Monday, June 28, 2010

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer - Columbus, Ohio - Preview

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) is a bluegrass festival held in memory of Mandy Adkins, who died of brain stem cancer in November 2000. Darrell Adkins, Mandy's father, who had produced festivals for many years at Frontier Ranch, near Columbus, along with his wife Phyllis, dedicated future events in this series to supporting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, where Mandy had been in treatment.  Presenting perhaps the finest and most varied lineup of any bluegrass festival, The MACC will run this year from Wednesday, July 21 through Saturday, July 24, presenting a full four day program of bluegrass music. Bands performing at MACC work for free in order to help support this worthy cause.  During the ten years as a charitable event, The MACC has raised $530.274.00 for St. Jude and the YMCA.  The festival is held at the Hoover Y-Park in Lockbourne, OH, just south of Columbus.  

Darrell Adkins

Phyllis Adkins


Information about tickets and camping for MACC can be found here.  Remember that all tickets are 90% tax deductible.  The park open for camping on Sunday, July 18 at 8:00 AM and sites are available on a first come, first served basis at a rate of $5.00 per day.  There is a limited number of sites with 20 amp electric hookups.  There are three fields available for camping and there is always room.  There's plenty of jamming at MACC for those interested.  Additional information about camping, motels, and available amenities can be found here

For 2010, a new stage has been constructed, which will assure that the interruptions posed by rain last year will no longer be as likely, while facilities for performance will be improved for the musicians.  The MACC festival has the best sound to be found anywhere.  Regardless of the distance from your seats to the stage, the sound is clear and sufficiently loud without ever becoming overpowering.  Most of the seating is shaded by tall, majestic trees.  There are plenty of flush toilets.  A dance area is provided for those who enjoy dancing to bluegrass music.  The MACC Children's Band, staffed by professional bluegrass musicians and volunteers, offers three days of instruction in bluegrass music and offers everyone involved an opportunity to perform on stage on Saturday morning.  Selected members of the group will also be seen on stage on Friday and Saturday night.  The festival features a strong variety of food and instrument vendors.  Artist merchandise tables are located to the left of the stage along a paved walk. Because performers work without pay at MACC, your supporting them by purchasing CD's and other merchandise in especially important to them.  A good merchandise sale helps performers defray the significant travel costs they incur.

The MACC Store in Merchandise Row

Food Vendors

Classic Performances

A signature element of The MACC has been Classic Performances by bluegrass and country music greats on two or three nights of the event.  This year, there will be attractive Classic Performances on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings to close the day.  Each event is scheduled to begin sometime after 10:00 PM and may continue for quite some time.  In these performances, groups of musicians who do not customarily play together as a touring or recording band perform special selections or create new combinations.  These are always exciting performances. 

Music of the Johnson Mountain Boys

The Johnson Mountain Boys, originating in the Washington, D.C. area, were one of the most exciting and energetic bands from the late 1970's until their breakup in 1987.  During their active period, they recorded ten well-received albums, toured widely, and were nominated for numerous awards.  They were a generally traditional band, serving much the same purpose of the Bluegrass Album Band of the same period - preserving the then threatened music of the first generation greats of bluegrass.  Most former members of The Johnson Mountain Boys are still active in bluegrass, and band members have participated in occasional reunion concerts.  At MACC on Wednesday evening two former members of The Johnson Mountain Boys (Dudley Connell on guitar and lead vocals and David McLaughlin playing mandolin and singing) will be joined by fiddle great Michael Cleveland and banjoist Jesse Baker, to recreate the sound and feel of the fabled Johnson Mountain Boys.  As is usually the case with MACC Classic Performances, other musicians from the day's lineup can be expected to show up on stage.

Dudley Connell

David McLaughlin

Michael Cleveland

Jesse Baker

Friday Night 
Shawn Camp, one of the most successful song writers in Nashville and a dynamic performer will host the Friday evening Classic Performance along with  Charlie Cushman, one of the finest banjo players around, Mike Bub on bass, busy and versatile Aubrey  Haynie on fiddle, with Chris Henry playing mandolin.  Judging from the list of musicians who will also be playing on Friday, Camp and Company will have a huge list of other musicians to draw from in putting together the cast for Friday evening.  In a phone conversation, Shawn commented he was pleased to be returning to an event he believes in and supports whole-heartedly. 

Shawn Camp

Aubrey Haynie

Charlie Cushman

Mike Bub

Chris Henry

MACC Opry - Saturday Night

A good festival is structured to gain momentum and achieve its height of excitement and musical interest on Saturday night.  The traditional ending to MACC is the MACC Opry, a drawing together of great musicians around the organizing core of three great bluegrass/country song writers.  Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, and Jerry Salley form the center of Saturday night's MACC Opry.  Built around songs of these three giants and surrounded by other musicians who have performed during the day as well as others who stayed around for the Opry and members of the MACC Children's Band, the grand finale is in the tradition of bluegrass festivals looking back to the first festival held in Fincastle, VA in 1965 and made rare today because the economy of music has forced bands to play two or three dates on a single weekend.  Knowledgeable MACC attendees know to stay right through the MACC Opry for a rousing finish to a great weekend.

Carl Jackson

Larry Cordle

Jerry Salley

Bradley Walker

Randy Kohrs

Brandon Rickman Singing from Young Man, Old Soul

Although not listed in the Classic Performances, Brandon Rickman, lead singer for the Lonesome River Band, will be presenting a set on Friday afternoon from his very good solo album "Young Man, Old Soul."  He tells me his band will be Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Mike Bub on bass, Rob Ickes on Dobro, and Jason Burleson on banjo.  His vocal backup will consist of Bradley Walker and Jerry Salley.  This should prove to be a an exceedingly attractive set.  If you haven't heard this CD, be sure to attend this set...and then buy the recording.

Debut Bands

Four bands will be appearing at MACC for the first time.  Nothin' Fancy is a veteran band that's been touring successfully for  many years in addition to hosting their own annual festival.  They are noted for their humorous presentation, Mike Andes' singing and song writing, and his very good Charley Waller-like presentation of Country Gentlemen standards.

Nothin' Fancy
Mike Andes

Darin & Brooke Aldridge
With a new self-titled album produced by Jerry Salley rising in the charts, this young duo coming out of a background in bluegrass gospel has added a strong country/bluegrass edge to their very fine work.  Brooke Justice Aldridge's voice is a force of nature blending perfectly with Darin's high tenor, which is very reminiscent of Vince Gill.  This is a band about whom you'll be saying, "I saw them when they were fresh out of the box, and they've only continued to get better."  Don't miss this set, which opens Friday's program.

Sierra Hull & Highway 111

 At age eighteen and just having finished her freshman year at the prestigious Berkeley School of Music in Boston, this young band leader/mandolin prodigy from Byrdstown, TN has already distinguished herself with her touring band and a successful CD.  She has surrounded herself with young guns Clay Hess, familiar to MACC attendees, on guitar and Cory Walker, from Florida, on banjo.  This is an exciting and enjoyable band.

 Clay Hess

Cory Walker

The Snyder Family
Fourteen year old Zeb Snyder and eleven year old Samantha Snyder have been impressing knowledgeable listeners for several years.  Samantha, even at age eight had a clear voice and always knew right where the note was, and she has only improved, her voice complementing her very good fiddle work.  Zeb won his Henderson guitar in a contest a few years ago, and may need to replace it with a larger one soon.  He's comfortable on the stage with some of the best pickers around and can stand with anyone.

Zeb Snyder

Samantha Snyder

In a lineup traditionally packed with dynamite talent, these four bands will easily fit in and delight people previously unfamiliar with their work.  The remainder of this year's MACC lineup is so strong, diverse, and attractive that there isn't room to highlight specific bands.  From the opening at 1:30 on Wednesday with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out through to the closing MACC Opry around midnight on Saturday, there isn't a band appearing that won't appeal to a large portion of the audience, while there's sufficient variety to assure something for everyone.

 MACC Line-up

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out — Wednesday - 1:30
Don Rigsby & Midnight Call — Wednesday - 2:45
Sierra Hull & Highway 111 — Wednesday - 4:00
Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper — Wednesday - 5:15
The Gibson Brothers — Wednesday - 6:30
The Grascals — Wednesday - 7:45
J.D. Crowe & The New South — Wednesday - 9:00
MUSIC OF The Johnson Mountain Boys — Wednesday - 10:15
    by JMB Members Dudley Connell, David McLaughlin & Marshall Wilburn

Pine Mountain Railroad — Thursday 12:30
James King Band — Thursday - 1:45
Nothin' Fancy — Thursday - 3:00
Lost and Found — Thursday - 4:15
Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice — Thursday - 6:45
Dailey & Vincent — Thursday - 8:00
Rhonda Vincent & the Rage — Thursday - 9:15
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out — Thursday - 10:30

Darin & Brooke Aldridge — Friday - 12:30
Larry Stephenson Band — Friday - 1:45
Brandon Rickman - Young Man, Old Soul — Friday - 4:15
Marty Raybon & Full Circle — Friday - 5:30
New Found Road — Friday - 6:45
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver — Friday - 8:00
Blue Highway — Friday - 9:15
Shawn Camp - Charlie Cushman - Mike Bub - Aubrey Haynie
    - Chris Henry — Friday - 10:30

The MACC Children's Band — Saturday - 11:30 a.m.
The Snyder Family — Saturday - 12:30
Ronnie Bowman — Saturday - 2:30
Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time — Saturday - 3:45
Randy Kohrs & The Lites — Saturday - 5:00
Jeff White & Charlie Cushman — Saturday - 6:15
Lonesome River Band — Saturday - 7:30
Steeldrivers — Saturday - 8:45
MACC Saturday Night Opry: Bradley Walker - Carl Jackson
    - Jerry Salley & other MACC members — Saturday - 10:00

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer
Hoover Y Park - Lockbourne, OH

The MACC is a special event for all sorts of reasons.  The music is without parallel among bluegrass festivals.  There may be larger and more varied events, but for bluegrass lovers, MACC is pretty near to heaven.  The setting is spacious, shaded, and fan/family friendly.  The sound is the best anywhere.  I'll be doing my best to blog daily from MACC in order to capture the breadth and spirit of this event.  The music starts on July 21st.  Buy your tickets now and assure yourself of a great four days of music.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival - Sunday and Assessment

When we woke up Sunday morning, the rain was clearing out and a warm sunny day was promised.  By nine, when Clyde Proch, the very capable emcee who announced the entire festival, convened the traditional bluegrass gospel jam, the day promised to continue fine for the rest of the day.  The weather held until a light rain shower came along to slightly dampen the closing act, about which there will be much more down the page.  Turns ou, the weekend was favored with excellent weather - warm, sometimes hot, and sunny days and cool, but not cold evenings.  The faucets got turned on at night a couple of times, but were conveniently turned off in time for the music each day. 
Bluegrass Gospel Jam

Clyde Proch led the gospel jam, which was well-attended and enthusiastically sung and played.  He kept to the familiar old songs and offered a brief, ecumenical prayer giving thanks for the weather, the festival, and enjoining participants a safe trip home when the left.  


The Hemingway Brothers

The Hemmingway Brothers are a Maine-based traditional bluegrass group specializing in covers of Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, and other first generation bluegrass bands.  They played a set a day for three days, filling important segments of the bill.  Their work was solid, if un-spectacular featuring appropriate tempos and representing their models well with good singing and picking.

Kip and Dale Hemingway

Bruce Hobart

Hunter Webber

John Sparrow

Carrie and Aaron

Jenny Brook Kids Academy

Each year Tony Watt, well known as both a teacher and player throughout New England, spends three days preparing the Jenny Brook Kids for their stage appearance on Sunday at around noon.  The kids academy is an excellent approach to continuing to bring young people under the bluegrass tent.  It's something of a disappointment that more of the young people attending the festival didn't take the time to participate.


Tony Watt

Here's the key to a Picasa web portfolio of the Jenny Brook Kids

The Gazebo Stage and the Jenny Brook Choice Award

This year young banjoist Michelle Canning very capably ran the Gazebo stage where young performers and bands were invited to showcase in a competitive setting with the winner being invited to perform a set from the main stage on Sunday.  Last year very few people performed at the Gazebo stage, but this year Michelle recruited, papered the festival with fliers, put up a schedule board, and ran a very effective stage.  The result was about a dozen individuals and bands competing and quite a good band coming to the fore on Sunday.  Hot Mustard, a new bluegrass band given strong leadership by veteran banjo master Bruce Stockwell and his wife bassist Kelly Stockwell, aided by an arts grant to him and Bill Jubett put together a first rate band.  Congratulations to all involved in this worthwhile project.

Hot Mustard Performing on the Gazebo Stage

Michelle Canning

Michelle Canning Introduces Hot Mustard on the Main Stage

At many festivals we attend, I like to identify a band that particularly surprised me for its quality and attractiveness.  Often it turns out to be an un-heralded local or regional band I'd never heard before.  In this case I must confess that Bruce Stockwell has been my banjo teacher, and I've written about his performances, primarily with his brothers, before.  Hot Mustard is a bluegrass band he, Kelly, and Ben Jubett have put together that's been performing in Vermont and New Hampshire for a few months.  With April Hobart bringing a fine bluegrass voice to the mix, and luthier Adam Buchwald on mandolin, Hot Mustard presents a program of older seldom heard songs, very good instrumentals, and new material together to create a very good blend.  Regional promoters should seek this band out. 

Bruce Stockwell

April Hobart

Bill Jubett

Adam Buchwald

Kelly Stockwell

Brenda Mathews and Daughter Candi Sawyer
 Photo by Kelly Gibson

Candi's Surprise Guest
Seth Sawyer & Painful Memories
Holding an audience on Sunday at a four day bluegrass festival presents festival promoters with a seemingly insurmountable problem.  Many festivals we attend schedule a strong, popular band for Sunday hoping to attract or hold the audience through Sunday closing.  Often it proves to be of no avail.  In the promotional material for the festival, Candi Sawyer announced a "Grand Finale Surprise."  Towards the end of the Gibson Brothers' wonderful set on Saturday evening, Leigh Gibson announced that on Sunday their band would act as Seth Sawyer's back-up band for a performance of his songs.  This announcement proved to be a strong enough attraction to hold a couple of hundred more festival goers than have stayed at Jenny Brook in previouse years.  They were treated to a first rate closing.  

Seth Sawyer

Seth Sawyer is a very talented song writer whose tunes have been recorded by David Davis, The Pine Hill Ramblers, and The Gibson Brothers.  His often sad and heart rending songs tell stories that he conveys with feeling and conviction with his very fine lead tenor voice and solid rhythm guitar.  Because he performs too infrequently and often with a pickup band, he often doesn't receive the showcase he deserves.  Through the generosity of his friends the Gibson Brothers (Painful Memories) he performed a selection of his best work to several hundred people who stayed to hear the combination.  Seth's work deserves much wider hearing, and many bands could benefit by adding a couple of his songs to their set list.  

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Joe Walsh

When the Sawyers decided to move the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival from their previous location at a town park in Weston, VT to the Tunbridge World's Fair Grounds in Tunbridge, VT, they took on a pretty big risk.  The fairgrounds are an hour futher north and were unfamiliar to many of Jenny Brook's loyal fan base.  The move has proven itself to be a stroke of genius.  The fairgrounds are locaed conveniently close to two Interstate highways, provide many water and electric sites at reasonable prices as well as hot showers and flush toilets. The venue is nestled in amongst lovely surrounding Vermont hills at the foot of a tiny rural village along a brook that's convenient for wading  on hot days.  The fairgrounds staff picks up many of the chores often taken on by volunteers at other festivals. (Nevertheless, more volunteers are needed.  If you wish to volunteer to work at Jenny Brook, drop a line to Candi Sawyer at the e-mail address on the Jenny Brook web site.)  The new site has allowed the festival to grow and to provide a more complete and satisfying experience for all.  From the opening Pot Luck Supper on Wednesday evening to the closing performance by Seth Sawyer and Painful Memories, the tenth anniversary edition of the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival was a resounding success.  See you next year.

The Gibson Brothers - Callie's Reel