Monday, August 12, 2019

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival - Sept. 19 - 21 - Preview

Promoters Joe and Mitzi Soward will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival this year, running from September 19 - 21 at 525 E. Dumplin Valley Road in Kodak, TN. Convenient to fans from nearly everywhere east of the Mississippi River, this festival draws loyal fans and newcomers from Florida to New England, the Outer Banks to Michigan. Held at their home, which is a year-round campground and popular regional meeting and event center, the festival features some of the brightest lights in bluegrass music as well as introducing fans to rising bands they may never have heard before. Over the years, the festival and its hosts have become one of our favorites. 

Joe & Mitzi Soward

Dumplin Valley is a fan friendly event, from its Pot-Luck supper and home grown show on Wednesday evening to its close on Saturday night. The campground is large and offers a variety of accomodations, there's lots of jamming at all levels, plenty of under control socializing, good food vendors, and nearby attractions of the Smoky Mountain National Park and the entertainments of the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg tourist region. If you love bluegrass music and haven't been to this festival, this is the year!

The Lineup
Salt & Light

Salt & Light: The Moore Family Band is an emerging family band coming out of Graham, NC. They're a melodious, high intensity group that will entertain with a strong dose of gospel music as well as some interesting takes on traditional bluegrass. As a six member band, they have provided themselves with plenty of ways to divide the honors and keep the attention of their audience.

Salt & Light - Medley

Jerry Butler Band

We've known and liked Jerry Butler since the days when he was lead singer with Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road. He's equally comfortable with bluegrass and country music, playing both at his long-time gig at Dolly Parton's Dollywood, where he's a featured act at several venues around the campus. His flexible voice and friendly demeanor make him an "in demand" performer.

Jerry Butler - Mama Tried

Po' Ramblin Boys

The Po' Mountain Boys are a neo-traditional bluegrass group, mostly from East Tennessee, whose music owes a great deal to the Ralph & Carter Stanley tradition and sound, without ever becoming slaves to it. They include a good dose of their own music as well as other traditional renditions. They are one of the too few such bands which bring enough energy, respect, and individuality to traditional sounds that they stand out as contemporary representatives of the best that too many modern bands styling themselves as traditional seem to lack.

Po' Ramblin Boys - I'd Like to Be a Train

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier

Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier is a fixture at Dumplin' Valley. Jimbo, one of the founding members of Pine Mountain Railroad, popular from its inception in 1998 for about a decade, Jimbo lives in the vast tourist destination comprised of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg just South of Dumplin' Valley. His band is filled with members of that pool of musical talent which originated or was drawn drawn to the region. Since this band doesn't tour, it's always a pleasure to see them and get to visit.

Appalachian Road Show

While I haven't seen Appalachian Road Show yet, I understand their show to be not only a musical extravaganza, but a guided tour through the development of bluegrass music out of the old time mountain traditions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Founded by Darrell Webb and former Mountain Heart founders Barry Abernathy and Jim vanCleve, this group, which also includes Todd Phillips on bass and Zeb Snyder on guitar has emerged quickly and should last. You can count on having a lively good time combing great music with humor and maybe some education, too. (Ninety Minute Closing Show)

Appalachian Road Show - Dance, Dance, Dance

The Alex Leach Band
Photo: Bluegrass Today
While only thirty years of age, Alex Leach has been a recognizable name since there was only one number in his age. As he's matured, so has his music, bringing to his once single-minded devotion to the Stanley Brothers, increasing nuance and awareness of how even tradtion grows and changes. Once better known as a DJ, he's emerged as a recognizable voice and bluegrass personality.

Alex Leach - Mountain Heartache

The Crowe Brothers

Josh and Wayne Crowe, the Crowe Brothers, have kept close to their Maggie Valley, NC roots. Maggie Valley, once a secluded, rural village in western North Carolina's Haywood County, near the popular tourist town of Asheville. Maggie Valley has become an expensive getaway to the Smoky Mountains, while retaining its rural country aura. Their music is both rough and sophisticated, as they sing songs about old country values and living in an RV. It's always a pleasure to see and hear this band. 

The Crowe Brothers - Livin' in My Mobile Home

U.S. Navy Band Country Current

Founded in 1973 by Bill Emerson, recently named to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, Country Current brings to audiences its program of traditional bluegrass, more contemporary songs written within the band, along with patriotic military bearing and service hymns. While primarily a part of the recruiting efforts of the Navy and tasked with appearing at official events in Washington and around the world, the band is entertaining and inspiring. While very much in demand, they can be booked by schools, communities, and bluegrass festivals at no cost to the sponsoring event. 

Country Current - The Bluenose

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers, Christopher and Taylor, come from around Greenville, NC, in the eastern part of the Piedmont where the land is flat, rich farmland and drive-through country for many headed to the beaches of the Outer Banks. It's also rich in country and bluegrass history. The brothers grew up immersed in classic country music, perfecting their impersonations of artists who were well-known before they were born. They attracted the attention of Merle Haggard, with whom they traveled, opening his shows, for several years. Their music and their engaging, humorous act has found an audience at bluegrass festivals where traditional music is valued and encouraged. 

The Malpass Brothers - I Just Don't Like Lovin' You Any More

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage

Nominated again for the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, which she has already won eight times, Rhonda Vincent is a fixture at Dumplin' Valley, always welcome for her highly professional and versatile band, fine singing, and seemingly tireless willingness to stay at the Rhonda Vincent Boutique until the last fan is greeted, the last CD is signed, and the end of the line has been satisfied. She is both admired and loved by her huge fan base. Fiddler Hunter Berry has been rightly nominated this year for IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year. 

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage - Momma Tried

Penny Creek

Penny Creek developed its chops as a bar band in Melbourne, FL and began appearing at local and regional festivals several years ago. As it has become increasingly popular, it has also changed its personnel and become increasingly good, while expanding its reach. Look for a very solid bluegrass band offering a good variety of material. We always enjoy seeing and hearing this band.

Penny Creek - A Poet with Wings

Deeper Shade of Blue

Deeper Shade of Blue was one of the first bluegrass bands we saw when we began coming to North Carolina about twenty years ago. Over the years, the band has maintained a remarkably stable membership, allowing it to mature and develop from good to excellent. In recent years, despite all having jobs at home, the band has travelled more widely, spreading its very good traditional sounds. They always deliver!

Deeper Shade of Blue - Making Plans

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Michael Cleveland has become the most awarded and recognized fiddle player of his era. Named IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year eleven times in this century, his hard driving traditional fiddle playing takes on the colors of the many of bluegrass music's great fiddlers while sounding like his inimitable self at all times. While the focus is often on Michael's fiddle play, Singer/Guitarist Josh Richards and Mandolin ace Nathan Livers add vocal and instrumental strength.  

Michale Cleveland & Flamekeeper - Jerusalem Ridge

Darin & Brooke Aldridge 

Nominated for a third consecutive IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Brooke Aldridge's clear warm country voice and powerful emotive delivery cannot be surpassed by any contemporary singer. Less noted, but equally important to this band, is veteran performer, at just forty years of age, of Darin Aldridge. His fine instrumental work on both guitar and mandolin and harmony singing is under-estimated, as he sublimates his own virtuosity to the excellence of the band and to supporting his wife. Other members of the band include, Carley Arrowood on fiddle and Matt Menafee on banjo or Dobro, combine to make this band one of the most versatile and subtle bands in the business. Billy Gee, on bass, brings his solid beat along with bass vocals to fill the gospel songs this band loves to sing. 

Darin & Brooke Aldridge - Someday Soon

Lonesome River Band

Since its founding thirthy-seven years ago, the Lonesome River Band has stood out among bluegrass bands for its musicality, blending bluegrass with the influences of rock sensibility and country connections. Since 1990, Sammy Shelor has been first their banjo player and, since 1995 sharing leadership with Ronnie Bowman before taking over in 2000. His outstanding musical imagination led to his being awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music in 2011 as well as being named IBMA Banjo Player of the Year five times over three decades, a remarkable display of longevity and leadership. LRB has often been the closing band on Saturday night for this fine festival. 

Lonesome River Band - Wreck of My Heart

Spotify Playlist of Bands at Dumplin Valley 

The Details:

For Further Information you can contact the festival by writing: 525 East Dummplin Valley Rd., Kodak, TN 37764, Phone at: 865.397.7942 or 865.740.1889. or email: You can also make reservations for camping accomodations. Sometimes there are late cancellations so a few sites with hookups may become available, although these are usually reserved far in advance. 

A number of motels are conveniently located near Exit 207 of I-40, about three miles from Dumplin Valley, for those who are not campers. This year, we were able to find a convenient Airbnb, which like VRBO are becoming increasingly available in the area. 

Wednesday Night at Dumplin Valley


Vendors offering food ranging from snacks and sweets to full dinner plates are available conveniently located behnd the covered stage area located in the former milking parlor. Instrument and gear vendors, some of whom provide quick instrument repair, are usually available, too. 

How to Get to Dumplin Valley
input your address in the O space & click

Happy Joe Soward at the End
of a 
Great Weekend Festival!

1 comment:

  1. Great Preview, Ted. Thanks for all the hard work. Anyone contemplating attending this year will surely be motivated by your preview. Thank you!