Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Saturday: Review

Mornings at a bluegrass festival are usually pretty quiet. Folks have been at the shows until around 11:00 PM the night before and then jammed together in the field, sometimes until nearly dawn. Breakfast is being served over at Lapp's concession stand, where good local food is served all day. We like to be up and about early, and at home we're early to bed people, too. At festivals we tend to burn the candle at both ends. When we arrived on Saturday morning, the day promised to be hot and clear, but the sun hadn't really started to do its work. It was quiet. I grabbed my guitar and strolled over to one of the barns to sit in on Heidi Olson's Wernick style Jam Class. 

Heidi Olson's Jam Class

Pete Wernick, Dr. Banjo, has been conducting Jam Camps around the country since his first one at Merlefest in 1999. In 2010 he began training other teachers to use the techniques of learning by ear and playing together in a structured setting to gain skill and confidence. Heidi Olson is a Wernick Method certified jam teacher, who often assists at his Jam Camp at Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival. Here at Delaware Valley, Heidi held a three session Jam Class to introduce novice and beginning pickers to the skills and joys of jamming. About twenty people showed up for these useful and supportive sessions, which were fun to sit in on.

Patsy Kline Assisting Heidi

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

We've been watching Junior Sisk since we first saw him as a member of BlueRidge back in 2003 at the Rivertown Bluegrass Society's monthly meeting in Conway, SC. He was a fine tenor singer and sideman even then. When BlueRidge broke up, Junior re-constituted Ramblers Choice and returned to touring as a band leader. Often, early in this period, he talked onstage about how uncomfortable he was talking onstage. He may still feel uncomfortable, but he's become a real bandmaster - able at not only introducing songs, but bringing humor and personality to his performances. He's built the band into a solid unit filled with individually fine players who work as a team to make the full, traditional sound Junior strives for. Among traditional touring bands, this is one of the best - high energy, tight, lightning fast, and personable. 

Junior Sisk

Jonathan Dillon

Kameron Keller

Jamie Harper

Jason Davis

Junior Sisk

T-Shirt Guy

Emcee - Bill Foster

David Holt & Josh Goforth

Musicologist David Holt and talented multi-instrumentalist Josh Goforth, who just happens to be a mountain boy himself, are almost a perfect duo for any bluegrass festival seeking to weave together the many threads that make up the warp and weft of bluegrass and country music. David, for many years a regular on Hee Haw and host of Song of the Mountains, has an encyclopedic knowledge of varied sources and sounds of old time mountain and Piedmont music. Spend some time on his web site to get a fuller picture. The range of instruments he and Josh play in their shows is astounding as is the list of people he's learned from over the years. Josh can play almost any instrument from the guitar to the fiddle to the paper bag. David's mastery of the slide guitar, the jaws harp, stump fiddle, and mouth bow demonstrate the range of instruments people with no money could create to fulfill the innate urge to make music. Together they make music, too, with lots of audience participation. If you get a chance to see (or book) this duo, they're a sure winner!

David Holt with One of His Mentors

The Mouth Bow & Paper Bag

All It Takes is a Pile of Sand....

Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull is campaigning on behalf of her new Rounder album called Weighted Mind to be released in 2016. At first the songs, seemingly simple, spare, featuring Sierra's masterful mandolin and a voice that has matured to the point where her singing weaves around her instrumentation to sound like a duet. She's working, essentially with a bass player as a duo, with longtime musical partner Justin Moses coming in on banjo and guitar on some songs. This week she had a guest bass, Andrew Small, a classically trained double bass player currently pursuing a Master's degree at Yale School of Music. Sierra's approach has moved away from bluegrass, yet she reminds us all, during her set, that she keeps at least one foot in bluegrass while she's learning where she's going, who she is both musically and personally. If the journey is more important than arrival at a destination, then Sierra Hull's on quite a trip, and it's a joy to be on board with her.

Andrew Small

Magician Chris Capehart

Chris Capehart captivated and confounded a bunch of eager kids and their befuddled parents with his deft sleight of hand and humorous patter. He gives a thoroughly effective and enjoyable show. He and Todd Crowley performed in the Kid's shed on both Friday and Saturday.

Shade is Where You Find It....

Out in the Campground

Emcee - Katy Daley
Program Director - WAMU's Bluegrass

Blue Highway
Sean Lane

How does a top rank band stay together for more than twenty years with only one change of personnel, and he came back? Well, it seems they don't spend a great deal of time together except when they perform. They travel separately to gigs, stay in separate rooms, even separate hotels, and maintain a sense of themselves while always performing as a unit. Seems to work for them. Through the years Blue Highway has won countless awards for their instrumental work, their singing, and songwriting. Their current CD may feature more Shawn Lane songs than usual, but I haven't counted. They're constantly honing their humor, which has become a central part of their appeal. It's always good to see Blue Highway in the lineup.

Wayne Taylor

Tim Stafford

Jason Burleson

Rob Ickes

Emcee - Bill Foster

Marty Stuart & the Fabulous Superlatives

Marty Stuart has a long history with the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival. As a thirteen year old, in 1972, he appeared onstage with Lester Flatt & Nashville Grass. Here's a picture shot by Phil Zimmerman.  This was at the first iteration of what has now become the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival. Look here to see the strength and variety of performers who have graced the stage. How many of the pickers on the stage can you name?

Grand Finale of  The Delaware Bluegrass Festival - 1972
Photo©Phil Zimmerman,

Marty Stuart lights up the stage when he walks on. His show, with his band The Fabulous Superlatives, is filled with energy as he brings material from his storied history in his award winning career in country music and his long, and loyal, work continuing in bluegrass. 

Happy Harry Stinson

"Cousin" Kenny Vaughn

Chris Scruggs

Marty Stuart

Stuart is acutely aware of his place across a range of country music achievement: Grammy winner, Award winning photographer, Preservationist of old time country music, and visionary maintaining a forward look with important concept albums. His embrace of young Ryan Paisley, Danny Paisley's fifteen year old son and now a member of Paisley's band Southern Grass, stands as more than an introduction of a young and accomplished performer. It represents a symbolic passing of the flame as Ryan becomes the third generation of his family to enter the family business: traditional bluegrass music.

Marty Stuart, Ryan Paisley & Harry Stinson

Kenny Vaughn & Family on Brief Break from the Stage

Carl Goldstein, Marty Stuart & Ryan Paisley Backstage

Photo by Katy Daley
At the Merch Table

Despite what must have been a tiring, long set, Marty stayed at his merch table until the last person had left and the last photo was taken. Then, accompanied by his security detail, he left for the tour bus and the long ride from Woodstown, NJ to Thomas Point Beach in Maine. 

Saturday at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival had been a long and satisfying, as well as hot, day with the past, present, and future of bluegrass music well represented. The many strains and manifestations of bluegrass came together in a festival design that left no doubt that the greats of bluegrass's ground breaking past won't be forgotten in the continual development of a variety of contemporary directions for the music. 

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