Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival - Tunbridge, VT June 23 -26, 2016 - Preview

The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival will run at the Tunbridge World's Fairgrounds in Tunbridge, VT from June 23 - 26, 2016. Founded in 2000 and first held at the Weston Town Park, in Weston, VT, Jenny Brook soon outgrew the venue, moving to Tunbridge in 2009, where it has continued to grow in audience while consistently improving its lineup. Jenny Brook has now become a go-to festival in New England, drawing fans from as far away as Tennessee and Florida to participate in the legendary jamming held their, relish the stunning central Vermont scenery, and enjoy the superb regional and national bands. This year, with the addition of Rosewood Sound, it will also feature great acoustic sound for it's mostly traditional bluegrass music offerings. This year's lineup features two bands whose leaders are in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and numerous winners of IBMA and SPBGMA Awards. While this blog seeks to hit the highlights of this fine festival, Candi Sawyer has spent years developing her very comprehensive site, and I urge you to visit and study it for more details.

The Lineup

Thursday opens the festival with three bands showing distinctive styles of bluegrass from three different eras and areas. It's a nice way to kick off a great festival. 

Wildwood Valley Boys
Tony Holt

The Wildwood Valley Boys come from Indiana and are descended from the famous Boys from Indiana Band of the seventies and eighties. Tony Holt follows his father Aubrey Holt, leading this Midwestern band with strong singing and instrumentals. The band sings traditional bluegrass covers as well as original songs, many of which were written by Aubrey Holt over the years and widely recorded. This is a good band to open this festival and set a tone of quality. 

Aubrey Holt

Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing
Bob Amos

Bob Amos fronted the award winning band Front Range from Colorado through the nineteen ninety's and into the twentieth century with performances throughout the U.S and Europe. With the tragic death of band member Mike Lantz, Front Range disbanded, and Bob Amos retired to his family home in northern Vermont. He re-emerged as the leader of Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing in 2012, featuring his leadership and banjo along with daughter Sarah's singing. Bob Dick, the bassist from Front Range is also in the band. Since then the band has entertained audiences with new songs in a bluegrass/folk mix truly pleasing to the ear.  They have performed in New England and nearby NY, and would be a fine addition to festivals farther away seeking strong song writing, singing, and picking. A sure winner..... 

Sarah Amos

Lonesome River Band

For over thirty years the Lonesome River Band has provided lively bluegrass, sharp song writing, and excellent musicianship. While hard-core fans hold that the band was best when fresh out of the box featuring Dan Tyminski and Don Rigsby, lots of fans have come to them in later years, loved the band, and made it their own. Musically and vocally, the current edition is putting out new, thoughtful material, much of it written by singer/songwriter Brandon Rickman, who deserves serious IBMA consideration in both categories. Jesse Smathers is LRB's best pure tenor in years. Barry Reed's rhythm and solo work on bass is superb, while Mike Hartgrove brings years of experience and depth to the band on fiddle. Sammy Shelor remains one of the most recognized and creative banjo players there is, as attested to by his being named  IBMA Banjo Player of the Year five times  over an eighteen year period. Always entertaining.

Brandon Rickman

Friday offers a wide range of styles, voices and musical eras including classic country, a strong appeal to California bluegrass in the 1970's, a traditional band featuring a fine tenor singer and one of the all-time banjo greats,  a jazzy, contemporary band that always returns to its bluegrass roots, and a contemporary band filled with humor and new songs. It's a strong balanced program worth watching and hearing. 

Zink & Company

Cory Zinc has skirted the edges between bluegrass and classic country music in New England for some years in other bands and now with his own Zinc & Company, formed in 2012. Time has brought his music into greater fashion as the line between bluegrass and old country diminishes, once again. This is resulting in his reach extending beyond New England to the middle Atlantic states and as far south as the Vincent Family's festival in Sally Mountain, MO. Cory's smooth baritone voice and cheerful demeanor works well for him. He's rebuilt and improved his band. Looking forward to a strong performance. 

Larry Stephenson Band

The Larry Stephenson Band has been touring the bluegrass world for over twenty-five years with his combination of heartfelt bluegrass gospel and gruesome murder ballads. His tenor voice never seems to weaken or age, as he delivers the "Sound That Set the World On Fire," a tribute to the influence Bobby Osborne and the Osborne Brothers have had on his music. Kenny Ingram, who played with Jimmy Martin as well as with Lester Flatt and The Nashville Grass, joined Larry's band several years ago, adding his still wonderful traditional work on the banjo. Kevin Richardson, after a stint fronting his own band, has brought his fine flat-picking and baritone voice back to the band. Larry and David Parmley will be presenting a vocal workshop at the Artist's Stage.  

Claire Lynch Band

Three time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Claire Lynch leads a formidable band featuring the deeply experienced Mark Schatz, two time award winner, on bass. She also has two young instrumental guns on board with Bryan McDowell, many contest winner (Winfield, Merlefest) multi-instrumentalist who also happens to have a fine voice, and Florida's Jarrod Walker, who came to Claire after several years with Missy Raine's and the New Hip. In other words, this is not a band merely brought together to showcase a fine singer, but a thoroughgoing musical ensemble comfortable with the range Lynch offers, from classic bluegrass (Bill Monroe's My Florida Sunshine) to a jammed, jazzy version of Roy Acuff's Wabash Cannonball, through the lovely Dear Sister, written by Louisa Branscomb and Claire, which won IBMA Song of the Year in 2014. This band brings it all out. Claire has announced a cut-back in her touring schedule, so see and hear her now!

Jarrod Walker

Seth Sawyer Band

The Seth Sawyer Band acts as host band for the festival that bass player Candi Sawyer promotes. They're a popular band around northern New England, playing at festivals in their home state, Vermont,  New Hampshire and Seth's home state of Maine as well as nearby northern New York.. Seth is a gifted songwriter, some of whose songs have been recorded, especially by the early Gibson Brothers. 

Candi Sawyer

Nothin' Fancy
Mike Andes & Tony Shorter

Nothin' Fancy is a serious, solid band. They're serious about their humor, entertainment, the music they select, and that Mike Andes writes. Often they aren't taken seriously enough, perhaps because they have too much fun. Happily they're a very busy band, almost constantly on the road, because they combine strong musical value with high entertainment value. Mike Andes writing ranges from novelty numbers like I Met My Baby in the Porta-Jon Line and Granpa's Chasing Women at the Local Retirement Home to serious songs like  Calvin County Coal Mining Grave and House Built with Love to demonstrate Andes seriousness as a song writer. Similarly, Chris Sexton, is an able classical violinist who plays bluegrass. All told, Nothin' Fancy has earned its large fan base and busy schedule. 

 Chris Sexton

David Parmley & the Cardinal Tradition

David Parmley has been mostly absent from the bluegrass over the past several years, first ailing and then in need of a regular, paying job, which he found driving bus for mega-country band Rascal Flatts. After years of singing in his father Don Parmley's band The Bluegrass Cardinals, he formed his own band touring as David Parmley & Continental Divide. Now he's back with a band whose name refers to his father's well-remembered band singing many familiar songs from the Bluegrass Cardinals dating back to the seventies and eighties. Built around Parmley's fine singing voice, the band is composed of familiar bluegrass pickers and should provide plenty of solid music from a generation ago. A new band, Twelve Mile, has recently been added to the lineup.


Jenny Brook's Saturday schedule is largely focused around three huge forces in bluegrass music appearing on the same day. Two IBMA Entertainers of the Year, Two Vocal Groups of the Year, One Instrumental Group of the Year, and more individual and song awards than I have time to count. In addition, Del McCoury and Doyle Lawson  have both been inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, while they're still very much active performers, something many people wait for until after they die. This will be one of the best days of bluegrass many of us have ever experienced. And don't forget, both Nothin' Fancy and David Parmley will be performing encore shows, too.

Mile Twelve

Mile Twelve is a Boston-based bluegrass band with a young, fresh sound. Very good solo singing from the bass and guitar, while fiddle and banjo complement, filling out the full sound. On their web site they offer a video of Blue & Lonesome, written by Bill Monroe and Hank Williams, which catches the strong elements of bluegrass and country present in their sound. The band features both covers and original songs with an urban flair. This is a new band quite worthy of hearing during this jam-packed day of powerful headliners. To catch them, you'll have to get to their single 10:30 AM performance. 

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Doyle Lawson was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2012 while continuing on his illustrious career as a band leader and member of some of the most important bands in the  history of bluegrass. Before forming his own band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in 1979 after stints with Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys, J.D. Crowe and the New South, and The Country Gentlemen, each seminal bands in the development of bluegrass music. Since it's founding, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver has developed a reputation for hard driving bluegrass music combined with a high proportion of gospel music in a highly disciplined show-band environment. Over the years,  Lawson has developed a reputation for developing a legion of fine musicians who have gone on to front their own bands. In fact, the band has become known as the Doyle Lawson School of Bluegrass. Over the years, they have produced nearly forty albums and four compilations. Each year, Doyle hosts his own festival in Denton, NC. This is a remarkable record for a remarkable band. 

The Gibson Brothers


The Gibson Brothers have released eight albums in the 2000's, each rising to number one on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts, a record unmatched by any band. Meanwhile, the able and personable brothers write much of their own material, which centers on elements of rural living and the contrasts between the demands of modern life and keeping one's personal integrity. Many of their songs are common in jams at festivals, an indication of both the accessibility of their music and its catchiness. They've twice been named Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year. Ring the Bell and They Called It Music have both been song of the year, and Eric was named Songwriter of the Year for the latter. In many ways, Jenny Brook is the Gibson Brothers home festival. They have performed here every year but one, always to large, appreciative crowds. two country boys with their band at a country festival.

The Del McCoury Band

Del McCoury was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2011 and has been named Male Vocalist of the Year four times  while his band has been Entertainer of the Year nine times. Sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo) have both been honored for their instrumental play, as has Jason Carter, who plays fiddle. Del was one of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys early in his career (on banjo) is one of the few remaining prominent high lonesome singers. Most remarkable to me, however, is not his traditionalism, but his willingness to forge into new areas and take risks. He and his band have performed, at Merlefest, with the Lee Boys, an African American electric gospel band, and with the New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band. The latest Del McCoury Band release is a setting of Woody Guthrie songs for which the author never wrote tunes. His Moneyland CD took on social issues often ignored in bluegrass while his version of Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard's Streets of Baltimore is a powerful evocation of the evils of city life. The Del McCoury Band will finish Saturday night with a single ninety-minute set. 

The night will be one long remembered by bluegrass fans!


Sunday at Jenny Brook is always a relaxed day. The Jenny Brook Kids Academy will perform as well as a couple of bands into the early afternoon, and then it's time to head home remembering the wonderful weekend just finished. 

Feinberg Brothers
Patrick Feinberg

The Feinberg Brothers come from that well known hotbed of bluegrass, Long Island, NY. Despite this serious handicap, the seem to be doing just fine. They've impressed in jams and on the stage at festivals throughout mostly in New York, with forays into New England and Pennsylvania. Their father and two seasoned bluegrass performers support them on stage. 

Roark Feinberg

Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters
Roger Williams & Amy Gallatin

Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters brings an eclectic catalog of songs with roots deeply set in the south, Montana, and New England. A singer who cut her performing chops on a dude ranch in Montana, Amy has entwined her music (and her life) with Roger Williams, a dobro great who's not nearly well enough known by fans but deeply respected by fellow pickers. Adding Roger's son J.D., recently graduated from Berklee makes for good music and a mellow Sunday

Jenny Brook Kids' Academy

Jenny Brook's Kids Academy has grown in size and quality under the very capable hands of Aaron Foster. Your child will have a good time, and you'll know the he or she is in good hands for several hours a day, learning to play better and having a good time with other young pickers. Enroll now!

The Rest of the Fest

Jenny Brook has a complex design where there's always something interesting and enjoyable going on. The First Branch of the White River flows along the northern edge of Tunbridge World's Fairgrounds. There are a number of tight little campsites along the river as it bends to the west. If you're a tenter or have a small trailer, you might find a site on the river. Meanwhile, the beach provides cool water paddling for kids and dogs, as well as wading for hot adults when the weather's fine.

Clem Hawkins Revival Band

Pot Luck and Clem Hawkins Band/Dance - For people who've arrived early, the annual pot luck supper and Barn Dance can't come too soon. Be sure to come to Jenny Brook with a delicious main course or a fancy dessert designed to feed at least six or eight others in addition to your group and enjoy this Wednesday evening tradition. The entertainment will be provided by the Clem Hawkins Reunion Band, consisting to Tom and Julie Venne and a certain popular banjo player who loves country music, as well as Harry Ralph on fiddle and a very good percussionist, maybe even call him a drummer, since this is good old classic country music.

Pot Luck

Workshops and Meet the Artist - On Friday and Saturday there will be a series of workshops and artist's interviews at the Artist's Stage, behind and to the left of the Main Stage, about 150 yards away. John Saroyan will conduct the interviews, which are always well-prepared and informative, focusing on the artist. Here's a link to the Artist's Stage Schedule.

Jenny Brook Kids Academy

Kids Academy - Under the direction of Aaron Foster, now a senior at East Tennessee State University, the Jenny Brook Kids Academy has experienced a renaissance in quality along with a tremendous growth spurt. All school age children are welcome. This year, for the first time, all children participating must pre-register for this program. The form can be found at the bottom of the Kids Academy page and submitted online.

Aaron Foster

Grass Seeds Gazebo Stage - Located in a gazebo under some pleasant shade trees near the back of the fairgrounds. Hosted by Michelle Canning, the Grass seeds stage offers a full slate of pick-up performances as well as a band contest. The winner of the band contest, wins $500 and a set on the main stage on Sunday. All members of participating bands, and parents, must be ticket holders to participate or be on the grounds. Find further information here.

The Gazebo Stage

The Bluegrass University - In recent years, a group of New England's best professional musicians has offered teaching sessions at major festivals under the name of The Bluegrass University. This year, the University will again be at Jenny Brook with a strong lineup of teachers. They will host the Thursday evening jam at Sugar Shack Jam, leader Tony Watt will introduce the teaching staff. they'll play a few songs, and then lead evening's large group jam. There is a small charge for participation in the lessons to be offered on Saturday afternoon.

Jam Friendly - A look at the Jenny Brook schedule will tell you that this is a jam friendly festival. Music stops around 10:00 PM to allow plenty of time for people who like to jam. Most jams are open to all comers, while a structured slow jam is available in "The Pickin' Place," located in one of the barns. The Sugar House Stage offers a nightly jam hosted by one of the bands, which will play requests and invite individuals or small groups to join them for a song of their choice. Bring your instrument, your voice, and join the fun each night after the show on the Main Stage is over.

In the Pickin' Place

In these days when almost everyone can hardly live without an electronic device, a charging station will be available at the general general store.

Food Vendors - A wide variety of food vendors is available on the grounds at Jenny Brook. When you get tired of your own cooking or just want a change, you'll find the usual fare plus some excellent surprises, including a fine fried fish vendor. I continue to wish that bluegrass festival promoters would supply and bluegrass fans would support a few healthy food alternatives at festivals.

The Details
Jenny Brook has a complex and comprehensive design. This preview is designed to hit the highlights, but for more detailed information, you should go to the FAQ section on the Jenny Brook web site as well as study other parts. Internal links here take you to many of those pages.

Tickets - Tickets for the entire festival, single days, or various combinations can be ordered online here.  

Camping - There are plenty of sites left with power; all the rental campers have been leased. If you want to reserve a spot or a camper for next year (2017), do it early. The good news is that the venue has plenty of additional space for rough camping, with more to be opened if necessary. Many prime, non-power/water sites are available on a first come, first served basis. Several covered sheds and open barns provide space for tenters to avoid possible rain. Gates open at noon on Tuesday, June 21st, unless you have a fast pass, which allows entry at 9:00 AM. The line usually begins to form on Monday evening, but since they started opening the gates earlier, the lines are no longer as long as they once were. 

How to Get to Jenny Brook:

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The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival has emerged as one of the best festivals we attend  year anywhere. This year's edition may be the best yet. The lineup is very strong and well balanced. The surrounding activities are aimed at almost every age person that might be attending a bluegrass festival. The volunteers are knowledgeable and helpful. Hope to see YOU there!