Friday, September 9, 2016

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival - Friday: Review

There's something about the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival that brings out the best in artists. I don't use the word artists casually, but it seems to me that musicians I've seen as performers at other festivals, some frequently, become artists in this setting, giving their best to an audience that knows and appreciates quality and their effort. The lineup, put together by the Board of Directors of the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music is built to emphasize the breadth of what can be categorized as old time with a range of musical influences and descendants that becomes truly breathtaking. Instead of booking from a list of bands that can be scheduled into the venue,  it attracts bands that can be seen as exemplars of musical form and attractiveness across a wide variety of genres that can be seen as related to or descended from old time and bluegrass traditions.

Getting Ready
The Vendors Barn

Customarily, we arrive at a festival site at least a couple of days before the event begins. This gives a chance to settle in, get ourselves ready, get the lay of the land. Increasingly, we're finding fair grounds to be particularly well-suited to bluegrass festivals. With their display barns, performance areas and spacious multi-purpose spaces, they can easily be bent to the needs of a music festival. The Salem County Fairgrounds has few electrical hookups and almost no water, except for a few standpipes around the grounds. It's spacious grounds are, however, nearly ideal for campers to congregate in compounds for jamming, visiting, and enjoying each other's company. A number of these groups have developed names for themselves, coming each year to enjoy themselves. One group, the Grillbillies, is prominent for its size and its importance to the festival as volunteers in setup, breakdown, working the gate, and many other often thankless tasks, including trash pickup and disposal.

Many Spaces for Seating, Shade, and Sales

Lapp's Concessions Feed Many

The Main Stage

The Always Helpful Emcee Katy Daley
"Use Plenty of Sun Screen"

Stage Manager Howard Parker
Kept The Show on Time for Three Days

Danny Paisley & Southern Grass

I keep hearing that bluegrass music has lost its soul. As long as Danny Paisley is singing, there's still plenty of soul around. Paisley and his band are, for reasons of proximity and popularity, virtually the home band for this diverse and always interesting festival. He's remembered as his Dad Bob Paisley's side-kick for many years and now the voice of the band, a voice filled with feeling and power. Meanwhile, Ryan Paisley, aged sixteen, has matured into a thoughtful young man whose mandolin chop and brilliant solos have propelled him into instrumental prominence. T.J. Lundy, also a well-deserving legacy member of the Southern Grass plays a soaring fiddle, while Mark Delaney, an almost elfin figure plays a large and inventive banjo. Eric Troutman is always reliable and powerful on the bass. Paisley is nominated at IBMA for Male Vocalist of the Year. A win for him would be a popular choice.

Danny Paisley

Ryan Paisley

T.J. Lundy

Mark Delaney

Eric Troutman

Scenes from the Field

Uncle Earl

Uncle Earl is on a much looked forward to reunion tour. This band, composed of four musicians whose independent accomplishments are as noteworthy as their combined ones, presented music with an old time sound and vibe that was also incontrovertibly contemporary. Their music reaches across boundaries into folk and roots, and has helped lead a renaissance in string band music with an old time flavor. Their logical approach in presentation emphasized authorship and a round robin format allowing each member to represent her own work within their unified ensemble sound. Their appearance was wildly appreciated, and it can only be hoped that this impressive band will continue to find time away from their varied solo and other band careers to continue to tour and entertain together. 

Rayna Gellert

K.C. Groves

Kristin Andreassen

Abigail Washburn

Uncle Earl - The Last Goodbye - Video

At the Merch Table

Shade Barn - Audience

Audie Blaylock & Redline

Audie Blaylock has paid his dues, as a long-time road warrior with many top level bands including Jimmie Martin, Rhonda Vincent. He was with Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper when they won the Instrumental Group of the Year award.  He has been nominated for several other IBMA awards. His band, Redline, has a well-deserved reputation as a high quality, hard driving traditional band. Blaylock's singing along with long time band member Patrick McAvinue on Fiddle create an exciting musical aura. It's nice to see Evan Ward back in Audie's band after several years spent finishing college and establishing himself in teaching. Audie was clearly at the top of his game at Delaware Valley.

Patrick McAvinue

Evan Ward

Eric Troutman

Patrick McAvinue & Audie Blaylock

All the Essentials

Chris Hillmann & Herb Pedersen

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen are two iconic musicians/song writers from the folk/country/rock movement of the 1960's and 1970's based in California whose careers apparently crossed most successfully in the Desert Rose Band, active from 1987 into the early 1990's, although they had played together in the later 90's in Bakersfield Bound. They have each been active as bandsmen, session players, song writers, and band mates throughout much of the past five decades. Hillmann made his greatest impact with Gram Parsons, playing with The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Together, the duo was magical, singing their own songs and those of others, like Pete Seeger and the Dillards, with many or most of the songs familiar to this musically diverse and receptive audience. Simply magical performances..... 

Chris Hillman

Herb Pedersen

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers have found themselves a home at bluegrass festivals where, despite having almost nothing of bluegrass in their music, they have developed a growing and enthusiastic fan base. They sing classic country from the 1940's to the early (and milder) outlaws of the seventies. Many of their songs are beyond covers, as their voices successfully mimic those of the originals. Since I have long maintained that a major portion of the bluegrass festival audience have found bluegrass as they became increasingly alienated from contemporary country music, I believe the Malpass Brothers serve as an antidote to this need, as well as serving as a change-of-pace band between the procession of similar bluegrass bands at many festivals. Audiences love this band......

Christopher Malpass

Taylor Malpass

Brian Batten

Zach McLamb

The Steep Canyon Rangers

This is the fourth time since January we've seen the Steeps, who just keep getting better and more enjoyable. They've worked hard and kept on learning and growing musically and as people. The addition of Michael Ashworth on instruments has added some new color notes to the band allowing instruments that normally provide percussion to the music to increase their melodic output. They continue to find new ways to explore their music and themselves. 

Nicky Sanders

Mike Guggino

Charles R. Humphrey III

Michael Ashworth

Graham Sharpe

Woody Platt

More on Monday!