Friday, May 26, 2017

Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival - Thursday & Friday 2017 - Review

We usually arrive early at festivals in order to settle in, watch the community grow during the week, relax, and because we don't have anywhere else to go.  We drove north after a week of visiting in Washington, D.C. as urban countryside and traffic morphed into the bucolic world of northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. It's easy to imagine two great armies moving towards Gettysburg for the battle representing the high tide of the Confederacy in the early summer of 1863 through well-tended farms and small villages. We settled into our campsite in Granite Hill Camping Resort, just a few miles west of the historic battlefield and participated in the annual 3:00 PM chair drop, a civilized opening for one of the oldest and most prestigious bluegrass festivals in the country. 

Jam Camp
Ira Gitlin & Tom Adams

Jam Camp, as an activity for novice and beginner musicians to learn how to play bluegrass music with others was developed, popularized, and spread by the hard work of Pete Wernick, Dr. Banjo. Several years ago he began training several authorized teachers to offer his program on a wider scale. The Jam Camp at Gettysburg, now run by long-time assistant and colleague of Pete's continues to thrive, beginning on Monday afternoon and concluding with a short performance from the Gettysburg stage as the opening act of the event. Attending Jam Camp has become a central event of festivals for many people across the nation.

Jam Class

Ira Gitlin


On Stage

Tara Linhardt

Class Photo - After a Successful Performance

Here's a Link To More Jam Camp Photos

Blue Moon Rising

Blue Moon Rising, a solid bluegrass band featuring the stirring songs written by Guitarist and band leader Chris West, achieved their greatest recognition with the 2005 CD "On the Rise." They have appeared, mostly as a reunion band, from time-to-time during the past four or five years. West's songs like "This Old Martin Box Guitar" and "The Hanging Tree" continue to be popular and are sometimes covered. It was a delight to see the band together again, with a couple of additions, Randall Massengill on guitar and harmony vocals and Kyle Perkins, always reliable on bass.

Chris West

Keith Garrett

Justin Jenkins

Brandon Bostic

Randall Massengill

Kyle Perkins & Chris West

Family Friendly

Blue Highway

Blue Highway has become a senior band on the bluegrass circuit through their combination of excellence and consistency. The title of their new CD captures well the essence of their music - Original Traditional. Much of their music is written from within the band by stalwarts Shawn Lane, Wayne Taylor, and Tim Stafford. They sound traditional, but, on closer listening, also communicate a quite contemporary sound and quality. Young Dobro ace Gaven Largent has settled into the band, filling a hole many thought could not be adequately filled. This multi-award winning band can be counted on.

Shawn Lane

Tim Stafford

Wayne Taylor

Jason Burleson

Gaven Largent

Steve Dilling & Tim Stafford

Vendors Row

Open for May Festival - A First


I can't write any more about Sideline being a side project of a few bluegrass veterans. It's emerged as a headliner band containing a mixture of old pros and emerging young guns delivering the best in traditional bluegrass with drive, skill, and commitment. Sideline presented five sets and conducted a workshop during three of the four days of Gettysburg. That's a large commitment, made even more impressive by how few songs they repeated over the period. They seemed to carry the heavy performing load lightly on their shoulders and clearly made a name for themselves with the Gettysburg crowd. Sideline has now gone beyond "keep your eye on" to the "get your local promoter to book" stage. You'll be glad you asked for them. Steve Dilling remains the most engaging band emcee in the business.

Steve Dilling

Skip Cherryholmes

Jason Moore

Nathan Aldridge

Brad Hudson

Troy Boone

Steve Dilling

Vendors Row

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Darin & Brooke Aldridge have a new CD out called Faster & Farther, which may be their best collection yet. They appeared at Gettysburg in two configurations this weekend, which deserve two entries. Meanwhile, the duo continues to build a strong band, add personnel, and strengthen themselves internally. Matt Menafee, remembered from his time with Cadillac Sky is a wonderful banjo player, who can play any style. Billy Gee, a veteran bass player from Wilkesboro, NC is steady as a rock, and sings harmony, too. Allan Shadd has been added on guitar, freeing Darin to show more of  his virtuoso work on mandolin, his primary instrument. Carley Arrowood is accomplished beyond her age on fiddle showing all one could wish, both instrumentally and vocally. Brooke Justice Aldridge remains one of the strongest, clearest, most nuanced vocal forces to be found anywhere. It remains a mystery why IBMA hasn't yet recognized her as Female Vocalist of the Year.


Matt Menafee

Carley Arrowood

Billy Gee

Alan Shadd

Carley & Brooke

 The SteelDrivers

The SteelDrivers highlighted Thursday evening with a single nintety minute performance featuring some of their most loved songs from the Chris Stapleton years along with more recent releases, including their Grammy winning CD The Muscle Shoals Recordings. Adam Wakefield filled in admirably for Gary Nichols, who's ill. Wakefield, who came in second in this ABCs The Voice in 2016. His gravelly voice worked well for the bluesy songs The SteelDrivers specialize in, along with impeccable diction making the lyrics fully understandable. The SteelDrivers have de-emphasized their party vibe, at least for this kind of audience, and moved their show to the middle of the evening, where there is more time for members to interact with their audience. This very fine band continues to grow on me. I always look forward to seeing them. 

Tammy Rogers

Mike Fleming

Richard Bailey

Brent Truitt

Adam Wakefield

Mike Fleming & Adam Wakefield

Using Her Fiddle as a Fan
Tammy Rogers

At the Merch Table

 Thursday was hot and dry. The weather forecast had promised four days of warm, pleasant weather. But mid-May in central Pennsylvania can be counted on for some weather surprises. The threatening rain and a couple of brief thundershowers would make video recording difficult on Friday, but what would Gettysburg be if it didn't give festival goers a few surprises beyond the music?


Friday dawned pretty steamy and would progress towards pop-up thunder showers, making it pretty hard to get video, but mostly a nice warm late spring day. As usual, when bands repeat, I'll only show them once, with the exception of John Cowan's terrific show on Friday evening with the Darin & Brooke Aldridge band. The lineup for the day was strong, the air a bit steamy. It all began with Sideline performing one of its five weekend sets. 

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Michael Cleveland has been the premier traditional fiddle player for more than a decade. His bands play and sing some of the best fiddle music heard anywhere. The current band features Nathan Livers on mandolin, whose hot mandolin blends well with Mike's fiddle. Singer/Guitarist Joshua Richards has a strong bluegrass voice and plays fine rhythm guitar. 

Mike Cleveland

Nathan Livers

Joshua Richards

Tyler Griffith

Jasiah Shrode

Cindy Winkleman (Co-Promoter) and Joe Cornett (Festival Founder)

The Gibson Brothers

With their new CD In the Ground, consisting entirely of songs written by Eric and Leigh Gibson, The Gibson Brothers have stepped into a new realm of mature reflection on life, music, and meaning. The songs demonstrate the same sense for melody, for working within the bluegrass format, and for communicating honesty and authenticity. They've delved into a new and deeper world of self-examination, finding a place for themselves in the world. Their catalog of fan favorite songs is now so deep they cannot possibly satisfy everyone within the format of two full sets. Each day, after presenting their best, they leave the audience begging for more. What could be any better?

Leigh Gibson & Mike Barber

Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

Jesse Brock  

Clayton Campbell

Cheryl Cox - What More Do I Need?

Volume V

Volume V comes from Mississippi with a strong program of gospel and secular songs under the leadership of the widely experienced fiddler/singer/band leader Glen Harrell. The addition of young virtuoso Jacob Burleson on mandolin provides a strong, new voice. Colby Laney on guitar is a first rate flat picker and Patton Wages plays very solid guitar. The band presents a solid bluegrass presence at any festival where it performs. 
Glen Harrell

Colby Laney, Chris Willamson, Patton Wages

Colby Laney

Jacob Burleson

Patton Wages

Changeable Weather

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Only one member remains of the band founded as IIIrd Tyme Out over twenty-five years ago. Russell Moore, one of the all-time great singers in bluegrass music has been there since the beginning. Wayne Benson has been with the band for twenty-three of those years, providing another based of consistency. Next in seniority is Justen Haynes, with about ten years experience. Keith McKinnon joined the band after Steve Dilling briefly retired from the road, leaving a big hole as band emcee, that Russell has learned to fill. It's been hard for the band to find a solid bass player who can sing, too, but Jerry Cole seems to be filling the bill. Nevertheless, the signature sound is still there, and IIIrd Tyme Out remains one of the most reliable bands, drawing food crowds, in bluegrass music.

Russell Moore

Wayne Benson

Justen Haynes

Keith McKinnon

Jerry Cole

Russell Moore

John Cowan with Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Since his days with the (now) fabled but then either reviled or worshiped Newgrass Revival, John Cowan has been an important voice in bluegrass, Americana, and Rock music. While his powerful, emotive tenor voice can move people to emotions they didn't know they had, he's a fine bass player, too. Many of his signature sounds have become favorite covers of many emerging bands. Meanwhile, as he continues to discover (and reveal) himself, his own compositions become increasingly emotion laden. He's been a leader for forty years. Joining John Cowan with Brooke Aldridge's voice and Darin Aldridge's harmonies and wonderful control of both the guitar and the mandolin provide a new and welcome range for all three. Add in Matt Menafee's ability to make the banjo sound old or new and Carley Arrowood's fine fiddle and harmony singing, and you have a band to rival any on tour. 

John Cowan

Brooke Aldridge

Darin Aldridge

Carley Arrowood

Matt Menafee

John Cowan

Plant Your Fields & Annabelle

Just about perfect first two days. 

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