Thursday, September 21, 2017

Delaware Valley 2017 - Saturday

With the remains of Hurricane Harvey bearing down on us, Saturday dawned breezy and overcast, deteriorating from there. Fortunately, Salem County Fairgrounds provide plenty of covered seating while Southerd Sound projects its product far and clear enough to provide coverage without being too loud. Conditions would continue to degrade throughout the day, but the music lifted us up and plenty of people stayed to enjoy it.

Kids Academy Practice
Director Ira Gitlin & Instructor Wally Hughes

The Becky Buller Band

The Becky Buller fills the air with songs reflecting Buller's Minnesota background, her love of Appalachian life and culture, and her deep religious faith, all reflected in songs she has written through the years since her graduation from East Tennessee State University. Long a featured player with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, she has broadened her repertoire and become comfortable with her role as band leader. Effective on both guitar and fiddle, she has taken charge of her own band, where she's seems fully in charge of the proceedings. 

 Dan Boner & Ned Luberecki

 Dan Boner

Ned Luberecki - Keeping it All in Balance

Nate Lee

Dwayne Anderson

Triple Fiddles
Lee, Buller & guest TJ Lundy

 Magician Chris Capehart

Performing on the Children's Stage, which offers musical and variety entertainment for kids on Friday and Saturday afternoon, Chris Capehart is a wonderfully entertaining and skillful sleight of hand master. Adults come to chaperone their offspring and stay to wonder at and enjoy his performance.

Charm City Junction

Baltimore gained the moniker "charm city" in 1975 when the mayor brought several advertising executives together to find a nickname for a city that, in many ways, was less than charming. Now, along comes a bright and shining string band that truly is charming, and has taken the name and burnished it. Charm City Junction plays scintillating Irish music along with old-timey dance tunes and bluegrass derived songs. Featuring an unusual instrument, at least for bluegrass, Irish button accordion, lively fiddle and claw-hammer banjo, this Baltimore band delivers.

Brad Kolodnor

 Sean McKominsky

Alex Laquement

Nate Grower

On Saturday afternoon, as the rain and wind increased, I found myself becoming cold, grouchy, and, yes, unpleasant, so I went back to our truck, turned on the heat and started to take nap. Then I got a healthy dose of perspective when I received a text from my good friend Sam Sattler (, who lives in Houston. I went out to enjoy the rest of the day.....

The Grascals

Only three of the original Grascals remain, but that makes all the difference, as this band keeps its energy high, its music lively, and new songs coming. Sadly, our friend Danny Roberts wasn't there due to the loss of his brother-in-law. John Bryant, who's been with the Grascals for about a year now, has truly taken charge of his role as both a singer and a strong guitar player. Adam Haynes fits perfectly on fiddle, and Kristin Scott Benson remains one of the best on the banjo. The two Terry's (Eldredge and Smith) are steady, strong, and carry the mantle of having been there from the beginning at the Station Inn. Always good fun!

Kristin Scott Benson

Terry Smith

Terry Eldredge

John Bryan

Adam Haynes

Terry Smith & Terry Eldredge

Tuba Skinny

What are all those brass and woodwind instruments doing at a bluegrass festival? Tuba Skinny is a New Orleans traditional dixieland jazz band that has evolved from being a curbside jazz band to representing traditional dixieland jazz and developing a reputation for finding and playing many long-lost songs. At Delaware Valley they added another foundation stone to the old-time structure being built at this festival. They highlighted the fact forgotten by many bluegrass advocates that the genre is one of the most inclusive of all genres, bringing folk music, mountain music, blues, pop music from Tin Pan Alley days to today, and jazz into a form that many wish to define as exclusive and narrowly-based. People often forget that Arnold Schultz, the man who taught Bill Monroe to play guitar, was a black man with at least one foot in dixieland jazz. At Delaware Valley this band received a standing ovation from a cold, damp audience which cheered them with the enthusiasm they deserve. 

Todd Burdick

Greg Sherman

Craig Flory

Greg Sherman

Max Bien Kahn

Erika Lewis

Jason Lawrence

Barnabus Jones

Robin Rapuzzi

Stage Manager Howard Parker & Jason Hannon

Watching Del

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band closed out Saturday with a single ninety minute set as has become their usual practice. Doing so allows a band to fashion a full performance showcasing the breadth of their music and presenting a fully realized show. While bluegrass audiences are accustomed to, and often seem to prefer, two forty-five or fifty minute sets during a day, bands tell me they prefer the ninety minute format. We've seen an increase, in recent years, in this practice, which works best for a closing act. Del McCoury, a member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and widely popular at Americana festivals where his band is often the only bluegrass band represented, continues at age seventy-eight to relish this exhausting format which allows him to get in a brief number of set songs before taking requests for crowd favorites for the rest of the evening. By skillfully using quite selective hearing, he manages to sing pretty much what he wants to present, in one of the most recognizable and famous voices in bluegrass music. Only one member of the band isn't a winner on his own of an IBMA award, and that's because he's relatively unobtrusive and way too overlooked for his value to the band. 

Del McCoury

Rob McCoury

Ron McCoury

Jason Carter

Alan Bartram

Jason Carter & Ron McCoury

The McCoury Family - Rob, Ron & Del

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.....