Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival - Friday

Friday at Jenny Brook opened with a ground fog obscuring the lovely hills surrounding the Tunbridge "World's Fair" grounds.  The obliging and very effective grounds crew was already at work making sure that festival goers would awake to clean grounds ready for the first big day of music at the festival.

Acoustic Blue

One of the strongest regional bands in New England, Acoustic Blue is professional in everyway - how they sound, their use of mixed material, much of it original, as well as their look and demeanor.  Bear Acker on bass provides a mature and experienced anchor.  Cory Zinc's strong baritone voice, mandolin play, and song writing contribute in every way.  Sean Batho, playing guitar and singing both lead and harmony vocals provides strong balance.  Mike VanAlstine on banjo and resonator guitar, brings a sense of tamed roughness and good humor to the mix.  This band is worth your time to hear and appreciate.
Bear Acker
Cory Zinc
Sean Batho
Mike VanAlstine
Summertown Road
Summertown Road is a new, young band from Kentucky recently signed by Rounder Records.  The band shows huge amounts of enthusiasm, good instrumentals, and lots of energy.  Their material still consists of largely traditional covers of material from the bluegrass standard catalog.  They're developing a sense of stage presence and clearly enjoying themselves along the way, although still a bit rough around the edges.  Bo Isaac sings lead with Zach Rambo are strong.  Jack Hicks on banjo and Randy Thomas on electric bass anchor the band, bringing seasoning along with them.  This band, while still not completely formed, shows promise.

Bo Isaac

Zach Rambo

Jack Hicks

Randy Thomas

Liz and Goat

The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band

Leroy Troy and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band bring the traditional material of Uncle Dave Macon and the jug bands the preceded bluegrass music as entertainment for listeners and pickers.  Troy plays both open back and resonator banjo with skill and his set pieces like "Grandfather's Clock" are a joy to watch as he used the instrument as a pendulum, picking with his left hand as the head swings back and forth.  He's supported by a strong band that complements his humor with good country humor of its own.  This band provides a much needed change of pace to any festival where it appears.  They can also be seen on Marty Stuart's program on RFD-TV.

Mike Armistead & Leroy Troy

Hazel Mcgee, Candi Sawyer, Mac Mcgee

The Seth Sawyer Band
Seth Sawyer's songs have been recorded by The Gibson Brothers, David Davis & The Warrior River Band, and The Pine Hill Ramblers.  His powerful tenor voice and strong rhythm guitar deserve a wider audience.  When he surrounds himself with a strong band, it's a real treaty to hear and see him.  At Jenny Brook he was joined by Joe Singleton, whose singing of Joe Val works has received lots of recognition in New England, as well as dobro master Roger Williams.  Cory Freeman on fiddle, Herman Magee on banjo, and Seth's wife Candi on Bass filled out the band.  It was a real treat to hear his own works like "Engineer Without a Train" and "Green Mountain Girl" as well as the very good traditional covers offered by this band.

Seth Sawyer

Joe Singleton

Roger Williams

Freeman Cory
Herman Mcgee

Candi Sawyer

Don Rigsby & Dudley Connell

What happens when you take two noted players and singers of traditional music and put them together on the stage as a "brother style" duo.  Magic!  Don Rigsby, whose work as a musician spans several decades with a number of noted bands that has culminated in his current group Don Rigsby & Midnight Call, has returned to full-time touring with his fine tenor voice and inspired singing.  Dudley Connell, first known as lead singer and guitarist with the fabled Johnson Mountain Boys and now filling the same role with The Seldom Scene, is a curator of traditional music who is also comfortable with a variety of other styles.  Together they presented music from the early pre-bluegrass days with songs by the Lily Brothers and the Monroe Brothers as well as others.  Their set was filled with fine singing, excellent harmony, and a clear introduction to music that might not have been familiar to much of the audience, but left us wishing for more.

Dudley Connell

Don Rigsby

The Seldom Scene

While veteran banjo player Ben Eldridge is the only remaining member from the orginal ground breaking Washington-based band, the Seldom Scene sound is alive and well.  Each member brings with him his own reputation and unique sound and blends it into the Seldom Scene tradition almost seamlessly.  The continue to tour infrequently, but their sound always attracts new listeners while raising wonderful memories in older ones.  This once revolutionary band's catalog has become part of the standard repertoire, as it should be.

Ben Eldridge

Lou Reid

Fred Travers

Ronnie Simpkins

Dudley Connell

Friday at Jenny Brook was a fine day, the weather held and the music was better than that.  Keep on coming back for more of this country bluegrass festival.


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