Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Newell Lodge - Spring 2016: Review

Located in an unspoiled grove of live oak trees in South Georgia, just a few miles from Folkston and the Okeefenokee Swamp, Newell Lodge represents an almost ideal locale for a small to mid-sized bluegrass festival. The festival proved to be a success, blessed with the finest weather ever experienced there, several excellent bands, enthusiastic jamming and good fellowship.

Ernie Evans

Getting the sound set up so that it's just right.

Harold Asher

The best wrangler and parker in the business. 

Wednesday Fish Fry/Covered Dish

There Was Plenty of Food

Our Festival Cottage

Emcee - Erbie Brown

Greg Bird - Karaoke Emcee & Early Host

Ernie Evans, Josh Griffin, and his twin sons

The Kings

The King family presented a gospel set to open the festival on Thursday evening Their son is a quite promising jazz guitarist.  

John King

Amanda King

Allie King

Aubrey King

Young Aubrey King is a precise and gifted young jazz and swing flat-picker. His efforts should be encouraged. His solos were well-received by the audience.

Josh Griffin

Our "In the Live Oaks" Cottage

The Gazebo

Camping at Newell Lodge

Gentle River

Gentle River is a gentle bluegrass band doing a pleasant and tuneful job with classic bluegrass and gospel songs. A good opening band.

George Wells

Danny Smith

Darren Wainright

Bruce Sheridan

George with Granddaughter Gracie Wainright

Morning Jam

Goldwing Express

My apologies to Goldwing Express. I somehow neglected to take any pictures of their performances, so I had to cadge these from Google Images...sorry.

Pop and Steven Baldridge

The Side People Don't See
Steven Baldridge & Granddaughter

...and Walking with his Family

Deeper Shade of Blue
Jason Fraley

Since North Carolina can be considered a region all its own, it's fair to say that A Deeper Shade of Blue is one of the finest regional bands in the state. Most of the members have chosen to stay close to home after some time spent on the road, while tenor Troy Pope has refused several very attractive offers from one of the most storied bluegrass bands to remain close to home, family, and church. Frank Poindexter, and uncle of the Rice Brothers, has toured extensively. Father and son Jim and Jason Frailey did a stint on the road as did Scott Burgess. Having proven their mettle, they play out of the Monroe base around the state with occaisonal forays to further distances. Look for this very fine traditional band at future Ernie Evans festivals. 

Jim Fraley

Troy Pope

Frank Poindexter

 Scott Burgess

Deeper Shade of Blue - Just Inside the Pearly Gates - Video

Hold Your Horses Cafe

 Larry Gillis Band

We haven't seen the Larry Gillis band in several years, and, honestly, they weren't exactly to my taste when I last saw them. In the interim, either I or Larry Gillis has changed, but it's probably a little bit of both of us. Gillis still plays the hard driving SwampGrass music he's known for on his archtop Gibson banjo drawing the last bit of pop and crackle out of it the instrument's capable of. The change lies in the added versatility of his performance as well as the range and capability of his band. Gillis showed his versatility by playing a couple of delightful Merle Haggard ballads on the guitar. Mike Feagan on fiddle is always solid. Albie Lopez on mandolin is wide open and funny. JR Davis has a fine country voice while becoming increasingly familiar with the bluegrass repertory. Donny Leaman, from Pennsylvania, plays rhythm guitar and sings. Gillis's charming wife Christie adds just the right touch to the band on bass. All told, this band is now a real pleasure to hear and watch. Furthermore, they have a large enough catalog to mange more than two sets. 

Larry Gillis

JR Davis

Mike Faegan

Albie Lopez

Christie Gillis

Donny Leaman

Larry & Christie Gillis

The Larry Gillis Band - Answer the Call - Video

Sound Guys - Josh Griffin & Larry Payton

 Mountain Faith

In the year since last year's Newell Lodge, Mountain Faith has shown enormous growth. Their appearance on America's Got Talent and the consequent changes in their personnel have led them into new realms of performance and developed their repertoire. Their current musical offerings are considerably more contemporary than they showed before, while remaining true to their gospel roots, at least before this audience. Their music has become a fusion of bluegrass, pop, and country that's pleasing to the ear and catchy. It appeals, perhaps, to a younger demographic than classic bluegrass might, while retaining a traditional patina. They're mostly young, fully enthusiastic, and very engaging. Cory Piatt had already injected a youthful enthusiasm and high degree of skill to the band. The addition of David Meyer, from the Missouri's Meyer Band, along with his younger brother Jimmy, adds still more. Summer McMahon is an able spokesperson for the band, while her brother Braydon plays banjo. Father Sam McMahon is able on bass and injects a note of maturity, as well as driving the van and enabling them to get AARP rates at motels, as he says. The band still doesn't have enough material for four full sets, but they will soon remedy that. We look forward to seeing them at Sertoma. 

Summer McMahon

Cory Piatt

David Meyer

Braydon McMahon

Sam McMahon

Jimmy Meyer

Braydon and Cory with the Griffin Twins

Summer McMahon

Mountain Faith - Anything To Do With Love - Video

Irene Taking Time to Watch & Shoot

The Claire Lynch Band

Claire Lynch has been playing and singing bluegrass music since the 1980's She has forged a career based on wonderful singing, an insightful view of what fits into a bluegrass format and then extending it, and surrounding herself with excellent musicians who complement her voice and personality. She has recently announced that she is backing away from her full-time touring commitment, but expects to continue her song-writing and performing on a more limited scale. Her current four piece band is anchored by Mark Schatz, a two time IBMA bass player of the year and celebrated bass player, who also sings, dances, and ham-bones. He has toured with traditional as well as celebrated progressive bands like Nickel Creek. Bryan McDowell has won coveted national instrument contests at Winfield, KS on guitar, fiddle, and mandolin in a two year period. His singing voice is clear, controlled, and blends closely with Claire's. Meanwhile, Jarrod Walker has joined The Claire Lynch Band on mandolin and guitar after serving an advanced apprenticeship touring with Missy Raines & the New Hip. The combination of skilled, inventive musicians with Claire's own courageous, supple singing yields one of the finest groups in all bluegrass. Claire's second set at Newell Lodge will remain high in our list of great sets of hers we've seen.

Claire Lynch

Mark Schatz

Bryan McDowell

Jarrod Walker

 Claire Lynch

Claire Lynch - My Florida Sunshine - Video

 Altogether, the Newell Lodge Bluegrass Festival was an artistic leap up from several others outings. The crowd was the largest we had seen there and largely appreciative of the music and the setting. We're headed down to Sertoma Boys Ranch near Brooksville on Monday for our last Florida festival of the season. Hope to see you there.

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