Monday, April 4, 2016

Willow Oak Bluegrass Festival - Roxboro, NC - Preview

The Willow Oak Bluegrass Festival will run from April 28 - 30, 2016 at Willow Oak Park near Roxboro, NC, close to the Virginia border. Located in a lovely park built and designed as a music venue, Willow Oak offers a number of electric sites, convenient stand-pipes for loading water, and plenty of space for rough camping. Its stage is located at the base of a gentle slope, providing an almost ideal amphitheater with very good sight-lines over which the sound rolls up the hill, providing good sound all the way into the campground located on a level area above it. Held on the same weekend as Merlefest, Willow Oak represents a great opportunity for lovers of traditional bluegrass and smaller crowds to enjoy their music in a more relaxed, stress-free setting than is provided in Wilkesboro, farther to the west. Promotors Mike and Debi Wilson create a welcoming environment in this remote park convenient to Raleigh/Durham as well as nearby rural Virginia and North Carolina. 

The Lineup
This year's lineup presents some old favorites and several rising bands of note. The highlight may be the long set by Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out on Saturday evening, but be sure not to miss several bands new to the national scene as well as the regional North Carolina bands that are truly of national quality. Another quality of Willow Oak is that Mike Wilson continues to feature more local bands. 
Trinity River

Trinity River began life as a touring gospel band based in Callahan, Florida, right on the Georgia border. We've watched the kids grow and mature as well as improve instrumentally and vocally with the practice only the road can provide. Along the way, they've broadened their repertoire, too. Sarah Harris was nominated for an IBMA Momentum Award in 2015.

Deeper Shade of Blue
Jason Fraley

Father and son Jim and Jason Fraley are among the founding members of Deeper Shade of Blue, a regional traditional bluegrass band receiving increasingly wide national attention. All the members of Deeper Shade have toured nationally with major bluegrass bands except lead singer Troy Pope, who's turned down major offers to remain with his family and church. The addition of Scott Burgess on bass has only served to help improve this already very good band.

Jim Fraley

Jeff Scoggins & Colorado

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado are a Colorado-based bluegrass band who deliver second and third generation bluegrass with their own particular twist to it. I haven't heard this band in some years, but they're still around and active, a good sign. A map on the "tour" page of  his web site, indicates the breadth of the Scroggins band's outreach. This band should deliver a very pleasant surprise. 

Bluegrass Brothers
Victor Dowdy

The Bluegrass Brothers are currently in transition as some members of the family have left for other pursuits or greener pastures. Meanwhile, long-time leader Victor Dowdy soldiers on with youngest son Donnie having re-joined the band. One can only wish this band good luck as they continue to re-develop.

The Gate

Commonwealth Bluegrass Band

The Commonwealth Bluegrass Band comes from the nearby Commonwealth of Virginia. They sing traditional bluegrass music with enthusiasm and a deep love of the music. 

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road
Lorrain Jordan & Jason Moore

At Sertoma a few weeks ago, we saw Lorraine Jordan lead her band to one of their best performances in some time. She seemed confident and happy with her band backing her. Jason Moore on bass provided the kind of strong beat needed. While I remain somewhat surprised at Jordan's turn toward country music, she has embraced that tradition and married it to bluegrass in an interesting and effective fashion. 

The Becky Buller Band

Becky Buller has been well known as a performer and song writer for at least a decade. For some time people had been asking when she was going to form her own band. It turns out she was biding her time until she was ready. Well, she's ready now and the band has been embraced by bluegrass. At the 2015 IBMA Awards, she was named Emerging Artist of the Year, her song "Southern Flavor" was named Recorded Event of the Year, and she was a nominee for Songwriter of the Year. She's put together a very strong band featuring Ned Luberecki on banjo, and Brandon Bostic on guitar, along with Dan Boner, an ETSU faculty member on mandolin, and Daniel Hardin on bass and singing tenor. The show features many of Buller's own songs as well as her unique comic and faith-filled take on life. You'll be pleased with what you see and hear.

Flatt Lonesome

Flatt Lonesome, in an interesting, and perhaps revealing coincidence, is a second band begun as a family gospel band from Callahan. Florida appearing at Willow Oak this year. They have had early success with both recording and performing widely, and were named as 2014 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year. This year they will be appearing at major festivals from coast to coast. Flatt Lonesome's sound contains touches of country, retains its gospel influence, and is clearly grounded in bluegrass. They are  young, attractive, and increasingly tight.

Steve Dilling & Sideline
Brian Aldridge & Skip Cherryholmes

Sideline began as a side project for a group of busy musicians looking for a chance to get together, mostly for fun, in the off season. Because of changes in the music business, there's much less "off season" than there once was, with the emphasis moving to more frequent performance in indoor venues during bad weather. Sideline quickly gained more popularity than anyone in the founding group expected. They've now become one of the hottest traditional bands on the bluegrass circuit playing a nearly full-time schedule all across the country. With the Aldridge brothers, Brian and Nathan, replacing Darrell Webb and Greg Luck, a winning formula of ready players has emerged. This band has pace, tunefulness, and fun. Steve Dilling keeps the action going with his lively emceeing. 

Nathan Aldridge

The Amphitheater

Mickey Gaylean & Cullen's Bridge

This traditional band, Mickey Gaylean & Cullen's Bridge comes from the southwest region of Virginia along the Crooked Road near Galax where they follow in the footsteps of Mickey Gaylean's father Cullen playing traditional mountain bluegrass music in the Stanley style. Fiddler Billy Hawks is an old friend we haven't seen in too long. We're looking forward to seeing this local band. 

Jr. Sisk & Rambler's Choice

Junior Sisk has become the gold standard in Stanley Style bluegrass, which includes lots of originals written for him and others from the traditional Ralph Stanley and the neo-traditional bluegrass band The Johnson Mountain Boys, whom Junior reveres. His band is always ready with a fast tune and plenty of movement. Junior, over the years, has become a solid band emcee and entertainer to accompany his great mountain voice. His band is filled with young talent. 

Grass Cats

The Grass Cats, a North Carolina Band, have a national reputation for excellence while continuing to pursue a mostly home schedule for personal and professional reasons. There are, truly, few local or regional bands of whom it can actually be shown that they're good enough to be a national band but choose not to tour. The Grass Cats are surely one. Their singing and timing are superb, and they're all fine instrumentalists. North Carolina is a state that's also a region of it's own. Competition is tough and the Grass Cats have survived for years while releasing nine CD's, often hitting the national charts. 

Darrell Webb Band

Darrell Webb has played mandolin and guitar with some of the best bands in the business. He toured with Rhonda Vincent & the Rage and Marty Raybon, has played on recording sessions which were Grammy nominated, and has been a guest artist or replacement with dozens of bands. He and his band are regular performers at The Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, TN. Darrell can always be counted on to leave nothing on the table during a performance.  

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
Special 25th Anniversary Performance
Russell Moore

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out are on their 25th Anniversary Tour while their latest CD It's About Tyme" tops the National Bluegrass Album chart of the fifth straight month. This band's record over the past generation reaches or exceeds that of almost any other band in the bluegrass business. Russell Moore's reign as IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year reaches out with five wins over a twenty-two year period, a record unmatched by any other singer in bluegrass for longevity and frequency. The band has been named Vocal Group of the Year seven times, matched only by Doyle Lawson. Always tasteful, always melodious, always enjoyable. A great band to close a fine festival.

Wayne Benson

The Campground

The Details

Tickets: You can order tickets on line, which will NOT be mailed to you, but held at the gate. You can request confirmation of your ticket by included a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope in Your Order. Early bird tickets may be ordered until April 10. 

Tickets at the Gate:
Children 13 - 16 years old
$15 per day
Children 12 and under
Free with adult

Camping: Camping rules, regulations, and prices can be found here

For further information, you can contact Mike Wilson at:

Mike Wilson
4060-M Harper Trail
Burlington, NC   27215
Phone:  336-229-905
Or by email:

                                                   How to Get to Willow Oak Park
                                Place your location in the Space Marked O and Click

Mike Wilson

See you there!

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