Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2010 Bonnaroo Lineup

Now that Merlefest is upon us, its time to start planning our next festival, and why not Bonnaroo. This popular festival will run from June 10-13 in the usual Manchester Tennessee grounds. Don't worry - they provide shuttles from the Nashville airport. In many instances, festival organizers lobby for artists to attend their festival; at Bonnaroo artists come begging. And 2020 is no different. Yes the headliners are the most popular contemporary artist, but its the strength of the second tier that impresses us. And the music goes on into the late late hours. Tickets start at $234.50 plus applicable fees and will slowly increase as the event date gets closer. Plan early; its worth the effort:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cadillac Sky - Jill Andrews @Jammin’ Java

Since we plan to cover Cadillac Sky at next week at Merlefest, we made sure we made it to their Jammin' Java last evening, the 26th. And to our surprise, Jill Andrews opened the evening. We first started following Ms. Andrews after hearing the everybodyfields during their session. We were hooked. Sam Quinn and her have since moved on to solo work - and this was our first chance to see her alone. There is no doubt that she has an amazing voice and obviously a relaxed and comfortable stage presence. Her challenge will be to separate herself from the large class of female singer-songwriters who all have excellent vocals. We wish her well - maybe we will catch her at Bonnaroo.

On the other hand, Cadillac Sky seems to have stood out from the crowded bluegrass\americana genre. They band members are personable and put on an entertaining performance and for that reason we chose to highlight them at Merlefest. See our interview posted a short while back and just in time, they are releasing Letters in the Deep in early June. But for tonight at Jammin' Java the band was their typical selves. David Mayfield even entertained offstage - Bryan Simpson was solid on vocals - love Ross Holmes' fiddle - Andy "The Panda" Moritz's bass - and Matt Menefee's banjo. These guys rock - keeping checking back over the weekend on Twitter and Facebook for live updates.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Clock Ticks Down to Beginning of MerleFest 2010, Presented by Lowe's

Preparations are well underway for MerleFest 2010, presented by Lowe’s, which begins next Thursday, April 29, and runs through Sunday, May 2, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Now in its 23rd year, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and a celebration of “traditional plus” music.
Featuring four days of performances by over 100 artists on 15 stages, MerleFest is a great entertainment value and an affordable weekend getaway. As in previous years, the list of performers fits the “traditional plus” definition offered by Doc Watson when describing the rich musical diversity that is a hallmark of the event. Sounds of bluegrass, blues, gospel, country and Americana will fill the air. The award-winning lineup represents a group of artists who have collectively earned over 20 Grammy® Awards, 46 International Bluegrass Music Awards and 4 Americana Music Association Awards, among many others. Doc Watson himself was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988; received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton in 1997; and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences at the 2004 Grammy Awards show.
The complete lineup and stage schedules are posted at Fans at MerleFest can also expect the unexpected, with special surprises, spontaneous jam sessions and one-of-a-kind musical collaborations.
Ticket purchases can be made on the web at, by calling 1-800-343-7857, or at the gate. There are no surcharges or hidden fees on ticket sales. Free parking and shuttle service to the festival entrance are provided. Also, children 12 years of age and younger are admitted free to the festival when accompanied by an adult with paid admission. Gates open on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 a.m.
Thursday, April 29, will feature performances by artists including The Zac Brown Band, Taj Mahal, The Duhks, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, The SteelDrivers, The Gibson Brothers, Balsam Range, The Belleville Outfit, and an opening night dance with Donna the Buffalo, among others. The MerleFest Mandolin contest will take place in the Lounge in Alumni Hall. Thursday is also a day for community outreach, with several MerleFest artists visiting and performing at local schools.
The schedule on Friday, April 30, includes performances by Little Feat, Sam Bush, Dierks Bentley featuring the Travelin’ McCourys, Joey + Rory, Dailey & Vincent, The Waybacks, The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Lovell Sisters, Missy Raines & The New Hip, Donna the Buffalo, The Greencards, Bearfoot, Cadillac Sky, Wylie and the Wild West, Great Big Sea and The Kruger Brothers, among others. There will be an Old Time Set with Doc Watson and David Holt, and dancer Carol Rifkin. The Merle Watson Bluegrass Banjo Championship and the Doc Watson Guitar Championship will also take place on Friday in Alumni Hall. Finalists in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will compete on the Austin Stage at 2:00 p.m., followed by the announcement of the winners in each category. Winners will perform on the Cabin Stage at 5:45 p.m.
The lineup for Saturday, May 1, includes performances by Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Dehlia Low, Nation Beat, Jim Lauderdale and Scythian, among others. The ever-popular Hillside Album Hour, hosted by The Waybacks, will take place at 5:00 p.m., and a special performance by Doc Watson and Friends, beginning at 6:15 p.m., will culminate in a tribute to Merle Watson. Winners of the instrument contests (mandolin, banjo, guitar) will perform on the Cabin Stage starting at 5:10 p.m. The Midnight Jam will take place in the Walker Center (separate ticket required, available to 4-day ticket holders). Hosted by Zac Brown, with opening act Sonia Leigh and Levi Lowrey (11:30 p.m.), the jam will feature The Duhks, The Greencards, Peter Rowan, Dierks Bentley and other surprises.
Sunday, May 2, will feature performances by the Avett Brothers, who will close the festival with their set at 3:30 p.m., along with Doc Watson and the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Roy Book Binder, Eleanor Ellis, Ben Prestage, Buffalo Barfield, The Lee Boys, W.P.A., Red Molly and Larkin Poe (formerly the Lovell Sisters), among others.
In addition to music, MerleFest offers special activities and shopping, all in a family-friendly atmosphere. The Shoppes at MerleFest is a centrally located shopping village featuring demonstrating artisans, vendors, convenience foods, official MerleFest memorabilia, and services such as the MerleFest Post Office, first aid, lost and found, and internet access. The Little Pickers area, expanded in size and scope this year, offers children’s activities, crafts and entertainment. Nature walks of the gardens and forest on the WCC campus will be offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
MerleFest 2010 is presented by Lowe’s. MerleFest is grateful to 75+ sponsors for their support in making the event possible, including: Charlotte and Greensboro area BURGER KING® Restaurants, G&B Energy, Pepsi, Taylor Guitars, Cutter, Ray’s Weather Center, WXIII-TV, The Winston-Salem Journal, WTQR Radio and 98.7 Simon. A complete listing of all MerleFest sponsors and additional information about all aspects of the festival can be found at

Loudoun Summer Music Festival

Summer festival season is fast approaching and one local series that we enjoy attending is the Loudoun Summer Music Festival; Belmont Country Club Ashburn, Virginia. The season starts with a bang on May 9th, with a double bill Little Feat and Delbert McClinton. Wow. And tickets are a bargain at $16.50/$20/$30. Billy Currington follows the next Saturday (May 15th) and then Cheap Trick and Dark Star Orchestra the next weekend after. That gets us through May, with more artists schedule the rest of the summer. Take a look - great music at affordable prices.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jimmy Cole Benefit @ The State Theatre

There have been many excellent blues\rock musicians that have originated from the Washington D.C. area. Some have become national acts, but many have remained close to home - developing a solid local following. To supplant income, these artists pursue secondary careers. One such artist is Jimmy Cole; a popular musician at night, but construction worker by day. Unfortunately he had an accident and fell off a ladder - fortunately he has recovered. To help alleviate his medical bills several associates organized a fund raiser at the The State Theatre in Falls Church. The lineup was amazing - as several Washington D.C. based artists set aside their schedules and participated in the fund raiser. Jimmy Thackery opened the show, followed by Randy Waller and the Country Gentlemen. Next was The Cathy Ponton King Band - which includes Dave Chappell, Ron Holloway, and Billy Starks. This was the first act I was able to see and what a performance. King shares the spotlight with her fellow musicians so there were plenty of solos by each band member. The Tommy Lepson Band followed and as usual guitarist John Bell was a crowd favorite. Lepson has that authentic blues vocals. In between these acts, Dave Chappell, Big Joe Maher, and in occasion, Daryl Davis entertained the audience as the "tweener" band. These three were worth the price of admission themselves and brought back many recollections of seeing Big Joe and the Dynaflows years ago. And the first I saw Daryl Davis - he was planning with Pinetop Perkins. What talent. Unfortunately I don't see a younger set coming along to replace them. Eventually Jimmy Cole and his band rocked the house, and I couldn't stay for the The Nighthawks finale. Yes, it was quite a lineup. All these artists have regular gigs around town, so check out the 219 Basin Street Lounge, The Matchbox, Flanagan's Harp & Fiddle, JV's Restaurant, Bangkok Blues, and other such venues. There is great talent in our own backyard.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mountain Jam

Perhaps the finest musical lineup that we have seen for 2010 occurs at Mountain Jam VI, held in New York's Catskills from June 4th-6th. Not only are the headliners outstanding, but also the under card. And at less than $100 a day for single day and approximately $150 for a festival pass - tickets are very reasonable.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gathering of the Vibes Music and Arts Festival - Lineup

Here is the initial lineup announced for the Gathering of the Vibes Music and Arts Festival, held at Seaside Park, Bridgeport, CT over four days: July 29th-August 1st.

Primus' unusual approach to music and the diversity of their sound has made them difficult to define. Bass player and lead singer Les Claypool has called his band psychedelic polka. Original members Les Claypool and Larry "Ler" Lalonde have been producing records and performing live together since the late read more

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley & Nas
Reggae music may have never been so popular if it was not for his father Bob, but Damian Marley has been carrying on the legacy, producing and performing his own original reggae music for years. Nas’s 1994 album, Illmatic has been cited as a landmark album in East Coast hip hop that brought an influential and read more
Rhythm Devils featuring Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann & Keller Williams \

Rhythm Devils featuring Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann & Keller Williams
The Rhythm Devils began as the duo of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and his percussionist partner Mickey Hart. Over the years, they transcended rock and roll drum stereotypes with polyrhythmic explorations of the world of percussion, using an read more

Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff is a Jamaican born musician considered to be one of the godfathers of reggae music. His appearance in the Jamaican film “The Harder They Come” and his contribution to the soundtrack helped in initially spreading reggae to people around the world. Cliff has been performing his music since the early read more

Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Pedal steel guitar master Robert Randolph has made heads turn ever since he put his fingers on the instrument as a young boy at his local church. Robert took his technical skills, musical prowess, love of Stevie Ray Vaughn and his need to get funky and created the Family Band. The Family Band is, a powerful read more

Umphrey's McGee
Umphrey’s McGee is one of the countries premier live acts on today’s touring circuit. Entering their second decade as a band, Umphrey’s started their impressive career at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana where they began perfecting their skills as a force to be reckoned with in the world of jam. Umphrey’s McGee read more

It’s shaping up to be a stellar year for celebrated New Orleans outfit Galactic. With the release of their groundbreaking new album YA-KA-MAY a visionary mix, intertwining New Orleans sounds from jazz to brass band to funk and far beyond. With this release, the five-man group comprised of drummer Stanton Moore read more

Mix Master Mike
Mix Master Mike is known as one of the greatest DJs of all time and resident DJ for the Beastie Boys. Growing up in San Francisco Mike got the itch for vinyl while listening to his uncle’s record collection. Watching Grandmixer DST scratch records on stage with Herbie Hancock changed his life and from that point forward read more

Little Feat
Little Feat has gone through many changes and seen many different musicians through the years but they have always been the same tight, funky, upbeat, rocking band. Founded by former Mothers of Invention members Lowell George and Roy Estrada along with Bill Payne, Little Feat have been creating and performing read more

Martin Sexton featuring Ryan Montbleau
Sugarcoating, Martin Sexton’s new studio album finds this one-of-a-kind writer/artist doing what he does best: locating larger truths within the specific details of the life he’s living. It’s Sexton’s uncanny ability to connect the personal to the universal - mating heartfelt, unflinchingly candid lyrics with genre-spanning read more

Jackie Greene Band
Dubbed the prince of Americana by the New York Times, Jackie Greene is a California native singer/songwriter whose music breaks down the barriers of blues, jazz, rock, and folk traditions defying any type of easy categorization. Jackie Greene began playing open mic nights right after high school and it did read more

Steve Kimock Crazy Engine
Walking out of the house as a young teenager Steve Kimock said “I’m just gonna play my guitar and I don’t care if I have a place to live or anything to eat” Almost forty years later, not much has changed, yes he has a place to live and food to eat but Steve still just wanted to play one of his guitars. Originally from Tulsa, read more

Artists in alphabetical order:

Assembly of Dust
Original storytelling, deep blues and R&B grooves are what the Assembly of Dust are all about. Based out of New York, this quintet fronted by Reid Genauer of Strangefolk have developed a large following of east coast fans who come out every night to hear their rich country accented melodies and impressive musical chops. Aptly labeled “hick funk” AOD’s music has been compared to the likes o...Read More

Big Sam's Funky Nation
In New Orleans, a city indisputably overflowing with funk, the high honor for Best Funk Group was awarded to Big Sam's Funky Nation at the 2009 Big Easy Music Awards. Big Sam's Funky Nation has been consistently delivering its unique brand of New Orleans-infused funk. Presiding over his Funky Nation is trombone powerhouse “Big” Sam Williams, formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass B...Read More

Dark Star Orchestra
Now in our 15th year celebrating the life and music of Jerry Garcia, Dark Star Orchestra again highlights our festivities with a unique recreation of the Grateful Dead’s music. Dark Start Orchestra uses entire shows from the Grateful Dead’s thirty-year touring history and recreates them in all their magic and entirety. Dark Start Orchestra approaches and interprets these shows in much the sa...Read More

Deep Banana Blackout
Deep Banana Blackout is a musical force on the East Coast underground funk, jazz and jam scene. Aside from their canon of highly acclaimed material, this eight piece musical outfit is notorious for performing musical compositions ranging from Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Led Zeppelin and The Meters. In July of 1997, DBB released their first studio effort enti...Read More

Donna Jean Godchaux Band
This band is a new one, having morphed out of the former Donna Jean and the Tricksters. Donna Jean Godchaux was of course a member of the Grateful Dead. Jeff Mattson is a founding member of the Zen Tricksters, Long Island’s legendary Dead-oriented band, and has played with Phil Lesh and Friends. Together with David MacKay (a member of Muscle Shoals favorites, The Fiddleworms), Joe Chirco (Long I...Read More

Harlem Gospel Choir
The world famous Harlem Gospel Choir is the most famous gospel choir in America today. It travels the globe, sharing its joy of faith through its music, & raising funds for children's charities. The Choir was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who got the idea for the Choir while attending a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Cotton Club in Harlem. The Choir presents the ...Read More

King For a Day
King for a Day covers the full spectrum of rock music with classic riffs and awesome songs. Returning for their 5th consecutive Vibes Performance, King For A Day delivers powerful jams through heartfelt lyrics and a kicking rhythm section. In fact, the first notes ever heard at the Vibes were from KFAD's own Danny Labich, who opened the first Vibes back in '96. Check them wont be the ...Read More

Max Creek
Max Creek is one of the most electrifying live acts on the Eastern seaboard today. This five man band has a unique style, blending original songs and classic covers into marathon jam sessions, earning them remarkable respect and a tremendous long-time following. To see Max Creek is to fall under its unique spell. Blues ballads blend into jazzy barroom piano and a jumping, frenetic ener...Read More

New Riders of the Purple Sage
The New Riders of the Purple Sage, signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis, released its eponymous first album in September 1971 to widespread acclaim. In the next 11 years the band toured and released over 12 albums, selling over 4 million records. NRPS began as a part-time spin-off from the Grateful Dead when Jerry Garcia (pedal steel guitar), Phil Lesh (bass) and Mickey Hart (drums) teame...Read More

The Radiators
The Radiators are an original rock band from Louisiana who combine the traditional musical styles of their native city of New Orleans with a more mainstream rock and R&B sound. The founding members of the Radiators have been together since 1978 and have written over 300 original songs. With their music they create a bouncy, funky variety of swamp rock they have coined fish-head music. For o...Read More

Zach Deputy
There is no one out there like Zach Deputy. Truly a one-man band, he is a powerhouse of performance, technical chops, and one hell of a charismatic presence. Zach Deputy does what is called live looping: layering sounds through the magic of technology to create a full band effect. He isn’t the only performer out there doing this, but he has taken the technique to the next level. First and fore...Read More

The Bluegrass Legacy People's Choice Awards 2010

Here are the results courtesy of The Bluegrass Legacy:

Three Winners in Favorite Groups: Mountain Heart, Dailey & Vincent, Blue Highway

Three Winners in Favorite Female Vocalists: Alison Krauss, Brandi Hart, Cia Cherryholmes

Three Winners in Favorite Male Vocalists: Josh Shilling, Don Rigsby, Dan Tyminski

Three Winners in Favorite Guitar Artists: Tony Rice, Clay Hess, Doc Watson

Three Winners in Favorite Fiddle Artists: Jim Van Cleve, Nicky Sanders, Alison Krauss

Three Winners in Favorite Bass Artists: Darrin Vincent, Barry Bales, Jason Moore

Three Winners in Favorite Mandolin Artists: Adam Steffey, Sierra Hull, Sam Bush

Three Winners in Favorite Banjo Artists: Sammy Shelor, Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe

Three Winners in Favorite Dobro Artists: Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, Phil Leadbetter

Number of votes cast in Total 22,030

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

MyJoog Artist: Cadillac Sky

While attending several festivals over the past few years, we've noticed a consistent presence at each event - Cadillac Sky. Because of scheduling conflicts we never really got a chance to see the band each performance, but for the few we heard, we were impressed. Plus, several artists have sung their praises. As a result we have decided to follow the band more closely during this year's Merlefest and as a preview the band is playing at our local venue, Jammin' Java, on April 26th.

Cadillac Sky consists of five guys who play the classic instruments made famous but Bill Monroe. But don't classify them as merely a bluegrass band; instead they prefer to be described as a band that happens to play these instruments. A majority of the band plays the mandolin and guitar (Bryan Simpson, David Mayfield, and Ross Holmes), with Holmes also contributing the fiddle. Andy "The Panda" Moritz on bass and Matt Menefee on banjo, piano, and drums. After releasing two CDs in successive years in 2007-2008 (Blind Man Walking, Gravity's Our Enemy) the band has waited until this year to release their next project: Letters in the Deep.

The upcoming CD (June release) is produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame who helped to produce a non-traditional bluegrass album. How non-traditional? Various members break out the piano, drums, melotron, and even a glockenspiel. Combined with their traditional instruments they are "expanding musical frontiers" to include more rock and pop into their sound. We can't wait to hear the entire product, but for a quick listens samples are available at the band's Facebook and Myspace pages. Make sure you check back often for coverage of their April 26th Jammin' Java show and at Merlefest. Frontman Bryan Simpson also was kind enough to answer several questions regarding Cadillac Sky and the new CD:

1) concentrates particularly with the live music experience. What are your favorite venues and festivals?

Well festivals are easy: Merlefest '09 for us was sort of our coming out party so that one's obvious, Telluride, Rhythm and Roots in Bristol, Rockygrass was probably my favorite one to be at and just hang- or maybe we just did it before we had done any of the others so you know, it's a "never forget your first" kind of thing....other spots that are real cool- and i hate to point any one or two out, because this country is chock full of em- but places like The Paramount, the Grey Eagle, Tractor Tavern, Bijou Theater...yadda, yadda, yadda

2) Cadillac Sky travels often. What are the difficulties involving logistics when band members live in different cities?

well, most of em are obvious, mainly it just comes down to staying well ahead of things- just planning. Thankfully within the next few months four of the five of us will be living in and around the same city of Nashville-

3) At Merlefest last year you played with several other artists on the main stage. Is this an unrehearsed jam session or did you communicate\practice beforehand?

very unrehearsed...very...i think like 30 of us tried to play Monroe's Uncle Penn- I don't think any of the 30 played it the same....Bill's probably still spinning from it.

4) When playing at festivals such as Merlefest, do you find yourself examining the schedule to squeeze in seeing other artists and has that ever interrupted one of your performances - either you cut a set short in order to see another act or were late returning to begin a set?

No to the former and yes to the latter. We certainly try to see as many other great acts that are there as we can, cause other bands are a source of continual inspiration for us, but we love playing. We don't take any performance lightly- so, in truth- it's hard to watch other acts because until we've played our last show somewhere, we're thinking about how can we make the next stage show special.

5) I first heard Cadillac Sky at FloydFest 7 and at that performance it was mentioned that the band (or maybe some members) had just returned from France. How is the reception to bluegrass music in Europe?

Well, not that we are torch bearers for bluegrass but our music was received very well. The crowds were crazy fun and seemed to "get it"- and sometimes that means they just let it be what it is, decide whether they dig it or not and leave it at that.

6) And speaking of bluegrass, was there any particular reason members chose to pursue this genre instead of roots or Texas alt-country?

Well, I think as you hear our new record and see our live show- I think you'll witness that we are definitely not "pursuing" the genre of bluegrass. the bluegrass instrumentation that is a staple of our sound is basically just the canvass that we paint from- we try to be song-centric
and give each song what it deserves- we are slaves to the song not the genre... We are dead set on pursuing a sound that is all our own- might be a starry eyed search but we think it's worth attempting.

7) I see that the band has become an artist sponsor with Mocha Club. What does sponsorship entail and are there other charities or causes you are active with?

No this is our primary cause that we're involved in..we are excited about it because with Mocha Club gives our band and our fans on a nightly basis a chance to change a child's life. If folks want to jump in with us- for $7 a month they can do it. The money is funneled to an orphanage in Kitui, Kenya. Really cool thing to be involved in.

8) The band is very active with the Social Networking sites. Is responsibility for posting content designated to one individual or do all the band members contribute?

We all contribute- is "contribute the right word?" Not sure

9) In partnership with Dualtone Music the band is releasing Letters In the Deep this summer. How is this partnership differ from the traditional artist\label relationship?

It's certainly a new world order, but in the end we wanted to own our record most importantly- not hand it over to the grimy hands of big labels...Dualtone wanted to work with us and we wanted to have them on our team so we made it work. I can't tell you all the details- the book I'm working on, "The Music Business All Figured Out- 10 Steps to Guaranteed Success" hinges on that info...(it's just a working title for now, set for 2021 release)

10) I haven't heard any tracks from "Letters In the Deep", but a recent press release describes it as follows: "marks the metamorphosis of Cadillac Sky from a critically-acclaimed Bluegrass band to a band without boundaries". Can you elaborate?

I would prefer that you elaborate- you can check out two tracks on our Facebook or/and Myspace page - my frame of reference about this record is so clouded it's almost a useless opinion. Check it out- and decide for yourself.

11) And, if the new CD is not truly a bluegrass album, do you risk alienating fans that expect only that genre?

I think anybody who considers themselves a fan of C-Sky will have seen us somewhere play live over the past two years. God knows we've been running up and down the highway setting the circus down all over the map- so there's been amply opp to see us- and if after that they haven't been shaken from the tree- then they're probably in too deep already and can't get out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blue Cow Arts in the Park - Downtown Floyd, VA

Blue Cow Arts, a public non-profit organization based in Floyd, Virginia, announces a series of free concerts this summer in the new Warren G Lineberry Memorial Park next to the Winter Sun building in downtown Floyd. Blue Cow Arts originated in 2002, with the broad based mission statement of supporting culture within the community. Over the past several years, BCA has worked with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to support the authentic roster of Appalachian musicians on FloydFest?s ?Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Workshop Porch? and has initiated and supported cultural exchanges with several groups of West African musicians, as well as helped to create the permanent infrastructure at ?Blue Cow Pavilion? venue at milepost 170.5 off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This summer?s concert series will feature The Hackensaw Boys on May 1st, Cherryholmes on June 20th, and Laura Reed w/ the Yonrico Scott Band along with the DJ Williams Projekt on July 17th. The concerts will take place in the new downtown park space, where there are plans to eventually build a permanent performance structure. For the summer series, bands will play on the Turman Log Homes stage, generously donated by that organization for the occasions.

The first Saturday in May BCA will host the Hackensaw Boys, from Charlottesville, Virginia, a six -piece high energy string band . After seven years of relentless touring throughout the United States, Europe and the U.K., the Hackensaw Boys are being recognized as one of the most exciting groups on the diverse Americana music scene. The group?s second release for Nettwerk Records, Look Out, represents the recorded culmination of the Hackensaw?s unique vision: A celebratory but defiant sound culled from old-time mountains, backstage doorways and punishing drives through the evolving American landscape.

Butch Robins' Imagicnation and Folk Soul Revival will open for the Hackensaw Boys. Hailing from the Celtic descended southeastern US, Butch Robins has established himself as an instrumental innovator and explorer. Described by Tony Trischka as a musical chameleon, Butch?s musical diversity was further evidenced in the Bluegrass world by his opposite ends of the spectrum inclusion as banjoist for Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys and bassist for the New Grass Revival. Recently Butch has formed a new ensemble, Butch Robins? Imagicnation. Butch is joined by Tom Ohmsen (Mandolin), Kris Hodges (Drums, Percussion and Vocals) and John McBroom (Bass and Vocals) for his next Imagicnation.

All BCA summer concerts are free to the public. The May 1 show starts at 3pm and ends by 7pm. Dogtown pizza will be vending from the sidewalk, and beverages will be available from the Winter Sun building deck. Visit for more info.

About Blue Cow Arts Foundation

Founded in 2002, Blue Cow Arts is a public non-profit in support of increased social awareness through music, art and cultural education. In an increasingly and perilously homogenous culture, BCA supports diversity through event promotion, cultural exchange opportunities, and by hosting and providing a forum for musicians, artists, educators and advocates of sustainable living and cultural preservation.

Based in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Floyd, Virginia, BCA seeks to support innovative grassroots cultural efforts and movements, including the 4-day FloydFest, showcasing the wealth of local music, crafts and customs in the Floyd, Virginia area, alongside musicians, dancers and performance artists from all corners of the globe. For more information visit

Monday, April 12, 2010

Celtic CD Reviews: Altan & Solas

In honor of their 25 years together the Irish band Altan are releasing Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration recorded at RTE Studios in Dublin with the RTE Concert Orchestra. We consider ourselves somewhat fans of Celtic folk music, but this was our first listen to Altan - and maybe the last. The first and third tracks were good - all acoustic songs played with traditional Irish instruments. But I just didn't get the orchestration with the orchestra for the remaining songs. As soon as the orchestra kicked it, the song lost all Celtic flavors and transformed into standards elevator music. Yes the music and vocals were beautifully performed - but please... give me some Enter the Haggis.

On the other hand, Turning Tide, the latest release from Solas was well worth the listen. Pure Celtic throughout, even when the band adapts song by Bruce Springsteen, Josh Ritter, and Richard Thompson to this genre. I also must admit that I've followed the band for a couple years now after a tip from Scythian. To get a feel of the band listen to the 6 minute all instrumental The Crows of Killimer/Box Reel #2/Boys pf Malin/The Opera House. And there originals have meaning - see Girl in the War and Thompson's 'Poor Ditching Boy'. And Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad fits this theme - love that song. Grady Fernando Comes To Town is another fun all instrumental as is Trip to Kareol - love the percussion. Turning Tide should satisfy Solas fans hunger for new music; for newbie's this is a good introduction to the band. Hope to see everyone at Celtic Fling.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

CD Review: Shy Blakeman & The Farewell Drifters

Within the horde of CDs we received last month there was one absolute winner, each song a hit. The artist is Shy Blakeman and the CD, Long Distance Man. Blakeman isnew to us, but probably not for people who frequent Texas honky tonks or even regular viewers of “Nashville Star”. He participated in 2006. But to us, Blakeman reflects the outlaw sound made famous by Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver: country and rootsy - with some outside influences from blues, jazz, and classic southern rock. And more importantly we enjoyed every single song on the CD. Completely enjoyed them; and obviously this is one of our favorite CDs of the year. It helps that Blakeman recruited an all star cast of supporting players; but he also arranged the songs to make each entertaining. The title track blends a mix of sounds including gospel-flavored backing vocals, horns, rockin' guitar, and a Hammond B-3 organ. Some songs contain swampy Louisiana blues, others southern rock ala Lynyrd Skynyrd, Late Night Early Morning is completely The Band, and Save a Little Room - a Celtic folk tale. Nice diversity. He also does a great job with Rusty Weir's So Many Honky Tonks and slows down with Cannon Ball - one of our favorites. There's to much to write in one setting about this CD, just go out and get it.

In contrast to our ignorance concerning with Blakeman, we are extremely familiar with The Farewell Drifters and actually requested a review copy of their latest CD, Yellow Tag Mondays. Quite literally a year ago while meandering through the 2009 Merlefest grounds I heard some awesome harmonies emanating from behind a strand of trees. And there on the Austin Stage were The Farewell Drifters. They then performed the best cover of John Hartford's – In Tall Buildings that I had ever heard and ended the set with my all time favorite Farewell Drifter tune - River Song. I was hooked and when I returned home I immediately downloaded these two tracks - Hartford's original version. Since then I've casually followed the band looking to see if they will venture into the DC area and was pleased to hear that not only were they routing through one of our favorite venues this Spring, but they were also releasing a new CD, and the new compilation included the River Song. I had to have an early copy.

However, it took awhile for me to warm to this release. Yes, the tight harmonies are prevalent throughout the entire CD. But initially I thought the tracks was too polished and focused too much on these harmonies. But over time, while not really concentrating, I really started enjoying the music. And when initially I thought most of the songs sounded very similar, it turns out I was wrong. Virginia Bell is a banjo explosion; All We Need has nice mandolin solos; more banjo and fiddle in I've Got Your Heart in My Mind; an a cappella finale in All We Need; and love the guitar in Sunnyside Drive. Plus there's the River Song. These guys are talented. There are still a couple songs I don't really care for - but in general this is a very enjoyable piece of work. I'll have it in the CD player while driving to Merlefest. Unfortunately the Farewell Drifters aren't scheduled to play this year but I do have an opportunity to see them perform live at Iota on May 21st and 22nd. See you there.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Doc Watson & Earl Scruggs Via The Bluegrass Legacy

Our friends at The Bluegrass Legacy posted this video which contains a performance by Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson. What's extremely timely, as we plan for our Merlefest, is that the video includes footage of Merle Watson - the first time I've seen footage of the late guitarist. The video also reminds me of the impromptu jam sessions that frequently break out at the festival.

Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, Hosted by MerleFest 2010, Announces Finalists

Finalists have been selected for the 18th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest 2010, presented by Lowe's and scheduled for April 29-May 2 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Writers of the following twelve songs, selected from over 1,044 entries, will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest on Friday, April 30, at 2:00 p.m. This year’s on-site judges are Laurelyn Dossett, Wyatt Durrette, and Rory Feek.
“New Love” by Josh Pickett; Cana, VA
“Whisper Sweet Goodbyes” by Jo Ellen Doering; Los Angeles, CA
“Carolina Dust” by Brink Brinkman; Pickerington, OH
“On the Winning Side” by David Tew; Turkey, NC
“Amen” by Jo Ellen Doering; Los Angeles, CA
“I Had A Little Talk With Jesus” by Richard Henry; Houston, TX
“You Opened My Eyes” by Mark Wayne Glasmire; Arlington, TX
“It Ain't Over” by Julianne Ankley; Fort Gratiot, MI
“Alive” by Lisa Torres; Antioch, TN
“Rush” by Liz Longley; Downingtown, PA
“Get It Right” by Shay Lovette; Purlear, NC
“Opening” by Chris Ayer; McLean, VA
The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is a unique opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of this year’s volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy®-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. Judging is based on a song’s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. The following were judges for the first round of competition during which the finalists were selected:
Donica Christensen - Director of Artist and Media Relations, Sugar Hill Records
Patrick Clifford – Vice President A&R, Ten Ten Music Group
Jimmy Fortune - Singer/songwriter and member of Country Music Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame as tenor singer for the Statler Brothers
Whitney Holmes - Americana Music Association
Sara Johnson - Senior Director of Creative Services, Bug Music Nashville
Tony Lawson - Programmer, WDVX Radio
Kendell Marvel - Songwriter
Todd Mayo - Executive Producer, Music City Roots
Shannon McCombs - Radio producer and air personality
Roger Murrah - Songwriter and Sr. Vice President, Bug Music Nashville; member of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Nathan Nicholson - Creative Director, NTN Music Publishing
John Pennell - Songwriter
Ed Williams – Director of Creative Services, Bug Music Nashville
First place winners in each category receive: a performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest on April 30, a Big Baby Taylor guitar, a check for $300, two boxes of D’Addario strings and one-year subscriptions to both Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter magazines. Second and third place winners in each category receive performance slots on the Friday night Songwriters Coffeehouse, as well as cash prizes, D’Addario strings and subscriptions to Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter. In addition, for the first time in the history of the contest, the finalists will have the invaluable experience of a group mentor session with Jim Lauderdale.
Previous winners of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via and Johnny Williams.
Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $ 30,300 to 69 deserving students. The 2009-2010 Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship recipients are Ian Tucker Francis and Dustin Rubio-Serrano.
About Chris Austin:
Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. Nashville, who offered him a recording contract. While releasing singles including “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “I Know There’s a Heart in There Somewhere” and “Out of Step,” Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in “Same Ol’ Love,” recorded by Skaggs in 1991. On March 16, 1991, Austin’s life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire’s band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego. Pete Fisher, then of Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and Pickin’ for Merle video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin’s memory.
About MerleFest:
MerleFest 2010, presented by Lowe’s, will celebrate its 23rd year from April 29 – May 2, 2010 on the campus of Wilkes Community College. Over 100 acts will perform on 15 stages during the course of the event. A complete list of confirmed performers is available at MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and a celebration of “traditional plus” music.