Friday, March 30, 2012

Darin & Brooke Aldridge Music Festival - Cherryville, NC April 13 & 14

The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Music Festival opens on the festival grounds at Coot Williams Road in Cherryville, NC with a beans and cornbread supper and jam on Thursday evening with music beginning with an open stage on Friday at 3:00 PM and continuing through Saturday. Featured bands will be The Grascals, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, and the Harris Brothers. In line with the promoter's goals, other bands selected from the surrounding region will also perform.  The Schdule and Ticket information can be found here. The Coot Williams Road site is set in a pleasant bowl deep in the country outside Cherryville, NC, just west of Gastonia and Charlotte, NC.  Local churches and organizations provide a variety of well-prepared foods at the Food Shed and a range of vendors is available. 

The Schedule
3:00 PM
4:00 PM
5:00 PM
6:00 PM
7:00 PM
8:00 PM
Open Stage
Dixie Moon
Mountain Faith
Carolia Foxfire
Darin and Brooke Aldridge
The Grascals
11:00 AM
12:30 PM
1:30 PM
2:30 PM
3:30 PM
4:30 PM
5:30 PM
6:30 PM
7:30 PM
8:30 PM
Darin Aldridge Student Showcases
Mirror Image
The Hurleys
The WBT Briarhoppers
The Harris Brothers
Unspoken Tradition
The Hurleys
The WBT Briarhoppers
The Harris Brothers
Darin and Brooke Aldridge

The Grascals

In only seven years The Grascals have established an enviable record of popularity with their high energy presentation of classic bluegrass and new material written by band members and carefully chosen from contemporary song writers to complement their sound and vibe. They recently performed for the 115th time at the Grand Old Opry and have won most of the major awards offered by IBMA. Kristin Scott Benson was named Banjo Player of the Year for the third consecutive time last September.  Their new CD "Life Finds a Way" has recently been released.
Darin & Brooke with The Grascals

Darin & Brooke Aldridge
The Darin & Brooke Aldridge band has spread its beautiful music across the country in a rapid rise from the obscurity of rural North Carolina.  Maintaining high standards of content while enlarging the scope of their sound, this band has consistently improved as it has widened its appeal. Brooke's soaring voice along with Darin's harmonies and excellent instrumental work are complemented by Rachel Johnson Boyd on fiddle and vocal harmonies, Chris Bryant on banjo and Dwayne Anderson on bass.  Their most recent CD has been on the bluegrass charts for months.  As hosts of this festival, Darin & Brooke will be performing twice as a band while Darin will be presenting his students in recital on Saturday morning.  If you don't already know this delightful couple and their band, come out to meet and greet them in their home territory.

Chris Bryant

 Darin, Brooke, & Rachel
Brooke & Rachel
Dwayne Anderson

The WBT Briarhoppers

WBT is a news-talk radio station in Charlotte, NC, but it hasn't always had that format. Back in the 1930's, while looking for a hillbilly band to support station programming, the Briarhoppers were formed to provide a band station manager Charles Crutchfield needed.  Since then, literally dozens of musicians have played in this band as it has grown, changed, aged, and renewed itself over the years. The current group will be playing at Darin & Brooke's festival on Saturday. Look for an interesting show as they re-create the sounds, right down to the advertisements, of a radio age long gone, but, for many, not forgotten. See more about the Briarhoppers interesting history here. The Briarhoppers will appear at the Darin & Brooke Festival on Saturday.

The Harris Brothers


The Harris Brothers, from nearby Lenoir, NC, always bring a refreshing and interesting twist to music festivals where they appear.  With music ranging from Django Rhinehart to Johnny Cash, bluegrass to jazz to country, they can be counted on for musical excellence and versatility. When Darin Aldridge joins them on stage, magic often happens. 
Mountain Faith

Dixie Moon
We've seen Mountain Faith and Dixie Moon compete in the band contest at RenoFest. While neither won, each acquitted itself well and has moved forward to continue growing and developing.  Enjoy these emerging bands, a specialty of this festival.

Carolina Foxfire

 Unspoken Tradition

Both Carolina Foxfire and Unspoken Tradition are young bands nurtured in the environment of the Catawba Valley Bluegrass Revival and the Bomb Shelter, a local spot where weekly jams occur. Many of the musicians have been or are Darin Aldridge's  students. They play traditional and more contemporary music, covering some of the best new bands, as well as doing some writing, too.  It's fun to watch bands like these develop, spread their wings, and begin to compete in the competitive world of bluegrass music.

The Food Shed

 The Main Tent

 Vendors' Row

How to Get To Coot Williams Road

 The Darin & Brooke Aldridge is a relaxed, small festival where attendees can spend a couple of days in a family friendly environment hearing good bluegrass music.  The site has flush toilets and hot showers, but no hookups for campers.  Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RenoFest 2012 - Review

RenoFest, held annually on the fourth weekend in March in Hartsville, SC, represents the sort of effort a town and a group of dedicated bluegrass people can make to offer a niche event which draws an audience and spotlights a town without risking breaking the bank.  By placing its emphasis on band and instrument contests, RenoFest has established itself as a significant player in bluegrass.  A look at the previous winners suggests the quality of past entries. This year's contests were especially distinguished in the instrument categories. Furthermore, host band Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition as well as other national bands Big Country Bluegrass and perennial favorite IIIrd Tyme Out also entertain. Under the leadership of City Attorney Marty Driggers and supported by city agencies and private support, RenoFest keeps itself manageable while, at the same time, spotlighting this friendly small city.

The Band Contests

Friday afternoon was dominated by the band contests as well an evening barbecue in a town park in which a couple of bands played and the three winning bands had an opportunity to perform.  This years winning band, The Hinson Girls, was characterized by attractiveness and youth as well as instrumental precociousness. They won a cash award and a guaranteed gig at next year's festival.  Runners up were The Smith Family and Ridge Side, a newly formed band led by Josh Green.  The judges overlooked one deserving band from North Georgia called Blue Billy Grit.  At least one contest we attend makes sure bands get feedback from the judges, a worthwhile practice RenoFest should consider. 

The Smith Family - Runner Up

Ridge Side - Third Place

The Hinson Girls

Katelyn Hinson

Kristen Hinson 
Melissa Hinson

 Alison Hinson
The Hinson Girls - Momma Don't Allow - Video

Friday Evening Barbecue

The Four Virginia Luthiers


Guitar Contest - Ben Cockman - Winner
Rob Jordan, Ben Cockman, Gerald Anderson (Luthier)

 Danny Smith, Randy Lucas, Rob Jordan
Ben Cockman, Gerald Anderson

Ben Cockman w/Four Luthiers - I'll Fly Away - Video

Banjo Winner
Steve Lewis
Gary Pressley, Cameron Norris, Steve Lewis
Luthier Ronnie Bales, Rob Jordan

 Ronnie Bales & Steve Lewis

The Bands
Carolina Blue

Carolina Blue, the winner of last year's RenoFest band contest, continues to impress as a solidly professional band singing in a traditional fashion while including strong original material.  They're tight and well schooled, presenting themselves well at all times.

Bobby Powell

Tim Jones

 Reese Combs
Don Austin

Carolina Blue - Simon Crutchfield's Grave - Video

The Four Virginia Luthiers
Wayne Henderson

Spencer Strickland

Jimmy Edmonds

Gerald Anderson

The four luthiers each contributed to making the winning guitar, and three of them have worked for significant periods of time in Wayne Henderson's shop. Beyond that, they're each seasoned performers, which was well demonstrated on both Friday and Saturday at RenoFest.

The Four Virginia Luthiers - Temperance Reel - Video

Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition

Banjo great and song writer Don Reno, Ronnie's Dad, was a South Carolina native who Hartsville chose to name this festival after. Ronnie Reno and his band have been the host band since the festival's inception, bringing a nostalgic selection of music largely culled from Don Reno and, later, the Reno Brothers' music. The band is solid and entertaining.

Ronnie Reno

Mike Scott
Jackie Miller

John Mayberry

Robin Smith

Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition - Mr. Coachman - Video

Big Country Bluegrass
Big Country Bluegrass is currently experiencing some personnel changes and members are facing health issues. The band we saw was augmented by two substitutes (the great Junior Sisk and Billy Hawks) reflecting this. The band serves up traditional bluegrass in a traditional fashion with lead singer Eddie Gill perpetuating the high lonesome sound so loved by many.  Lynwood Lunsford on Scruggs style banjo is always strong and the band works with enthusiasm.

Tommy Sells

Theresa Sells

Lynwood Lunsford
Junior Sisk

Billy Hawks

Eddie Gill

 Tony King

Big Country Bluegrass - High Allegheny - Video

Gary Payne - Sound

IIIrd Tyme Out
In its twentieth year on the road IIIrd Tyme Out continues as one of the most musically solid and personally entertaining bands in all bluegrass. Serving up a mixture of traditional and more contemporary fare along with some non-bluegrass tunes like "Only You," they always make contact with their audiences on an authentic level. Russell Moore is viewed by his contemporaries as Mr. Lead Singer. They remain a "don't miss" band.

Russell Moore

Steve Dilling

Wayne Benson

Justin Haynes

 Edgar Loudermilk

RenoFest is one of those festivals you don't hear about as often as larger and more publicized events. Nevertheless, it's a very worthwhile two day event that fans wishing to see and hear new groups as well as established ones should seriously consider. There's also a good deal of after hours jamming at local motels.