Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Big Lick Bluegrass Festival - April 6 - 8, 2017: Preview

The fourteenth annual Big Lick Bluegrass Festival will run in Oakboro, NC from April 6 - 8, 2017 this year. Hosted this year by The Spinney Brothers, Big Lick is the kick-off outdoor festival for the North Carolina bluegrass season. A small festival held in a rural setting, it offers lots of jamming opportunities, strong national and regional bands, and a welcoming environment. Although the weather can get chilly this early in the season, people in this state where good bluegrass bands seem to sprout almost as thickly as the spring daffodils, there are plenty of people eager to get outside, to jam, show their stuff from an unusually varied and active Thursday open mic evening, and celebrate the coming of Spring. Promoter Jeff Branch has carefully built this small festival, bringing in national bands and finding strong local support. 

Jeff Branch

The Lineup
Open Mic

Big Lick features an unusually enjoyable open mic program on Thursday evening for early arrivals and campers coming to the festival. Some of the bands appearing have been scheduled while others are an organic growth from the pickers who have assembled in the field to jam. Such open mic programs often represent the first live performance opportunity for newly formed bands or regular local jam groups. Occasionally, such a band begins its rise to greater prominence, first regionally, and, less often, to national status. As such, open mics represent the base line of the large, and real pyramid upon which bluegrass is built.

The Wood Family Tradition
Mike Wood

The Wood Family Tradition represents another strand in the growth and development of a much larger bluegrass tradition: the family band with its roots in gospel music. Founded many years ago by family patriarch Al Wood, the current band, under the leadership of Mike Wood performs regionally in North Carolina, continuing a tradition with solid entertainment. The video below provides a sample of what they do. 

Bethel University Bluegrass Band(s)

The Bethel University Bluegrass Band has been a popular feature at Big Lick for the past three or four years. They represent the Renaissance Program of the University, located in McKenzie, TN, which is an exciting performing arts program with strong scholarship support. It's hard to profile the band(s) because the personnel changes markedly from year to year as students graduate and newcomers join the program. Usually, there are two bands at Big Lick representing less and more experienced students from the program. Such performances give them good opportunities to perform while honing their skills.

A Deeper Shade of Blue
Jim Fraley

A Deeper Shade of Blue has moved, during the time we've been watching them, from being an introductory band at the monthly meeting of a local bluegrass association (The Rivertown Bluegrass Society in Conway, SC) to beginning to reach toward national band status, with performances throughout the Southeast and on a cruise. They play traditional hard driving bluegrass, songs written from within the band, and gospel material. Some members of the band have touring experience, while others have turned down such opportunities to remain closer to home, family, and job.

Frank Poindexter

Steve Dilling

Sideline was formed during the off season, when a group of veteran bluegrass musicians were looking for a side project to keep the sharp through the winter. Steve Dilling had just left the road for health reasons after twenty years with IIIrd Tyme Out. Skip Cherryholmes was settled in the Raleigh area and about to marry Dilling's daughter, and Jason Moore was always busy and ready to work. The band came together covering first and second generation bluegrass bands, and quickly had enough dates to justify purchasing a bus. There have been a few changes, with young Nathan Aldridge a standout on fiddle. The band, relying on experience and quality has quickly risen to national status.

Skip Cherryholmes

Nathan Aldridge

The Malpass Brothers
Christopher Malpass

The Malpass Brothers are not a bluegrass band, but they have found a home at bluegrass festivals across the country playing classic country music from the fifties through the eighties. They play electric instruments, have a drum on stage and a pedal steel. They have been welcomed, at least partly because a large proportion of the bluegrass audience has come to bluegrass because they can no longer find the country music they love on the radio. The brothers are very good on their own, and represent a welcome change of pace sound at the many bluegrass events where they perform.

Taylor Malpass

Flatt Lonesome
Charli Robertson

Buddy Robertson

Flatt Lonesome, one of the youngest major bands on the bluegrass stage today, has rocketed to prominence from their beginnings as a bluegrass gospel band playing churches and small festivals near their home in Callahan, Florida. Their close harmonies, youthful enthusiasm, and blend of bluegrass and country sounds have garnered numerous awards at both SPBGMA and IBMA in the past two or three years. They've risen fast in the bluegrass world, and show no signs of slowing down.

Paul Harrigal and Kelsi Robertson Harrigal

Junior Sisk

Interestingly, we also first saw Junior Sisk perform as lead singer with Alan Bibey and Blueridge at a Rivertown Bluegrass Society monthly meeting. His distinctive voice and shy manner set him aside as the "real deal." Fifteen years later, he continues, now as the front man of his own band, to sing his idols, the Stanley Brothers, as well as many songs written for him that sound as traditional as can be. Meanwhile, he's become a able band emcee, pulling together his skills as one of the best rhythm guitar players in bluegrass and one of finest tenor voices. 

Junior Sisk & Jason Davis

The Spinney Brothers

The Spinney Brothers have become sufficienly popular and successful at Big Lick to have been named the host band. They will be on hand throughout the festival, playing four sets from their substantial catalog as well as meeting a greeting friends and fans. Coming from the Annapolis Valley in their native Nova Scotia, they have spread their love for bluegrass and traditional country music across North America for over twenty years. 

Alan Spinney

The Details

Tickets: You can purchase Early Bird tickets until April first for $55.00. From April 1st on, tickets cost $75.00. Day Tickets are:

                             Thursday                                     Friday                            Saturday
Adult:                   $10.00                                       $30.00                              $35.00
12 - 16                  $ 5.00                                        $10.00                              $10.00
Under 12               Free                                            Free                                   Free

For Tickets Call: (704) 985-6987

Camping: There are some hookups and almost unlimited space for rough camping. There are good camping spots under trees for tent campers. Plenty of porta-johns are provided and there are fresh water stand pipes. To arrange for camping call:
Jeff Branch:                        (704) 985 - 6987
Hinson's Festival Park:      (704) 485 - 6987

Remember, this is an early April festival. Weather can be quite variable. Wise festival attendees come prepared for cold or rainy weather as well as sunny days. There are shade tents provided, and some festival goers erect easy-ups around the perimeter. 

How to Get to Big Lick at Hinson's Festival Park in Oakboro, NC:

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We always look forward to returning to North Carolina for much of April. Spring in North Carolina is filled with blossoms, warm sun, and bluegrass music. See you there. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sertoma Bluegrass Festival March 23 - 26 - Preview

The Sertoma Spring Bluegrass Festival will run from March 23 - March 26 at the Sertoma Boys Ranch at 85 Myers Road in Brooksville, FL. Founded in 1977 and now the oldest bluegrass festival in the southeast, the festival is a benefit for the Sertoma Youth Ranchwhich is a project of the local Sertoma (for an interesting history of the club, look here), which has benefited people for over 100 years with an emphasis on services to the deaf and hard of hearing. Ernie and Debi Evans were asked to assume the festival five years ago when it looked like it would go under. Since then, they have built the event and the lineup to the point where, this year, it has a strong, varied, and entertaining range of bluegrass bands including two of the top groups in the nation in Blue Highway and Balsam Range.  There's still time to arrange to come to this fine event.

The Lineup:
Blue Highway
Shaun Lane, Jason Burleson, Wayne Taylor, Tim Shelton

Over the past twenty-three years, Blue Highway has released thirteen CD's with almost all the songs on them being originals written from within the band with songs from the prolific composers Tim Shelton, Shaun Lane, and Wayne Taylor. During that time, they have maintained a remarably consistent lineup, having lost only Rob Ickes on Dobro a couple of years ago. Now, after what appears to have been an easy transition, young Gaven Largent has brought his own resonator guitar vibe to the band in an almost seamless transition. Their most recent CD, Original Traditional received a 2017 Grammy nomination.

Gaven Largent

Balsam Range
Buddy Melton

Balsam Range has such breadth of talent and range of subject matter that it almost boggles the mind. From factory songs to Allman Brothers and Jim Croce covers mixing bluegrass, country and rock with gospel, they get it right with varied singing and first rate picking. Balsam Range is Haywood County North Carolina's gift to bluegrass music, and we're all grateful. Buddy Melton, whoplays fiddle and bass for the band, has a haunting tenor voice that transports with his "Blue Mountain" Darren Nicholson brings humor and surprising agility on the mandolin. Enjoy this too rare visit of a fine band to Florida.

Darren Nicholson

Nothin' Fancy
Mike Andess

Nothin' Fancy has released perhaps its best CD ever and continues to upgrade its performance style. The core of the band has been expanded by Caleb Cox, who brings instrumental versatility, vocal ability, and writing skill to the mix. Mike Andes continues to write and perform some excellent new songs. They haven't lost their sense of fun or humor. 
Caleb Cox

Darrell Webb Band

Darrell Webb has upped his game and his level of professionalism. The result is the kind of performances people have looked for from him for years. He's surrounded himself with strong musicians and keeps more of them with him through his leadership. There's never been any question about his musicianship or his singing. He put in a great preview set at Okeechobee a couple of months ago. 

Jared Hensley

Dave Adkins

Dave Adkins is one of the most dynamic performers in bluegrass and benefiting from the increased visibility of country music within the bluegrass scene. Recently he's had a couple of songs high in the charts with a new CD recently released. He's one of the most approachable and nicest people on the scene...genuine, warm and compassionate. When you get a chance, get to know him. Ask him about his rescue cats.

Deeper Shade of Blue
Troy Pope

A Deeper Shade of Blue is making its second trip to Florida in a month. This regional North Carolina band is truly extending its range, and its about time promoters and fans recognized its excellence. Troy Pope is a fine lead singer, while Jason Fraley plays excellent mandolin and sings well, too. The band is versatile and enjoyable, playing traditional bluegrass well. Furthermore, since there is plenty of willing writing taking place in the band and they choose new songs well, there's plenty of new stuff.

Jason Fraley

Paul Bryant & Kentucky Border

Paul Bryant is a bluegrass musician based in Ohio who's been in and around bluegrass most of his life. His new band, Kentucky Border has a CD out and is beginning to tour. We haven't seen the band you, but have high hopes for it. Want to get in on the ground floor?

Blue Cypress Bluegrass
Alan Rudd

Blue Cypress Bluegrass plays local gigs around its home in Vero Beach. They play first and second generation bluegrass covers with enthusiasm. They love watching their fans enjoying their music.

John Apfelthaler

South Country Classic
Ernie Evans

South Country Bluegrass is an electric country band singing classic bluegrass with verve and skill. It has a somewhat movable lineup of players, but it's anchored by Ernie Evans on electric guitar, multi-instrumentalist Dave O'Brien on pedal steel, with vocals by Sonya Stratton and others. This band is scheduled to perform on Thursday, but don't be too surprised if you see it at other times, too. The pedal steel sound from Dave O'Brien adds a very special sound to the stage.

Sonya Stratton

Dave O'Brien

 Emcee - Jo Odom

Greg Bird - Host and Karaoke

Jan Ladd - Sunday Gospel Sing

The Details

The Sertoma Spring Bluegrass Festival will be held at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, 85 Myers Road, Brooksville, FL on March 23 - 26, 2017 with the gates opening on Tuesday, March 21. The Ranch is located in a cool, shade covered live oak grove with plenty of water/electric hookups. There's a dump station provided and a toilet and shower building with loads of hot water. 

Shower Building

Tickets: For tickets and camping reservations, call (904) 886-8378
               Season Ticket:        $70.00
               Day Tickets:           $10.00/$30.00/$30.00
               Children 10 - 17     $10.00/day
               Children  9 & under    free
               Water & Electrics Hookups - $23.00/night     Rough Camping - $10.00/night
                You can see the Festival Flyer Here


The Ranch operates a snack bar featuring a range of foods from ice cream to hot dogs and hamburgers, fries and beyond. Procedes from the snack bar benefit the Ranch.

Too see a more detailed schedule, click here.

How to Get to Sertoma Youth Ranch
Click on the Map, then place you location in the O
and Click to make a personalized map.

The lineup and the crowd at Sertoma have kept growing in tandem. This is, by far, the best lineup Sertoma has had since we began going there. Support the festival and help it continue to grow. See you there!