Thursday, July 25, 2019

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival - 2019 Preview

The Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival celebrates its 48th Annual Labor Day weekend event this year from August 30 - September 1, 2019. Founded in 1974 when Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley asked Carl Goldstein, Shel Sandler and the late Mike Hudak to help them develop a festival located between New York and Washington, this old and highly regarded event will present one of its strongest lineups ever this year. It's filled with top of the line award winning headline acts as well as some excellent performers you may not have heard before, but are among the best at the music they play. Sponsored and owned by the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music, the festival has a deep and abiding commitment to old-time music, but before turning up your nose at the name "old-time," consider that bluegrass music grew from a variety of musical backgrounds, each of which has its own old-time component. Don't be surprised to discover music from the traditions of Dixie Land Jazz, African American roots, Western Swing, Cajun, Canadian, and Irish traditions, all of which have made significant contributions to bluegrass. Held at the Salem County Fairgrounds in Southern New Jersey, the festival is convenient to music lovers from Washington to New York. Let's take a look at what's being offered this year. As you make your decisions about which bands to see, study the schedule carefully, as more bands than ever are performing only one 90 minute set, while others enjoy only one appearance during the festival. In addition, you can hear more of the music as a Spotify Playlist (registration required, free with ads). Here's a link to it: Ted's Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival Playlist. 

Jakob's Ferry Stragglers

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers, coming from the area where Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland sort-of meet, fuse old time music with traditional bluegrass and some elements of swing and rockabilly to present an extremely pleasing and high energy sound that's perfect for the opening of this festival on Friday. They were an official showcase artist at last year's IBMA World of Bluegrass. 
Jakob's Ferry Stragglers - When the Red Buds Bloom

Dan Paisley & Southern Grass

If Delaware Valley can be said to have a house band, Danny Paisley & Southern Grass would be it! Danny's father, Bob Paisley, played at the first Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival with Ted Lundy & the Southern Mountain Boys in 1972, while Danny's band has only missed one year during their career. Now that Danny's son, Ryan, has joined the band as a permanent member, the band has enjoyed three generations of Paisley's as crucial members. Paisley has won the Male Vocalist of the Year Award at IBMA with his unique voice and vocal interpretations. It's always good to see and hear this band, which will also appear on Saturday.
Danny Paisley & Southern Grass - Margie

The Becky Buller Band

A graduate of ETSU while hailing from the great bluegrass state of Minnesota, Becky Buller has been a fixture in bluegrass since her early days, more than a decade ago, with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, where her talent for humor as well as instrumental versatility was very much a feature. Since forming her own band, she has won a basket full of IBMA while becoming a favorite at festivals from coast to coast. Also a noted song writer, Buller has won two Grammy awards. She performs many of her own songs. 

Becky Bullar Band - Speakin' To That Mountain

Steppin' @ the Junction

A coordinated project of the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, led by the late Eileen Carson until her recent, and much too early passing, and Charm City Junction, a popular band from Baltimore which focuses on Appalachian Old Time, Irish and other ethnic music, this show should evoke enthusiasm along with a sense of deep loss to the music community. Carl Goldstein says, "Eileen and I cooked this up for the festival when she visited us last year. It'll be a  hoot and and a crowd sensation, I promise." Carl is never a person not to be listened to!

Steppin@The Junction - Greasy Coat

The Gibson Brothers

It hardly seems possible that the Gibson Brothers have been performing in bluegrass and, now, country music for thirty years. Their unique combination of fine song writing, brother harmonies, sibling rivalry, and fine entertaining have given them a unique place in bluegrass music, which has only been enhanced by their decision to release a country album under the name of the Mockingbird Band. Fine showmen such as they are, they've never allowed their show to overpower their musicianship, making them one of the most sought after acts in bluegrass. 

The Gibson Brothers - They Called It Music
(On Country Road TV)

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder

Ricky Skaggs has been a public figure since Bill Monroe first pulled him onto the stage to play the mandolin at the age of six. Since then he has distinguished himself as a player, band leader, collaborator with other musicians from a range of genres, as well as a music producer and record label owner. He has continued as a noted country music artist, while never foresaking his roots in bluegrass or gospel music. His association with both Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley makes him a natural for this festival which continue to honor both men. His bands always feature some of the top side musicians in all music, many of whom have gone on to become headliners themselves. In 2018 He was enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame and IBMA Hall of Fame

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder - Rawhide

John Reischman & the Jaybirds

John Reischman & the Jaybirds manage to maintain a balance between old time traditional bluegrass and twenty-first century innovation while demonstrating spare melodic creativity. Bluegrass Unlimited calls John Reischman "one of the world’s undisputed masters of the mandolin, famed for outstanding tone and taste. Many of his dozens of original instrumentals have become popular favorites for sessions and covers." It's a rare treat to see him and hear his work, as they are based on the West Coast. 

John Reischman & the Jaybirds - Cypress Hills

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

We first met Darin & Brooke Aldridge at a jam at the Bomb Shelter in Cherryville, NC just after they had become engaged, a  young couple drawn together by their love of singing and the gospel. Their partnership, musical and personal, has blossomed as their reputation has spread. These days, this couple performs regularly at the Grand Old Opry, Brooke has been named Female Vocalist of the Year twice at IBMA, and, beyond their play as a group, Darin is in frequent demand as a valued side musician with the likes of John Jorgenson. As both fans and friends of this North Carolina couple, we can say you're in for a fine musical trip with them.

Darin & Brooke Aldridge - Someday Soon

Tuba Skinny

Back by popular demand, this Dixieland band's natural home is on streets of New Orleans, as the video below shows. After their wonderful 2017 show at Delaware Valley, it's great to see them back again. They also serve to remind us that old-time, required by the charter of this festival, has its manifestations in much of American music that contributed differing strands to what became, and remains, bluegrass music. So often, we forget the blues, jazz, country, and pop influences that Bill Monroe heard in his head and which continue to influence the growth and development of the genre. 

Tuba Skinny - Gimme Some

Appalachian Road Show
Image result for appalachian road show

Appalachian Roadshow is a super-band formed by two members of the the now defunct Mountain Heart, Barry Abernathy and Jim van Cleve, with Darrell Webb and a variety of other players, depending on their availability.  But don't worry, in the two videos I watched, the guitar spot was held either by Bryan Sutton or Zeb Snyder, great players a generation removed from each other in age, but not talent. Their 90 minute show provides a tour through the music of early Appalachia. This production promises to provide high energy, traditional bluegrass with lots of virtuoso solos.

Appalachian Road Show - Dance, Dance, Dance

Travelin McCourys

Some bluegrass fans might be tempted to think of the Travelin' McCourys as The Del McCoury Band without Dad. Don't fool yourself! This band, while you can't miss the echoes of Del's voice in his son Ronnie, has found its own groove, sound, and personality...and their Grammy award suggests that this has been recognized by the larger world of American music. Their singing has emerged as distinctive, yet clearly in the mainstream of contemporary bluegrass music. The addition of Cody Kilby on guitar has filled out an instrumental band without peer. Every member of this band has been recognized as Instrumental Player of the Year by IBMA on his instrument.  'Nuff said.....

The Travelin' McCourys - Lonesome, On'ry, and Mean

Sunday (one Performance only by each band) 
Kids Academy

Kids Academy is a  project of love and commitment to the continuation of traditional music through encouraging young people to learn and perform. Again this year, Kids Academy will be directed by Ira Gitlin with the skilled help of several gifted performers and teachers. Come early to suppport the performance of these kids before the formal opening of professional performers on Sunday morning. 

2018 Kids' Academy

The Onlies

With music drawn from a wide variety of old time and folk traditions from Appalachia, Ireland, Scotland and Canada, The Onlies, some of whom have been musical friends since childhood, growing up to become widely known and admired. A quick look at the breadth and importance of their summer tour, the front page of their web site, tells the tale. While their musical journey has taken them to some unlikely collaborations, such as Elvis Costello. "Traditional music is such an integral part of our lives that we couldn’t ever imagine stopping,” they say in an article in Northwest Folklife. You should look carefully at this band, opening the music on Sunday after the Kids Academy.  

The Onlies - Cherokee Trail & Going Up to Hamburg

The Tuesday Mountain Boys

The Tuesday Mountain Boys are composed of local players who are recognized for the importance of South Jersey to the festival.  They play pleasant music, just right for a Sunday morning, and enjoy themselves.
The Tuesday Mountain Boys - Instrumental

The Slocan Ramblers

The Slocan Rambler's are a four piece traditional bluegrass band hailing from Canada, where they were recently nominated for a 2019 Juno Award (Canadian equivalent of the Grammys). John Lupton, a long-time DelVal board member and volunteer noted in an  article in Sing Out! Magazine that the band, though, "not quite a prototypical “high lonesome” kind of band... are firmly grounded in the traditional end of the music... and, with the aid of some intelligent production, present a sound that features clean, crisp picking matched with solid, sometimes unconventional harmonies." Regular attendees at Delaware Valley have come to expect the festival to find bands they haven't heard before but will be glad they met them here. 

Slocan Ramblers - First Train in the Morning

Kathy Kallick Band

Kathy Kallick is one the generation of people who pioneered the role of women in bluegrass performance and band leadership on the West Coast. A native of the Chicago, she has lived in the San Francisco East Bay area for more than a generation, writing songs and performing traditional bluegrass music from a fresh, loving, and respectful perspective. When this band last appeared at Delaware Valley, the delightful and skilled fiddler Annie Staninec was unable to come, so  you won't want to miss this performance. 
Kathy Kallick Band - Foxhounds

Special Consensus

Greg Cahill stands as a model and an inspiration for bluegrass performers and band leaders seeking to make a living producing the music they love and preserving the culture from which it comes. For a special insight into Greg as well as a lesson in leadership, perseverance, survival, and triumph, listen to this podcast he recently recorded with Katy Daley on Bluegrass Stories. Cahill is a former President of IBMA. The four piece band relies on tight instrumentals, strong singing, and a broad range of bluegrass material. 

Special Consensus - Three Song Medley
Midwest Banjo Camp

Balsam Range

The last act of the final day at any festival is often met with emptying seats. Balsam Range is one of the most exciting bands to come onto the bluegrass scene in many years. Still featuring the same five men from Haywood County, North Carolina who founded the band a dozen years ago, the band has been widely recognized for its high quality, winning a baker's dozen IBMA Awards since their inception, with exciting, sometimes spiritually and morally uplifting, and broad range of musical sensibiltity in the eight albums it has released. Many of their songs entertain while forcing the listener to think about the content as they sway to the music. They have performed at the Grand Ole Opry as well as with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble. What a dynamic group to close a wonderful festival!

Balsam Range - The Last Train To KittyHawk

Stage Manager Howard Parker and Emcee Katy Daley

Emcee Bill Foster

...Besides the Music!
Salem County Fairgrounds

Kids Academy is open to any child between the ages of six and eighteen who play (at any level) the fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, resonator guitar, bass, as well as viola or cello. Under the direction of Ira Gitlin, with a volunteer staff of professional musicians, there will be five two hour sessions and a live performance to open Sunday morning. You can find pre-registration and further information here. Parents need not chaperone their children during these sessions, although they are welcome to watch. 

Wernick Style Jam Class: Many beginning musicians who have taken up bluegrass instruments are reluctant to join in the fun of jamming with other enthusiasts. Banjo great Pete Wernick has developed an approach to teaching jamming, which he has trained instructors to deliver at classes and festivals across the country. Heidi Pohl has been offering Wernick Method jam classes at Delaware Valley for several years, as well as assisting Pete with his classes at Gettyburg. Get on board at an advance fee of $70.00 or $75.00 at the festival, and get in on the fun, held each day of the festival from 9:00-11:00. Jam Central Station will be open to all novice jammers when the Heidi's Wernick class is not in session.

Heidi Olson Directs Jam Class

The Children's Stage: Located in a barn a few steps from Lapp's Concessions, the Children's Stage offers programs especially for the young and  young at heart. Here's the Schedule:

1:00PM:  Ray Owen
2:15 PM:  Bob Wright (folksinger)\
3:30 PM: John & June Gallagher

Clogging Workshops will be offered on both Friday and Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM under the auspices of FiddleKicks

Food Concessions: A variety of food concessions is available on the Salem County Fairgrounds Campus. In addition to the large concession operated by Lapps Dutch Market, there are a several booths offering ice cream, soda, and other fair food. Lapps offers healthy salads and sweets as well as full platters of barbecue (chicken or pork), beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob, etc. The food is tasty regional food reasonably priced with shaded picnic tables. I think their barbecue ribs are among the best I've ever had. This year will feature some new food concessions adding more variety and healthy eating choices.


Shopping: In addition to a t-shirt wagon offering silk screen t-shirts especially designed for this year's festival and a variety of clothing, there is a market building two barns in front of the stage with many vendors for those interested in doing some fair shopping. 

Seating: The stage is under a covered pavillion offering shade and cover against inclement weather. A second covered building, some yards behind also has plenty of room. Meanwhile, many festival goers prefer to spread out on blankets spread around the stage area. This is a fan-friendly festival.
Corn Hole - The Bluegrass National Sport

Camping: Campers may enter the grounds of Salem County Fair any time after Wednesday, August 28, 2019 at 8:00 AM. There are no water or 30 or 50 amp electric hookups for RV's, but there are 110 electric outlets which you can arrange to use through the Fairgrounds. For more detailed informations, look here. Space is almost unlimted on the fairgrounds. You should know there is very little shade on the grounds, so shade tents are a must. Camping in the rough is free to all people purchasing full weekend tickets to the festival. There are no reserved spots, and many of the sites are taken by volunteers who come early to set up the grounds. They earn them, too! Remote sites are available for people using generators. 

Tickets: A variety of ticket packages and prices are available, based on when you order. To see how and where to purchase tickets look here. You can print out this form to order tickets by mail. You can also order tickets on line from brown paper tickets. There is a charge for this service. 

Accomodations: A number of motels are available in the area, with some offering festival special prices. Here's the list. There are also a few full-service campgrounds within easy driving distance of the grounds. When we were still camping, we stayed at Four Seasons Campground, which we found to be adequate. There are others you can certainly find. 

How to get to Salem County Fairgrounds: 

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Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music under the guidance of its Board of Directors and long-time Chairman & Festival Director, Carl Goldstein produces this festival. It is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization which welcomes you to join and to attend its other events throughout the year. Dozens of hard-working and loyal volunteers work hard to provide you with a first rate experience. Take some time to thank them for their dedication. 

Carl Goldstein & Board Member George Mercer