Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Merlefest: The Songs

At any festival there are usually a handful of individual performances of a song that stick in memory. This leads to remarks down the road such as, remember when Guy Forsyth sang "Mona" at the 2004 ACL? And Merlefest had its share. One example even occurred with the same song, when The Dixie Bee-Liners covered the bluegrass "Pioneer" Bo Didley on the Watson stage.The band played the same song the following day on the Hillside stage - but for whatever reason, their performance Saturday was more memorable. Maybe it was sharing the stage with members of The Belleville Outfit, or playing the main stage, or not being fatigued from 11 performance over 4 days, or just the thrill of hearing one of your favorite songs first played at a "bluegrass" festival.

Then there were the songs saluting fathers. I guess I'm becoming a sappy old dad. It started Friday with Dennis Duff's "A Man of Few Words" during the The 17th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and continued with Emmylou Harris and her tribute to her father Saturday night. And it ended Sunday, with one of the final performances, The Gibson Brothers Bottomland. Fortunately I had downloaded that song to my ipod from their latest CD, Ring the Bell, and listened several times on the drive home. This is a great CD.

Then there was the unexpected, as in The Farewell Drifters cover of John Hartford's "In Tall Buildings. Who are these guys? What a great choice of a song to play. Their "River Song" was another good one.

The most jaw dropping performance occurred Sunday on the Hillside when The Greencards covered Patty Griffin's "What You Are". Many of us had never heard this song previously since it was recorded in Griffin's unreleased Selling Bells. But Carol Young nailed it - what an amazing voice. After wards it took the audience a few seconds to recover before applauding. Unbelievable the talent that amasses at Merlefest.

I would think one of the most memorable performances for those who stayed Sunday, was by Scythian on the Austin\Sugar Hill stage. After Danylo Fedoryka requested that the audience stand and lock arms, the band burst into "Those Were the Days". Hilarious. It did originate in Eastern Europe, so it was quite appropriate for this band. But throughout the entire song the audience swayed from side to side, or kicked, or bopped their head - risking following down the steep hillside. Awesome.

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