gospel style bass voice, but has recently contributed humor and improved guitar skills as well. Dailey & Vincent cant be counted on to provide an entertaining show wherever they appear. 

Jamie Dailey

Darren Vincent

Jeff Parker

B.J. Cherryholmes

Jesse Baker

Christian Davis

Jamie Dailey

Darren Vincent

Emcee - Lisa Kay Howard
Bluegrass Country.org

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds originated in nearby Lancaster, PA but have since moved along. They are a trio of classically trained musicians who don't seem to recognize limits. This makes them difficult to categorize and delightful to hear. They write songs with interesting lyrics, delivering them with tight, often haunting singing and strong instrumental work. While finding some of their roots in bluegrass, they happily run the gamut within the freedoms of acoustic music. 

Oliver Craven

Maya di Vitry

Charlie Muench

Annabelle Smith - the New Addition to the Band

Warming Up Backstage

Kenny & Amanda Smith Band

Kenny & Amanda Smith were named IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year in 2003, Kenny twice as Guitar Player of the Year, and Amanda is the reigning Female Vocalist of the Year. Now, they seem to have developed after the birth of their first child, Annabelle, into a powerhouse band. I've always enjoyed their music. At Gettysburg, I enjoyed their show as Kenny, more relaxed on stage than I've ever seen him allowed the humor and country wit to emerge. Their chat became more interesting as they engaged with one another. They've added some really fine musicians in support of their show. John Meyer, on banjo, has star quality on both guitar and banjo along with adding a very good solo or harmony voice. Jacob Burleson, making his first professional appearance will be a force in music for many years to come. Kyle Perkins, on bass, provides the rock solid beat a band like this needs and wants. Kenny and Amanda Smith have become a band to really look forward to.

Amanda Smith

Kyle Perkins

John Meyer

Jacob Burleson

Caleb Smith & Graham Sharpe

Chris - the Backstage Major Domo

Balsam Range

We first saw Balsam Range in Shelby, NC at a local festival called The Art of Sound. We were immediately impressed with the power and excitement they could generate with the wall of sound thy created, their musical diversity, their playing, and their singing. Five friends from western North Carolina coming from differing perspectives had joined together as a part-time band. That all has led to their being named IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 2014 as well as Vocal Group of the Year while Buddy Melton is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year. Tim Surrett was named Mentor of the Year. Quite a haul for a group of five men from rural Haywood County in the western part of North Carolina, bringing backgrounds in bluegrass, gospel, country, rock and jazz to a bluegrass sound still right in the pocket while being clearly innovative and creative.

Buddy Melton

Marc Pruett

Darren Nicholson

Caleb Smith

Tim Surrett

The weather forecast called for thunderstorms every day of the festival, so the sun rained down on us for two solid days.

Steep Canyon Rangers

During the afternoon I had a chat with Woody Platt, lead singer for the Steep Canyon Rangers, reminiscing about our first time seeing them at Strawberry Park (where we're going next week) in 2007. "We weren't very good then," he commented. Seven years later, with exactly the same personnel, they've become a top band. While serving as comedian/banjo player Steve Martin's back-up band has certainly contributed to their growth, as a stand-alone band they've kept pushing their borders while remaining true to their roots. Their instrumental work is tight and disciplined, and their song writing sharp. They work in a song-based format, but aren't afraid to jam. They've added percussionist Mike Ashworth, tasteful and artistic, without a murmer. The Steeps have used modern technology to become wireless, giving them ability to be animated on stage without aimless wandering. Fiddler Nicky Sanders is a dancing sprite on stage while never missing a beat. Each member of the band contributes and the result generates enthusiasm and energy. 

Nicky Sanders

Graham Sharp

Charles R. Humphrey III

Mike Guggino

Woody Platt

Nicky Sanders & Charles Humphrey

Nu Blu

Nu Blu, from Siler City, North Carolina, has brought together a sensibility drawn from traditional bluegrass, classic country, and classic rock to create a successful sound. Their song Jesus and Jones recorded with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sam Moore has charted on the Billboard bluegrass charts. Fronted by singer/guitarist Daniel Routh and his wife Caroline, a fine songwriter and song interpreter on bass, the band is hard working and solid. Levi Austin on banjo and Austin Koerner on mandolin are more different than their confusing names would suggest. The band has been together for several years and benefited from the tightness the road creates. 

Caroline Routh

Daniel Routh

Levi Austin

Austin Koerner

Someone commented that Friday was North Carolina day at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival. There were four fine bands from the Tar Heel State, but a couple from other states, too. Sideline was there on Friday, but I'll report on them in my review of Sunday. I'm sorry for my own foul up this afternoon, but here it all is. We'll be on the road for the next two days, but I plan on getting my coverage of Saturday and Sunday up as quickly as possible. Keep an eye out for it. 

Supper Time in the Campground at Dusk