Monday, August 17, 2015

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival 2015, September 4-6: Preview

The Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival will run from September 4 - 6, 2015 at the Salem County Fairgrounds in Woodstown, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River bridge Wilmington, Delaware, and within convenient distance for bluegrass fans from New York to Richmond. This historic festival is entering its 44th year with an historically varied and interesting lineup which presents traditional and cutting edge bluegrass music along with closely aligned other music. The lineup this year is outstanding while the festival design is complex and all encompassing. This is the first time we've attended Delaware Valley, so I've relied heavily on photos from other sources, including its own web site. The gates open on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

A look at the list of bands appearing at each of the previous Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festivals confirms the history of this festival presented by the Brandywine Friends of Old-Time Music

Red Wine

Red Wine is an Italian band familiar to regular attendees at IBMA's World of Bluegrass where the band has showcased and members Martino Cappo and Silvio Faretti are regular attendees. The band is lively and fun as it brings a European flavor to wherever it appears. If you haven't seen this band, be sure to see them here.

Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run

For years women have received short shrift as lead guitar players even while they have begun to gain greater recognition on other instruments. Rebecca Frazier is not only a fine singer, but a very good flat picker. 

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys are a Cajun band straight out of Lousiana playing 1990's style Cajun, accordion and all. Filled with energy and life, they're a perfect fit for a change of pace in any bluegrass festival. There's never an argument about whether or not they're a bluegrass band. They're exactly what they claim to be, and you're truly an old curmudgeon if your feet don't start tapping about three bars in. The band is very popular in festival dance tents as well as from the main stage.

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers have twice been named IBMA Entertainer of the Year and are nominated again this year. No other band besides Dailey & Vincent and the Del McCoury Band has ever been so-named more than twice. Distinguished by their brother harmonies, song writing, un-rehearsed banter, and simultaneous reverence for the past coupled with contemporary topics and commentary in their lyrics, the Gibson Brothers set a standard for up-to-date traditionalism that's unprecedented. 

Hot Rize with Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers (one set)

Hot Rize was founded in 1978, becoming a major touring band through the eighties and then disbanding after the death of guitarist Charles Sawtelle in 1999. After a period of grieving, the band, using various men on guitar, made occasional appearances. They are currently touring after the release of their first new recording When I'm Free since 1990. They are currently a nominee for IBMA Entertainer of the Year. If they should win, they would have the distinction of being the the first and the reigning Entertainer of the Year. Bryan Sutton. on guitar, has joined Tim O'Brien, Pete Wernick, and Nick Forster in this distinguished and historic band. They are touring with their alter ego band Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. Enjoy this all too rare opportunity!

Red Knuckles

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice are, arguably, the foremost practitioners of traditional bluegrass as it was practiced by the early bands and then reproduced by the Johnson Mountain Boys, which, Junior Claims was the seed band for his love of traditionalism. His song selection, strong on "getting even" stories and Stanley Brothers songs is delivered with sly good humor and plenty of heart. Junior is one of the best. 

David Holt & Josh Goforth

We've known and watched both David Holt and Josh Goforth for years. David, during the years we attended Merlefest, was the voice traditional mountain music on a variety of old-time instruments. Josh, who plays a hillbilly country fiddler in the film Songcatcher, sings with a clear tenor voice and is a wonderful instrumentalist on both fiddle and guitar. He plays with bluegrass band Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, but is known worldwide for his many years of touring with Holt. We're eager to see this show for the first time. 

Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull is touring in support of her new soon to be released CD featuring her singing and songwriting. Playing her mandolin, as well as mandola and mandocello, in a newly mature, jazz inflected style that shows her breaking out of her familiar musical structures in bluegrass, her performance is mostly as a duo with bass player Ethan Jodziewicz, along with the support of Justin Moses on banjo and guitar. The music examines many of the inner workings of Hull as a person and musician. 
Blue Highway
Wayne Taylor

Blue Highway has been together for over twenty years without any but one brief change in personnel, quickly reversed. Through this time they have developed a characteristic sound based on songs written from within the band by Tim Stafford, Shawn Lane, and Wayne Taylor. Their music is infused with Rob Ickes elegant yet fiery multi-award winning Dobro as well as star turns from everyone else. From wonderful a capella gospel quartets to wall of sound songs, this is an historic contemporary band which finds the ancient tones and surrounds them with a modern sensibility. 

Rob Ickes

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives (one set)

Marty Stuart began to tour with Lester Flatt at age fourteen, a young, Mississippi prodigy. Since then, he has had a storied career, playing and singing with Johnny Cash and Travis Tritt as well as  his own country albums. Later in his career he returned to his first love, bluegrass as well as forging a career on television with The Mary Stuart Show. His performances with the wonderfully ironically named band The Fabulous Superlatives are filled with both country and bluegrass music as well as a healthy diet of gospel, all reflecting his Mississippi roots and musical breadth. Stuart is also noted as a collector of country music memorabilia and as a photographer of rare sensitivity. Marty Stuart made his debut at Delaware Valley in 1972 with Lester Flatt.

Marty Stuart & Handsome Harry Stinson

Sunday (All Performers one set)
With Labor Day following on Monday, there's no excuse for people attending Del Val to leave without staying for the day's fine performances, culminating with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver followed by Sister Sadie. Look at what you might miss if you packed it in:

CabGrass (from Cab Calloway School of the Arts)

Cab Calloway School of the Arts is a Wilmington, Delaware public school with a mission to provide solid academic training with a strong arts program in music, art, dance, and theater. The school had a 100% graduation rate with 89% attending four year colleges in 2014. CabGrass is led Steve Field, a faculty member at the School and first director of the Kids' Academy at Delaware Valley. This will be the fourth year they have performed at Delaware Valley. 

Kid's Academy Showcase

Tater Patch

Tater Patch is an old-time band closely related to the Del Val festival. 

Dan Paisley & the Southern Grass

Danny Paisley comes from nearby southeastern Chester County, PA where he was nurtured in his father's well-regarded bluegrass band, just as his son Ryan is following in this bluegrass family's footsteps. Along with Junior Sisk, Paisley is one of the foremost practitioners of an older style of bluegrass which benefits from his preservation of it. You can count on high lonesome staying around in an authentic guise while he continues to perform.

Ryan Paisley

Jim Hurst

Jim Hurst is not only recognized as a fine guitarist, as attested to by his twice having been named IBMA Guitar Player of the Year, he's a courageous man of principle. After several years playing with the Claire Lynch Band as well as a couple of years on the road with Missy Raines, he decided he wanted to perform as a solo act while continuing to appear at bluegrass festivals and recording. Jim accomplishes things on a guitar that make one wonder whether there isn't an accompanist hiding in the wings. He's also a fine workshopper. 

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

More than fifty years on the road have not diminished this Hall of Famer's enthusiasm for performing nor spreading the Gospel. Doyle's current band continues to impress with a collection of able young musicians. History says that Quicksilver has been a nesting place for young musicians to develop before flying off on their own. The list is nearly endless, with Jamie Dailey perhaps at the head. Some may say that Doyle has mellowed, but his reputation for maintaining his standard while nurturing young musicians remains undimmed. 
Sister Sadie

Sister Sadie is, simply, a terrific band. Five women, four great singers, one of the best fiddlers on the planet, the rest all first rate instrumentalists, including Dale Ann Bradley, five time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year.  Because each member of Sister Sadie plays in other bands and frequently on other projects, it's too rare that bluegrass fans get to see this Super-group, for that's what they are, in performance. You owe it to yourself to stay and hear these bands.

Other Opportunities at Delaware Valley

The Kids' Academy - The Del Val Kids' Academy is directed by Ira Gitlin, well-known as both a performer and a music educator, and an experienced staff. Open the young people ages 6 - 18 at all levels of experience, the program is carefully structured for teaching, learning, and enjoyment. There are sufficient meetings to provide a worthwhile experience, while allowing for plenty of time for kids to pursue other interests. There's a $25.00 registration fee to help pay for the staff and additional resources. A pre-registration form and further explanation of requirements can be found here.

Wernick Method Jam Class - Heidi Olsen will be teaching a six hour, three session Wernick Method Jam Class at Del Val designed for novice players or those new to bluegrass jamming. Heidi is a patient teacher and friendly presence in a jam setting, creating a positive learning environment. The cost is $65.00 pre-registration or $75.00 at the gate. Individuals can also attend single sessions. For further information about the theory and process of jam classes, click here

Heidi Olsen

Children's Stage (at the  Musical Petting Zoo) - Between 1:00 and 5:00 PM on Friday and Saturday the Children's Stage presents two alternating acts each day. A comic jugglar and and a singer of children's songs will alternate on Friday, and a musician on Saturday. This should be a good alternative for itchy kids and children of all ages. 

Todd Crowley (Friday & Saturday

Michael Rosman - Friday

Chris Capehart - Saturday

Jam Central Station - Delaware Valley has added a place for novice jammers to meet together to jam. This opportunity has been added at the request of a former Wernick Method student.  

Closgging Workshop - A Clogging Workshop will be offered by Fiddlekicks at 3:00 P.M. on both Friday and Saturday, 


The Details
Tickets: You can order tickets online here, or purchase them at the gate. 
Early Bird Tickets Until September 1, 201

$85 Adult
$75 Senior (ages 62 and up)
$45 Student (ages 12-16)

At the Gate:
$95 Adult
$85 Senior (ages 62 and up)
$50 Student (ages 12-16)
Friday (single day):
$50 Adult
$45 Senior (ages 62 and up)
$30 Student (ages 12-16) 

Saturday (single day):
$50 Adult
$45 Senior (ages 62 and up)
$30 Student (ages 12-16)
Sunday (single day):
$40 Adult
$35 Senior (ages 62 and up)
$20 Student (ages 12-16)

Accommodations: A number of lodging possibilities are available, either camping at the Salem County Fairgrounds or nearby campgrounds or staying at local hotel/motels. The fairgrounds are also within a convenient day-trip distance to people living in the Wilmington and Philadelphia suburbs. 

Camping on the Salem County Fairgrounds is "in the rough" camping with little shade, no water or electric (with a few exceptions administered by the Fairgrounds) and a number of restrictions

There is other camping available for campers whose needs differ from the choices offered by the Fairgrounds. Four Seasons Family Campground, a full service commercial campground is seven miles away. Parvin State Park is twenty miles away. It offers limited services with a standpipe nearby, and a shower/flush toilet facility available. Old Cedar Campground is a full service campground thirteen miles from the Fairgrounds. We'll be staying at Four Seasons because of our need for electricity and our traveling with a pet as well as its proximity to the festival. There are also a number of motels located in the area

Other relevant information is presented on the Festival Web site responding to needs, restrictions placed by the management of Salem County Fairgrounds, and the needs of the site. 

How to Get to the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival
Place Your Location in the "o" and Click
for a Personalized Map

Marty Stuart & Ryan Paisley
Closing the Circle
Photo by Frank Baker

Since I've never been to Delaware Valley before, I relied heavily on their new website to garner information about the festival. The new site was designed by Lisa Jacobi of Playing on the Planet, who did wonderful and useful work.

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