Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Palatka Bluegrass Festival 2017 - Friday Review

Friday at the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch turned into one of those sublime days that only the combination of a very good venue, fine warm weather, and a great lineup can offer. We awoke with frost on the car windows after Thursday evening's chill, but the day warmed quickly, and soon folks were moving about, preparing for a day many had looked forward to.

...At The Villages Compound

The Villages is the largest retirement community in the world. Located about two hours' drive from the Ranch, it has an active RV Club, many of whose members love bluegrass music, too. Above, they gather for a community breakfast and a jam. The group from The Villages was a welcome and pleasant addition to the week's festivities, without being overwhelming, as can happen when twenty-five rigs from a single organization cluster together.

All Kinds of Rigs Appear at Bluegrass Festivals

Although the bluegrass audience looks like it might be pretty similar, there's actually considerable diversity to be found in those attending the events. Walking about the grounds almost turns into an RV show by itself.

Johnny Adams & Lamar Moss Host Their Jam
Each Morning

Deeper Shade of Blue

A Deeper Shade of Blue is a North Carolina band coming from the area around Monroe, near Charlotte. Founded about a dozen years ago, the band has consistently improved in quality and broadened its performance reach. Like many fine bluegrass bands, it's members prefer to remain near home, job, and family, but bluegrass is really more than a hobby for these men, as all of them have toured, at least briefly, with national bands. They are polished, musically varied, and interesting.  This year their schedule has them ranging from Virginia to Florida with a cruise thrown in. They deserve wider attention.

Troy Pope

Jason Fraley

Jim Fraley

Frank Poindexter

 Scott Burgess

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire Squad is one of the few bluegrass bands continuing to perform with a single microphone. Working with one mic requires a careful choreography, while providing interesting, purposeful movement on stage and maintaining an old tradition for bluegrass bands. Ron Thomason doesn't tell jokes. He's a humorist and story-teller who takes current topical material and puts it through a new and somewhat quirky lens. He's always interesting. The band's music is traditional bluegrass and old-time gospel, creating a unique mixture that many love and seek out. 

Ron Thomason

Tom Boyd

Adam McIntosh

Jeff Byrd

Adam McIntosh & Jeff Byrd

Singing....He's Coming To Us Dead

 Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy is getting fancier without losing touch with either its audience or the material that brung 'em. With their latest album and riding a change to Mountain Fever Records, the band has strengthened itself musically, and concentrated on its musical content. Meanwhile, the humor sometimes verging on silliness has matured, while not getting lost. These changes should result in broadening its fan-base. This weekend, they were trying out a new, young bass player named Jacob Shelton, who was playing his first gig with the band. He did an admirable job, but has yet to learn and fit into the band's routines while finding a specific role to play within the band. My bet: he'll do just fine.  

Mike Andes

Mitchell Davis

Christopher Sexton

Caleb Cox

Jacob Shelton

 The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers have ascended to a spot near the topmost bands in bluegrass. With the Friday release of  In the Ground, their second recording with prestige label Rounder Records, they have presented the bluegrass world with their first set of songs written entirely by Eric and Leigh Gibson. Since they have ridden their rise on the backs of their writing, singing, and spontaneous brother humor/bickering, they have put themselves all out. It shows...and its better than very good. As I watched the band this week, one word kept recurring to me...Concentration.  The entire band listens intently to every other member. They work together to produce the best sound they can. They know they are working with exceptional material. I'll be reviewing this new CD in a few days. The new songs were very well received, but the Gibson Brothers' catalog is deep, and their audience holds many of their songs in their hearts. This makes it hard, in just two sets, for the band to cover even a small number of the requests they receive at every venue. 

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Jesse Brock 

Eric and Leigh Gibson

 At the Merch Table

Leigh Gibson & Susan Pounds

...With Red Jones

Dailey & Vincent

Dailey & Vincent appeared at Palatka with a band almost completely turned over since last we saw them...and vastly improved. The addition of bass Aaron McCune, who adds playing guitar well enough to convince the audience he really can play and participating in band skits with conviction. Shaun Richardson has been added as a strong flat-picker, and he can sing, further adding to the band's flexibility. Of course, the big surprise, was Patrick McAvinue's addition. People who have been following Patrick since he began appearing nationally with Audie Blaylock are well aware of his versatility and talent. Patrick is a fixture of the Baltimore scene as a member of Charm City Junction and a force behind the new music festival there. He's a fiery, inventive fiddler with a unique presence, and very welcome. Add these new players to the core of Jesse Baker on banjo and guitar as well as Jeff Parker on mandolin to Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent's leadership, and you have a flexible, active, musically satisfying band comfortable with country music, pop, and lots of gospel music as well as bluegrass. Their recent elevation to membership in the Grand Old Opry stands as testimony to all this as well as putting them into the pantheon of Opry greats. 

Jamie Dailey

Darrin Vincent

Jeff Parker

Jesse Baker

Patrick McAvinue

Bob Mummert

Aaron McCune

Shaun Richards

Shaun Richardson & Jesse Baker

Patrick McAvinue

The Gospel Quartet
Dailey, Parker, Vincent & McCune

Cricket Larson

 Friday at Palatka was a special day with one more coming. See you in a day or so.

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