Thursday, September 18, 2008

Denton Farmpark BGF - Denton, NC - Preview

Even if there weren’t going to be a lot of very good bluegrass music played at Denton Farmpark next week, a trip to this venue would be worth the effort. The addition of a bunch of good regional and national bands makes this festival a “must” in the Fall bluegrass season. The Denton Farmpark Bluegrass Festival runs from September 25 – 27th outside Denton and convenient to most of the major population centers of North Carolina. The major headliners will be Blue Highway, nominated for six IBMA awards, Grasstowne (4 nominations), Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper with two nominations, and the Steep Canyon Rangers, also with two nominations. Other major bands include James King, the Circuit Riders, and Lost & Found.

The Denton Farmpark alone is worth the price of admission. Open only three days a year for events including two bluegrass festivals and the Threshers Reunion, Denton Farmpark contains a very interesting of late 19th century and early 20th century rural farm and town buildings as well as a vast and interesting collection of farm vehicles and implements. Oh, there’s a train, too. The main stage is a large tin roofed building with a strong rake allowing very good sight lines. The wooden benches are hard, so it well-behooves attendees to bring cushions along.

Bands new to us at this year’s fall Farmpark Festival include Movin’ on Bluegrass, which won this year’s RenoFest band championship, Buck & Company, hailing from Parkersburg, WV, and A Touch of Blue. Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion is a regional favorite that can be counted on for driving traditional bluegrass and solid entertainment. Carolina Sonshine, based in southeastern North Carolina and Loris, South Carolina, has extended its reach and continues to develop its combination of Gospel bluegrass, traditional covers, especially of the Country Gentlemen because of Danny Stanley’s fine baritone voice, and amusing skit comedy harkening back to the early days of bluegrass music. The Circuit Riders have also developed as a high level band with widening national attention. Composed of members of the last band that traveled with Charlie Waller, this band was highly visible at Merlefest in April and has a recording contract with Pinecastle. They’re worth keeping a close eye on as they extend their reach.

Al Batten

Johnny Ridge (Al Batten)

Dennis Cash, Danny Stanley, Tom Langdon (Carolina Sonshine)
The large touring bands ranger from very traditional ones like Larry Sparks to Blue Highway, one of the finest bands touring today, who provide music that pushes the boundaries of traditional bluegrass without ever indicating a lapse in taste. Grasstowne, too, nominated for Emerging Artist of the Year at IBMA as well as two individual instrument nominations to Jason Davis on banjo and Phil Leadbetter on Dobro and a Song of the Year nominations, has found a sound uniquely their own which includes nods to classic tunes, more modern bluegrass sounds, and some attention to classic country songs and artists. The Steep Canyon Rangers combine high energy with good songs, mostly composed by members of the band. They’ve exploded on the bluegrass scene since their emergence a few years ago, and show no signs of going away. They’re one of those bands you don’t want to miss. The James King Band has been improved recently with the return of Chris Hill on banjo and the addition of Tom Timberlake on bass. King’s soulful singing along with Kevin Prater’s strong tenor and solid mandolin work assure audiences as good dose of dark and dreary bluegrass songs. King’s classics like “Bed by the Window, Echo Mountain, and Forty Years of Farming always please when he plays them. Finally, Michael Cleveland, along with his band Flamekeeper, has once again shown himself to be among the finest fiddlers anywhere. His great joy at making music shines through. Jesse Brock on mandolin is one of the best and Todd Rakestraw’s lead singing is excellent. Marshall Wilborn on bass continues at the top of the list of fine beat keepers.

Here’s a selection of pictures from past appearances of some of these performers:

Larry Sparks

Blue Highway
Jason Burleson

Rob Ickes

Wayne Taylor

Shawn Lane

Tim Stafford

James King

Kevin Prater & James King

Lorraine Jordan (Carolina Road)

Josh Goforth (Carolina Road)

Lorrain Jordan, Benny Greene, Jerry Butler (Carolina Road)

Alan Bibey

Phil Leadbetter

Steve Gulley

Jason Davis

Jason Davis

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Mike Cleveland

Todd Rakestraw and Jesse Brock

Marshall Wilborn
Steep Canyon Rangers
Woody Platt
Mike Guggino
Graham Sharp

Charles Humphrey

Nicky Sanders

The Circuit Riders

Jaret Carter

Billy Gee

Darin Aldridge

Greg Corbett

Greg Luck

The Denton Farmpark is a very large facility and there will be plenty of camping spaces available. Tickets at the gate cost $75.00 for the three day weekend. Please be sure to look me up while we're there.


  1. Pass the grits Ted. This one is strong.

    Dr. B

  2. You've whetted my appetite...see you there!