Once a year, for a few magical moments Jenny Brook, like that mythical Scottish village Brigadoon, emerges out of the mists to create four days of music. For me, two iconic symbols have emerged and come to represent this small miracle. To the South stands the village church, with it old and lovely cemetary beside it. To the north of the Tunbridge World's Fair grounds stands, almost hidden in the trees, a red barn. The three elements symbolize much of the core of bluegrass music - church, rural life, death and dying. For four days, this magical, joyous world exists, people experience its delights, and then it disappears again, not to be seen until the following June. But to make that happen takes a whole lot of work.
The tent riggers come to do their magic.....
Brother/Sister duo Julie Venne Hogan and Tom Venne are the center of this fine country band, which provided familiar "old country" along with humor and fun.
Larry Stephenson brings his pure, effortless tenor voice and a high level of musicianship as well as melody to the performances of his band. He sticks to the music, which relies on strong gospel performances and well-loved murder ballads as well as Patches, which he delivers as well as anyone. The four man band develops a strong sound of well-beloved music. Kenny Ingram on banjo has been in the business going on half a century with his classic banjo performances.
Claire Lynch says she's cutting back on her schedule, but each time we've seen her in the past year or so, she simply has become increasingly better: a better singer, a better performer, a stronger leader, and a more delightful entertainer. Mark Schatz helps provide steadiness and continuity within the band. Both Bryan McDowell and Jarrod Walker are young, brilliant musicians with long careers ahead of them in music, whether it's bluegrass, roots, or something else. The audience saw it, too, and rewarded Claire, making her Jenny Brook debut with standing ovations and lines at her merchandise table. She helped make Friday a great day.
The Seth Sawyer Band is the host band of the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival as Seth and Candi, both of whom play in the band are the festival's promoters. They work hard all year long on putting the festival together, but their lives are also filled with playing music, mostly in New England. Seth has written several songs that have been recorded by others, especially the young Gibson Brothers. The Daves, Shaw and Orlomoski support his efforts strongly and contribute their own not inconsiderable skills, and Candi remains an enthusiastic and happy bass player. They played one set this weekend. Herman McGee, on banjo, is an old friend and a fine banjo player.
Kelly wanted to study the clawhammer banjo and the Maple Leaf Music Shop sent her to banjo veteran Bruce Stockwell, an institution in New England, winner of the Merlefest Banjo contest, one-time stand-in with Seldom Scene, and member of the Stockwell Brothers, a fine regional band. Soon Kelly must have decided the banjo wasn't for her, but Bruce was. She now plays the bass in the Stockwell Brothers as she and Bruce have been married for about ten years. Recently, she bought a classic 1978 GMC motor home for attending bluegrass festivals, and decided its maiden voyage would be to Jenny Brook, where there would be Harvey Walbanger party to baptize the vehicle. Here's some pics.
Long underestimated by the bluegrass community, Nothin' Fancy is a serious band, and seriously good. As a friend of ours likes to say, "Nobody loves them but the fans." A hard working band that mixes well-crafted humor with first rate musicianship and singing, added to a long catalog of fine songs written by Mike Andes, mandolin player and band spokesman, this band has been popular for over twenty years with major changes only at guitar. When you see them, be sure to mix your enjoyment with serious consideration of their excellence.