Monday, September 12, 2016

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival - Saturday: Review

Saturday at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival was threatened by the storm Hermine, which had boiled up in the Atlantic and then strengthened over the Gulf Stream as it headed north, dumping large amounts of rain on Florida and then the southeast. Ominous warnings of high winds, rip tides, and dangerous coastal flooding suggested that we'd get heavy rain and high winds, as the Salem County Fairgrounds lie only fifty miles west of threatened Atlantic City, New Jersey. Instead, we had somewhat breezy weather, quite warm and some of the best music imaginable, as a strong day crowd showed up for the headline show by Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder which would close the day. 

The Kruger Brothers

The Kruger Brothers don't appear often at bluegrass festivals these day. Jens Kruger, one of the finest banjo players in the world, has been, for years, translating his virtuoso banjo into an Appalachian tinged classical instrument blending with chamber music and orchestral tone poems. They spoke, only half joking with emcee Katy Daley, about the possibility of facing a walking ovation from people not accustomed to their music. Bringing a lifetime of touring Europe to influence the generation of living in Wilkes County North Carolina where they've soaked up the music of Doc Watson, Tut Taylor, and the hundreds of wonderful local musicians to create innovative, creative works of art. Instead, the noon time audience packed the shed and beyond, rising for a standing ovation at the end of their first set and an encore after their second, afternoon one. 

Jens Kruger

Uwe Kruger

Joel Landsberg

Carl & Judy Hough Goldstein

At the Merch Table

Jim Kweskin & Goeff Muldaur

Jim Kweskin & Goeff Muldauer are veterans of the Boston-based Jim Kweskin Jug band, active in New England and nationally featuring an emphasis on Old Time string band music combined with their own song writing which modernized the pre-war mountain music of the Appalachians and brought it to an urban and suburban audience. They shared tunes each had written or featured in their own careers as well as material from their earlier recording career. As befits to performers will into their seventies, they sang seated, but their music contains the energy and authenticity that makes old time music continue as more than an historical artifact. 

Geoff Muldauer

Jim Kweskin

Kids Academy

Each year at Delaware Valley, Ira Gitlin, Washington-based banjo player, teacher, performer and writer, has spearheaded a superlative teaching staff to spend several hours each day teaching and preparing a group of widely young pickers for a performance on Sunday morning. Kids academies at festivals across the country represent an important way to bring young people into the bluegrass community. The kids range in experience from total beginners to those having some familiarity with the music and their instrument. The playful teaching makes the work go easily while the kids enjoy their time.

Kids Academy Staff
Ira Gitlin, Wally Hughes, Willy Liebowitz, Sarah Larsen
George Welling not pictured

Sister Sadie
Dale Ann Bradley

Sister Sadie's performance on Sunday at last year's festival received such an emotional response from the audience that they were immediately booked for this year to unanimous enthusiasm. This band brings long and deep bluegrass experience as well as a unique musical sensibility to bluegrass music. All have been and are either members of other bands or regular go-to players. Deanie Richardson has played with country as well as bluegrass bands, and is currently on tour with Bob Seeger. Gena Britt is the banjo player with Alan Bibey & Grasstowne. Beth Lawrence is familiar to bluegrass fans everywhere as a strong bass player with a variety of bluegrass bands. Tina Adair has been familiar to bluegrass fans since her family's band won the Pizza Hut Bluegrass Showdown in 1966. Serving as band emcee, Tina is both winning and funny. Dale Ann Bradley is the five time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year as well as fronting her own band. Even thought they each work busy independent schedules, this band is in high demand and has released its first recording. 

Deanie Richardson

Tina Adair

Gena Britt

Beth Lawrence

Dale Ann Bradley

Pris Warnock - Fellow Photographer

Heidi Olsen Hosts a Pot Luck Supper

 The Boxcars
Adam Steffey

Between them and as a band, The Boxcars have won an amazing sixteen IBMA instrumental awards as well as the 2011 Emerging Artist of the Year. Adam Steffey alone has been named Mandolin Player of the Year eleven times, while Ron Stewart is the only musician named as Instrumental Player on two different instruments, fiddle and banjo. The group has been Instrumental Group of the Year three times. The Boxcars stick to business, with a minimum of chat and no clowning. Their music is what makes them tick, and audiences like what they hear. While I often emphasize broad-based entertainment value in bands, this is a fine band that lets its music do the talking.

Ron Stewart

Harold Nixon

Keith Garrett

Gary Hultman

Ron Stewart

Lots of Covered Viewing Space - Sound's Good Everywhere

Claire Lynch Band

Claire Lynch, three time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year over a fifteen year period, may be the finest song stylist in the bluegrass business. With a supple voice equally at home with a crooning love song, a rousing story, or an upbeat cajun lilt, Claire hits all the right colors while surrounding herself with three remarkable musicians. Mark Schatz, himself a two time bass player of the year, brings diversity with his hambone routine and solid mature experience. Meanwhile, two versatile young guns, Bryan McDowell and Jarrod Walker contribute their virtuoso instrumental and vocal work on four instruments (banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle) making the band one of the most far ranging four piece bands ever. It's always a pleasure to encounter this band. 

Claire Lynch

Mark Schatz

Bryan McDowell

Jarrod Walker

Claire Lynch

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

With the sad passing of Ralph Stanley, the first generation of bluegrass innovators has been further thinned. Meanwhile, Ricky Skaggs continues to emerge as a bearer of the flame and a living, growing link to a proud bluegrass past. At sixty-two, he can look back to having been asked to the stage with Mr. Monroe when he was only six years old and, a year later, to play the mandolin with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs. Monroe's Uncle Pen has become one of his signature songs. When Dr. Ralph passed away, it was a natural for Carl Goldstein to ask Ricky, who had been a Clinch Mountain Boy with Keith Whitley during the 1970's to produce a Ralph Stanley Tribute for Delaware Valley. With Ricky's permission, I recorded the entire Stanley tribute, which can be seen below. In addition to his playing Ralph Stanley's music with Kentucky Thunder, Skaggs invited Danny Paisley, Claire Lynch, Dale Ann Bradley, and Tina Adair to join him in song. 

Ricky Skaggs

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder remains one of the premier bluegrass bands of the past two decades. It features fine young pickers like Russell Carson, Andy Leftwich, Scott Mulvahill and Jake Workman, along with Eddy Farris on rhythm guitar, and twenty year stalwart Paul Brewster. These are some of the finest musicians in any genre of music. Meanwhile, Skaggs as the genial host, celebrates standards of the first generation of bluegrass along with some of his finest hits from his highly successful career in country music. Newly slender, again, he's energetic and warm as an emcee. His act continues to deserve its acclaim. 

Andy Leftwich

Paul Brewster

Edd Farris

Russell Carson

Jake Workman

Scott Mulvahill

Ricky Skaggs & Claire Lynch

Ricky Skaggs & Danny Paisley

Ricky Skaggs, Tina Adair & Dale Ann Bradley

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder - Ralph Stanley Tribute
with Special Guests
Dale Ann Bradley, Claire Lynch & Danny Paisley 

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