Monday, September 21, 2015

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Thursday: Review



Dumplin Valley Farm RV Park in Kodak, TN is the home of an exquisite, small festival that has been built by Joe and Mitzi Soward over the past sixteen years into one of the most comfortable and welcoming venues on our bluegrass circuit. We don't spend near enough time west of the Smokey Mountains, but this annual trip to Tennessee has become one we truly treasure for a number of reasons. While Dumplin Valley Farm hasn't been a working dairy farm for many years, the symbolic silos rise over what once was a milking parlor, but now serves as the stage and covered shed for the festival. The grassy grounds with many sites providing full hookups while most offer at least water and electricity have been lovingly developed. There's little dust and plenty of room to squeeze together people who've come to know and value each other. The festival's lineup is always solid. There's wall to wall jamming at all hours, and the quality of the hospitality is astonishing. Enough gushing....let's get onto showing the event. 

Johnny Adams & Lamar Moss

Each day before the festival begins and then during the festival, too, Johnny Adams and Lamar Moss host a jam where all are welcome, everyone gets a chance to participate at their own level, and lots of good picking helps people grow in the music.

Barbara and Bobby Mull

The Mulls have been at Dumplin Valley since the beginning and serve as crucial top staff, making sure the Sowards always have thougtful, hard-working support. 

Bethel University Renaissance Band

Over the past three years we've watched the College Drive unit of the Bethel University Renaissance Bluegrass Band grow and mature from an enthusiastic crew of eager learners into a polished and satisfying bluegrass band while furthering their educations. Next time we see the band, the personnel will be completely changed, but the promise of the development of their faith and professionalism will certainly show the power of music to contribute to growth.

Cory Kirkwood

Sydney York

Jay Kaysar

Nicole Brand



The Bluegrass Way

Barefoot Nellie & Co.

Barefoot Nellie & Co. is an earnest band based in Chattanooga which won the band contest at Bluegrass on the Plains last year, earning them a recording session at Mountain Fever Records. They're young, hard-working, and eager to please. 

August Bruce

Kyle Tolbert

Sam Crabtree

Eric Bruce

Michael Clements
Thanks, Mindy

Time To Do a Little Trading

Mitzi Soward - Co-Promoter

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier

Jimbo Whaley is a dynamic entertainer and strong song-writer who's seen too seldom since he left Pine Mountain Railway, a band he founded, to devote himself to his family and local business interests in the Gatlinburg area. He says the band is Greenbrier, that it doesn't need his name in front to bring attention to it, but Googling "Greenbrier" draws attention to a certain famous hotel in West Virginia. Well-known in East Tennessee, this is a band that appears to be ready to start traveling again and is well worth consideration. The musicians are impeccable, the entertainment is palpable, the fun is everywhere. Roger Helton is a consumate artist in almost any style on both banjo and guitar. Matt Leadbetter is a fine Dobro player whose skills rival those of his Dad, Phil.

Jimbo Whaley

Roger Helton

Matt Leadbetter

Scott Karis

Abbie Sinders

W.a. and Rhonda Pate's Hospitality Tent


Balsam Range

Balsam Range is the reigning IBMA Entertainer of the Year and has been nominated again this year. Their powerful music and lively stage show keep the audience entertained and interested. Including a range of music from old mountain through gospel, bluegrass and country to grassed rock and Jim Croce gives lots of variety while staying close to the bluegrass template. With four singers, they can combine and recombine to give lots of variety. Buddy Melton, on fiddle, is also this year's Male Vocalist of the Year.

Buddy Melton

Caleb Smith

Darren Nicholson

Tim Surrett

Marc Pruett



Cordle, Salley & Jackson

Between them, Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, and Jerry Salley have won Grammy, IBMA, and Dove awards as well as sold millions of records with their bluegrass and country songs. Some have become standards while others are included in hymn books. Each has written so many familiar songs that when they join as a group to sing and play together, people in the audience say things like, "I didn't know he wrote that one!"

Carl Jackson

Larry Cordle

Jerry Salley

Food Vendor

Bluegrass Madonnas