Friday, June 10, 2016

Strawberry Park 2016: Saturday and Sunday - Review

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm, so I took my cart and went out on a photo safari to capture the many joys of Strawberry Park. Along the way, I stopped for red-white-and-blue pancakes provided by Frank and Barbara Shaw. Nice way to enjoy a second breakfast.

Red-White and Blue Pancakes 
at the Shaws Rig
Photo by Barbara Duran Shaw

Strawberry Park RV Resort is a comprehensive campground which has been host to the Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival. Its central entertainment facilities include a complex of swimming pools, a bouncer, a series of fountain, snack bar and more. Near the ball field reserved for jammers during the bluegrass festival are a jungle gym, pickle ball courts, basketball, a tennis court, bocce, and horseshoes, and more. There's a remote frisbee golf course, too. The weekend after the bluegrass festival the park hosts a very popular Cajun/Zydeco festival, and themed events continue through the summer.

The Boxcar Lillies

The Boxcar Lillies, an Americana/Folk band specializing in singer/songwriter material continue to sharpen their show and improve their singing. They exude charm and enthusiasm along with plenty of energy for an early morning show. The addition of Susan Cattaneo, who teaches singing and song writing at Berklee, has improved the vocal color in this group.

Jenny Goodspeed

Stephanie Marshall

Susan Cattaneo

Jim Henry

The Boxcar Lillies - I Wish It Was a Freight Train - Video

Jamming on the Ball Field

The Sound Crew from Ace Audio

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire Squad has appeared in all but one Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festivals with unique blend of primitive old time music and Ron Thomason's country humor masking his wit and wisdom while softening the blow. Always great entertainment, especially if you wear your Thought Repellent Hat. If might get some ideas, too.

Ron Thomason

Tom Boyd

Adam McIntosh

Jeff Bird

 Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton, described as the definitive guitar player of the current era, which puts him in a league with Clarence White, Doc Watson, and Tony Rice, has assmbled three young gun pickers to tour in support of his new CD The More I Learn on Sugar Hill Records. He's playing material from the recording as well as assorted other songs from his musical past on this tour. The surprise of these performances is not only Bryan's clear, clean voice, but his between-the-songs charm as he talks about the material and his musical heroes. Casey Campbell on mandolin, fiddler Mike Barnett, and bassist Sam Grisman are the ideal musicians to support Sutton.

Sam Grisman

Casey Campbell

Mark Barnett & Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton

 Bryan Sutton & Mike Barnett - The Time Has Come - Video

Producer - Carl Landi

Della Mae
Kimber Ludiker

Della Mae came together in the roiling Boston music scene when Kimber Ludiker,a fourth generation fiddler from Washington state and recently named Grand National Fiddle Champion relocated to the area in 2009. The band, after several crucial changes brought together a mandolin player from South Carolina, Jenny Lynn Gardner, a former rock singer whose voice was being damaged by the demands of the genre, Celia Woodsmith. Soon Berklee College of Music graduate Courtney Hartman, a talented guitarist and claw-hammer banjo player joined the band. The most recent piece of the puzzle is bassist Zoe Guigueno, born in British Columbia, but nurtured in the band Joy Kills Sorrow who joined the band a year ago. Put it all together and you have a genre bending string band which has just returned from Viet Nam where they introduced another country to American string band and roots music. Now based in Nashville, Della Mae was nominated for a Grammy award in 2015.

Celia Woodsmith

Jenny Lynn Gardner with Zoe Guigueno

Courtney Hartman

Zoe Guigueno

Kimber Ludiker

 Irene Setting Up Yet Another Merch Table

Scott & Kim Vickery

The Steel Drivers
The SteelDrivers won a 2016 Grammy award for their latest CD The Muscle Shoal Sessions, which drew together their stage reputation for an alcohol soaked stage band with their disciplined, highly professional creation of a music bringing together a deep bluesy connection, Nashville burnish, and a continuing commitment to their bluegrass roots. Gary Nichols, who comes from Muscle Shoals brings the deep rock and blues tradition of this tiny Alabama town which became the recording center for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin (be sure to see the film documentary Muscle Shoals) to The SteelDrivers. His rough edged blues voice is supple enough to also provide a sweeter, balladic voice when called upon. Tammy Rogers, long-time Nashville fiddler and singer, exudes vocal skill, virtuoso fiddle, and enthusiasm. Mike Fleming on bass is the third member of the vocal trio, one of the best. Richard Bailey, on banjo, is unobtrusive yet very present, with a style that varies depending on the needs of the song. Together, The SteelDrivers have become, and remain, one of the most exciting bluegrass bands around, whether you listen to their recordings, or, better still, get to appreciate them in performance with a fine sound company. They were recognized by IBMA in 2009 as Emerging Band of the Year. Not easily categorized, they have been pretty much ignored by bluegrass music's premier organization since then. Too bad!

Gary Nichols

Tammy Rogers

Richard Bailey

Mike Fleming

Brent Truitt

Gary Nichols

The SteelDrivers - The Blue Side of the Mountain - Video

At the Merch Table


Late Saturday night a chilly, wet cold front rolled in promising enough bad weather to move Sunday's festivities to the Strawberry Park pavilion. This is a mixed blessing, as noise drifts over to the audience from the nearby snackbar and the sound, at best, echoes more than a little bit as it bounces in the metal rafters. On the other hand, its covered and close to hot coffee. Customarily, a goodly crowd shows up for the Dry Branch Fire Squad's Sunday gospel show with words from Ron Thomason.

Dry Branch Fire Squad

People at several festivals look forward to Dry Branch Fire Squad's Sunday gospel music program.

Ron Thomason

Jeff Bird & Adam McIntosh

Tom Boyd

At each festival where Dry Branch Fire Squad has performed since September 12, 2001, Ron Thomason has sung the haunting "He's Coming to Us Dead" in remembrance of our wounded and killed veterans as well the pain their parents experience. It's always a deeply affecting moment for everyone involved. 

Ron Thomason singing "He's Coming to Us Dead"

The Hot Flashes

Three veteran musicians, well-known in the New England music scene, have joined together to form The Hot Flashes, a band drawing on the musical influences of each member, from roots, to pop, to jazz, to bluegrass and country music. Along with their male band-mates, dubbed the Men-o-Pause, the Hot Flashes serve up a delightful melange of music and warm personality. They represent a good change-of-pace group for a bluegrass festival, as well as a delightful addition in a number of other settings calling for diversity along with musicality. Sorry, but I didn't get a clear picture of John Urbanek on bass. 

Amy Gallatin

Peggy Harvey

Gail Wade

Roger Williams

J.D. Williams

Blackstone Valley Bluegrass

Blackstone Valley Bluegrass originated in the Blackstone Valley of Massachusetts, having since moved on to different parts of sourthern New England, but continuing as a musically diversified, melodic, and energetic band offering a range of material from hard driving traditional bluegrass through contemporary singer/songwriter material in a pleasing, engaging performance. Just right....

Dan Nowlan & Ken Taylor

Bob Dick

Dave Dick

The Dick Brothers

The Stockwell Brothers

The Stockwell Brothers have been a fixture around New England for decades. Bruce is a frequent instructor at banjo camps, better known to some of the very best than he is as a performer. He was my banjo teacher before I divorced my banjo and married a guitar a few years ago. It wasn't his fault. Barry promotes bluegrass in Brattleboro and Putney, Vermont. Al owns and opperates a recording studio in Brattleboro. The new member of the Stockwell Brothers is Kelly Stockwell, Bruce's wife, on bass. Together, they deliver contemporary singer/songwriter material, bluegrass and country, along with adaptations of rock and folk classics from the past forty years of American music. 

Al Stockwell

Bruce Stockwell

Barry Stockwell

Kelly Stockwell

And so, the thirty-ninth Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival drew to a close on a chilly, rainy Sunday afternoon, much unlike the usual sunny lazy day Sunday often offers. Despite the threat of rain and storms, only Sunday was really altered in any way by the weather, but perhaps some of those who might have come out were discouraged by the forecasts. Nevertheless, the best and most interesting lineup in years brought out a good, but not overwhelming crowd for a lineup that promised much and truly delivered. The music ranged from strongly traditional to cutting edge progressive bluegrass and its offshoots. Bands bearing the Berklee/Boston stamp played next to the Gibson Brothers and Michael Cleveland. There was plenty of Nashville and North Carolina. Musically and in terms of providing a balanced, interesting schedule each day, Strawberry Park showed that it is back in spades. We've already made our reservations. See you there!

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