Friday, May 23, 2008

Roots Rock Revival featuring Ruthie and the Wranglers + Patty Reese + Billy Coulter

On Thursday night Jammin Java hosted an awesome show, that sadly, only a few fans bothered to attend. The Roots Rock Revival starring Ruthie and the Wranglers, Patty Reese, and Billy Coulter, featured three of the Washington D.C. area's best Americana artists, four if counting Dave Chappel, and each act showed why they are multiple Wammie winners.

Billy Coulter and his band opened the show and like many artists, Coulter’s music career has hit several peaks and valleys. But since the release if his self title CD: "Billy Coulter", he has been reclaiming a top spot in the Washington D.C. music scene. This trend should continue with the release later in June of his second CD, which includes a couple duets with Patty Reese. For this show he played a combination of songs from each CD, which exhibited his trademark rock n' roll sound laced with bits of country and roots rock. Party Of One and Disconnected were two crowd favorites as well as his cover of Ring of Fire. Look for his CD Release Party at McGinty’s Public House in Silver Spring Maryland on June 21st.

Patty Reese continued the show with a full band that included local legend, guitarist Dave Chappel. She started off with Miss America, the only cover on her Here & Now CD, and really started rocking when moving to her collection of originals. Reese is probably the hardest working of these artists, playing about 15 shows a month, anywhere from small venues or city concerts to large venues. Her sound is difficult to describe because it derives from a combination of blues, folk, and rock influences - mended with her distinct bluesy vocals. Her set was great - it forced us to buy her CD immediately after she left the stage. Chappel was his usual steady self - playfully mimicking other band members within each song, taking center stage, or gliding to the background. Reese has a heavy tour schedule this summer, both with Chappel and as a soloist and you can always catch Chappel regularly at JV's.

Ruthie & the Wranglers finished the night and although Ruthie's name is out front, this is a complete band from the songwriting, harmonies, guitar playing...... Their music alternatives between Americana roots and country - particularly when they cover Patsy Cline. The songs are clever - with the songwriting provided by Ruthie, bassist Greg Hardin, particularly his dedication to Chick Hall's Surf Club, and pianist Bill Starks classic piano boogie tune. The Wranglers showed how they have scored over 25 WAMMIES and makes you wish that Nashville would listen. You want to hear what you missed? Try Live at Chick Hall's Surf Club. Plus the band will be releasing a new CD later this year.

The night ended with Reese, Chappel, and Coulter joining the Wranglers on stage for a powerful rendition of Little Sister. Thanks to Jammin Java for providing such a forum and we will try to publicize future shows so that more fans can experience some excellent music.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bamboo Room Closing for Summer

With painful regret we learned this weekend that the best live music venue in south Florida is closing for the summer. The Bamboo Room, located in downtown Lake Worth was a mecca for national blues, roots and Americana acts . For example, in one two week period the venue hosted The Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash, The Gourds, the Asylum Street Spankers, and Chris Cain. Since the venue is somewhat isolated from the rest of the southeast, national acts have been reluctant to visit south Florida because of the higher gas prices. In fact, members of the Asylum Street Spankers noted the high costs of touring due to gas prices when we last saw them. Then add the seasonal fluctuations in summer attendance and its not difficult to foresee the financial squeeze facing the venue. Thus, last week owner, Russell Hibbard, announced that the venue will go dark starting June 1st for an indeterminate period. See the news release here. Let's hope that by the winter season the economy has rebounded and gas prices stabilized so that the Bamboo Room can reopen. We hope to be able to schedule an "emergency" trip to the Pam Beach area by May 31st. For those readers living in south Florida or planning a trip there for Memorial weekend plan a visit - they host blues artist Debbie Davies Friday night and guitarist Andy Stein's CD Release Party Saturday night.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bluegrass and Mead

In conjunction with our article on Honey Wine and CCD we traveled to Sperryville Virginia in order to taste the Mead products of Smokehouse Winery. The winery is located at the Blue Ridge Foothills and the drive along Rt. 211 is one of the most scenic that you will find in central Virginia. Upon arriving at the winery and entering the historic log cabin we regretfully found that they only had samples of their Traditional Mead and not the wide array of concoctions we had anticipated: Metheglin, Melomel, Cyser, and Braggot. The later is only a week away - but this served as a valuable lesson to call ahead of time. Our regret was easily overcome. The Traditional Mead is outstanding - possibly the best we tasted on the east coast. Truth be told, the only non-east coast honey wine we've tasted is from Missouri's Pirtle Winery. Smokehouse's Traditional Mead is labeled as semi-sweet, but this is more dry than sweet. It is made from honey fermented with champagne yeast and well water. These ingredients produce an awesome honey wine - one that we enjoyed the whole bottle later that evening.

The second factor which alleviated our regret, was that we learned that owner, John Hallberg, is a musician and hosts several concerts at the winery. On Memorial Weekend Saturday (May 24th) he hosts the Shenandoah Shindig which includes local bluegrass favorites the Woodshedders and Furnace Mountain. He will also host a similar concert in August; but look out for October, when Larry Keel is scheduled. This is one show we will not miss.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shannon Wurst @ Merlefest

The talented Shannon Wurst agreed to be the representative at Merlefest and provided this excellent commentary of her experience:

It started with packing up the car. The tent, the coleman stove, thermarest, and all the camping gear was piled beneath my guitar and camp chair. It was Merlefest 2008!
This was my third time to attend the festival held in on the Wilksboro, NC on the Wilkes Community College Campus. The festival commemorates Merle Watson, Doc's son, who died in a tragic accident. The festival started as a one time only fundraiser in 1987 and has grown into it's 14 stages, attracting thousands.

If you go expecting to see and do everything, you just can't. Thursday, the opening evening of the festival I got to see Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives. In my book, Marty is one of the best entertainers out there! It doesn't matter if you not a fan of country music, he is sure to impress with his mandolin playing and the band's tight harmonies, not to mention his silver held-n-place hair! He was followed by the Wilders on the the adjacent Cabin Stage. If you have not checked these guys out, you have to. They are long time attendees of Winfield, KS where I first saw them several years ago. The Kansas City based group will no doubt make your dance or at least wiggle in your camp chair. Old Crow Medicine Show closed the main stage, and pleased the audience of young and old with their anthem, "Wagon Wheel."

After the closing act, I made my way back to camp at the water sewer treatment center (much nicer that it sounds) where I did some late night picking with some of my old Boone, NC friends. A campfire combined with a few nips of cheap whiskey kept away the spring night's chill.

Friday morning came early to me. After some much needed bacon and eggs it was back to the festival grounds, which is about a 30-45 min venture including the bus wait and ride. I checked out Laurie Lewis and Tim O'Brien in "They Write the Songs," which was insight the the ideas behind their inspiration behind song writing. I find these types of concerts particularly delightful. The Austin stage is a hillside stage with a bit of morning sun, and a great place to relax and listen to these two incredible songwriters. I unfortunately missed the clown workshop on the Little Pickers Stage, but I did catch Doc Watson, David Holt, and Michael Coleman. Ralph Stanley joined them briefly. Doc is such a great story teller and it makes his music even more meaningful. I grew up on Doc Watson recordings, so seeing him live is a must. If you ever meet him, ask him to tell you the story about his mother's haunted wood stove!
I spent a while just roaming. You can hear music in every direction and folks laughing and talking. The festival has several tents of quality handmade crafts including soaps, pottery, and wooden art. They also have a "mall" that is full of artist's CDs and t-shirts. I could spend my year's income buying all the wonderful music they have to offer!

Friday evening I spent in the Dance tent, where I ended up spending a lot of my time, square dancing to the music of the Wilders with caller Phil Jamison (one of the best callers I have heard!) I love Merlefest square and contra dances!
Later that evening I entered my name in the songwriters coffeehouse drawing and my name was chosen to play an original song on the Lounge stage. What a treat to play my tune with other songwriters to listen. I played a new one of mine called White Walls and it got some great reception! Friday night at the camp ground was much like Thursday, except without the accordion/keyboard playing camp neighbor in the picking circle.

Saturday brought a very impressive storm. I took refuge in the Lounge with many others to wait out the storm where we shared peanut butter and cracker snacks with friendly strangers. The storm blew over, and ended up being a pretty nice Merlefest day. I went to several workshops including a vocal workshop and a bass workshop, and I brought my guitar in to pick a few in the old-time picking tent inside the festival grounds. That is another cool thing about Merlefest. They have 4 tents inside the grounds devoted to pickers, anyone welcome. They are divided into Old-time, bluegrass and a couple of "anything goes".

I caught a father daughter show that made me wish my dad was with me there followed by my favorite clawhammer player, Dirk Powell. He was joined by Martha Scanlan who is a former member of the Reeltime Travelers. She has a great album called the West was burning. I also caught Ollabelle (two thumbs up), the Lovell Sisters (talented young gals with great harmonies and stage presence), and well as North Carolina's own Chocolate Drops. I tried to get into see Tift Merritt, but there wasn't enough setting in Walker Center, so I stayed out in the lobby and listen over the loud speaker. I danced another square/contra dance, this time with Dirk Powell and Tim O'Brien, Tom Sauber and Riley Baugus with special guest Martha Scanlan. Levon Helms and the Ramble on the Road closed the stage and had the main stage audience movin' and groovin'.

Many folks leave on Sunday, but this is one of my favorite days. There was a full day of music and more room to move about. I helped build the dance stage, so I have to stick around til 5 anyway to help tear it down. So, I caught Polecat Creek, as well as Bearfoot, a young band from Alaska with some hot pickers and good songwriting. I also watched the Alberti Flea Circus a the Little Pickers tent. Turned out to be the most entertaining event of Merlefest. Sunday was a little soggy, so it made sitting on the grass a lot like sitting in the mud. So with my muddied behind, I helped to tear apart the dance floor, said good-bye to my friends I see once a year, and headed home. Another great Merlefest!

Shannon Wurst

Friday, May 2, 2008

May-June 2008 Music Festivals

The Spring\Summer music season has finally arrived. Here are a few music festivals scheduled from May-June.


Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers @ Coffee East

After attending the St. Michaels Wine & Food Festival, I forced myself to see Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers play at Easton's Coffee East. I had read about this group and was told by the venue's booking agent not to miss the act, so I dragged my queasy and tired soul to the coffee shop. I arrived just as they were finishing their first act which gave me time to rejuvenate slightly with some type of power mixture slushy.

Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers are based out of the northwestern section of Pennsylvania and their name comes from a local term that describes the people of the region. The trio play a combination of folk and bluegrass - Americana music. Their debut CD, As the Stars Gather Light is currently in the number 34 in the Roots Country Music Report. Theband's current lineup is David Washousky (Gypsy Dave - guitar), Ryan Nageotte (upright bass) and Kevin Carducci (banjo). Carducci just recently joined the group - let's hope he remains because the trio are tight with great instrumentals and harmonies - even when they introduced a new song in which they had not practiced. Their music are all original, either written by Gypsy Dave or Carducci and the combination of instruments are pure Americana - how can you go wrong with a banjo and upright bass.

For their second set, they opened with Hey Mama, a tribute to David's mother while she recovered from a stroke and is now part of a Stroke Victims support CD. Sometime during the night they played another song that I continue to listen to from their myspace site: "Burn On". Their site also has a few songs that they picked up the pace for the rest of the show. One, "Home" - a semi gospel tune - really displays the great harmonies of the band and a message that many can relate. They finished in a frenzy - playing train and other rockin' songs, which made me start looking for the dance floor.

By the end of the night, I was completely rejuvenated and ready to hit the town - any band that can resuscitate like that is definitely worth a look. Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers has a heavy summer tour schedule - from the northeast to the midwest - so there's no excuse not to hear them. We'll be looking for them in our neighborhood.