I like Sundays at bluegrass festivals. They're pretty much laid back days after the excitement that has built to Saturday night's climax with a killer band closing and crowds cheering. Promoters customarily provide a couple of gospel sets, Mike and Mary Robinson may be there with their Gospel Jam and Sing, Kids' programs get to strut their stuff, contest winners get a set from the main stage, and often a very good band or two closes the event by mid-afternoon. Then tired and happy, people may stay into Monday if they don't have work obligations, or pack up and leave for home. Too many people leave early to do chores, prepare for the work week, and get a little rest. They miss the tone and feel of a bluegrass Sunday.
Bluegrass Gospel Sing & Jam
"Preacher" Mike and Mary Robinson bring their Bluegrass Gospel Sing & Jam to festivals up and down the east coast, leading worship on Sunday mornings and providing pastoral counseling to the bluegrass community. They lead the singing and playing of good old gospel songs and Mike delivers a brief evangelical message.
Mike and Mary Robinson
Jenny Brook Kids
During the past few years attendance at the Jenny Brook Kids program has fallen to a bare minimum of one kid. This is really a shame as Tony Watt each year has assembled a solid staff to teach and prepare young people for the Sunday performance from the stage. Kids programs at other festivals in New England seem to be thriving, but, sadly, most of those who showed up for the first meeting decided they would prefer not to participate. Since there appeared to be plenty of young people in the target demographic in attendance, it remains a mystery why more don't attend. Meanwhile, fourteen year old Mac Litishin from Great Barrington, MA had the opportunity to perform with a strong back-up band of very capable Boston-based musicians. Mac has been playing the fiddle since the age of four and has participated in various children's programs for the past six years. He performed well in what must have been a pressure packed time for him with no other young people playing.
Grace Van't Hof
Washington County Line Bluegrass Band
JB Choice Award Winners
Washington County Line, a New York-based bluegrass band featuring a range of material from music by the founders to more contemporary bluegrass was chosen by fans to become a finalist and then judged by a panel of bluegrass professionals to be selected to present a set from the main stage. For the second straight year, an interesting and accomplished bluegrass band participated at the Grass Seeds Gazebo competition and presented an entertaining Sunday set from the main stage. Next year, I'd expect more established bands to continue to attend the festival in order to compete in this increasingly prestigious competition.
White Mountain Bluegrass
White Mountain Bluegrass has been playing conventional bluegrass music throughout New England for over forty years. Mack and Hazel Magee are part of the southern diaspora who arrived in the midwest and northeast seeking better jobs than they could get at home and bringing the music with them. They met, married, and, naturally, formed a band. Their music has helped to pioneer the bluegrass scene in New England.
Harry Grant - Sound
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band played three excellent sets over two days at Jenny Brook, bringing cheers from their audiences as well both entertaining and inspiring them. This was the second of three New England appearances this year. They appeared at Strawberry Park in June and will be at Podunk in August. This North Carolina-based bluegrass band can be counted on to sing and play wonderful contemporary bluegrass ballads, traditional bluegrass and country songs, and both older and more familiar gospel as well as gospel material written for them. Their new CD will be released in late July at a party in Shelby, NC and will soon be available. Meanwhile, the band is traveling widely, strengthening an already strong fan base, and growing tighter by the week.
Brooke Aldridge & Rachel Renee Johnson
Dwayne, Brooke & Rachel
Clyde Proch - Emcee
Wrap - Up
Since moving to Tunbridge three years ago, the Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival has continued to grow and improve. Promoters Candi & Seth Sawyer, while experiencing some growing pains, have adapted to the new setting and learned to use the fairgrounds environment with increasing skill, taking advantage of the multiple buildings to increase the offerings of the event. Meanwhile, the fairgrounds board and staff have continued to improve the venue, increasing the number of hookups available each year. Next year plans are afoot to increase the amount of rough camping space by crossing the river. Sound by Harry Grant is reliable. Musicians express, even privately, appreciation for Harry's knowledge of how bluegrass should sound and his ability to deliver it. The emceeing by Mike Robinson and Clyde Proch keeps the emphasis where it should be, on the festival and the musicians, a lesson some other emcees could learn. Vendors this year offered a broader than usual choice of more wholesome foods, and I didn't miss the everpresent smell of dough frying in hot oil a bit. Smoking at this festival has been reduced so as to be rare, not only in the performance areas, but around the campground. The increased number of volunteers, including some new, younger ones, did their jobs effeciently and unobtrusively, while the fairgrounds full-time staff was invaluable at collecting trash, keeping the rest rooms clean, helping with set-up and break-down, and more. Jenny Brook has risen to become one of the top four bluegrass festivals in New England and should continue to improve next year. If you haven't been to the Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival yet, you should mark it on your calendar for next year.
One Tired Blogger