Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (The MACC) - First Two Days: Review

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (The MACC) runs towards the end of July each year, while avoiding the wildly popular Ohio State Fair, always the next week. Located at Hoover-Y Park in Lochbourne, Ohio, just south of the Columbus, it attracts a large and loyal following as well as some of the finest bluegrass bands to be found anywhere. This year's MACC also featured several "real" country acts, that is, bands which have adhered to the sound and feel of classic country. As well as providing a change of pace, these performers drew new fans to this lovely venue more used to hosting a somewhat quieter and less flashy sound. The result generated lots of excitement as well as perhaps bringing some new fans to bluegrass and a more accepting view to some bluegrass traditionalists. In the two days of reviews to follow, I'll try to keep the writing to a minimum while focusing on the look and feel of the music and the scene. 

Before the Kickoff
Darrell Adkins & Lyn Butler Conferring

Volunteers for The Macc begin arriving a week before the first music is heard from the stage. They prepare the surrounding fields to become a huge parking lot for hundreds of RV's and campers, get the signage out, set up the hospitality area, and much, much more, all under the command of festival promoter Darrell Adkins. Here's a few vignettes:

Crew Preparing a Tens

Lunch for the Staff

A Quiet Moment for Phyllis Adkins

Folding T-Shirts - A Little Part of the Big Picture

Installing the Sound System

Working the Rohr Road Gate

Time for Some Quiet Practice

The Third Generation of MACC Volunteers

Junior Sisk Volunteers at the Bixby Road Gate

Somehow, with lots of hard work, sweat, and cooperation, it all comes together by Wednesday a little after noon, as the first of thirty-six scheduled bands kicks off the first performance. Few of the thousands of fans who assemble here each year realize the hard work and dedication it requires to pull this off each year. 

Adkins & Loudermilk

With the addition of a couple of seasoned veterans to their band, Dave Adkins and Edgar Loudermilk have achieved a cohesive band sound and pleasing mix, helping turn them into a more exciting and entertaining ensemble. Their performance at The MACC, where they first performed together three years ago, was the best I've seen, and points to a rosy future as they continue their journey.

Dave Adkins

Edgar Loudermilk

Jeff Autry

Barry Crabtree

Glenn Crain

Zach Autry

Loudermilk & Adkins

Kyle Perkins & His Family in the Audience

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Because bands at The MACC volunteer their services to support the festival's commitment to providing support for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, they are often scheduled into unusual slots to accomodate other performing opportunities during the weekend. Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper appeared early on Wednesday afternoon to make his trip east to Washington, D.C. possible. Nevertheless, the delivered a rousing performance highlighted by Mike Cleveland's always superb fiddling and Josh Richard's singing. Don't miss this fine band as they tour around the country.

Josh Richards

Nathan Livers

Tyler Griffith

Gaven Largent

 Mike Cleveland

Emcees Daniel Mullins & Chris Hill

Throughout the four days of the festival, these two pros kept the event moving along with good humor, thoughtful and informed introductions, and high energy. They each did a first rate job and the combination worked very well.


Champion Banjo Player Steven Moore and Family


Kenny & Amanda Smith

Featuring three young side musicians, the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band has succeeded in reaching new musical and entertainment heights as they generate high energy to complement their superb singing and playing. Amanda is reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, while Kenny has been named IBMA Guitar Player of the year twice and continues to be frequently nominated. Kyle Perkins, despite his relative use deeply experienced, provides rock solid support on the bass. Meanwhile, John Meyer on banjo and Jacob Burleson on mandolin add virtuosity to the band. This band continues to be increasingly more effective and enjoyable. 

Kenny Smith

Amanda Smith

Kyle Perkins

John Meyer

Jacob Burleson

Amanda & Kenny Smith

Sound by Above Sound

Above Sound, a full service sound company based in Columbus, provided a terrific new sound system for the MACC. The sound in the audience was crystal clear and well-modulated. Providing sound for acoustic instruments is one of the hardest sound jobs there is. Barry Damron and his crew carried it off very well. Incidentally, for our purposes, as photographers, the light was exceptional!

Barry Damron

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme played two fine sets at the MACC. For the second one, on Friday night, he followed Marty Raybon & Shenandoah's loud, electric, and dynamic set with perhaps the best show we've seen from him in some time. When he sang Carl Jackson's great song Erase the Miles, you could ride the silence from people listening and grooving on Russell's intensity. Both performances were fine, but Friday night was sublime.

Wayne Benson

Justin Haynes

Kevin McKinnon

Travis Anderson

Irene with Kathy Owens

Blue Highway

Rob Ickes

Wayne Taylor

Tim Stafford

Jason Burleson

Shawn Lane

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Over fifty years with some of the ground breaking bands in bluegrass and Doyle Lawson is still going strong. What's often called the "Doyle Lawson School of Bluegrass," so named because of the number of fine musicians that have come through his band, the current crop is filled with a combination of deep experience and fine young pickers. Hard to beat.....

Doyle Lawson

Josh Swift

Dustin Pyrtle

Joe Dean

Eli Johnston

Stephen Burwell

The Trio
Doyle, Eli, Dustin

Charli Robertson

Miss Lisa  DJ at K107.1 
Introduces Daryle Singletary

Daryle Singletary

Daryle Singletary, who appeared last year as a solo acoustic country singer to a strong positive response, returned this year with a full country band, one of three country bands to appear at The MACC this year as featured evening shows. Singletary has a fine baritone voice and sings lots of fine old country covers beloved by those who revere "real" country. Bluegrass fans, many of whom mourn the loss of the country music they loved during their youth, eat up this stuff, and it was very well-received. Singletary also invited Charli Robertson onstage to sing a duet with him, which turned into three fine numbers. 

Daryle Singletary

Charli Robertson & Daryle Singletary

Old Friends

Doyle Lawson, Paul Williams and J.D. Crowe have been friends since their days with Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys in the 1960's. Each went on the forge a Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame career with their own bands. This reunion appearance finally didn't occur since J.D. Crowe's permanent retirement was announced here. Jerry Keys stood in for Crowe, but it was a sad moment when the crowd finally accepted the inevitable. Paul Williams voice, at 83, is still a vibrant, strong tenor, while Doyle remains the only one of the three to still be actively, and productively, touring. 

Doyle Lawson

Paul Williams

Josh Swift

Steven Burwell

Eli Johnston

Jerry Keys


Emmy at Staff Breakfast

Don Rigsby & Midnight Call

Don Rigsby has long had a reputation as one of the premier tenor singers in bluegrass. His band, Midnight Call, supports his solo work while he also is busy with several other projects and session work. 

Don Rigsby

Clyde Marshall

Elmer Burchett

Bobby Davis

Jonathan Rigsby


Sideline has arguably become the best cover band in bluegrass in a little over a year. Composed of some of the best sidemen to be found in the rich bluegrass state of North Carolina, this band can be counted on for good fun under the leadership of Steve Dilling and always lively renditions of familiar old songs. Traditional bluegrass the way it should be played....

Steve Dilling

Nathan Aldridge

Skip Cherryholmes

Brian Aldridge

Jason Moore

Feller & Hill

Feller & Hill have developed into a tight, enthusiastic band playing solid bluegrass music with a distinctive sound. At the MACC they were everywhere to be found with Chris Hill managing the stage and sharing the emcee duties with Daniell Mullins while Tom Feller doubled in the sound booth. Onstage, they are professional, personable, and musical.

Tom Feller

Christopher Hill

Mark Poe

Jonathan Rigsby

Feller & Hill

Band of Ruhks

The Band of Ruhks has found its groove. Composed of three former members of LRB, the band has added John Meyer as their permanent banjo player and begun relying on new and solid material, much of it written by premier song writer Ronnie Bowman. Furthermore, they are using the great strengths they have to create a strong sense of independent bandness. I was glad to hear and see this in their performance at The MACC. While they still sing some of their best older material from LRB days, they are now making significant new contributions.

Kenny Smith

Ronnie Bowman

Don Rigsby

John Meyer

Kenny Smith & Ronnie Bowman

Darrell & Phyllis Adkins Accept Plaque
from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

...As the Family Looks On

The Grascals

The addition of John Bryan into the Grascals lineup seems to have re-energized this band. His fine tenor voice and obvious pleasure playing with this now ten year old band are obvious. I'm looking forward to the next time we see them, when the light is better and I can get the photos they deserve. 

John Bryan

Terry Eldredge

Danny Roberts

Adam Haynes

Terry Smith

Kristin Scott Benson

Clay Hess, Kenny Smith, Clay's Dad

Junior & Susan Sisk

Unlike many other festivals these days, musicians at The MACC stay around, spending time together and with their fans. Their commitment to the cause coupled with the way Darrell Adkins combines them with members of other bands into the famous MACC Classic performances in the evenings contribute to the wonderful spirit of this event. 

Larry Sparks & the Lonesome Ramblers

This great veteran continues to sing songs he's made famous over the years with his characteristic combination of fine singing and powerful picking. With his son on bass at his shoulder, the rest of the band is composed of young pickers on their way up. Kyle Ramey did good work on mandolin and fiddle here.  


Kyle Ramey

? Sparks

Daniel Patrick

The Famous Sparks Profile

Miss Lisa from K107.1

Marty Raybon & Shenandoah

I became a fan and then a friend of Marty Raybon as a bluegrass artist. His earlier work with the hugely popular and widely rewarded country band Shenandoah was only only a ghost in the house as far as I was concerned. On Thursday night I learned that I was more familiar with some of their songs than I thought I knew, but perhaps this was through Raybon's use of many of them in his bluegrass show. Nevertheless, I found the Shenandoah show to be wildly entertaining and Raybon at his high energy best. While some fans chose to leave the audience, I suspect the Shenandoah show attracted extra day trippers through the gate to join the majority of four day ticket holders who stayed through the entire show. While full-on country bands may not sell well at every bluegrass festival, they seem to work at the MACC and might be worth experimenting with in other venues. 

Marty Raybon

Donnie Allen

Paul Sanders

Mike McGuire

Stan Munsey

Jamie Michael

Marty Raybon

Another memorable evening at a festival known for its memorable moments: The MACC!