Monday, August 21, 2017

Podunk Bluegrass Festival 2017 - Thursday & Friday

Judges at Work for the Podunk Band Contest

The Podunk Bluegrass Festival, is now in its fourth year at the Hebron Lions Club fairgrounds in Hebron, CT. Four bands, all from New England, competed in the band competition on Thursday. The judges, working within a set of written criteria, observed a thirty minute set from each band. The sets were required to include at least one gospel song, last year's song-writing contest winner in their own arrangement, and to include the introduction of each member of the band. After the judging period, each band received a feedback session from the judges to help them improve or refine their performance. After a brief intermission, each band presented a longer set including any music they wished. Interesting, all four bands were sharper and more interesting in their second sets than during the contest. The winner was announced after the four free-style performances. The judges were musician Dave Dick, Record Executive Ken Irwin, Broadcaster Darwin Davidson, and Promoter Arnie Fleisher. 

Mama's Marmalade

Based in Northampton, MA, Mama's Marmalade uses traditional bluegrass music to explore the "limitless capabilties" with respect for tradition and a look towards more contemporary forms. In the next few weeks, you will be able to see them at Thomas Point Beach and Freshgrass;

Lily Sexton

Sean Davis

Curtis Bordage

Mitch Bordage

Rich Hennesy

Vendors Row

High Strung Revolution

This New England band comes from diverse routes, all of which are reflected in the range of musical styles and pedigrees their music inhabits. Nevertheless, it is filled with bluegrass tradition and a willingness to bring songs from other genres into a bluegrass format. Some really interesting material.

Hayes Miller

Mark Tanzer

 James Edgerly

Chris Boucher

Podunk Mascots

The Korey Brodsky Band

Korey Brodsky, about to enter his freshman year at Berklee College in Boston, is well known in New England circles, where he has been a fixture at jams and was early recognized as a prodigy, competed in the band contest on both guitar and mandolin with soon to be classmate Sophia Chiarondini on fiddle. While his guitar play is very fine, he blew me away on mandolin with his crisp, precise, and, of course, speedy play. Unlike many young players, he has not been afraid to demonstrate his still youngish voice, which will certainly improve with age and training. Beyond that, he poised and interesting, neither always qualities of young players. I look forward to watching the progress of these two players. The Korey Brodsky Band will surely resurface under many names in the next few years as his musical world grows. 

Korey Brodsky

 Sofia Chiarandini

Dick Neal

Rick Brodsky

 Beg, Steal, or Borrow

While Beg, Steal or Borrow makes its home in northern Vermont, its musical influence are wide ranging both in training and in origins, with members from the east, midwest, and west coast coming together to present a driving and enjoyable bluegrass music that inculcates all its vast resources. While, like many such bands, all members have other obligations, this is a band to watch..

Geoff Goodhue

Jeremy Sicely

Luke Auriemmo

Roland Clark

Fran Forim

...and the Winner Is....Beg, Steal or Borrow 

For the first time in the ten year history of the Podunk band contest, the same band was picked by the judges as the winnder and by the audience as fan favorite. This bodes well for the future of this exciting band. They've been invited to perform at the Bronzewound after hours showcase at IBMA in September. 

Mark Fitzgerald

Mark Fitzgerald owner and chief engineer for Rosewood Sound now does sound at three of the larger and better bluegrass festivals in New England. Rosewood provides clean, precise, clear sound that can be heard and enjoyed. Their mastery of the oddities if acoustic sound are paralleled in the region. 


Chasing Blue

Chasing Blue has come a long way since we first saw them some years ago at Joe Val. The band looks different, attacks its music with verve, enthusiasm and experience. Its music is engaging, as are they. While their base appears to be Nova Scotia, their sound still echoes Berklee College of Music and the Boston scene. 

Maggie McKay

Danny Rusher

Alex Muri

 Laura Orshaw

Michael Reese

Boxcars' Adam Steffey at the Merch Table

Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike

With a new (and enthusiastic, experienced) band, a new CD, and renewed health and vigor, Valerie Smith is back on the road with a crew of strong Washington, D.C (and Baltimore)-based musicians who ably help her showcase many of her old favorites as well as a bunch of new music. Hall of Fame member Tom Gray, a member of both the original Country Gentlemen and the original Seldom Scene takes back seat to no one, on the bass. Joe Zauner on banjo, Wally Hughes, and Lisa Kay Howard on mandolin round out the group. It's a delight to see Val back on the road. Her song Red Clay Halo returned as a brain worm in my head after she sang it at Podunk. 

Valerie Smith

Tom Gray

 Wally Hughes

Lisa Kay Howard-Hughes 

Joe Zauner

Scott Wilkins Interviews Valerie Smith

Scott Wilkins is relatively new to the bluegrass world and embarked on an interesting and potentially extremely valuable musical voyage. Hosting a web page called he''s attending festivals and recording interviews with bluegrass personalities. While his experience is still limited, his work appears promising, seeking to capture on video and in video interviews the excitement of the bluegrass world. The approach strikes me as having a genuine immediacy to it with the potential for adding depth to understanding the scene. He''s exploring a new way to present this engrossing life. 

The Surly Gentlemen

Synonyms for "surly" include sullen, uncivil, brusque, and irascible. Since none of these names accurately describe these three musicians touring as an interesting side project, the name seems unfortunate. However, the trio comes across as engaging, experienced, and interesting. Synonyms for engaging are charming and agreeable. Tim Shelton, well-remembered for his band New Found Road, successful and often ground breaking in the early part of the century, is currently planning a reunion tour. Clay Hess, long a well-known guitar player has his own band, including his son Brennan, who is the third gentleman here. They performed songs from their various bands as well as material well-suited to their current format. They're worth taking a second look at.   

Tim Shelton

Clay Hess

Brennan Hess

The Boxcars
Adam Steffey

With two of bluegrass music's most respected instrumentalists in Adam Steffey on Mandolin and Ron Stewart playing either banjo or fiddle, the Boxcars have consistently delivered carefully arranged and thoughtfully delivered bluegrass music to fans who appreciate traditional sounds from the best. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Keith Garrett, in real life a chemistry teacher, writes with the best. Gary Hultman, recently graduated from ETSU plays solid Dobro, and Harold Nixon holds it all together on bass. They always deliver. 

Ron Stewart

Keith Garrett

Gary Hultman

Harold Nixon

Our Camping Rig for the last Five Years

Adam Steffey Conducts Mandolin Workshop

Adam Steffey

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

Rhonda Vincent simply keeps rolling along, bringing her top notch entertainment and first rate band to large and small festivals alike. Regardless of where she appears, he demeanor remains the same: upbeat, enthusiastic, energetic, and engaging. She effectively sells herself, each band member, her merchandise, television appearances, and the cruises she'll be headlining next winter without sacrificing entertainment value or seeming to pressure her multitude of fans. At her merch table, fans patiently wait in line for a few moments with Rhonda, which feel to them as if she has really given of herself. It's a miracle of concentration and attention to detail without seeming effort. A band member told me that when she hits the bus, she remains the same after I asked if she collapses. Nope! Always up-beat!

Rhonda Vincent

Josh Williams

Mickey Harris

Sally Berry

Hunter Berry 

Brent Burke

The Great Tom Gray with Fans

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