Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Palatka Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Monday - Thursday Review

At the Gate

Starting on Sunday through to opening on Thursday at noon, there's a steady stream of the gathering faithful coming to Rodeheaver Boys Ranch for this year's twelfth annual Palatka Bluegrass Festival. Norman and Judy Adams have brought together a comprehensive bluegrass festival leaning towards the traditional, but presenting enough contemporary bluegrass to keep those who like their bluegrass seasoned with a little extra spice happy. Meanwhile the days leading up to the opening present opportunities to visit, to jam and to eat out together, while, except for one scary night of hard rain and high winds, the sun was warm and the days pleasant.

Jamming with Johnny and Lamar

George Bottcher

Janet Moss

Johnny Adams & Lamar Moss

And Then the Music Began
Penny Creek

Penny Creek come from Melbourne, FL and has just released their first CD after ten years of productive work and development. The pieces have fallen together with the addition of Chris Paganoni, an able picker, singer, and songwriter, to the mix. Susan Pounds on bass provides the emcee work and solid singing. Isaac Taylor on banjo and sings both harmony and lead, while Bo Frazer is versatile, chiming in on fiddle and mandolin. I'm eager to record and post Paganoni's new song "No Words to Describe," which I think is the best song about the wars in the middle east I've ever heard. 

Christopher Paganoni

Isaac Taylor

Bo Frazer

Susan Pounds

It's always interesting to see the changes in major bands take effect as the larger bluegrass festivals open their spring seasons in Florida. New personnel, new material, renewed energy, and maybe some surprises come to the fore as a new bluegrass year stretches ahead filled with promise. Throughout the next couple of days, I'll try to make sure to point out new additions and changes within the bands.

Special Consensus

Greg Cahill has led the very good band "Special Consensus" through over forty years of making music that's varied, interesting, and entertaining with its mix of traditional bluegrass, swing, country, and jazz. His recent tribute to John Denver's music effectively places Denver's work in a new context. Meanwhile the move of Rick Farris to guitar after several years as the band's mandolin player brings Faris to the greater attention he deserves. His lead singing and flatpicking guitar are noteworthy, as is his work as a rhythm guitarist. New mandolinist Nick Dumas, still finding his way with the band, is a strong singer and mandolin player who will shortly be making his own mark. Meanwhile, Dan Eubanks is superb on bass. Doyle Lawson often receives credit as a teacher of fine bluegrass musicians. One look at the new Special C t-short, which lists the alumni of this band, clearly demonstrates the Greg Cahill need take back seat to no one as a developer of young musicians, while he stands out as a warm, friendly, and effective leader.

Greg Cahill

Rick Faris

Dan Eubanks

Nick Dumas

Special C Alumni T-Shirt

 Feller & Hill

Since their debut at the MACC (Musicians Against Childhood Cancer) a few years ago, Tom Feller and Chris Hill have consistently improved and developed their band, Feller & Hill, in terms of repertoire, performance, and entertainment value. These two veteran performers have molded a show composed of music representing their tastes and backgrounds that works well, filled with energy and enthusiasm. Utility man Bryan Blaylock did a fine job this weekend filling in for Mark Poe. 

Tom Feller

Christopher Hill

Bobby Davis

Bryan Blaylock

Feller & Hill

The Lonesome River Band

The Lonesome River Band remains one of the finest bands on the bluegrass circuit. They don't have to prove themselves to anyone, but they work as hard as any other band, while staying fresh and lively. I'm truly tired of hearing from bluegrass fans with a longer memory than ours how the LRB of today doesn't compare well with its much earlier manifestation. Nostalgia almost always speaks louder than reality, but this version of LRB is the best since we've been watching and listening to bluegrass. Jesse Smathers is certainly the best tenor they've had in years, while Barry Reed is a wonderful, well-rounded bass player who sings well in addition to picking with the very best. Five IBMA banjo player of the year and the Steve Martin prize attest to Sammy Shelor's place in bluegrass history. Mike Hartgrove is simply a fine fiddler. Finally, Brandon Rickman deserves belated, but heartfelt, consideration for male vocalist. He's a nuanced, thoughtful singer with just the right bluesy voice for this band.

Sammy Shelor

Barry Reed

Brandon Rickman

Mike Hartgrove

Jesse Smathers

The Spinney Brothers

The Spinney Brothers, from the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, bring their love of home, family, bluegrass and country music to their hard touring and skillful presentation. Over the last few years they have consistently become more entertaining and seemed more spontaneous in their delivery. You can count on them to deliver an enjoyable and professional performance no matter where you see them. 

Allan Spinney

Rick Spinney

Gary Dalrymple

Terry Poirier

Rick & Allan Spinney

Band Bus Row

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

Rhonda Vincent has put together one of the most consistent and well-regarded bands in bluegrass to complement her obvious vocal and personal strengths. After years of touring, she can still give lessons in how to win fans and in fan relations to almost any other band in the business. With highly regarded musicians at each position, including Josh Williams, who has been awarded the IBMA guitar player of the year recognition three times. This week Rhonda's daughter Sally Berry came along to sing harmony, ably filling a crucial position. Sally looked and sounded the best I've ever seen and heard her, comfortably and happily fitting in. Brent Davis is distinguishing himself as a young and able Dobro player.

Rhonda Vincent
Thanks, Rhonda

Hunter Berry

Aaron McDaris

Josh Williams

Mickey Harris

Brent Davis

Sally Berry

Norman and Judy Adams - Festival Promoter

More coming!