Monday, September 19, 2011

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival - Saturday & Assessment

When I woke up at 5:30 I heard the sound of rain on the roof of our camper. "Oh, no...that doesn't sound good."  By the time I was up and moving around, there wasn't a hint of rain, nor was there for the rest of the truly lovely day. Warm, sunny, wonderful music, a pleasant festival atmosphere bolstered by lots of people enjoying themselves the way they wished. Jammers were in the field making music. Fans strolled from merchandise vendor to food vendor to artist's table sampling the wares from each. Bluegrass music rolled out of the shed, delivered with impeccable taste and volume by sound engineer Gene Daniell and his crew - Johnnie and Roy.  Every once in a while there was a chicken siting.  The light hand of promoters Joe and Mitzi Soward kept the whole event moving along on time while always remaining pleasant and available to fans and artists alike. All told, the kind of environment you wish to encounter when you attend a bluegrass festival.

The Bluegrass Brothers

The Bluegrass Brothers have been through a good many changes in the last year or so. There are no longer any brothers in the band, although father/son pair Victor and Stephen Dowdy continue to deliver the hard edged, driving, rough bluegrass sound many people enjoy.  They sing and play with enthusiasm and humor. It's good to see Kevin Prater land on his feet in a band that suits his sound and personality.
Victor Dowdy

Stephen Dowdy

Kevin Prater
Tom Timberlake

Chris Hart

The Bluegrass Brothers - Grandfather's Clock - Video

The Trio - Kevin, Victor, Steve


Jerry Butler & the Blue-J's

Jerry Butler's warm baritone voice, friendly smile, and relaxed appearance have added musicality and quality to every band he's been with. Now, fronting his own band in a weak economy, he continues to deliver an entertaining mixture of new songs and traditional favorites with a band which supports his singing and delivers on its own, too. With veteran mandolin wiz Bobby Clarke, he's added a picker/singer who'd grace any band.  Tim Goins, is quietly hilarious when he talks, which is rarely, and eloquent on the Dobro.  Bobby Davis on bass provides the rock solid beat he's given fans of Valerie Smith as well as the James King Band. Derek Vaden, the newest member of the band on banjo is from Kansas.  While still settling in, he shows promise of blending well.  This band always delivers quality and tunefulness.

Jerry Butler

Bobby Clarke

Tim Goins

Bobby Davis
Derek Vaden

Jerry Butler & the Blue-J's - Working Man's Blues - Video

Jerry Butler

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

It's always a delight to see a young band work hard, hone its skills, develop a repertoire, strengthen its personnel, and be rewarded for it all with increased bookings and CD sales. While still in his early thirties, Darrin Aldridge is a veteran of the bluegrass circuit, having toured with Charlie Waller for nine years at the end of Waller's long career.  When he met Brooke Justice it seemed a match made in heaven, at least that's what they say, and the duo has formed a professional partnership as well as a warm and loving marriage.  They bring their deep Christian commitment and love for each other to the stage each time they perform, whether they're at a bluegrass festival, in one of the many churches where they perform, or a concert hall. With each change in the band's composition, it's been strengthened.  Chris Bryant on banjo has been with Darin & Brooke since the beginning.  He's never flashy and always reliable.  Rachel Johnson, soon to be married and in for a name change, plays a lively fiddle and blends wonderfully with Brooke, her musical sister.  Young Dwayne Anderson, still a student at ETSU, has brought his shy demeanor and strong beat to the band.  Darin & Brooke Aldridge is a nominee for Emerging Artist of the Year at IBMA coming up in a little over a week.

The Trio
Darin, Brooke, Rachel

Darin Aldridge
Brooke Aldridge

Rachel Renee Johnson

Chris Bryant

Dwayne Anderson

Darin & Brooke Aldridge - Wildflower - Video


Balsam Range
Balsam Range is composed of members living in rural Haywood County west of Ashville, NC on the edge of the Smokey Mountain National Park.  Hearing that, you'd think...raw traditional bluegrass. You'd be better off to let go of that thought and prepare to hear a high energy, smooth, musically and lyrically sophisticated bluegrass band that delivers on every level.  Nominated for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Emerging Artist of the Year at the upcoming IBMA Awards show, the band, which has not traveled too far from home yet, is one you want to hear and then hear again. They're both a great recording band and performing band, filled with energy, humor, and fine tunes coming from band members.  Anchored with the deeply experienced Dr. Marc Pruett on banjo and Tim Surett on bass and Dobro, the band also features the good natured, bearlike warmth and energy of Darren Nicholson, the earnest power of and songwriting of Caleb Smith, a hitherto unrecognized guitar virtuoso, and Buddy Melton's pure tenor voice and fine fiddling.  This is truly a band to be reckoned with.

Marc Pruett
Tim Surett

Darren Nicholson
Caleb Smith
Buddy Melton

Balsam Range - Julia's Train - Video

Dailey & Vincent

Jamie Dailey had been a key member of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver for nine years, singing tenor and doing comedy with the boss. Darren Vincent had played and sung with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder for about the same amount of time. Both were well recognized and secure. Why would two performers leave good jobs and stake their lives on a new, and not guaranteed venture?  They wanted to forma band together. They scrimped, saved, and planned for two years, gave their notice to their bosses, and struck out on the festival circuit as the band Dailey & Vincent.  Nearly five years and countless awards later, Dailey & Vincent continue to bring bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music to new fans across this country and, increasingly, around the world, having just returned from a succssful trip to Ireland and Switzerland. Meanwhile, they're taking their show into new venues and pioneering presenting a single long set at festivals. The band is, in many ways, a ground-breaking adventure.  And I haven't even mentioned the Cracker Barrel album honoring the Statler Brothers.  Dailey & Vincent, supported by a band of strong performers and able to absorb personnel changes with hardly a hiccup is continuing to reach out with fresh new ideas. At Dumplin' Valley, with Jeff Parker ill and new fiddler B.J. Cherryholmes unavailable, they brought in Andy Leftwich and Darrel Webb, who seamlessly filled in, keeping the band at its high levels. Dailey & Vincent are nominated for three awards at this year's IBMA Awards Show.
Jamie Dailey

Darrin Vincent

Joe Dean, Jr.

Christian Davis

Andy Leftwich

Darrell Webb

Dailey & Vincent - Do You Want to Go to Heaven? - Video

Dailey & Vincent

As I sit at my keyboard this Monday morning looking out the window, there's only one RV left in my site. The silos stand tall beside the converted barn. In the distancethe rolling hills give way to the mountains, just visible beyond. It's simply a drop dead view, and entirely appropriate for this fine event.  Joe and Mitzi Soward know how to organize an event, keep the people entertained, offer the cleanest bathrooms in bluegrass, and keep everything moving along.  People come away from Dumplin' Valley satisfied with the music and the experience. You just can't ask for more.


  1. Enjoyed reading your thoughts about Saturday! It was my first year there & I really enjoyed the festival. I always enjoy reading your kind words about Dailey & Vincent. And many thanks to you for the positive things you had to say about Balsam Range...I attend college one county west of Haywood County where they're from and LOVE to go see them! They're wonderful guys and I was thankful to read your kind words about them as well.

    And as always, BEAUTIFUL pictures!
    Thanks so much for sharing your pics and thoughts with us fans! :)

  2. Thanks so much, Amanda. Please, next time we're at the same festival, take a moment to introduce yourself to me and Irene. It's people like you make doing this worth the effort.