Tuesday, May 5, 2015

HoustonFest 2015 - Friday: Review

We woke up Friday morning to a chill, windy, wet morning, the worst kind of day for an outdoor festival as spring seemed to be slow to reach the Virginia highlands. It had rained most of the night, and we feared the worst. HoustonFest is a two-day festival dedicated to the spirit and warmth of the late Houston Caldwell, his life ended too soon in a motorcycle accident on his way home to Galax after a day at Merlefest,  It is a young festival just reaching out to newer audiences with a thoughtfully conceived lineup of Nashville household names assembled to celebrate the release of a new CD celebrating the famed Bristol sessions of 1927, in which Ralph Peer recorded local and regional artists for the first time, putting country music on a track to greatness. The two days would combine youth and experience, famed and unheard of, old-time string band music and creative young bands which would combine their roots in bluegrass with the jams of a much newer and more youth-oriented sound. Somehow, unlike many traditional festivals, this one presents change while celebrating the traditions found in the darkest hollers of rural Appalachia.  By the time fireworks marked the end of the event on Saturday, our fears were buried as another wonderful two days traveling down different musical paths growing from varying traditions had been successfully celebrated. There's so much happening here, that two of us couldn't adequate cover it all. In this post and another to follow, I'll try to capture the spirit and vibrancy of this important and wonderful musical event. 

Main Street Galax

Galax is a small town where music has been nurtured and grown for decades. It is the home of the famous Galax Fiddler's Convention, first held in 1935. Barr's Fiddle Shop, where Houston Caldwell studied banjo, is, perhaps, where its musical heart beats most strongly.

Barr's Fiddle Shop

Emcee - Harold Mitchell

Amber Collins Sings The Star Spangled Banner

Amber Collins & Branch House Pavilion

Amber Collins

Film  Crews from Virginia Tourism Were Everywhere

Emily Miller
The Hardest Working Photogapher

Houston Caldwell

Lola Bryant - The FaceBook Voice of HoustonFest
So Many Crucial Volunteers

The Camp Houston Youth Stage
Josh Riddle & Carolina Express

The Camp Houston Youth Stage is the center of young picker culture at HoustonFest with sixteen scheduled bands over two days performing there. While it was impossible for me to capture each performance on this stage or to catch the names of all the young people, I know I can count on my readers to supply the names. Email me or contact me through Facebook. I'll try to post a Google Album within a week of all the photos I took of young people. Meanwhile, I'll present a representative sample of what kids will do when left to be young pickers discovering each other and enjoying the scene.

Parents, Peers, Fans & Families

The Firehouse Stage

Kitty Ameral & the Stray Kats Band

Terry Baucom & the Dukes of Drive

Terry Baucom - The Duke of Drive

The Chuck Wagon Gang

The storied gospel quartet sings "Shall We Gather at the River" on Orthphonic Joy.  Their style of gospel singing is popular and celebrated throughout the world. 

Jeremy Stepens

Kits Being Kids

Elizabeth Greisson Helping a Budding Emcee

Presley Barker

Shadow Grass Band

Trajan Wellington - 2014 Scholarship Winner

Orthophonic Joy, a new CD produced by Carl Jackson, was debuted at HoustonFest this year. Each day featured a showcase set of musicians singing songs from the recording as well as performances by many of the artists who were involved in the recording, celebrating the 1927 recording sessions in Bristol, VA/TN which kicked country music to a higher level. The complex festival design resulting from close cooperation between festival organizers and Jackson, celebrated a rich musical heritage and showcased contemporary artists who both carry on the traditions and add to them. While neither what we today call bluegrass and country music existed as genres in 1927, this moment in history has been characterized as the "Big Bang" of country music. 

Shotgun Rubies
Will Carter, Delnora Reed, Val Story & Beth Lawrence

Val Story

Delnora Reed

The Overbay Sisters & Val Story
The Overbay Sisters are Val's Mother & Two Aunts

Delnora Reed & Val Story

Corey Piatt with Some Young Friends

Danielle Yother

The Church Sisters

Savannah Church

Sarah Church

The Virginia Luthiers
Spencer Strickland, Gerald Anderson
Wayne Henderson & Jimmy Edmonds

Spencer Strickland

Every Year a Beautiful Cake in the Mess Tent

The Mess Tent
Volunteers & Performers

Volunteers Serve Lunch

Robin Hamric Arnold

Orthophonic Joy Showcase
Clay Hess, Jeremy Stephens, Delnora Reed
Ashley Campbell, Val Storey, Carl Jackson & Will Carter

Will Carter

Clay Hess

Carl Jackson

Cory Walker & Nick Keen

Eli Bishop, Clay Hess, Marty Stuart, Carl Jackson,
Corbin Hayslett & Will Clark

Marty Stuart, Spencer Strickland, Stan Hill, Julie Hudson,
Jeremy Stephens, Ashley Campbell, Carl Jackson, Shannon Campbell

Clay Hess, Larry Cordle & Carl Jackson

Cord & Carl

Carl Jackson & Wayne Henderson

Scott Freeman & Jimmie Edmonds


Beth Lawrence

Corbin Hayslett

Danielle Yother & Brandy Miller
Banjo Stage

Jeff Little Trio

Talk about strange musical combinations at an acoustic music festival...and it works soooo well!

Steve Lewis

Jeff Little

After sunset, the temperature fell quickly to the high low fifties, and kept going down, but we didn't see a drop of rain and the crowd was chilly, but happy as they looked forward to the Marty Stuart show.

Emcee Cindy Baucom

The Harris Brothers

The Harris Brothers, from Lenoir, NC are one of the unheralded group of hugely able, entertaining musicians whose music doesn't fit neatly into a specific genre. They play roots, jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass, swing, and more with equal facility, creating a mixture of fine guitar and singing.

Ryan Harris

Reggie Harris

Marty Stuart & the Fablulous Superlatives

Marty Stuart joined Lester Flatt's band when he was fourteen years old and apparently never looked back. He has become a country music legend, seemingly without musical boundaries and always open to new, high quality material. He's won five Grammies in country music and is well known as multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, photographer, and historian. He's a wonderful story teller who charms as he teaches. His photographic work is spare and precise, the work of a man with a great eye. He's also noted for having one of the finest collections of music memorabilia extant. His show is filled with bluegrass, country and gospel music delivered with huge energy. 

Marty Stuart

Harry Stinson

Kenny Vaughn

Chris Scruggs

The day was exciting and satisfactory, built around Orthophonic Joy, yet standing on its own, too, as each performer contributed doubly with the old songs, many first recorded nearly eighty years as well as contemporary and traditional music from the bluegrass tradition and forging ahead into new directions. 

The Grand Finale

Robin Hamric Austin & Carl Jackson

The Appreciative Crowd

Jamming Out Behind the Stage