[Continued from Part I, HERE]
Saturday evening, following Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle, the ladies of Sister Sadie unleashed some powerful and poignant vocals in the main hall. This is a an all star band that features two very different singers, the strong but luminous Dale Ann Bradley, and the room-filling Tina Adair (whose solo on “How Great Thou Art” approached grand opera levels). Here they are (click on a photo to see a slideshow):
I got only a couple of shots of Joe Val Festival favorite and old friend of HAH, Greg Cahill and The Special Consensus, Chicago’s gift to bluegrass. Back in the ’80s (I think it was) Greg and the gang used to show up to play in Allston at a place called the Kinvara Pub. They would play live Saturday morning in our Sumptuous Studio A (it was then), and then in the evening at the Kinvara. Greg also has a first-class band, but unfortunately I heard little of them, and nothing of The Gibson Brothers (also HAH studio veterans and long-time favorites of mine); Saturday nights I tend to poop out. Click to see larger:
Sunday afternoon, we were treated to a JVF rarity, an old-timey group called the Foghorn Stringband. They were terrific, reminding me of long-gone favorites the Highwoods Stringband and The Freight Hoppers, but reaching out further with old gospel and blues. These are the roots of old-time country music, in addition to the the snappy dances tunes and breakdowns, and to my mind fit right in with traditional bluegrass style. Check out some of the videos on their website, HERE.
Just came across an account of their visit (these folks are from the Northwest and even farther north, as in Alaska!) to Framingham, from their website:
We had a fantastic weekend at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival just outside of Boston in Framingham, MASS. From the moment we walked in the door, the festival had a welcoming and friendly air, and folks there really embraced the Foghorn Stringband, despite the fact that we are an old time string band! Ha! We like to dispel the bluegrass vs old time chasm as frequently as possible as these musics are so intertwined, and we love them all. It’s all country music as far as I’m concerned! We felt well-loved and met many new friends and fans. The festival is held in the Sheraton Hotel, and with the winter weather, there was really no reason at all to go outside. We had everything we needed indoors: tunes, food, and our beds. We performed a main stage set, as well as the Sunday night dance to close the festival. We hope to go back there soon! It is a wonderful tribute to the music of Joe Val.
“It’s all country music as far as I’m concerned!” Me too! The Foghorns bill it as “Ass Kickin’ Redneck Stringband Music.”
Here are some shots of the band (click any photo to see them larger):
David Parmley and his new band Cardinal Tradition were a surprise. He’s a little like Danny Paisley, in that some of us still think of him as the kid in his father’s band, The Bluegrass Cardinals, but this is a group of seasoned professionals, and David’s hair is all white.
By coincidence, my friend Steve Bartlett had just the month before sent me a YouTube video of David Parmley singing Lefty Frizzell‘s “I Never Go Around Mirrors,” (written by Whitey Shafer and Lefty), saying “Sacrilege, but he’s as good as George on this.” Or, I should add, as good as Keith, or Merle, or maybe even Lefty! So I was thrilled to see David step up with his red-coated compatriots and sing it. Here’s the video that Steve found, not from the festival, but I can’t resist:
I took no notes, so can’t recall the other songs they did, and I’m sure ‘up and coming’ is the wrong descriptor to use for these fellows, but they’re terrific. David told me after the set that they’ve got an album in the works (on Pinecastle, I think he said), and will be at the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival in Vermont (23-26 June). Here are a few photos (click to see larger)
The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band moved us a whole skip and a jump past old-timey, traditional bluegrass and country, to modern West Coast sounds. Larry Flint went to John Jorgenson’s guitar workshop, and I think was disappointed that John played mostly mandolin on stage—but he ain’t no slouch on the mando, for sure. Ace Boston (Berkeley faculty) fiddler Darol Anger joined the band, which also featured veteran songwriter and longtime JJ associate Herb Pederson on banjo (click to see larger):
Sunday afternoon closed with the band I’d been awaiting for a year—The Del McCoury Band, which last year had been snowed out by the Saturday-night blizzard that closed Logan Airport (but failed to put a dent in the Festival, otherwise). I wasn’t disappointed. This, in my view, may well be the top bluegrass-style country band in the nation, and they held the nearly-full room captivated for nearly two hours. It is simply amazing that Del, “no spring chicken” (as my mother used to say of me), can still hit those exciting high notes, and the crackerjack band (Del’s sons Ronnie and Rob, fiddler Jason Carter, and bassist Alan Bartram) is the best that high-energy bluegrass has to offer.
What impressed me most was the inventive way Jason Carter weaved his fiddle into the songs. How much rehearsal, I wondered, had to go into those arrangements, which he had clearly worked out with Del and the others. There were a lot of great fiddlers in the two days I was at the Festival, but none were more a part of every song than Jason—who also sang in the trios with Del and Rob, plunging into the vocal mic with the fiddle, rather than retreating back to his own. Color me amazed!
(Click for larger pics)
There was much more, of course, at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival than I have highlighted here: other Main Stage acts, regional Showcase Stage bands, workshops, master classes, a Trade Show room, constant jamming in the hallways and lobbies—even a masseuse!
Congratulations to Stan Zdonik, Gerry Katz, Sheila Selby, Reuben Shetler, and the cadre of volunteers who made all this happen. And thanks to the Sheraton in Framingham for hosting this signature event for the last few years. It certainly is nice to be only a few minutes drive from one of the premier events of its type in the United States. /CL
[Note: For somewhat higher-resolution versions of the (admittedly inadequate) photographs, go to Flickr HERE.]