Tuesday, April 26, 2016
L-R: Carley Arrowood, Brooke Aldridge, Mark Fain,
Jimmy Fortune, Darin Aldridge, Tyler Collins
Cherryville, North Carolina is a small town with few attractions to bring in tourists. On this beautiful Saturday in high Spring, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival blocked off the center of town as our GPS led us unerringly to the Starned Auditorium at the Cherryville Middle School. We arrived to find Jimmy Fortune, former member of the famed Statler Brothers (1982 - 2002) and multi award winner for his song writing. As a member of the Statler Brothers, he has been inducted in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Currently, he is touring with the popular bluegrass and country act, Darin & Brooke Aldridge whose singing and playing perfectly blend together with Frotune's to create an exciting, even riveting evening of song.
Unspoken Tradition, three of whose members are former students of Darin Aldridge, and who have grown up and been nurtured at Jack and Judy Bingham's hard to find but beloved Bomb Shelter. Unspoken tradition is a hard driving band that writes much of its own material. They have a new CD out and are continuing to develop. The band was warmly greeted by the mostly local crowd during their short set.
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Darin & Brooke have been touring together leading a high quality five or six piece band playing at festivals and in concert halls for seven years gaining both experience and recognition from fans and peers. Darin spent more than seven years touring with the famed Country Gentlemen and, after Charley Waller's death, put together a band, composed of several other former Country Gentlemen alumni. When he met Brooke Justice, however, he knew he'd reached a fork in the road. They began singing together, then formed a duo and were soon married. Since then, they have released seven CD's to strong reviews, often making it to the bluegrass charts. Their most recent CD Snapshots, contains the Johnny Cash song "Tennessee Flattop Box" which reached the top of the bluegrass charts and stayed their for some weeks.
Darin & Brook Aldridge -Tennessee Flattop Box - Video
The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band
The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band offered one of the best sets we've seen from them as they performed. Their enthusiasm and musicianship was strong. Carley Arrowood, at age twenty, has matured and grown as both a fine fiddler and fine harmony singer. Her fiddle features wonderful fills and harmonies that contribute their clear, full sound to the musical magic woven by this band. Meanwhile, her harmony singing complements Brooke's power and accuracy just right. Tyler Collins, from east Tennessee brings a wonderfully tasteful banjo, never seeking to dominate while also playing guitar to free Darin to be featured on mandolin, his first instrument. Veteran bass player Mark Fain, known for his work with Ricky Skaggs and others, brought deep experience and fine timing to the group, adding significantly to the evening..
Carley Arrowood & Brooke Aldridge
The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band - E.M.D. (Eat My Dust) Video
Jimmy Fortune communicates a huge zest for performing as well as a joy in interacting with his audience in an intimate, outgoing, forthcoming way. His fans are familiar with many of his songs, first introduced during his time with the Statler Brothers and, more recently on his own. He has now booked a series of dates with the Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band, a trio seemingly made in heaven, combining the two young singers with the veteran singer/songwriter still singing at the top of his game as he twines his familiar songs into the story of his life, giving intimate insights into how the songs developed and what their writing has meant to Jimmy himself.
Jimmy Fortune with Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Flowers on the Wall - Video
Fortune seems at ease in settings where he's with people. He spent time with the representatives of the Oasis Shrine (Masons) who were sponsoring the concert as well as telling the audience of the importance of Shrine Hospitals to him, because his oldest son had suffered from spina bifada and been treated by the organization. He seemed just as comfortable with the mayor and the janitor.
Jimmy Fortune with Mark Fain at Sound Check
Sound Engineer John Holder Made the Room Ring
Jimmy Fortune with Shrine Representatives
Pete Craft and Rev. John Stanley
Jimmy Fortune - I Believe - Video
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Spring Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival runs from May 12 - 15, 2016 this year for its 72nd semi-annual run, a record of excellence rarely achieved in bluegrass. (Disregard the headline...Dailey & Vincent won't be there this year.) Granite Hill Camping Resort is a large, comprehensive commercial campground catering to battlefield tourism and nearly weekly programs designed to fill it. While the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is a very important element of Granite Hills' offerings, it is far from the only activity it sponsors. Many bluegrass promoters are more passionate hobbyists presenting an annual festival than thoroughgoing business people. Promoter Rich Winkleman manages to fill both roles. Nevertheless, The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, held twice a year, is the campground's signature event and has become a bucket list festival for all bluegrass lovers.
Wernick Method Jam Camp
2015 Jam Camp Class
Ira Gitlin will be teaching the Wernick Method Jam Camp for the second year in a row on Monday - Thursday. People wishing to learn to participate in bluegrass jams are welcome to attend regardless of of previous experience. To enjoy jam camp, you need to bring a bluegrass instrument and know three chords, G, C, and D. Closet pickers always welcome.
2015 Jam Camp Class
ETSU Pride Band
Representing the undergraduate bluegrass program at East Tennessee State University, the Pride Band provides a look at where bluegrass is heading and the capable hands we're putting its future into.
Feller and Hill & the Bluegrass Buckaroos
Tom Feller & Chis Hill, two veteran performers from the mid-west have consistently strengthened and focused the efforts of their band, turning it into an entertaining, enjoyable group.
Dale Ann Bradley
Five time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Dale Ann Bradley brings her sweet, strong voice and enthusiasm to the stage at Gettysburg. Always one of bluegrass's most reliable performers, Dale Ann is a welcome addition to any lineup.
Steep Canyon Rangers
The Steeps continue to grow in their own chosen direction, challenging bluegrass stereotypes and winning fans. They've added the tasteful and effective percussion of Michael Ashworth to the whirling dervish fiddle virtuosity of Nicky Sanders and the solid singing and playing of the rest of the band. Whether it's Woody Platt, Graham Sharpe, Mike Guggino, or Charles Humphrey III, you can count on this band to push the envelope while providing thought provoking new songs to their repertoire. They'll perform one long set on Thursday evening.
Audie Blaylock & Redline
Audie Blaylock has played for Jimmy Martin and Rhonda Vincent, and Michael Cleveland which seems like a pretty good apprenticeship for fronting your own band. He's toured with Redline for about six years. Patrick McAvinue has been a standout in his band since the beginning. Evan Ward has returned on banjo. A hard-driving, traditional bluegrass band.
Rhonda Vincent & the Rage
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
Becky Buller has been around as an accomplished side-musician, with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, and song writer for a lot of different performers. She took her time to form her own band, and now appears to be her time. She won the IBMA Recorded Event of the Year award for her song "Southern Flavor," Emerging Artist of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year. She now has solidified her band to provide strong support for her music as well as fine individual efforts. Ned Luberecki, on banjo, is now full time with her band.
Rhonda Vincent & the Rage
Rhonda Vincent can be relied on to provide top notch entertainment with her always first rate band. Her daughter Sally has joined her, singing harmony and playing rhythm guitar on a more-or-less regular basis, making the right side of the stage strongly a family operation. Her familiar bus, looking freshly wrapped and hosting the Rhonda Vincent Boutique will be parked at the back of the seating area in plain view. No performer in bluegrass gives her fans a greater sense of having her attention when they get to the front of the line than Rhonda does.
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
The word on the street is that Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out has released one of their best CD's in years, Tyme for 25. The addition of Jerry Cole on bass and vocals adds genuine, lasting strength to the band while complementing Russell's voice well. The band has such a rich and varied catalog of hits that it's hard to fit new songs into a two set program. It seems that this time, it's well worth forsaking some favorites for some new and excellent material.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame last year and celebrating over fifty years as a performer, Larry Sparks is legendary for his fine singing of his own classic hits. Tennessee 1949 still leads my list. Who doesn't have a Katherine Ackers buried in his memory, or her male equivalent. His singing tops the list of many, many bluegrass fans.
Tellico will be appearing at the May Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival for the first time. Based in Ashville, NC, a thriving host to traditional string band music and progressive varieties of bluegrass, Tellico manages to marry the two, with added bows to other roots genres. The result is a delightful sound that I'm looking forward to hearing live, having streamed one of their CD/s. I may even stay up past my bed-time to hear their second set.
U.S. Navy Bluegrass Band - Country Current
One of the real delights in attending the bluegrass festival in Gettysburg is the frequent booking of Country Current, the U.S. Navy bluegrass band. As a recruiting tool of the armed forces, you can always count on them to play the rousing service hymns of all the divisions of the armed forces. Beyond that, they present a professional selection of traditional and newer songs designed to please a wide ranging audience. The only problem is, because of they're status, they don't record. Enjoy!
Dry Branch Fire Squad
Dry Branch Fire Squad has performed at every Gettysburg festival since the first one. With the retirement of Dan Russell and Brian Aldtidge this winter, the band has substantially changed its compoistion, with Adam McIntosh returning on guitar, mandolin and vocals and Jeff Bird joining the band on bass and harmony vocals. As often happens when bands add the right new personnel, DBFS seems to have acquired a new energy level and enthusiasm. They will also appear on Sunday for their much loved gospel set.
Speaking of new members...John Bryant, at tenor and guitar, brings a pure tenor voice and strong guitar work to the renewed and re-energized Grascals. My reaction, on hearing them at Palatka in February was, "The Grascals are back!" While three founding members remain as well as their signature sound, the Grascals are, arguably, as good as they've ever been. The photo I've chosen from their web site captures this spirit.
Ben Eldridge has retired from The Seldom Scene, after more than forty years destroying his back with his heavy banjo while delighting the band's legion of fans with his instrumental wizardry and dry humor. Rickie Simpkins, well known to Gettysburg regulars, joins the band on banjo and fiddle, adding versatility. For many, The Scene's long set on lazy sunny, Sunday afternoons is a festival highlight as well as their beloved huge catalog, presented in two additional sets on Saturday. Always a Gettysburg favorite!
Arriving from the highlands of the Smoky Mountains seven or eight years ago, Balsam Range, has produced volumes of recordings and a pile of IBMA awards, ranging through Song of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, to Entertainer of the Year. Drawing their inspiration from traditional bluegrass, gospel music, and a range of contemporary genres, the band delivers an exciting wall-of-sound coming from four lead singers and exquisite instrumentals.
Sunday at Gettysburg is always a special day for those who are able to stay through to the end. Beginning with Dry Branch Fire Squad's always popular gospel set, it continues through an afternoon of carefully chosen bands providing a tone and feeling just right for listening and enjoying. It's a bitter-sweet day, as leaving is always difficult, but for hard-core stay to the end diehards, this day can be a highlight of meeting new bands and treasuring well-loved one.
Dry Branch Fire Squad
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Darin & Brooke Aldridge have been astounding audiences for their singing and playing now for seven years. From their debut album to their chart-topping version of Johnny Cash's "Tennessee Flattop Box" they have successfully married Brooke's powerful voice to Darin's harmony singing and virtuoso work on both mandolin and guitar. Don't miss what will probably be a largely gospel set on Sunday morning.
Ferguson & Ferguson
Trinity River began their career as a largely gospel band coming from Callahan, Florida but now based on the road, traveling as they developed their vocal and instrumental chops. The younger sister, Brianna has grown up, becoming increasingly strong as a vocalist and fiddler. Sarah Harris's strong lead vocals have become recognizable, while brother Josh has broadened and steadily improved on both Dobro and guitar. They stand as an increasingly strong offering.
Ferguson & Ferguson
Composted of two Gary Fergusons, Gary Gene and Gary Allen, I have no idea at all whether they're related or not. Both singer/songwriters, with deep roots in bluegrass and Americana, they should bring just the right tone to Sunday at Gettysburg.
Seldom Scene (long set)
Workshops - As of this writing, the workshop schedule is incomplete. However, you can count on three days filling the workshop tent with interesting and informative programs. The all-star jam, held late on Friday afternoon is always a highlight. There are slow jams, presentations by bands and/or band members and more.
The Workshop Tent
Vendors: Gettysburg offers some of the best food vendors to be found at any festival! There's a wonderful Cajun food vendor, fine ice cream, all kinds of burgers, steaks and barbecue, hot dogs, and more. Interesting and varied craft vendors are ready for people wishing a change of pace from the music. Beer and wine are sold on the premises.
The Details: You can get information about ticketing and camping from the Granite Hill web site here. The campground is large, with varied terrain and amenities. Most of the full service sites have been reserved since last year, however, there are always changes in people's schedules, so keep in touch with the campground about openings. Many people have come to Gettysburg for years, camping and jamming together in interesting and varied compounds. The rough camping sites never sell out, as far as I an tell. Hot showers and flush toilets are available.
Plenty for Kids to Do in Safety
Many old-timers at Gettysburg come up on Wednesday to get their chairs down. Nevertheless, there's always plenty of room on the hillside, which provides wonderful sight lines and an excellent profile for the very good sound provided by Southern Sound to roll up the hill. The festival tries, often without too much success, to keep smokers from indulging near the performance area.
How to Get to Granite Hill Campground
Place Your current location in the Space Marked O
Click and a Map will be Produced for You
Gettysburg draws from a the entire middle-Atlantic states area as well as a generous sample from New England, the rest of the U.S. and abroad. As the first major festival of the summer season in the northeast, it is an eagerly awaited event. Nevertheless, weather in the area is mixed in early May. Attendees should come prepared for rain and even chilly weather. Nevertheless, this is one of the great bluegrass festivals, beloved by many who have been coming for years. You should consider joining their number at least once. You'll find yourself coming back time-after-time. See you there!