Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jenny Brook Family Festival – Review

The sprit of Candi Sawyer pervades the Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival, makes it work and brings it to life. Candi, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis six years ago appears frail, but her iron will and good taste bring off this wonderful small festival year after year. The Weston, VT Recreation Park is located about two miles north of the picturesque village of Weston where the Vermont Country Store and the Weston Playhouse provide shopping and entertainment and the Green Mountains provide atmosphere unparalleled at this time of the year. For the past seven years Candi, her husband Seth (a wonderful singer/songwriter from that fabled heart of bluegrass music – Maine) and her two young sons Mathew and Adam establish a tone that creates a magical four days.

The volunteers arrived on Wednesday, set themselves up and began to prepare the festival grounds. Trash barrels distributed, signs placed along approach roads to point the way to the festival, tents pitched, and all the details of preparing the infrastructure of a festival accomplished. At 7:00 AM Kurt on his ATM was leading RVs to spots designed to make them happy and be sure that plenty of room was available for everyone. The Jenny Brook General Store took shape with Etta and George in charge. Candi oversaw the little details, while willing volunteers wearing bright yellow T-shirts with STAFF on the back scurried about. RVers set up and looked around to greet friends who they had known from previous years or other festivals. The day dawned bright and sunny, but the weather deteriorated as time passed. At six o’clock the music kicked off as described below. The Thursday bands were all local bands heavily loaded with friends and Sawyer family members. The music leaned toward classic country and bluegrass standards – just what the early bird audience wanted.

Friday morning dawned with the threat of bad weather which continued to deteriorate. Working the gate on Friday, we continued to marvel at the dedication of bluegrass fans, as they continued to arrive between showers and moments of sunshine. Each time the sky cleared, we thought we had seen the last shower, but no luck. Harry Grant, the sound man, arrived and set up his speakers and sound board as John and Judy got their field kitchen open and serving people wonderful breakfasts and continuing through the day with burgers to full meals featuring barbecued chicken, turkey wings, pulled pork and more. Their food and bright British personalities consistently maintained a higher than ordinary standard for fair food from 6:00 AM until the music stopped around eleven at night.

The music started at noon, with Smokey Greene leading off. Now well into his late seventies, this singer/songwriter has been on the bluegrass and country music scene for about fifty years, recently with a solo act featuring classic country and his own combination of comic songs mixed with tributes to the greats of country music and his own views of a world no longer as simple and uncomplicated as the one he thinks he remembers. Popular in the northeast as well as in Florida, Smokey’s warm baritone voice and mostly sunny songs draw his many fans to the performance area. He often opens festivals and performs around the dinner hour, helping to keep some of the audience in their seats a little longer or get them their earlier.

Junior Barber and Beartracks were up next. Barber, a fine resophonic guitar player eight times nominated for Dobro player of the year at IBMA, provides his marvelous melodic playing to support Julie Hogan’s solid electric bass, sprightly movement, and strong voice. Tom Venne, Julie’s older brother, plays rhythm guitar and sings, exchanging harmony and lead with his sister, each often moving back and forth in the same song. As pleasing to the eye as to the ear, Junior Barber and Beartracks is one of those groups that never fails to remind me how deep the musical roots are in all parts of the country. Coming from near Plattsburgh, NY, near the Canadian border, this group is a delight to hear and see.

The clouds continue to scud across the sky, dark and menacing, interspersed with brief periods of sunshine. During a short stint at the gate, where Irene and I are assigned but I get a regular break to go take pictures with each one extended until I hardly show at the gate at all, we tell a woman who’s checking in that there is a shortage of programs, so we’re limiting distribution to one per carload. “At these prices, the least you can do is give each person a program,” she grumps. It never ceases to amaze me that bluegrass fans complain about the cost of festivals when they get camping and three or four days of great music for around sixty dollars a head. Some large festivals have admission tickets exceeding a hundred dollars per person, but these feature large numbers of headline bands. Compare the cost of an entire bluegrass festival to paying $80.00 to $100.00 for a seat at a rock concert held in a football stadium where binoculars are essential if you wish to even see the performers. Furthermore, bands must buy gasoline to get to festivals, often a thousand or more miles from their home base. Promoters are, therefore, squeezed between attendees yammering to keep costs to rock bottom and bands needing to make a living.

Lynn Morris had a stroke several years ago and has only recently been able to return to performing despite finding it difficult to find the words and to play. The Lynn Morris Band took the stage next. Husband Marshall Wilborn, one of the great bass players in the history of bluegrass, provides vocal and emotional support to his wife while always maintaining his incredible beat and intricate bass play. David McLaughlin on mandolin, who also plays with Seneca Rocks and Springfield Exit, contributed his fine playing and voice as well as continuously supportive presence. Ned Luberecki on banjo contributed his wonderful radio voice, humor, and fine leads and backup. Lynn Morris, struggling and inspiring, stands as a tribute to fighting against adversity and working to overcome physical and emotional trauma to perform the music they love. It is impossible not to see the connection between Lynn Morris and Candi Sawyer as each woman works to keep bluegrass growing and alive.

The Lynn Morris Band is followed by Linda and Butch Ralph’s band Family and Friends. Their classic country sound and familiarity to the crowd here always evoke a strong response. Linda and Ralph are also vendors, representing Martin Guitars at their Danby Four Corners Music booth.

The Gibson Brothers now take the stage in the spotlight next to last position for the afternoon. They will also close the evening show. Each of their last three CDs has hit the top of the bluegrass charts, and they have now had a music video playing regularly on CMT as well. With their roots in the northernmost reaches of New York, the old family farm lies only a mile or two south of the Canadian Border, this band represents what is best in bluegrass music and receives wide play on satellite radio where, according to Ned Luberecki, they are requested and very well received. Eric and Leigh Gibson’s voices blend a harmony so perfect it is often difficult to know which one is singing lead They are also extremely talented songwriters, whose works like Callie’s Reel, The Barn Song, and Railroad Line evoke love and the loss of the rural lifestyle, striking both the head and heart. Eric is one of the few lead singers who can pick intricate licks on his banjo while singing in his clear high tenor voice. He is one of the most under-rated banjo players in the business. Leigh’s voice and strong rhythm guitar exchange leads with his brother in an always tasteful and exciting fashion. Together they are dynamite and the audience always responds to them. Their music clearly belongs in bluegrass, although its links to classic country, rock, and blues create an appeal that is broader than bluegrass alone. Mike Barber, Junior’s son, has been with the Gibsons since the start, a rock on bass. Clayton Campbell on fiddle, often going inside himself to wind his tones around and through the songs, and Rick Hayes on mandolin each work closely with the others to create a unique and affecting wall of sound. Even though it is sometimes now pouring, the music continues and the folks stay, now mostly under the two large tents. An occasional lightening flash or a rumble of thunder can be seen and heard, usually in the distance.

In the evening program, Leroy Troy is added to the lineup with one performance on Friday and one on Saturday. Troy has greatly reduced his festival appearance since he has joined the regular cast of the show at the RFD TV Theater in Branson, MO. This is sad news for fans as Troy is a sure crowd pleaser, but good news for him, because he now has a steady gig in a popular place. Leroy Troy performs as a single on banjo seated before two microphones. He plays old time songs with a deep Tennessee accent and hillbilly patter. I’ve talked to him several times, and it’s impossible to tell whether he just stays in character or if what you see is really the man himself. Regardless, his playing, reminiscent of Uncle Dave Macon is a virtuoso display of what clawhammer banjo can look and sound like. On standards like Grandfather’s Clock and Make My Skillet Good and Greasy, he plays both ends of the banjo at once while twirling and spinning it in the air. He’s very good and the crowds eat it up.

The evening continues to threaten, erupt, partially clear, and get colder. None of this deters the enthusiasm that the Gibsons create in their closing show. The warmth and energy created by the band communicate themselves to the audience who stay until the end and then disperse either to bed or for a late night of jamming. Despite the weather, it has been a fine day.

Saturday dawns chilly but promising. During the night temperatures have dropped into the low forties, but the front that’s been forcing its way through may take its leave today. The campground appears full, but campers continue to arrive and are shoe-horned into place by Curt Barnes, who is busily leading them to their camping sites, covering the grounds in his four wheel ATV. His daughter Becky, a delightful nearly seventeen year old has replaced me completely at the ticket booth, freeing me to take pictures and visit with the bands. It would impossible to run this festival, or any other for that matter, without the enthusiastic support of the volunteers. Jenny Brook is special, however, for the hard work and devotion to Candi Sawyer shown by them.

The Gibson Brothers are the second act in the lineup this morning, despite having closed the night before. The come on with energy and enthusiasm and get the crowd moving again. Buddy Merriam and Back Roads follow. We had seen Buddy Merriam’s band about eighteen months ago opening for the Gibson Brothers in Lexington, MA. This weekend he sounded and looked better. The addition of a female singer to his band gave it a richer sound. His bass player, Ernie Sykes, Jr., brings broad experience, a good voice and solid beat and a sense of humor to the band. He also was the last musician hired by Bill Monroe to be a Blue Grass Boy, an important element for Merriam, since he seems often to be trying to channel Monroe in his presentation. At Jenny Brook Merriam played four sets and made an important musical contribution to the festival, playing the last set on Sunday.

Each time I hear the Seth Sawyer Band I’m more impressed. The band is solid with Dave Olomoski on mandolin and Darryl Smith on banjo both contribute solid instrumentals and vocal flourish. Candi Sawyer on bass provides a steady bass. The gem, of course, is Seth, whose voice ranks up there with the likes of Junior Sisk. He leans out over his guitar and fixes the audience with his piercing blue eyes as his interpretations of other people’s songs and his own song writing cut right to the heart. His song “Green Mountain Girl” dedicated to Candi and sung to her on the stage can’t be resisted.

David Davis and the Warrior River Boys arrived from a gig in Kentucky just on time to take the stage. They were well worth the wait. Davis plays a hard driving Monroe Style mandolin and also introduces his audience to older sounds like those of Charlie Poole and Deford Bailey, the first black performer at the Grand Ol’ Opry who appeared from 1927 – 1941. By placing his own hard driving style into a tradition going way back beyond Monroe, Davis educates his audience while entertaining them. In a festival dominated by northeastern bands, Davis provided a perfect sound and flavor that enriched the festival. At many southern festivals we attend, his sound would blend in with other less able hard driving bands. At Jenny Brook, his efforts really paid off in audience appreciation and excitement. His band, especially Owen Saunders on fiddle and lead singer and guitarist Adam Duke as was Marty Hays on bass and vocals.

A highlight of Saturday afternoon was the appearance of Erin Gibson LeClair accompanied by her brothers and Mike Barber. Erin, as Eric and Leigh’s younger sister, grew up with music and it shows. While having opted to stay home in northern New York to raise a family and teach school, Erin has deprived bluegrass music of her marvelous voice. On gospel songs her clear voice and obvious sincerity are sure fire winners. Erin’s performance of The Lighthouse can be heard on the Gibson Brothers CD Bona Fide. She’d be welcome on more of their cuts.

Saturday evening vamped into a rising crescendo as Leroy Troy kicked off another set followed by a rousing performance by David Davis and the Warrior River Boys and leading to a resounding climax by the Gibson Brothers. Even as the temperature dropped into the forties, the stars came out and the excitement reached wonderful levels. As the Gibsons finished their two encore songs, everyone went home happy.

Candi Sawyer solves the Sunday problem by returning to a family format. The morning opened with Mike Robinson and his wife Mary leading a particularly satisfying bluegrass gospel sing with high attendance, enthusiastic singing, and a brief but poignant message emphasizing the lack of certainty in a life without faith. The Right Path Gospel Band followed with a gospel set and then Buddy Merriam returned for another set. The Jenny Brook Kids, who had been practicing all weekend, then took the stage. These youngsters show that bluegrass music appeals to the younger set and that the future of the music is assured.

They were followed by the Seth Sawyer Band again. During this set, Candi, who had been working hard all weekend finally gave in and had to leave the stage. With the support of her family and friends backstage, she rallied and by the end of the festival was able to walk out to where the forty of fifty people remaining were arrayed in a large circle for the traditional Jenny Brook ending, the singing of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” As Candi came out and joined the circle, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Her courage and positive view of life triumphed over her physical weakness, inspiring all who were there. With the final refrain of “in the sky Lord, in the sky” we all hugged or shook hands and Jenny Brook was over for another year.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Jenny Brook Family BG Festival - Thursday

The Jenny Brook Family Festival in Weston, VT got underway yesterday with a bang, in this case literally as thunder showers surrounded the area, most of them passing to the northeast. There was some rain, but the audience was enthusiastic and the music was fine. All day long various kinds of RV rigs rolled into the area and were checked in and located in slots by the volunteers. People set up their rigs and settled in. Jammers began pickin’ and the festival began to buzz.

At six o’clock the music started with the Sawyer Brothers, hosts Candi and Seth’s two young sons Mathews and Adam. Accompanied by their parents, the boys sang the five songs from their new CD, much to the crowd’s support and pleasure. Following the Sawyer Brothers, other local bands played what turned out to be a very pleasant evening of classic country on acoustic instruments and bluegrass from a band put together by Seth for the day. Here’s a few pics from Thursday.

Candi Sawyer

Brenda and Friends

Brenda Mathews

Mathew and Adam Sawyer

Precision Valley Bluegrass

Seth Sawyer

Family and Friends


Look for more tomorrow with some text, if I can find the time. This is a great little festival - warm, homey, and welcoming. Come on out!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ronnie McCoury to Release Children's Bluegrass CD

I’ve written in this blog before about my concern for the future of bluegrass if the music doesn’t cater to changing tastes in the audience. Our kids grew up on various forms of rock music and seem almost completely impervious as they look at their aging parents and just shake their heads. When we go to bluegrass festivals we see many more people our age (mid-sixties) than we see young folks with their children. One promising movement has been the efforts of some bluegrass festivals (Strawberry Park, Grey Fox, Jenny Brook, Springfest, and others) to provide a Kids Academy in some form or other where children get instruction in playing acoustic instruments and perform for the entire festival on the last day. These kinds of activities serve to relieve parents of having to supervise their children all day every day as well encouraging the kids to make music together and begin to get into bluegrass.

Ronnie McCoury seems to have come up with a different approach. On August 21st, “Little Mo’ McCoury,” a CD of children’s songs will be released. According to the Bluegrass Blog, this new album was inspired by the birth of Ronnie’s new child. The album contains sixteen cuts, divided between well known children’s songs bluegrassified and traditional bluegrass and folk songs appropriate for kids. You can listen to the samples here. A press release from McCoury Music says, “Ronnie McCoury's fondest childhood memories are ones he has of accompanying his father-the iconic Del McCoury-to bluegrass festivals, experiencing early on the way that music can bring parents and kids together. Now that he is a highly accomplished artist (and father) in his own right, Ronnie-joined by the Del McCoury Band, of which he is now a longtime and prominent member-has recorded an unprecedented album that will allow families everywhere to experience together this quintessential American musical form.”

Songs on the CD include: “This Land is Your Land,” “Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” “Jimmy Brown the Newsboy,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” and more. There’s a wide selection of songs from Bob Dylan, Randy Newman as well as McCoury originals and bluegrass classics. This album not only presents fine children’s music, but shows how such music can be interpreted within the bluegrass genre. Getting children started on music in the format of bluegrass and accessible to their tastes and interests should be a can’t miss project.

This all sounds like a great idea to me. As grandparents who wish to share the joy of listening to bluegrass music, attending festivals, and learning to play the music, we’ve tried to interest our sons in interesting their kids in the music to less than resounding enthusiasm, we welcome this release from McCoury. It’ll find its way under Christmas trees and onto our CD player when the grands are around. Little Mo’ McCoury will be released on August 21st. Keep your eye out for it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fast Copy by Dan Jenkins, Simon and Schuster, 1988

Not having anything else I wanted to read the other day; I picked up a copy of Fast Copy that had been moldering on my bookshelf for some years. As I began reading it, I met Betsy Throckmorton, wise-cracking daughter of Ben, just returning to Claybelle, TX, a fictional town south of Fort Worth with her Yalie Yankee husband Ted to take over Daddy’s newspaper (her as editor) and radio station (him as manager). Betsy and Ted are met at the station by an assortment of Texas folks right out of Jenkins’ catalog of characters. There’s the wildcat oilman, the banker, the too made up and sexy wives and girlfriends, the loyal black servant couple, the Texas Ranger, and the two red-neck louts. These people wise-crack, love, get richer or poorer, swap mates, and kill each other for the next 396 pages.

Dan Jenkins is best known to his readers as one of the great sports writers of the second half of the twentieth century. Writing mostly about his twin passions – golf and football – Jenkins has enlivened the pages of Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, Playboy and many other magazines. His books include the football classic Semi-Tough and a great golf book, Dead Solid Perfect, too. Fast Copy allows him to write about still another passion, newspapers. Set in the continuing depression in Texas of the mid-1930’s, Fast Copy allows his characters to assert the worthlessness of those who suffer most from the depression while allowing the Texans getting rich from oil and banking at the expense of others to make fools of themselves. Jenkins’ ear for dialogue is as dead solid perfect as the drives of one of his golf characters. The story allows Betsy and Ted to bring their eastern sensibilities to rural Texas. Betsy re-designs the pages of her paper to increase its world view in the face of the rise of Hitler and Mussolini. Ted seeks to examine the hobo jungle that local residents see as a source of pestilence rather than the result of economic disaster. Jenkins shrewdly inserts his social message through Betsy’s wit and commitment to finding and exposing the truth.

After completing about 120 or so pages of this book, I put it down, figuring I was hearing more of Jenkins razor wit and Texas talk, which I had become familiar with in real life through a three year stint teaching in east Texas during the seventies, than I wanted. I thought that the book was too filled with wisecracking and too light on plot and character development. Some days later I picked it back up, and I’m glad I did. I was wrong on all three counts, as the book moves to a rousing climax and the characters become more interesting as it progresses. By the end, I cared about Betsy Throckmorton and her friends and lovers, while I admired her courage and spunk. The format allows Jenkins to make his humor laden and cogent comments about football and journalism, with a slight bow to golf as well as a large dollop of both Texas and New York. This book is a more than worthwhile diversion for someone looking for a book that’s both light and thought provoking.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mountain Music Meltdown - Saranac Lake, NY June 30 - July 1: Preview

Fair Warning! It’s difficult to preview an event which I myself have not been to before. It’s even harder to preview one which has no history, as there are not even comments by others to take into account. Mountain Music Meltdown, to be held in Saranac Lake, NY on June 30th and July 1st boasts a varied schedule of Americana and world music. This event is billed as “the first annual” so I hope it succeeds, as the Adirondack region is much in need of a couple more strong music festivals. This festival is promoted by Lazar Bear Productions, whose principal is Les Hershhorn.

For us, the premier attractions, when we heard of this festival, were (and remain) the appearances of Doc Watson and The Gibson Brothers on Friday. Doc Watson, at age 84, is still a wonder flat-picker on the guitar. (Do your own Google search on Doc; there’s a wealth of information and lots of it is worth looking at.) His picking style, which first made a splash during the folk revival of the sixties, is fast and accurate and his singing voice is mellow. His musical tastes range from old mountain ballads through bluegrass and blues to rock and roll. He’s played it all. As host of his own festival, the fabled Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC, which annually attracts in the neighborhood of 80,000 admissions, he has set the standard for Americana festivals. Each year we go to this remarkable event to hear old favorites and are introduced to bands we never heard before who make a deep impression on us. Doc Watson is still worth hearing and seeing on his merits as a picker/singer and a must see as an important part of music history.

The Gibson Brothers bring the tight harmonies of brothers to a delightful mix of music with their feet very deep in bluegrass, but not so embedded that their music doesn’t reflect modern tones and sensibilities. Coming from upstate (now in this case, upstate doesn’t mean “anywhere north of Westchester, but Ellenburg Depot, just south of the Canadian border) New York, these two singer/songwriter/musicians have put out three number one bluegrass albums in recent years and are becoming an increasing draw on the festival circuit around the country. In New England and New York, where they have a large following, they always draw a crowd eager to respond to their exciting singing and playing. Supported by Mike Barber on bass, Rick Hayes on mandolin, and Clayton Campbell on fiddle, this group sends out a big wall of sound that reflects all that is best in contemporary bluegrass music while still paying respect to the founders of both bluegrass and classic country.

Sven Curth opens the program on Saturday. His MySpace entry lists him as a singer/songwriter who plays guitar for a group called Jim. Curth’s sound, as sampled on his site, seems to be a nice rocky/bluesy sound complemented by interesting lyrics. It sounds like the sort of material that would be pleasant listening under the sun at the opening of an eclectic music festival. He is based in Lake Placid and performs around the Adirondacks and over into Vermont. He is followed by the George Bailey Trio, billed by Lazar as a regional bluegrass group. As this band doesn’t have a web presence, I’ll have to leave it at that. The Gibson Brothers appear at 3:30 and are followed at 5:30 by Doc Watson. These two offerings are sufficient to make the day ticket price of $50.00 worthwhile. They are followed by Tcheka from Cape Verde, Africa whose music is described as Afrofunk. A second stage provides additional music.

The Chaz dePaolo Blues Band kicks off Sunday's performance. He describes his music as “traditional blues played with a rock feel.” The two samples of his music available on his MySpace page support his assertion. He sounds, again, like an enjoyable opening act. He is followed by Ana Popovic, Yugoslavian guitar Diva. Her American debut Album, titled “Still Making History (2007) is about to be released. She comes from Belgrade, Yugoslavia and sounds good enough to me to spend some time listening to her.

I have to admit that Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen are a group that I’ve never heard, but whose name strikes some kind of chord with me, though I can’t say where or how. Their press kit says they originated at the University of Michigan during the sixties and migrated to San Francisco during the late sixties. Songs like “Hot Rod Lincoln” a talking blues and “Hawaii Blues” have a really listenable west coast sound that’s pretty sure to please. The samples on their web site suggest a strong country influence informed by the Grateful Dead. New Riders of the Purple Sage close the show on Saturday. The fact that Jerry Garcia appeared on their first album probably had no influence on them or their development. The early editions of this band also included Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and David Nelson. Their sound is western hippie jam band – easy to listen to. Most of their recordings were released from 1974 – 1980.

This new festival looks like a very good way to spend the early part of 4th of July week. As nearly as I can tell, spending your time at this festival might well provide a good deal of enjoyment. As I listened to sound clips in preparing this preview, I was impressed and enjoyed the music. Mountain Music Meltdown will be held on the North Country Community College soccer field in Saranac Lake, NY on June 30th and July 1st. You can by tickets on line for $75.00 advance or can get them at the gate for $80.00. Day tickets are $45.00 and $50.00. Food vendors and a beverage tent will be available. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets. You can buy tickets here. You can find Saranac Lake here. For my taste, Doc Watson and The Gibson Brothers offer the most exciting part of this new festival, but there’s good diversity here and lots of surprises in store.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival - June 21-24: Preview

The Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival opens for its seventh year at the Weston Recreation area on Lawrence Hill Road, just north of Weston, VT on June 21 and runs through June 24th. This small festival has many features to recommend it. The small town park makes it a good place to hold a family friendly festival. The grounds contain an unguarded swimming pond, which is well-used on warm early summer days. There’s a playground set and an enclosed basketball court area where kids shoot baskets and run around. Furthermore, the crowd is such that many parents allow their children pretty broad leeway to have freedom of the grounds. The park is largely turned over to free, rough camping. There are no hook-ups of any kind, but rigs are carefully parked to assure maximum use of the available space. The staff (fair disclosure: Irene and I are volunteers at this festival) is friendly and helpful. Porta-Johns are plentiful and cleaned often enough to keep them from becoming obnoxious. All told, this festival, owned and run by Candi Sawyer, is well-organized and enjoyable. Vendors provide a pretty food variety of fair fare, and a local instrument dealer is present with Martin guitars and the usual small things pickers sometimes need. Field pickers abound and play pretty late into the night.

This year’s lineup is headed by two days with two performances each day by the Gibson Brothers. This band, which has had increasing national visibility over the past couple of years as well as three number one CDs, has been a loyal feature at Jenny Brook. Last year they lit up the crowd on two evenings. The excitement this band generates among those familiar with them or only just getting to know them is infectious. Long time friends of the Sawyers, The Gibson Brothers will be greeted by old friends and make new ones during their four sets.

Lynn Morris has one of the great voices in bluegrass music. David Davis and the Warrior River Boys, from Alabama, are making up an appearance they could not keep three years ago because of illness. We had the pleasure of seeing them later in the summer at another festival and found them to be an engaging traditional band. Leroy Troy returns to Jenny Brook after a highly successful appearance last year. Troy does a one man show on the old-time banjo in the style of Uncle Dave Macon. His humor and skill combine to make his appearances very enjoyable for all.

The remaining bands on the schedule come from either New England or New York. For folks used to looking south for their bluegrass music, these appearances reassure people that bluegrass is alive and well in the northeast. Buddy Merriam & Backroads comes from that well known center of bluegrass music – Long Island. Don’t let their origins fool you. This is a real bluegrass band fronted by Buddy Merriam, who plays Bill Monroe mandolin as only one who knew the Big Mon himself can. Smokey Greene does a solo show accompanied by his old Martin guitar, Ben, combining country and bluegrass standards and his own often amusing songs.

Seth Sawyer, Candi’s husband, is a noted singer/songwriter who comes from Maine, but don’t let that fool you. His songs are wonderfully written and he performs them more than ably with his own band. Junior Barber, who is a first rate Dobro player and used to play with the Gibson Brothers, plays on Friday with Beartracks. I’m not familiar with the remaining bands, but know that Candi offers a strong program.

Sunday at Jenny Brook is strongly tinged with Gospel music. Mike and Mary Robinson, whose itinerant bluegrass ministry is familiar to many, lead a bluegrass gospel sing on Sunday morning and the Right Path Gospel Band will also play. Mike will also ably double as emcee. Last year, when the piper played “Amazing Grace” and then those remaining formed a circle and sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” was a sad and inspiring moment leavened by the knowledge we would all return in a year and do it over again.

Nowhere is more lovely than New England in early summer and the Jenny Brook At Jenny Brook, old friends meet again year after year and new ones are welcome. Bluegrass Festival can provide a delightful weekend for those who want to give it a try. Within an easy drive of anywhere between Boston and New York, this festival deserves the attention of those who enjoy traditional bluegrass music served up in traditional style by wonderful people.

The Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival will be held at the town park just north of Weston, VT from June 21 – 24. Camping is free with a four day ticket. Tickets cost 55.00 for the weekend. Day tickets for Friday or Saturday are $25.00 with a discount after 5:00 PM. You can find a map to the location here.