Thursday, April 14, 2016

Big Lick Bluegrass Festival - Oakboro, NC; Review

Big Lick's Neighbors

Our Festival Cottage

We arrived at the Big Lick Bluegrass festival northeast of the city of Charlotte on Wednesday to find the site to be busy as Bill Plemmons RV Center was placing trailers and setting up its display. The tent riggers were pitching the shade tents, which wouldn't be needed much this weekend, and the sound trailer was being set up. We were soon ready for the re-convening of the bluegrass community, composed of different people than we had spent the winter with in Florida, but familiar and comfortable for us. The light green of the leaves suggests how early in Carolina Spring this festival

Open Mic Bands - Thursday

Open Mic evenings can be dreary affairs, filled with pick-up bands and slow tempos. Not here, though, not in North Carolina, where there are competent pickers and solid bands all over the place. We knew it would be chilly, although Thursday evening turned out to be bearable compared to what would come the next two nights. I didn't get the names of the bands or the players in them. If you want to fill me in, just contact me through Facebook and I'll add the names. Meanwhile, there were strong young banjo players, plenty of experience, and good music for the early arrivals there on Thursday evening.

Promoter Jeff Branh Gives to Two Sign

Friday and Saturday

Wood Family Tradition

The Wood Family continues into its third generation following on the example set by A.L. Wood, his son Mike now fronts the family band as they deliver solidly traditional bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music with energy, humor, and skill.

Mike Wood

Joanie Wood

Bobby Wood

Jason Wood

Mackenzie Wood

Chris (no relation) Bryant

Mike Wood & Chris Bryant

Wood Family Tradition - Good Morning Country Rain - Video

Folks Stayed Warm as Best They Knew How!

 Bethel University Lee Street Band

Bethel University in McKenzie, TN through its Renaissance program has consistently shown a commitment to the arts, from dance, to theater, classical music, and bluegrass. Scholarships in the Arts are given much like other schools award athletic scholarships. For the fourth successive year, Bethel sent its bluegrass contingent to Big Lick, this year consisting of two separate bands. The bands represented their university well, both musically and personally.

Sophia Chambers

Jed Clark

Sydney Lambert

Corey Kirkland

Emcee Extraordinaire - Sherry Boyd

 The Spinney Brothers

Ths Spinney Brothers appeared for four sets over two days at Big Lick. They have a deep catalog and avoided repeating themselves, a tribute to them since it's difficult for any band to achieve such a standard, despite the obvious advantages for the bands and the promoter. Rick and Allan Spinney are well-liked by their fans and give them plenty of attention. Their combination of classic country, traditional bluegrass, and new-traditional contemporary songs delights their audience. 

Rick Spinney & Gary Dalrymple

Allen Spinney

Rick Spinney

Gary Dalrymple

Terry Poirier

The Spinney Brothers - Goin' Home to Tennessee - Video

 Myron & Jeffrey
Sound Guys with Blue Ridge Sound

Over two and a half days of quirky winds and chilled air, Blue Ridge Sound provided very good, consistent sound, not an easy job on windy days.

 Deeper Shade of Blue

We first saw A Deeper Shade of Blue about a dozen years ago at a monthly meeting of the Rivertown Bluegrass Society in Conway, SC. Three of the original members of that band are still active in it. Local bluegrass societies play an important part in continuing bluegrass traditions while providing new bands places to get their first professional performing opportunities. We're always glad to see this fine regional band on the bill at any festival we go to.

Jason Fraley

Troy Pope

Scott Burgess

Frank Poindexter

Jim Fraley

Hangin' with the Spinney Brothers


Sideline really doesn't deserve its name any longer as we've seen this North Carolina band in Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, and at home. They've also had a trip to California this year. That's what happens when first rate musicians give first rate performances of first rate traditional material. Sideline pleases audiences everywhere with sheer entertainment value. As the temperature started down, the music heated up.

Steve Dilling

Nathan Aldridge

Brian Aldridge

Skip Cherryholmes

Jason Moore

Sideline - Twister/The Devil's Dance - Video

The North Carolina Bluegrass Association

The North Carolina Bluegrass Association provides people who love bluegrass, whether they live in North Carolina or not, to keep track of what's happening in the state and to support bluegrass music there. Click on the link above and Like the Association.

NCBA Board of Directors
Mike Lane, Josh Greene, Vivian Pennington Hopkins,
Troy Pope, and Randy Mauldin

Bethel University Stonewall Band

The Bethel University Stonewall Band is composed of more experienced members of the program. After a couple of years' preparation under the benign guidance of Stephen Mougin, they're really getting pretty good.

Josh Middleton

James Hathcock

Jake Riggins

Kelly Smith

Ashley Mitchell

Aaron Holman

In the Green Room with Joe Mullins and Mike Terry

John Atwater & Jason Barrie

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

As the temperature dropped the atmosphere heated up. It began getting really chilly. By morning, the ground would be white with frost, but even when Joe Mulllins came on for his first set, a chill was setting in. Despite the chill wind, this continually improving traditional bluegrass band kept working hard while focusing on what it does best - singing and picking.

Joe Mullins

Jason Barie

Mike Terry

Dwayne Sparks

Randy Barnes

Dwayne Sparks

Mike Terry

Randy Barnes & Dwayne Sparks

Isaac Smith, Fiddler for Marty Raybon & Full Circle
Takes a Busman's Holidy

Balsam Range

Balsam Range arrived late (car trouble) to close the afternoon's show. It was already getting really cold with a north wind blowing across the field. Despite the cold, the bands were really showing their professionalism while showing one of the qualities of bluegrass musicians - perseverance. This hard driving band whose music fills an audience with excitement for the members' personalities and the music's hard driving, rock inflected sound. Distinguishing the unique sound of Balsam Range is the range of musical backgrounds the individuals, all of whom live within fifteen miles of each other in rural Haywood County, NC. Ranging from gospel music through country to rock and roll, in addition to their comman background in bluegrass, Balsam Range has created a unique contemporary wall of sound that remains unalterably bluegrass.

Tim Surrett

Buddy Melton

Darrin Nicholson

Mark Pruett

Caleb Smith

And Then It Really Began to Get Cold

Joan & Jim Fraley

Lizzy Long with Smoke

The Little Roy & Lizzy Show

Little Roy Lewis, on the bluegrass trail for more than sixty years from his beginnings with The Lewis Family, is, perhaps, the last link to old time baggy pants vaudeville humor of an earlier era. Beyond that, he's a simply great Scruggs style banjo player. The Little Roy and Lizzy show accepted this gig after the Malpass Brothers, scheduled for one long set to close Saturday night, were invited to perform at Merle Haggard's funeral in California. Kudo's to this band for being willing to fill in on short notice, and for being the troopers they are, performing on this bitterly cold evening.

Little Roy Lews

Lizzy Long

Nathan Stewart

Tyler Biddick

Haley Stiltner is Too Good a Bass Player to Be So Hidden

Little Roy & Lizzy

Little Roy Plays Them All

Despite bitter cold that turned the evenings into endurance contests, Big Lick was a successs. People came to hear music and that they did. Jeff Branch has been steadily building his festival by adding good bands and providing fine sound in a traditional bluegrass setting. He can continue to improve his festival by reducing the number of bands playing for more than one day. He can't control the weather. We're glad we took the step of staying on the festival grounds this year. 

I got cold and went back to the Festival Cottage never to be seen again. Special thanks to Irene for taking many of the later pics and for staying through all of the Little Roy & Lizzy set.

See you next year at this first festival of the North Carolina outdoor season.