Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival 2017 - Friday

The Main Gate at Salem County Fairgrounds

By the time people begin to arrive at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, held in the Salem County in Woodstown, NJ, just across the Delaware Memorial Bridge from Wilmington, Delaware, a crew of volunteers has worked for several days lining out the camping areas, cleaning the floors of the permanent buildings, erecting plastic fences, creating the infrastructure necessary for a well-oiled festival to run. When campers started to arrive, the staff at the gate was ready to move them through quickly so they could claim their preferred camping spots.

Covered Seating at the Stage

Where many festivals try to book a range of bluegrass bands, including a couple of headliners, a larger group of lesser touring bluegrass bands, and the best of local and regional bands to fill out a three of four day event, Delaware Valley is one of the few festivals we know of the designs its lineup to reflect a set of values growing from its ownership by the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music. The relationship with Brandywine Friends ( Brandywine Creek runs through southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, emptying into the Christina River near Wilmington, Delaware. It's best known for its association with the Battle of the Brandywine, fought in 1777) requires that Delaware Valley feature old-time music in its lineup. Festival director Carl Goldstein has, through the years, stayed true to this requirement, always featuring old time bands, whose music has in some ways contributed to the larger growth and development of bluegrass. This year's three major components, Asleep at the Wheel, The Foghorn String Band, and Tuba Skinny, represent three vastly different musical traditions, each of which have, in some way, contributed to the past and present distinctive voice of bluegrass. One can only dream of other festivals going to such pains to organize and present their festivals and give them larger meaning.

Emcee Katy Daley & Stage Manager Howard Parker
Take a Little Time for Fun

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Junior Sisk is one of the most important and powerful interpreters of traditional and traditional sounding bluegrass music in the business. Along the way, he has transitioned from being an overwhelmed country boy from Southwest Virginia into an accomplished band leader and emcee who entertains with his show as well as with his singing and superb rhythm guitar. Junior's show is filled with plenty of fast-paced picking, good fun, and always a couple of good old bluegrass killing songs delivered in his characteristic high lonesome voice.  

Junior Sisk

Jason Davis

Jonathan Dillon

Jamie Harper

Kameron Keller

April Verch

April Verch comes from the Ottowa Valley of northern Ontario, Canada to Delaware Valley via Berklee College of Music and years of touring. The result is a scintillating combination of music and dance from a variety of traditional, mostly Celtic, sources. Her show is filled with song, dance, and useful information. Supported by two fine musicians (Cody Walters on bass and banjo, Alex Rubin on guitar and Mandolin) who enrich her show while demonstrating their own virtuosity, Verch has refined and developed her program into a journey through North American folk dancing.

April Verch

Cody Walters

Alex Rubin

April Verch

John Flynn at the Children's Stage

Delaware Valley offers a pretty rare opportunity with a children's stage featuring performers whose focus is on kids. Flynn performed humorous songs which involved the kids and their parents. He's also known as a social activist and troubador in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Good stuff!

Danny Paisley & the Country Grass

Danny Paisley comes from Southeaster Pennsylvania, where his parents moved to benefit from the industrial growth experienced in the region during the immediate post-World War II period. Bob Paisley & the Southern Grass became a major touring band, and Danny became lead singer on his father's death. They sing a raw, earthy brand of bluegrass that reflects hard times with the influence of both the mountains and move to a better life. With son Ryan emerging as the third generation of the Paisley family in the band, and the Lundy brothers, TJ and Bobby, continuing with the band, there's plenty of tradition and plenty of great singing and picking.

Danny Paisley

T.J. Lundy

Ryan Paisley

Donny Eldreth

Mark Delaney

Catherine Lundy Eldredge

The Gibson Brothers

As we head into World of Bluegrass season with its attendant awards ceremony, attention to the Gibson Brothers and their seven nominations in six categories frequently entered the conversations as they put in two more fine sets to add to the string we've seen this summer, and through the years. These days, we hear a number of their songs in jams throughout many campgrounds, suggesting the degree to which their influence has entered bluegrass culture. The bell rings throughout many venues. 

Leigh Gibson

Eric Gibson 

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

Mike Barber & Jesse Brock

Emcee Bill Foster

Asleep at the Wheel

Ray Benson moved to Texas at the suggestion of Willie Nelson over forty years ago and the rest is history. The band is dedicated to continuing Western Swing music in the tradition of Bob Wills, but has continued to create and play swing or adapt other country music to the genre throughout its history. The 6' 7" Benson is an imposing, impressive on-stage presence even before he opens his mouth. His strong, deep baritone voice remains powerful even as he reaches into his mid-sixties. During his performance closing Friday at Delaware Valley, he made frequent and popular references to Philadelphia country and western personalities like Sally Starr, who many people in the audience would remember with childish nostalgia. Since Western Swing is clearly one of the important contributors to bluegrass, particularly in the number of fiddlers it has sent to prominent bluegrass bands, music like Benson's clearly belongs at a bluegrass festival, and he was treated as visiting royalty. 

Ray Benson

Kate Shore

Josh Hoag

Jay Reynolds

David Sanger

Connor Forsyth

Eddie Rivers

Dennis Ludiker

Ray Benson

Opening day at Delaware Valley was a huge success with varied music. While the foreshadow of the encroaching hurricane Harvey lay just over the horizon, the crowd was large and enthusiastic. The first day fulfilled all the goals of this award winning and historical event. More to come.....

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