Monday, September 28, 2009

2009 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion: Friday

We started our trip to the 2009 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion mid morning Friday the 18th - driving from just outside Washington D.C. to Bristol Virginia\Tennessee. We had planned a leisurely drive with a 6:00 PM arrival time in order to see Jason Isbell. The goal wasn't difficult to meet and we arrived in time to hear the last few songs from Bristol's own April Taylor. She was good, backed by a rockin' band, and with a nice pedigree - her great grandfather wrote songs with the Carter Family. Afterward we headed straight to the Cameo Theater to hear an accoustic set by Jason Isbell and Browan Lollar. Over the years we had come to admire Isbell from his days with The Drive By Truckers - both as a guitarist and songwriter. In fact the two songs he penned on Decoration Day are our favorite of the CD. There was a general understanding with the band, that his stint would be temporary and a few years later left to form Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit. This was our first chance to hear him live, solo and acoustic. The Theater was a great venue - perfect sound - and Isbell played a collection of songs he has written over the years. They included "Outfit" and an interesting "I Love the TVA" - a song inspired by family history. The two have nice chemistry - another great start for the trip.

We have mentioned in previous posts that one of the beauties of the Bristol Rhythm Roots Reunion is the non conformity of the venues. We say April Taylor at a traditional bandstand and Jason Isbell at a theater. We now headed into a bar - State Line Bar & Grille - to catch the rockabilly of Old Line Skiffle Combo. The pub was packed and there was only room to grab a beer as the band tour into Johnny Cash, Elvis, and even made the Beatles a bit rockabilly. We reconnoitered the upstairs section and heard Chris Kinght's "Its Not Easy Being Me" and it enticed upstairs. The song was being sung by Randy Hixson. He's from neighboring Johnson City and played several other covers that had the smaller upstairs crowd singing along. After eating, we headed to another theater, The Paramount Center for the Arts, to see Tim O'Brien; but was quickly disappointed - the venue was filled to capacity. We had lingered listening to Hixson for too long. We thus ducked into Kp Duty where the Elkville String Band was entertaining an older audience and were quickly invited to share a table with a several other attendees. This was one of our favorite occasions - talking to locals about the city's history, hearing a veteran's tales of 60 years in the armed forces, and of course, listening to good music.

We didn't want to be shut out again, so after leaving Kp Duty we headed to Machiavelli's in order to hear one of our favorite alt-country bands: Yarn. Another great venue, $2 PBR's and Yarn 20 feet in front of us. The band allows visitors to their website to download previous shows - which we do often - and so we were able to sing along most of their performance. Blake Christiana gets most of the attention, but Andrew Hendryx on mandolin and guitar is sure fun to watch.

After Yarn's set, we had a half hour to spare before the main event, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit on the Piedmont stage. We walked around listening a little to The New Familiars and then Peter Rowan. What talent within a short walk. But it was Isbell who we really wanted to see this night. And the band rocked. We knew Isbell could play guitar, but so can his band: Jimbo Hart - bass, vocals; Browan Lollar - guitar, vocals; Derry deBorja - keys; and Chad Gamble - drums. Justin Townes Earle even joined in, appearing onstage to add harmonies on a couple songs. It makes no sense comparing these guys to the DBT, in their own right, they are a fun band to watch. Unfortunately before their set was through we were wiped, too much driving and beer. Fortunately we just had to walk a short distance to grab the free shuttle back to our hotel. We left tired, but eagerly anticipating what the next day would bring.....

More photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Win a Hollis Brown House Concert

Facing ever tightening budgets, artists are employing clever techniques in order to finance recordings or to expand their listening base. Last year, Austin based The Belleville Outfit sold sponsorship for each song in order to acquire the necessary funds to pay for studio time. In return the sponsor's names were listed in the CD's liner notes and the band gave a house concert for each sponsor.

The latest innovation is being displayed by the NYC rock band, Hollis Brown. In order to increase the band's exposure, they are conducting a contest to see who can drive the most traffic to view their latest video, "Show Love". The prize - a free house concert given by the band. Here is the actual instructions: "The person who gets the most friends to view the new Hollis Brown video "Show Love" will receive a free concert at their house! No purchase necessary. All participants have to do is fill out a form to email the video to their friends and whoever has the most friends watch "Show Love" will be the grand prize winner." Just go to the Contest page for more information. Hurry, the contest ends September 30th.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Scythian's Sunflower Fest

We wanted to remind our readers that in two weekends (October 10th) Scythian's Sunflower Fest will be held at Rocky Gap State Park - Cumberland, Maryland. The festival is a celebration of the the union between band member Joey Crosby and his fiancee Sara. Instead of having to painfully create an invite list for their wedding; everyone is invited. That includes you and me. They have scheduled an awesome lineup of musicians - many who have toured with the band in the past. We are talking about Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Blueground Undergrass, Albannach, and Rebecca Jean Smith. Our friends at Oneside are also scheduled, but if they can't make it, rumors persist that The Morning Pages or Boulder Acoustic Society may be replacements. We have written about most of these groups in past and for pure energy - there won't be a restful second during the day.

Tickets are $40 in advance; $45 at the gate. Best of all, children under 12 are free. My boy will finally gets to see these bands. Scythian has also arranged lodging - either through discounted rates at the Rocky Gap Resort and surrounding hotels or $25 for camping. We will see you there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2009 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Our first impressions of the Rhythm & Roots Reunion are basically that it is one of the best music festivals we have attended, but also one of the most frustrating. Frustrating in that, with so many talented artists scheduled, there was always a conflict of interest. Do we see Justin Townes Earle or Yarn or Tim O'Brien or Corey Harris. Scythian or The Belleville Outfit or Holy Ghost Tent Revival or Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels or Michelle Malone or Junior League. A series of fortunate - but never ending decisions. Yea, these conflicts result from overbooking quality talent - but there were other factors that will make the Rhythm & Roots Reunion an annual visit. First, the festival's location is rather unique - along State Street in Downtown Bristol - equally divided between Tennessee and Virginia. Why are all the bars in the Tennessee side? Then, there's the fact that Bristol exudes history - being the birthplace of country music, ties to the Carter family, and a stop on the Crooked Road. Also, with a downtown location, festival goers are not held hostage to a campground or park - forced to listen to music at temporary stages. Yes, the Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival has a few portable stages, but most of the venues are businesses located on State Street. Want to hear music in a cozy coffeehouse - try Java J's Downtown. You want a theater setting - look no further than The Paramount Center for the Arts or the Cameo Theater. How about listening to music while dining - try Machiavelli's, Kp Duty, Troutdale Bistro, or Eatz on Moore. Want Chinese with your music - go to Shang Hai. Interested in a traditional bar scene - Borderline Billiards, State Line Bar & Grille, O' Mainnin's. Our favorite venue was actually an antique shop - temporarily quartered by the Virginia Folklife Society - and providing a living room feel with their artist conversations. For those who attended with children, the organizers designated Saturday as Kids Day and provided moon bounces, slides, rock climbing walls, characters, and much more to humor the youngsters. For adults, there was plenty of beer available - and with shuttles provided to local hotels - no concerns about driving home. Yea...

As for the music, we were able to watch several acts we have written about previously: Justin Townes Earle, The Belleville Outfit, Bearfoot, Yarn, and Scythian. Funny how the last two times we have scene Scythian is after driving 6 hours even though the band members live in a 20 mile radius from us. One of the highlights occurred Friday when we were able to finally see Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, not once, but twice - the first time since leaving The Drive By Truckers. Other highlights were seeing bluegrass legends Tim O'Brien, The Dan Tyminski Band, and Peter Rowan, Sierra Hull and Highway 111, Jim Lauderdale and Reverend Frank Newsome together; David Mayfield of Cadillac Sky disco dancing onstage with Bearfoot; as well as seeing several acts for the first time. The Smart Brothers are a must see as are The Morning Pages. We loved the roots sound of Brian McGee and the Hollow Speed; Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels; and The New Familiars. Dale Ann Bradley, what more can you say. Susan Brown and Friends were really good. Same with the Hackensaw Boys. And after listening to Ed Snodderly we immediately purchased a CD. Over the next several days we will be posting our experience for each day of the festival. Pictures will be available at the MyJoog Photo Gallery.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Watermelon Park Fest: Berryville Virginia

As we pack for this weekend's Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival, we wanted to remind our readers about a similar festival scheduled for next week: the Watermelon Park Fest held at Watermelon Park in Berryville Virginia. The festival starts Thursday the 24th and ends Saturday the 26th, sandwiching in guitar and mandolin contests, dance parties (don't miss the Cajun dance with Cedric Watson), a fiddlin' seminar and demonstration, plus plenty excellent music. Here's the marketing info: "Shepherds Ford Productions proudly presents Watermelon Park Fest: a family-friendly music and pickin' festival in Berryville, Virginia that features live Bluegrass, Old-Time, Folk, Cajun, and Jazz bands, Band and Pickin' Contests, workshops and dances, kid's events, food and craft vendors, and free camping right on the beautiful Shenandoah River!"

And here is the preliminary schedule:

Bruce Molsky Bluegrass 7:30 PM
Danny Knicely Bluegrass 9:00 PM
The Speakeasy Boys Bluegrass 10:30 PM

Bruce Molsky Bluegrass 4:00 PM
Chesham Creek Bluegrass 4:30 PM
Walker’s Run Bluegrass 5:30 PM
Randy Waller and the Country Gentlemen Bluegrass 6:30 PM
Cedric Watson Cajun\Zydeco 7:30 PM
The Woodshedders Acoustic 8:30 PM
Larry Keel & Natural Bridge Bluegrass 9:30 PM

Taarka Folk 3:30 PM
Whiskey Rebellion Country 4:30 PM
The Fox Hunt Country 5:30 PM
The Fox Hunt Country 5:30 PM
The Furnace Mountain Band Americana 6:30 PM
Tim O'Brien Bluegrass 7:30 PM
Peter Rowan Bluegrass 9:30 PM

And make sure you bring the kids - they have a separate tent allocated for Friday @ 2-6 p.m. and Saturday @ 12-6 p.m. We are bringing ares.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The DC Bluegrass Union

We discovered that we've been pretty clueless following music in our own backyard after we stumbled upon the web presence for The DC Bluegrass Union. This organization promotes the DC Bluegrass community and the surrounding area by, among others, organizing concerts and providing a calendar for bluegrass events. One of these events that we will at all costs attend is a concert by The Gibson Brothers - with Chester River Runoff opening at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church Virginia. The date is Saturday November 14th at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $18 for members & 12 and under $22 for public. What a bargain - The Gibson Brothers.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9th annual Rhythm & Roots Reunion

On Friday September 18th we will be heading to southwest Virginia\eastern Tennessee for the 9th annual Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival held in Downtown Bristol - The Birthplace of Country Music. This is a three day event showcasing several national and local Americana, bluegrass, Piedmont blues, old time, and country artists at several stages and music venues throughout the downtown area. Not only are they providing music from over 100 artists - but this is one of the most affordable festivals - $40 for the entire festival or $15-$25 for an individual day. As much as we enjoy Merlefest and Floydfest - this may have the widest array of musical choices.....

Let's start with the national acts - mostly bluegrass. This will be the first time we get a chance to listen to Dailey and Vincent, Dale Ann Bradley, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit (outside of the The Drive By Truckers), Webb Wilder. Then there's Jim Lauderdale, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Michael Cleveland, The John Cowan Band, Tim O'Brien, Peter Rowan, The Dan Tyminski Band, Darrell Scott, and Cadillac Sky.

Then there are the acts in which we are probably considered groupies: Justin Townes Earle, Scythian, Yarn, The Belleville Outfit, Bearfoot, and Holy Ghost Tent Revival. Others, we just look forward to hearing: M.S.G. - Acoustic Blues Trio, Brian McGee and the Hollow Speed, Gene Watson, Bombadil, Corey Harris, Michelle Malone, The New Familiars, Junior League, Whitetop Mountain Stringband, Pokey LaFarge, Annie and the Beekeepers, Sons of Bill, Sierra Hull and Highway 111, The SteelDrivers, the Hackensaw Boys, and the Boulder Acoustic Society.

The Rhythm & Roots Reunion also showcases several local artists that we would otherwise not be able to witness. There are too many to list - but we will make sure that we listen to as many as possible. We hope to see you there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

20th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards

From our friends at Karen Byrd Public Relations we learned that "the 20th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards show, to be held on Thursday, October 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Ryman Auditorium, promises an evening of stellar musical performances and many opportunities to recall highlights from past awards shows. The "can't miss" program includes the presentation of 17 industry awards that recognize outstanding achievement in the bluegrass genre during the past year, and the induction of The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and The Dillards to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
The audience will be treated to performances by this year's hosts, Grammy®-winning country artist Kathy Mattea and the legendary bluegrass band, Hot Rize, as well as the following artists: Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Del McCoury, Dailey & Vincent, The Grascals, The Dan Tyminski Band, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Lonesome River Band, Dale Ann Bradley, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, G2 Bluegrass Band, The Gibson Brothers, Danny Paisley and Junior Sisk, and Sierra Hull & Highway 111. "

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ocean City Music Venues

This past labor day weekend we finally traveled to our local beach resort at Ocean City Maryland and found a vibrant music community. There are over two dozen establishments that provide weekly music within the area - and more if you include neighboring Fenwick Island and Berlin. The venues range from beach bars such as Seacrets and Coconuts Beachfront Restaurant Bar & Grill to boardwalk biker bars The Purple Moose Saloon and the Blue Fin Bar & Grill - Tideland's Caribbean Hotel. And for those who prefer a more traditional music venue - there's the famous Globe Theatre.

Most of the musicians who perform in the area are regional or local acts - but on occasion national acts appear, such as bluesman Stacy Mitchhart and even Todd Snider and Bobby Bare Jr. And The Nighthawks are scheduled for later this month at the Globe Theatre. During this weekend, Micky Fin's Dockside Bar & Grill had the best lineup, booking Tom Larson and the lower case blues band; but Seacrets also rocked with Jah Works and Fager's Island with No Pets For Noah. As for the local acts - we recommend Opposite Directions and Kevin Poole. They both have regular engagements at multiple venues each month - even during the off-season.
Venues in Ocean City, Maryland
Venues in Berlin, Maryland
Venues in Fenwick Island, Delaware