Strawberry Park for me this year turned into more a matter of impressions and important personal experiences than a structured effort to experience and report on a fine bluegrass festival. Our friend Dr. Tom Bibey made his first trip to a northeastern bluegrass festival to see Darin & Brooke Aldridge on their first visit north, too. Dr. B has been one of Darin's mentors for years, introducing Irene and me to these fine young people. On Saturday night we were up until nearly 1:00 A.M. trying to find their guest trailer and get them settled. Meanwhile, the proof copy of Dr. B's new book, The Mandolin Case, arrived in the Strawberry Park office, leading to huge excitement for all of us who've been involved in this project. At the same time, Irene and I had carried the Traveling People's Mandolin with us to Strawberry Park and worked with Tim St. Jean, Director of the Kid's Academy to find the next person to carry it on its journey. Oh...and there were many musical highlights, too. With so much happening, I suspect my much delayed posts about Strawberry Park will take a few days to roll out and will be much more scattered and impressionistic that usual. Thanks for your indulgence. Today, I'm going to highlight the seven bands making their Strawberry Park debuts. In the next entry, I think I'll take on the old favorites, and then I want to try to put it all into perspective.
Strawberry Park Debuts
Festival promoter Buck Bieber does a fine job of bringing new bands to Strawberry Park and mixing them with others who have come for years and are favorites of the the crowd here. This year seven bands made their first appearances at Strawberry Park. Some are new and still relatively un-heralded, while others stand as some of the top draws in bluegrass and country music. I wrote about Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice on Thursday. You should continue to keep an eye on this band, which was nominated at IBMA last year as emerging band and should be the front runner this year.
Dailey & Vincent
When Jamie Dailey of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver joined forces with Darrin Vincent from the Ricky Skaggs band Kentucky Thunder, many people were willing to forecast their imminent downfall. Instead, this duo with the support of an evolving and exciting band has won top awards at IBMA for the first two years of its existence and fills tents and auditoriums around the country with cheering crowds. Their recent album, Dailey & Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers, released by Cracker Barrel Country Stores has been a huge success while signaling their continuing willingness to take big risks. By adding Christian Davis, a classic southern gospel bass singer, to their mix, they have reached out to new audiences without sacrificing the bluegrass crowd from which they emerged. There's no need to hype this band, they're doing it themselves to great effect. Suffice it to say they always give their all, bring excitement to their performances, and leave audiences on their feet begging for more.
Darrell Web (subbing for Jeff Parker)
Joe Dean, Jr.
Jamming with the Shaws
This three woman acoustic band featuring a somewhat unusual instrumental mix (Dobro, guitar, bass) and tightly woven close harmonies presented a fine Amphitheatre debut performance on Saturday morning. Red Molly features covers well-tailored to their sound (Darrell Scott's "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive") as well as a selection of their own material, they made a sound transition from the Folk Stage to the main stage. They also contributed another harmony workshop and had a Folk Stage performance. As an aside, Red Molly takes an unusual and important step in merchandising their CD's by placing a basket on their merch table and inviting people who to pay what they think the music is worth while noting that the average CD sells at festivals for $15.00. The basket looked comfortably full while Red Molly was able to make an artistic and political statement while challenging the traditional way of selling product.
Kid's Academy Rehearsal with Dr. Tom Bibey
Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa
Wayne Taylor spent many years fronting Country Current, the U.S. Navy Bluegrass Band, before retiring a couple of years ago and taking his own band on the road after a brief stint with Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie. Taylor has long been recognized for his superb voice, great song writing, and strong flat picking. It's a rare thing for a lead singer to be as good a flat picker as Wayne. He's surrounded himself with a very strong band. Emory Lester is well recognized as one of the masters of the mandolin. His play, harmony singing, and personality shine through in this band. Keene Hyatt on bass comes to this band with a background in jazz, but has made the transition to bluegrass bass in a wonderful manner, bringing the complex language of jazz to the stage with good taste and restraint, making a very solid addition. Young Lee Marcus on banjo has quickly integrated himself into Appaloosa. Making his first foray away from his native region, Lee was wide eyed and open eyed at the same time, taking everything in. He quickly made himself popular at Strawberry Park, both on and off stage. Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa are a rising band who already have a strong catalog of songs as well as clear and thoughtful leadership. Despite a poor placement in the lineup, they brought the increasing after-supper crowd to its feet and earned their encore. They deserve strong consideration by promoters as a band that will please audiences with their program.
The Trio (Emory Lester, Wayne Taylor, Lee Marcus
The People's Mandolin Moves On
Tim St. Jean, Irene Lehmann, Isabelle Hague
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives
We had seen Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives at least two other times, both in their electric manifestation. I didn't know quite what to expect at Strawberry Park or exactly how it would be received. Stuart and his acoustic band, with their wonderfully ironic name, hitting the stage with energy, commitment, and their deep experience, hit the audience right in the solar plexus, raising cheers of recognition, enthusiastic sing-alongs, and thoughtful listening for their entire program. Stuart's roots are deep in bluegrass. The band on stage at Strawberry Park was all acoustic with an unobtrusive snare drum played with brushes hung around Handsome Harry Stinson's neck. Cousin Kenny Vaughn's look screams out rock and roll guitarist with country mix. His picking shows he can do anything that's asked of him. His solos are fast and clean, and his backup to Stuart only served the band, and he sings, too. Preacher Paul Martin on bass and vocals has had a wide ranging career in country music, and brings his vibrant personality and powerful bass licks to the band. Read Marty Stuart's bio for yourself. He's done it all, seen high and low, and come out a winner on the far side. He's a genuine phenomenon as a singer, mandolin player, guitarist, and personality. The show evoked the strongest response of the weekend, as a Saturday closer ought to.
Preacher Paul Martin
Handsome Harry Stinson
Cousin Kenny Vaughn
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Following Dry Branch Fire Squad and bringing little name or vocal recognition with them to Strawberry Park, Darin & Brooke Aldridge grabbed the audience with their first song and maintained interest turning into enthusiasm and a growing realization that this was a band to take hold of and watch carefully. As their set progressed, musicians waiting back stage to perform, came to the front to see whose voice they were hearing for the first time. Making their first appearance in the northeast, Darin & Brooke have rapidly expanded their repertoire from a mostly gospel band playing in churches in their region to recognition as an emerging national band with a unique sound comprised of bluegrass/country and gospel music that has a nearly universal appeal. Danny Russell, bass player for DBFS and a deeply experience side man, said, "Listen to that. She sounds just like Reba...only better!" That's pretty high praise. Sunday morning's a bad time to play at almost any bluegrass festival. Darin & Brooke turned their slot into a triumph. They deserve to return into a strong Saturday position as well as a repeat of their Sunday program.
Brooke Justice Aldridge
Darin & Brooke
Rockin' Acoustic Circus
This band carries with it an unfortunate name for such a fine group. Rockin' Acoustic Circus makes great music and will only get better, but it doesn't rock and isn't a circus. The name leads people to expect something other than they deliver. During their set I heard very solid traditional bluegrass, folk tinged bluegrass originals, an excellent nod to the Newgrass Revival heritage they carry with them, and the sounds of Beethhoven on mandolin and violin turn into a rousing bluegrass finale. With the exception of Rick Morton, the band's obvious yet retiring leader, this band consists of young musicians, none of whom is over seventeen. Eric Dysert on lead vocals and fiddle has a remarkably clear and mature voice for a seventeen year old. Emma Hardin, playing her composite cello, has been influenced by the young cellists who are changing the sound of bluegrass, but brings her own sensibility to the material, as well as a good voice. Her brother Zac Hardin on bass, at fifteen the youngest member of the band, shows jazz licks to complement his strong bass beat. Carson Clemshire on banjo played a wonderful Bela Fleck solo in the final piece. Sterling Abernathy on mandolin has a clear a tone and as quick fingers as any mandolin picker. Rick Morton wrote a considerable amount of the original material for this band as well as providing a fine guitar anchor and voice. This band very much deserves watching. They'll be appearing at ROMP in Owensboro, KY on June 26 and at Grey Fox next month.
Saturday Bingo at Strawberry Park
This year Strawberry Park presented an interesting and varied group of debut performances. Come back in a day or so for an account of more established bands at this very fine festival.
I enjoyed your recap of the weekend very much! Cant wait to read your opinions on the rest. :)ReplyDelete