Friday, March 30, 2018

Sertoma Bluegrass Festival 2018 - Review

Five years ago, the oldest bluegrass festival in Florida, was on its last legs. Attendance had fallen and the Board of Directors was considering dropping the event from its schedule, all designed to support the efforts of  Sertoma International, a century old service club focusing on help in children with hearing problems. Evans Media Source took on the problem, began rebuilding the festival by improving the lineup while providing a more welcoming and diverse environment for those attending. The 2018 version of the Sertoma Bluegrass Festival culminated that effort, filling the campground and increasing the number of day attendees to crowd the performance shed and keep activities alive and interesting over three days of music with five days of fun. 

Covered Dish Supper

The activities began on Wednesday with a corn-hole tournament, bingo, and the covered dish supper that always precedes the opening day of an Evans Media Source festival. Music was provided by Greg Bird with his mellow baritone voice and his Karaoke machine, fried chicken was provided by the promoters, and, despite a somewhat chilly day, a very satisfying day ensued.

Greg Bird

Berna Lou Gibson & Harold Asher

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado

Jeff Scroggins has been a fixture in the western U.S.'s bluegrass world for a generation, winning the National Banjo Championship at Winfield in 1989. Jeff Scroggins & Colorado is his latest effort, featuring his son Tristan, awarded an IBMA Momentum award in 2017 in recognition of his current accomplishments as well as his potential in the future. Ellie Hakanson on fiddle brings her own recognition from the California Bluegrass Association. Meanwhile, Greg Blake continues to anchor the band with one of the finest voices in bluegrass and fine flat picking. Scroggins himself, though a retiring personality, is a first-rate banjo player in a number of styles reflecting broad experience and time spent studying under Alan Munde. Original bass player C.B. Denson joined the band on the present tour. The band is lively, the by-play between Ellie and Tristan amusing, while the music reflects bluegrass and country music from a variety of eras. This is a band you should see, if you haven't already become a fan. 

Jeff Scroggins

Tristan Scroggins

Ellie Hakanson

Jeff Blake and C.B. Denson

C.B. Denson

Greg Blake

The Vocal Trio
Ellie, Greg, Tristan

The Dave Adkins Band

Dave Adkins brings a big personality to the stage, performing with his whole voice and every part of his body. He's assembled a band of Nashville professionals with enough strength and skill to provide him with the support he needs while getting out of his prodigious way. While all displaying excellence, they're smart enough to stay out of the limelight, making him look good. Adkins has learned to take advantage of this approach and bloomed as a solo performer. Not that the band doesn't do a fine job, they're among the best that Adkins could hire for the job. 

Carl Caldwell

Barry Crabtree

Ray Cardwell

Dave Freeman

Dave Adkins

Davie Adkins' Merch Table

Nothin' Fancy

Nothin' Fancy always seems to enjoy its work. As the band has improved in recent years, they've given up some of the clowning the partially defined them, while improving their vocal and instrumental material. They continue to cover terrific music from the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene while performing lots of original music, much of it written by Mike Andes, mandolinist and the band spokesman. Chris Sexton's bravura performance of "Orange Blossom Special," featuring some of his classical training as well as impressions of a number of singers and musical styles, continues to be a show highlight. Next year, Nothin Fancy will perform at all Evans Media Source festivals. 

Mike Andes

Chris Sexton

Caleb Cox

Mitchell Davis

James Cox

Andes & Davis

The Cox Brothers

Barbara Martin Stephens Conducts Workshop
about her life with Jimmy Martin

Barbara Martin Stephens

Vintage RV's

Kat Kimbrough-Brake

Irene Shooting

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road kicked off Friday with plenty of enthusiasm showcasing their hybrid country-grass style, the most recent manifestation of the Lady of Tradition. It's good to see Tommy Long becoming stronger with each performance. The addition of Matt Hooper on fiddle has enabled increased versatility by allowing Josh Goforth to concentrate on guitar and for the band to present twin fiddle pieces.

Lorraine Jordan

Tommy Long

Josh Goforth

Ben Greene

Matt Hooper

Brad Hudson

Williamson Branch

Williamson Branch is a highly gospel oriented, show-style family band based in Nashville. They received strong support from the audience based on their lively, animated performance. 

Kevin Williamson

Melody Williamson

Kadence Williamson

Anthony Howell

Debbie & Kevin Williamson

Melody & Kadence

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Doyle Lawson, approaching age 74, a member of some of the most acclaimed bands in bluegrass history - Jimmy Martin, J.D. Crowe and the New South, and The Country Gentlemen before founding his own band, Doyle Lawson & Foxfire which morphed into Quicksilver, he has been at the center of traditional bluegrass as well as breakthrough bands that changed bluegrass forever. His mentorship has paved the way for so many musicians to go their own way to success that it has become known as the "Doyle Lawson School of Bluegrass."  He continues to tour hard with his carefully structured show featuring lots of bluegrass gospel as well as songs well-know to bluegrass fans while also continually introducing new music. His band is strong at every position, without featuring real stars. All the members, though, stand out in their own right and Doyle makes sure to feature each one. Dobro player and comic foil Josh Swift was named IBMA Dobro Player of the Year in 2017.

Josh Swift

Eli Johnson 

Joe Dean

Dustin Pyrtle

Stephen Burrell

Doyle Lawson

Emcee Jo Odum

Sound Man Josh Griffen Leads a Banjo Workshop

Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley, a regional band from South Florida led off the day on Saturday morning. The band has become a regular part of the Evans Media Source festival scene, holding down a role in the jam tent late into every evening, encouraging new and inexperienced jammers as well as old hands to join in the fun. Meanwhile, with regular performing and constant jamming, they have improved tremendously on the stage. They are a welcome presence for their spirit and their music. 

Justin Mason

Charles Mason

Shawn Mason

Joe Choina

The Vocal Trio
Charles, Justin & Shawn

The Darrell Webb Band

Darrell Webb began his professional career with the Lonesome River Band in 1994. Since then he has toured with Rhonda Vincent, Audie Blaylock, as well as performing guest appearances with Dailey & Vincent and others. With his band, he plays a regular gig at Ole Smokey Distillery in downtown Gatlinburg, TN.  His voice and mandolin play generate excitement wherever he plays. Whether he's singing the Ralph Stanley standard, and one of his signature songs, Little Maggie or Eric Clapton's version of the Robert Johnson classic Crossroad, he's an in-you-face, first rate musician and performer. His songs about the coal miner's life in the Kentucky mines are particularly evocative. This week, Jason Davis played banjo with the group, adding his driving, Scruggs style drive. Jared Hensley is the single most constant player in Darrell's band, bringing strong flat picking and rhythm guitar to the band. Austin Brown on bass is strong. Guest fiddler Tina Ray Miller provided effective singing and playing. 

Jared Hensley

Austin Brown

Jason Davis

Tina Ray Miller

Darrell Webb

Ernie Evans Introduces the Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers have risen to become one of the most popular and reliable bluegrass bands on the circuit. Rather than present a spectacular show, they feature a seemingly endless catalog of their own songs sprinkled with bluegrass classics reflecting their rural heritage and farm background. They celebrate home, family, and rural life in a modern idiom eping them current and up-to-date. Their brother harmony and brotherly bickering which never slips into areas that would make an audience wince provides humor that works without ever seeming over-prepared or rehearsed. Each of their last eight CD's has reached the top of the charts and remained there for months. And they're genuinely nice people, too. The ensemble they've assembled is deeply experienced, always in tune with them, and top notch. Jesse Brock, on mandolin, is one of the top stylists in the world on his instrument.

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Jesse Brock

Mike Barber

Clayton Campbell

The Gibson Brothers

At the Merch Table

A Tribute to Buck Owens

The Saturday evening show ended with a tribute to Buck Owens put together by Ernie Evans, largely after he recognized the degree to which Greg Blake could impersonate Owens' voice. Darrell Webb on Telecaster ably played the role of Don Rich. JR Davis played drums with veteran steel player Brian Goodpasture adding the typical country background. The songs were familiar to country fans and were very well received. This late show was rewarded with a standing ovation from the relatively small crowd that remained after this long and rewarding day. 

Greg Blake

Darrell Webb

JR Davis

Brian Goodpasture

Ernie Evans

On Sunday morning, the happy campground took its time leaving. Some people attending Jan Ladd's Sunday gospel sing while others packed and cleared the campground. As usual, the bluegrass crowd left a fairly neat and well picked up grounds behind. The festival was fully satisfying, leaving Ernie and Debi Evans with the un-enviable task of topping it next year.