The Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival will run from July 30 - August 2, 2015 at the Sugar Shack Campground in Thornton, NH along the Pemigawasset River in eastern NH just south of the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. The lineup is strong, and the campground is located in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled locations we've ever stayed in. The site, however, just barely conforms to the name campground, offering very few of the amenities most campers demand while being quite expensive for electric hookups. Regardless of this, the Pemi Valley Festival has all the bells and whistles of a very good festival - strong national and regional bands, workshops, a thriving jamming community, and more. Here's the scoop.....
The Feinberg Brothers are getting lots of play around New England this summer. Their intensity coupled with their youth and likability provide a good combination to go with their highly traditional musical choices.
Emerging as, perhaps, the best young band to come out of the northeast in recent years, The Lonely Heartstring Band, is composed of former students at Berklee and at the N.E. Conservatory of Music. The band was formed for a one-off appearance as a bluegrass cover band playing Beatles music. They have developed into an exciting band playing traditional, singer/songwriter, and bluegrassifications of rock music. Their version of Paul Simon's Graceland is simply stunning.
Claire Lynch remains one of the most versatile song stylists in bluegrass today. Her music is easy on the ear and flirts with bluegrass, swing, jazz, and country. Her already very good band has been strengthened by the addition of young Jarrod Walker on mandolin. Mark Schatz on bass and Bryan McDowell on everything else, as needed, fill out the band.
New Town, featuring Katie Penn on vocals and fiddle, has picked up its game and presents an engaging, pleasant show.
The SteelDrivers new CD The Muscle Shoals Recordings clearly signals the emergence as Gary Nichols as a leader in this band. Having arrived to replace Chris Stapleton, the fine country singer/songwriter, Nichols had to win over the respect of a rabidly loyal fan base who had been attracted by Stapleton, the new CD and his fine, nuanced live performances shows that the band chose the right man for the band, a singer with a flexible voice whose guitar picking is very good. Brent Truitt, the other changed position from the original band, brings humor and enthusiasm to the band, seemingly without great effort to engratiate himself to the audience. Richard Bailey is always fine on banjo, while Mike Fleming and Tammy Rodgers bring their usual high spirits and very good work sharing emcee, harmony and some lead, and fine picking to the band. This band is recovering from a low point, and will be reaching towards higher levels with a unique and welcome sound.
The Gibson Brothers are in the midst of another remarkable year. Because we see them at several festivals in New England and New York each summer, it may seem a little ordinary. But look at their schedule for a week or two. The two weeks beginning at Pemi Valley have them traveling from New Hampshire to New York to West Virginia to Maryland to Pennsylvania and back to New York. Each place they stop, the band comes out and gives its all. One of the top bluegrass bands in the world (no exaggeration), we're lucky to have this band in our back yard and even more lucky that they remember and are loyal to the festivals that provided them a boost when they needed it. I don't know if they're head to Alaska this year, but I think a trip across the Atlantic is in the offing for 2016.