Monday, September 7, 2015

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival - Friday: Review

Some people wonder why New Jersey calls itself "The Garden State." They're those who only know the state from driving across the New Jersey Turnpike through the industrial corridor between Philadelphia and New York City, filled with the industrial and human infrastructure required to keep New York working. But drive through the rural northern hills or across the southern flats near the Delaware River and you'll discover the part of the state justly famed for its fresh produce - corn, peaches, tomatoes, peppers, and friendly, hospitable folks, some of whom love to play bluegrass music. Here the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival has thrived for forty-four years. At first it was a project of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. The Brandywine Friends of Old-Time Music, under the leadership of Carl Goldstein, with the assistance of the Board of Directors and legions of volunteers have produced this wonderful festival for forty-two years, always with the perspective of building a festival founded on tradition showing how bluegrass music has and is developing. This was our first visit to Delaware Valley. It surely won't be the last.

Carl Goldstein

The Salem County Fairgrounds is conveniently located along U.S. Route 40 a few miles west of the village of Woodstown, New Jersey, just across the Delaware Memorial Bridge south of Wilmington, DE. Perhaps 50 million people live within a three hour drive of the site. The grounds, relatively flat, provide little terrain to enable an elevated photo. The core of the grounds is a series of open sided pole barns, some with sandy floors, while others are concrete. A few buildings are walled providing a bit more quiet seclusion. The stage area is in the center, while the whole is surrounded with spacious lawns available for groups of campers to set up in compounds where they can meet, eat, jam, and spend time together. There's limited electricity, but neither water nor sewer hookups. A quiet area is provided where hours for running generators and jamming is limited. Otherwise, there are few rules and plenty of mutual consideration.

The Lineup is always governed by the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music Mission Statement that reads, "The mission of the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music is to help preserve traditional American music by presenting live performances of nationally known bluegrass, old time, and related traditional music styles in Northern Delaware and surrounding areas, and by fostering local traditional musicians." This year's lineup demonstrated the strength of the commitment and the diversity of music that comes under that umbrella, making this three days of music both diverse and clearly related to the goals.

Red Wine

Founded by Martino Cappo in Genoa, Italy thirty four years ago, Red Wine has consistently been one of the top bluegrass bands in Europe. They make periodic, but too few, trips to tour the U.S. Their shows are filled with energy, musicality, and humor. Their medley of classic tunes popular in America as representing Italian popular music shows how flexible bluegrass is and how our cultures touch and blend. Currently on a brief U.S. tour, Red Wine offers any bluegrass fan the opportunity to meet these delightful people and hear bluegrass through the ears of those for whom the music is not native, but whom it fits like a glove.

Martino Cappo

Silvio Ferretti

Marco Feretti

Lucas Belotti

Under Cover is Dry

Along the Tree Line Provides Some Shade

 Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run

Rebecca Frazier can split licks with any of the top flat pickers in bluegrass while singing up a storm. She has surrounded herself with hot pickers, several of whom are major contest winners (Winfield, Merlefest), They play a broad range of bluegrass as well as some jazz and swing that all seem to work together with their fine musical sensibilities.

Mike Sumner

Nate Leath

Isaac Eicher

Erik Alvar

Rebecca Frazier

Brief Shower - The Only Rain of the Weekend

Time Out for a Little Practice

Todd's Petting Zoo...

Gives Children of All Ages...

a Chance to Play All Kinds of Instruments

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys

Cajun music grows out of the the forced removal of French speaking Canadians to Louisiana from Arcadia in the eighteenth century. The signature accordian and fiddle combination moved with the displaced people (remember Longfellow's  Evangeline?) and was later influenced by African-American music of the delta. Much like bluegrass, it has been nurtured by a dedicated group of musicians, often playing for hours at local dances, and now has become a national niche music. Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys are one of the finest representatives of this lively and lovely music. As the music took hold, dancing broke out all around the perimeter of the performance area. Feet were tapping and smiles covered the faces of nearly everyone. 

Steve Riley

Kevin Wimmer

Sam Broussard

Brazos Huval

Kevin Duval

Steve Riley

The Gibson Brothers

Through dint of hard work, dedication, thoughtful consideration of their background and experiences, and talent the Gibson Brothers have spent more than twenty years building a catalog of great songs and a record that has, at this point put their eighth straight album at the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited, a record. Furthermore, they're nominated for five IBMA awards, to be given at a gala Awards Show on October 1, including a third Entertainer of the Year. They continue to provide their own wonderful compositions, classic country and bluegrass songs from other historic brother duos, and a between-the-songs brand of brother humor that never reaches the squirmy level. They're at the top of their game and getting better. While neither Clayton Campbell on fiddle nor Mike Barber has yet to receive an instrumentalist award nomination, mandolin great Jesse Brock is nominated for Mandolin Player of the Year for the second time. One suspects that the reason neither Leigh nor Eric has yet to win the Male Vocalist Award is that they have both reached the second level several times, where they cancelled each other out. 

Leigh Gibson

Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

Jesse Brock 

Clayton Campbell

Eric & Leigh Gibson

Some Bands Bring Fine Musicians
to Watch the Stage - The Gibson Brothers Do

At the Merch Table

Hot Rize

Legendary eighties band Hot Rize has reunited for an international tour that has attracted big audiences to important venues. Their new album features lots of new original songs from  Tim O"Brien , Nick Forster, Bryan Sutton, and an instrumental by Pete as well as two covers. They sang most of them, as well as taking requests for some of their classic material from years ago. Requests came hot and heavy, and many were filled. Much of their time was taken by that band that has traveled in the back of their bus for years, even when they fly, Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers with their Honky Tonk versions of old country songs. The whole show was greeted by the huge audience with a standing ovation. Pete tells me to look for Hot Rize to continue in a more interactive format the call UpRizings, which will feature fewer bands and more opportunities for member of various bands to interact with each other and with the audience. He sees this as a return to the "Story of Bluegrass" pioneered by Carlton Haney (with the help of Ralph Rinzler) and featuring Bill Monroe.

Pete Wernick

Tim O'Brien

Nick Forster

Bryan Sutton

Nick Forster & Tim O'Brien

Red Knuckles & the Trailblazer

Wendell Mercantile


Red Knuckles & Wendell Mercantile

Waldo Otto

Red, Wendell & Swade

Simply a wonderful day! More coming over the rest of the week. It's travel time for us and a visit with Irene's family, so keep watching. I'll get to it.