Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Preview

The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival will run for its fifteenth season from June 25 - 29, 2015 this year, but don't let that fool you. The gates open at noon on Tuesday the 23rd, and the action commences almost immediately. Once the early crush has arrived, found their favored camping places, and set up, the instruments come out and the jamming begins. So does the cooking, as folks are already looking forward to Wednesday evening and the annual Pot Luck Supper along with the barn dance that follows with the Clem Hawkins Revival Band providing classic country for dancing and listening. The music from the main stage begins on Thursday at noon.

Pot Luck & the Clem Hawkins Revival Band

The annual Pot Luck Supper at Jenny Brook on Wednesday evening has become a much looked forward to kick-off for this fine festival. Bluegrassers, as both music fans and pickers, are great eaters. After supper, the Clem Hawkins Revival Band will play classic country for both listening and dancing. The band's guitarist may be familiar.

The Clem Hawkins Revival Band

Mystery Guitarist

The Lineup
Bear Minimum

Just Dave Shaw and Dave "Tex" Orlomoski singing and picking great old standards together from the country and bluegrass catalogs. For some, that's enough.....

The Gather Rounders

The Gather Rounders is a new band for me, but any band with Lincoln Meyers and Ron Cody in it promises picking at the highest levels with both traditional and progressive bluegrass flavors in it. I'm eager to see and hear this band that comes out of Maine.

Zolla Boys

The Zolla Boys, two brothers supported by their Dad on bass, are young and inexperienced, but bear watching. They appeared at Strawberry Park a few weeks ago and have a busy summer ahead of them. 
The Lonesome River Band

Few bands in bluegrass today are known by their initials, but simply LRB says it all.  Sammy Shelor is a winner of the Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, perhaps the highest honor a bluegrass banjo player can garner. The band has a storied history and has been at the top of its game, again, for the past five or so years. The young Jesse Smathers, joining the band for the first time at Jenny Brook, won't disappoint on mandolin and tenor vocals as Randy Jones has retired from the road.

Jesse Smathers

LeRoy Troy & the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band

More than a novelty band and not just an old-time band,  Tennessee Mafia Jug Band returns to Jenny Brook by popular request with their amusing, entertaining and musical show. Featuring Leroy Troy and his re-creation of Uncle Dave Macon's banjo wizardry, the band is a hoot and (somtimes) a holler, too.

Mike Armistead

Seth Sawyer Band

The Seth Sawyer Band has been hard at work in Bob Amos' studio recording their first CD this winter. The word on the street, or at least in the field, says that this project will prove to have been worth the wait. Seth's songs have been well known and recorded by some top bands. I don't know, but I suspect we might get a chance to see and hear the finished product at Jenny Brook. 

Candi Sawher

Feinberg Brothers

I've never heard the Long Island, NY-based band, The Feinberg Brothers before, except to hear the two principals play in a jam at last summer's Podunk Bluegrass Festival in CT.  What I heard there suggests we're in for a terrific ride with this band. 

Larry Stephenson Band

The appearance of the Larry Stephenson Band at Jenny Brook is long overdue. Larry's pure tenor voice and combination of gospel music and traditional bluegrass has been inspiring and entertaining bluegrass audiences for over twenty-five years with his own band and for a decade longer as a sideman in some historically important other bands. Veteran banjo player Kenny Ingram is one of the greats. 

Great sister harmonies, a fine program of singer/songwriter, gospel, and carefully chosen songs from a variety of traditions, and a pleasant personal appeal make The Bankesters a pleasure to hear and see. It took me a while to warm to this band, but they just keep getting better and better. They're a family band with real flair making their Jenny Brook debut.

Spinney Brothers

The Spinney Brothers return to Jenny Brook is eagerly anticipated by their many fans. Coming from our neighbor to the North, they bring a distinctly Canadian (and Nova Scotia) character to their classic country and bluegrass performance. They've been busy boys this winter, and we saw them all over the South.

Danny Paisley & Southern Grass

It's a real pleasure to welcome Danny Paisley & Southern Grass back to Jenny Brook, where he was last seen at the old Weston venue. Danny's distinctive voice and powerful presence deliver bluegrass as many people think it "should" be. Danny's son Ryan on mandolin represents the third generation in this band coming from southeastern Pennsylvania, home of one of bluegrass music's great shrines, Sunset Park, where Danny often played in his Dad Bob's band. T.J. Lundy's return on fiddle is an additional treat. 

Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing

We came into bluegrass after the Front Range had disbanded, so when Bob Amos re-appeared last year with his new band Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing, he was new to us. The new band features his inventive traditional singing and banjo picking with the delightful addition of his daughter, Sarah. I took some time last week to listen to a couple of the Front Range albums from the last years of the last century and the early years of this one, and was floored by its vocal range and quality. Catamount Crossing retains some of the earlier flavor while bringing new material and band members to the fore. This is a terrific New England band well-deserving national attention.

Sarah Amos

Lost & Found

Allen Mills has lead Lost & Found since its founding in 1973. As both a singer, song writer, and leader of this band, he's been a standout. Based along the Crooked Road in southwestern Virginia, this band's work will be familiar to any bluegrass fan, as they play familiar songs, many of which were written by Mills and have become bluegrass standards. 

Nothin' Fancy
Tony Shorter & Mike Andes

Nothin' Fancy has become a centerpiece of Jenny Brook's charm. Their stage shows on Saturday, their closing act on Sunday afternoon, and their light-hearted get-togethers with their fans at the Sugar Shack's after hours jams are all highlights. Featuring both serious material and amusing novelty songs written by Mike Andes, along with Chris Sexton's creative approach to bluegrass fiddle, this band is a fan favorite wherever they play. 

Chris Sexton

Smokey Greene

Smokey Greene, at age eighty-something, has forgotten more songs than most performers have ever known. While threatening to retire for many years, he soldiers on with his country, bluegrass, and novelty songs delivered in one of the most recognizable and reliable baritone voices ever heard. 

Blue Highway
Tim Stafford & Rob Ickes

One of the most recognized and recognizable bands in bluegrass, Blue Highway, after twenty years has experienced no personnel changes. This leads to a tight band whose work is familiar and welcome from their first chord to the end of their shows. Rob Ickes is one of the most awarded Dobro players ever. Shawn Lane's tenor voice and song writing are among the best. With genuine strength in song writing, singing, and instrumental versatility, Blue Highway makes its Jenny Brook debut. 

Shawn Lane

Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers own Jenny Brook. They've been at every Jenny Brook save the first one. The Jenny Brook audience has watched them develop from a young band with promise to the heights of bluegrass popularity and quality. They've won too many IBMA awards to list, while never losing the personal qualities which initially endeared them to a small festival struggling to find itself in croewed little town park in Weston, VT. Nowadays they fill auditoriums and appear on A Prairie Home Companion, but they never forget where they came from. Some of their most memorable shows have been delivered from the Jenny Brook stage.

Eric & Leigh Gibson

Gospel Sing & Jam

Evangelist Mike Robinson's Gospel Sing & Jam has long been a popular feature at Jenny Brook, and Mike serves as the able MC, too.


Beartracks returns to the Jenny Brook stage after a couple of years absence. They are always eagerly awaited for the quality of their bluegrass and country singing and high energy. Brother/Sister Julie Hogan and Tom Venne are accomplished and lively.

Julie Hogan

JB Choice Awards Band

To Be Selected from the Grass Seeds Gazebo Stage on Saturday

JB Kids Academy

Always a feature of Sunday at Jenny Brook, the Jenny Brook Kids Academy has been re-invigorated by Aaron Foster. For more information, see below.

Zinc & Co
Cory Zinc

Cory Zinc has been a regular here since his days with Acoustic Blue. With his own band, Zinc & Company, he's come into his own as a classic country and bluegrass singer. 

To see the actual schedule, look here.


Tony Watt Bluegrass University - This year Tony Watt's Bluegrass University will be providing what amounts to the instrument and vocal workshop component of the festival, while the workshop tent will be used to hold a series of conversations between fans and bands similar to the one conducted with the Gibson Brothers with John Saroyan last year. The University will take place on Saturday afternoon with an introductory session at the Gazebo Stage on Friday at 6:00 PM. The locations of the various instrument and vocal sessions will be announced then and posted somewhere. The sessions themselves will run from 2:00 to 4:30 PM and will cost $35.00 per person with a maximum class size of nine. Further information, including a description of the individual teachers can be found here,

Bluegrass University Class

Tony Watt Onstage

The Grass Seeds Gazebo Stage - In the beginning, the Grass Seeds Gazebo Stage emerged as a place for pickup bands, fresh from jamming around the campground or even a little more well-established than that, came to compete, more for fun than for any hope of recognition. Under the able stewardship of Michelle Canning and the institutional encouragement of Candi Sawyer, the stage has emerged as a place for local and regional bands to compete for a place in the Sunday lineup and, perhaps, to be hired to fill a regular slot in the next year's schedule. The touring success of Hot Mustard has surely encouraged that. The hiring of The Gather Rounders for a slot on opening day will enhance the Gazebo's reputation. The band contest will run all day Saturday. You can sign up for a slot by emailing Michelle. Remember, all participants wishing to compete must be ticket holders for the weekend. 

Kids Academy: When we first met Aaron Foster at, perhaps, the third Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival then held in the Weston town park, he was a shy, ten or eleven year old, about six feet tall, trying to learn to play a Deering Goodtime banjo and learn to count to four. Now, a six foot tree (probably oak) he's nearly a college graduate, and has become a professional bluegrass musician on both the banjo and guitar. One of the bands he plays with opened for Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver the other day. And Aaron's the Director of the Jenny Brook Kids Academy. Over the past three years, Aaron has revived the Kids Academy, increasing attendance by about three times, and turning out excellent performances from the kids with his friendly, encouraging, enthusiastic leadership. The Kids Academy meets for practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, and performs on the Main Stage on Sunday. Details about the Kids Academy can be found here, along with a pre-registration form. There's no charge for Kids Academy. After all, that's where Aaron, and many others, first learned to play.

Aaron Foster

Kids Academy

Kids Activities: A full schedule of Kids activities will take place in front or in the Dodge-Gillman Building. Here's the schedule:

The Picking Place: Some people who would like to jam just aren't comfortable walking into a strange jam or feel out of place when they find their skills don't measure up. This year Candi has established The Picking Place, to be held in the Pulling Arena and facilitated by veteran jammers Debbie Hall and Bill Thibodeau. Everyone of every age is welcome to come sit in, play, and sing.

The Sugar House Stage has become the major after hours activity at Jenny Brook. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening, after the closing band finishes one of the day's bands will set up outside the Sugar House under a tent to jam with people who show up, play for the crowd that assembles, and have a good time making music. This year, The Tennesse Mafia Jug Band will hold forth on Thursday, The Larry Stephenson Band on Friday, while Blue Highway and Nothin' Fancy will share the honor on Saturday night. These sessions give young musicians and others eager to play and sing with a professional back-up band, and others to pick and sing with the best in an atmosphere of fun and good fellowship. The Sugar Shack sells local maple products during the day as well as snacks. There are evening snacks there, too.

Evening at Jenny Brook

The Artist's Stage - What was once the Workshop Stage has been re-purposed as the Artist's Stage. With instrumental instruction being handled through the Bluegrass University, the Artist's stage will host a series of moderated interviews, question and answer sessions, and perhaps some performing, too. At this stage, with two weeks to go before opening, On Thursday, LeRoy Troy of the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band will be interviewed by John Saroyan, who did such a capable job interviewing the Gibson Brothers last year. On Friday there will be two interviews, featuring the Feinberg Brothers and the Bankesters. Saturday Cory Zink will be interviewed, as will Bob Amos and Seth Sawyer, presumably about Seth's soon to be released CD, produced by Amos.  Kids Academy rehearsals will also be held at the Artist's Stage.

The Movie Theater: The movie theater, located near or in the Dodge - Gillman Building towards the back. For more information look here. Shows generally run from around 8:00 PM until 11:00.

The Details

Tickets: There are a number of ticket packages and ways to buy tickets to allow attendees to get the best combination of price and access available for them. Here's what it looks like:

For further ticketing information, look here.

Lodging: The primary lodging option for people attending Jenny Brook is camping. The camping facilities range from a limited number of water & electric (20 amp) sites to a huge range of sites from fairly secluded river front to spots where several friends can arrange their camping rigs into a compound to facilitate jamming and visiting. There are even some under cover sites which are ideal for tenters who are concerned about the weather. Tunbridge is in the hills of Central Vermont, and it often rains there. View a map of the venue here. It's always fun to walk the Tunbridge World's Fair grounds to see the variety of ways people set up their campsites.

Additional lodging is available in motels in White River Junction, VT where Jenny Brook has arranged for festival rates at the Comfort Inn and the Super 8. Additional lodging can be found across the Connecticut River in Lebanon, NH.

Camping at Jenny Brook

Explore the Jenny Brook web site for additional information.

How to Get to Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival
Place Your Location in the space marked o and click
for a personalized map to the Festival

Seth & Candi Sawyer

See you there!