Friday, July 30, 2010

Cadillac Sky @ Tarara Winery

For those of us living in northern Virginia, we have the unique opportunity Saturday (July 31st) to enjoy fine wine while listening to one of the most explosive bluegrass bands around. Cadillac Sky is playing at Tarara Winery's Summer Concert Series and this is one show you shouldn't miss. Some have described the band as the next Avett Brothers and they were a huge hit at this year's Merlefest. A ticket is only $15, children 7 and under are free, and there will be plenty of wines available. In fact, Tarara's wines have become very impressive under the direction of winemaker Jordan Harris. We will see you there.

FloydFest9 Day3 - Sunday

The last day of any festival starts with a little anxiety. For campers, the gear has to be packed; and then there's the ride home. We had to return early for sitter reasons, so we were determined to see as much music as possible in a shortened day. Luckily Floydfest obliged. We started off with husband and wife team The Honey Dewdrops on the Front Porch. Loved their version of Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves". We were remaining on the porch for Mountain Heart so in the break we rolled down the hill to see a few songs from the Jason Spooner Trio. The trio had traveled down from Maine and they exude a more west coast sound than the folk tunes usually composed in the northeast. We really liked this sound and the trio is a tight little outfit. As soon as we heard Mountain Heart finish their sound check we raced up the hill to grab a seat. This was an extremely informal performance with the band playing requests, responding to questions, and wondering where Aaron Ramsey was - he was actually back at the hotel waiting for a shuttle that never arrived. This was an entertaining set as the band interacted with Jon Lohman and the crowd. Another version of Whipping Post ensued - this time with telephone sounds from the keyboards. There was also a train song and a gospel a Capella. Very nice.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur - we started with the final set of the weekend for the Hackensaw Boys. Another tight performance by the band and the first where Ward didn't have to change a string while singing harmony. They also brought aboard a special guest who jammed right along. Afterward we headed to the VIP Tent for more craft beer and our first look at Town Mountain. Unfortunately we spent more time talking to newly made friends that we could concentrate on the set - maybe next time. Then it was off to hear a few songs from Tift Merritt, Rose's Pawn Shop, and then Bearfoot. I feel for the later, they are trying to find a flat picker and Jake Stargel filled in finely. And a typical great performance by Jason, Odessa, and Angela. We finally found ourselves back at the Beer Garden in order to see The Steel Wheels. We had missed Trent and the boys at Ocrafest and in our last stop at Harrisonburg - so we really made an effort to fit them in. Love their sound. Finally, we had a decision to make, stay and listen to William Walter, stick around for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, or start the trip to relieve the sitter. Sadly we picked the latter - next year we will stay through Sunday night. But for now, thanks to the volunteers and Across-the-Way Productions for a fabulous weekend. And once again more photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

FloydFest9 Day2 - Saturday

We woke early Saturday to the sound of portables being cleaned and shook off the drowsiness to examine the day's schedule. Like all festivals, there were many difficult choices to make on who to see. Like most Floydfest mornings, the day started with Kat Mills in the Beer Garden. No beers served yet, just nice acoustic music to allow us to collect our thoughts and literally charge our batteries. We decided to plan our afternoon around seeing Hackensaw Boys again and Joe Pug with our evenings revolving around the Main Stage: JJ Grey & Mofro, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Levon Helm Band. What a core lineup, right?

From 10:00 am until 2:00 pm, we basically criss-crossed back and forth across the festival grounds listening to parts of many artist's sets: Mitch Barrett, William Walter & Co., Rocknoceros, Blue Mule, Rising Appalachia, Hackensaw Boys, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and the Ralph Roddenberry Band. Except for the first and last, we had seen these acts before, all incredibly entertaining. Yes, we could have slowed down and stayed at the same stage - but then you end up missing so much good music. The biggest surprise among these was the Ralph Roddenberry Band - this year's festival theme appeared to be more roots rock and less bluegrass.

The afternoon ended with the main event - finally being able to see a live performance from Joe Pug. We've followed this artists since receiving a two song demo containing Nation of Heat and Hymn #101. We worked instantly hooked; the songs are full of powerful vocals and lyrics. Pug continued this craft with Messenger - just an awesome CD. And today we finally heard live sets to these songs. I don't want to come over as too dramatic, but his performance was chilling - spectacular. We missed his Front Porch performance that day, but we heard Jon Lohman sing his praises for Hymn #101. Watch out for this guy - he is going places.

In order to catch our breath, we headed to the beer garden to hear Possum Jenkins before returning to the Hill Holler stage and Mountain Heart. Foothills Brewing had also recommended Possum Jenkins and since Big Daddy Love was a hit, we figured why not. Plus we were able to try the brewery's awesome Sexual Chocolate stout. We enjoyed that brief interlude - good music and good beer - but returned to meet Echo Propp from WAMU Bluegrass Country. Echo has posted her travelogue of the festival that we recommend reading. Plus she had highly recommended that we see Mountain Heart - a very good "choose". The band is basically a bluegrass band that "crosses over" to other styles. How else to explain their rendition of Whipping Post. This band has the entire package - instrumentals, harmonies, Jake Stargel, humor; you name it. Definitely planning to see them Sunday at the Front Porch.

Besides Joe Pug, the other artist that was a must see was JJ Grey & Mofro. Since our first exposure at ACL in 1994, we watched and listened to Grey mature from a raw blackwater blues artist to a funky, soul, R&B, blues sensation. And now he's touring with a full band - not just Grey and Daryl Hance - but a full band: horns, keyboards, a third guitar. And he did not disappoint - from playing Lochloosa to Everything Good Is Bad to The Sun Is Shining Down to Orange Blossoms. Not convinced that Grey compares to the greatest soul singers of our generation - listen to A Woman. Hats off to the promoters for scheduling JJ Grey - that was the highlight of the day.

While the main stage was being cleared we decided to get a beverage from Starr Hill Brewing, The River Company Restaurant and Brewery, or Foothills Brewing, and see who was playing. The first band turned out to be Tennessee Boltsmokers, a bluegrass band out of Memphis. They had a nice Americana vibe to them as did the next act - Dangermuffin. Our friends, Steve and Jo from Blacksnake Meadery, had recommended this band so we pushed back our return to OCMS to see about the fuss, which is, the trio gets more sound out of an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, and a drum kt than most five or six piece bands. Let's head to the beach.

Instead we headed to the main stage and the rest of the Old Crow Medicine Show. This band has been playing for a decade now, hard to believe, since their breakout CD Old Crow Medicine Show. They are worthy of all accolades, but sometimes I wonder why the Hackensaw Boys haven't reached the same level. Maybe the absence of a hit song? And whereas the crowd exploded when Wagon Wheel started, I prefer their more bluesy roots tunes: Tell It To Me or James River Blues. In any case OCMS puts on a good show and they definitely set the stage for the Levon Helm Band.

This was the second time in four nights that we got to see the old master perform - following their Wolf Trap performance. Even though the set list was practically identical it was still a thrill watching Helm interact with the crowd and the band. And what a band: his daughter Amy Helm, bassist Byron Isaacs, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, keyboardist Brian Mitchell, Jim Weider, and the entire rhythm section. I could listen to Amy Helm sing all night and Williams vocals on Long Black Veil were still chilling. Then there's Campbell, Williams, and Weider; who all masters of their craft. But the crowd was ready to hear Levon and he mustered all the energy that his frail body can exert and electrified the audience. And the photographers; the paparazzi was out in full force. But the crowd loved him - and we could barely hear the stage when they played The Weight. Another great performance.

After a quick refresher at the VIP Tent it was back to the beer garden and the second set from
American Aquarium. And they didn't disappoint. These guys can rock - their set from yesterday was more alt-country - tonight was pure jamin'. The crowd was all in and demanded a second encore. Good for them. This second encore forced us to drink a few more Starr Hill beers waiting for Rose's Pawn Shop - alt country from the west coast. These guys can also play and were quite impressive with a now standard lineup: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, upright bass, and drum kit. That works for me.

Thanks again to the promoters and all the wonderful volunteers for making this another amazing day. And once again more photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery.

Monday, July 26, 2010

FloydFest9 Day1 - Friday

We arrived at Floydfest and settled in just in time for the Friday afternoon lineup. We had several bands on the agenda started with a rock band from Raleigh, American Aquarium. I had seen that they had toured with Sons of Bill and were opening for the Drive By Truckers later this year, so we wanted to check them out. They were just starting into a cover Springsteen's Thunder Road, and we came to find that they are a rock and roll band with the additional of a pedal steel. Makes a nice deviation in their sound. The band rocked through a few more songs just long enough to confirm that we would want to see them again - this time in the beer garden at midnight. Might be trouble. We took a beeline to the Main Stage to see the remainder of Deer Tick set; any band that combines elements of blues, folk, country - your basic American sound - is worthy of a listen. What a great sound. We returned to the Hill Holler stage to catch the rest of Cornmeal's performance. Love Allie Kral on the fiddle - she seems to bring smooth vocals and high energy to each show. This is basically a jam band in bluegrass clothing. I think the beginning of the Hill Holler dust bowl started with this set.

At this point we split, with one part going to the Beer Garden to see what the breweries have to offer and the other to the Main Stage again. I was the other and had received an email mentioning Konono No 1 - a band of Congolese players who play an unusual with their thumbs. Plus their sound system was built from old car parts. They weren't bad - nice percussion grooves - and the crowd was definitely in a dancing mood. I was in more of a beer mood and after a few songs headed to the Beer Garden to enjoy some hefeweisen. See our joint Wine-Compass coverage for the beers and wines on tap. I had missed Charlottesville native Travis Elliott and Richmond based Farm Vegas, but arrived in time to hear Do it to Julia. They were good - which shows how many talented groups are out their sweating in relative anonymity. But not any more, this band is on the radar. Apparently Travis Elliott is another to watch, he expanded from his normal singer-songwriter routine to include many Charlottesville-area musicians to form a rockin' band for the festival. Railroad Earth was coming quickly to the main stage, so after one more brew - it was off to the Main Stage. What else is there to say about this band. They are as talented as talented gets; and I've never seen a bad performance. And Amen Corner has never left the iPod. They played several from this CD as well as many classics - just another great performance.

We left a tad prematurely in order to hook up with the Hackensaw Boys, whom we were planning to feature throughout the festival. We had heard of this band for years, downloading a few songs here and there; but this is a band to see live. Raucous entertainment. We rushed back to the Beer Garden to say hello to find the entrance barred - power was out and so the garden had been cleared until power was restored. That meant good news and bad news. Good that we were not late and would see two other bands, bad that the night would now go into the late hours. In the meantime I just happened to strike up a conversation with Daniel Justin Smith, frontman for Big Daddy Love. The representatives from Foothills Brewery had actually recommended the band, so it was a nice coincidence. If only the beer was flowing. Once power was restored we realized how far behind schedule they were, starting off with some 70's funk and guitar from Soulhound. Soon Big Daddy Love was onstage and this was a real find, without the power outage we would have maybe heard their last song. The band plays Appalachian Rock™, a combination jam band, bluegrass, and roots-rock, sounds similar to some of the early raw Drive By Truckers - with some mountain instruments. I really enjoyed American Sycamore - honest songwriting from the mountains.

It was well past 1:00 AM when the Hackensaw Boys lined-up onstage - and I mean lined up - seven players in a row on the small stage. Co-founder David Sickman had rejoined the boys for the weekend and the band and crowd were ready to jam. And jam they did. An hour straight of organized chaos - sometimes you think they are out of control and then they stop and start in unison. And since practically each member contributes songs, you never know where the music will start. By 2:00 when the stage hands were ready to pack it in, and calls for an encore continued, the band complied to both and jumped into the crowd. They then performed three acoustic songs with fans collapsing into their protective circle. All proves that a live performance is a necessity. And it was time for bed.

More photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Steep Canyon Rangers @ Frying Pan Farm Park

The Fairfax County Park Service provided us with a wonderful opportunity to hear quality bluegrass when they scheduled Steep Canyon Rangers to play at Frying Pan Farm Park. The band have a brief intermission from touring with Steve Martin and traveled north to provide us with their collection of bluegrass, old-time mountain, and gospel music. Most of the material came from their last two releases, Deep in the Shade and Lovin' Pretty Women, with a couple covers thrown in. These are two excellent CDs, and they played many of my favorites starting with Turn Up The Bottle, There Ain't No Easy Street, Have Mercy, Mourning Dove, Lovin' Pretty Women, and Be Still Moses. For the encore they went further back with One Dime At A Time. What a great set list - and it was written in paper - not an iPad (a Steve Martin party trick). And after the show, while we took a family tractor ride, the band stayed an hour later selling and signing gear. For their many fans in attendance it was a great opportunity to interface with the band. We look forward to seeing the Steep Canyon Rangers again wither on the road or at their music festival, the 5th Annual Mountain Song Festival, September 10th and 11th.

Additional photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery and a video of Turn Up The Bottle will be available at MyJoogTV in early August.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Levon Helm Band and John Hiatt @ Wolftrap

Two legendary artists performed together last night at Wolf Trap, first with John Hiatt & the Combo, then the Levon Helm Band, and then Hiatt joining Helm's Band for three songs. Yes, The Weight was one of them. Hiatt & the Combo opened with Hiatt quickly showing he still has it - both vocals and energy. He can hold a note. And The Combo is a tight little band. Hiatt mixed in a couple tracks from his new CD The Open Road, including the title track and the humorous My Baby with back of the rack songs such as Tennessee Plates and Riding with The King. They also played The Tiki Bar Is Open and Cry Love. Being the opener this was he shortest set I've ever seen from Hiatt - less than ten songs. He was able to come for an encore - reaching back again - for Have A Little Faith In Me.

After a brief intermission the The Levon Helm Band came onstage with a full, full band - almost the same as last year's Route 29 Revue. His daughter Amy Helm, bassist Byron Isaacs, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, keyboardist Brian Mitchell, and the entire rhythm section was back. The exception, Jim Weider traded in his legendary telecaster for mostly an acoustic guitar - but with the usual mastery. Helm was able to sing on occasion this time, but considering his age and throat cancer, we were excited just to see him on stage. One of the first songs was Williams singing Long Black Veil - a great interpretation to a classic song. There was plenty of New Orleans blues from Mitchell including Leadbelly's The Bourgeois Blues. The rhythm section really came through during this part of the set with the Trombone and French Horn leading the way. What was also clearly evident is that Amy Helm can sing. What a voice. And she dotes over her father - coming back onstage to help with harmonies and checking on him often. The senior Helm still has his wits - dancing while playing the mandolin and joking with the audience. Once again, Campbell took most of the leads - the guy is a true professional - which all together makes The Levon Helm Band one of the most memorable acts we've seen. Come on Floydfest.

Visit the MyJoog Gallery for more photos and a video from both acts may be available at MyJoogTV in early August.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This Week at

This is a busy week at starting with a short trip to Wolf Trap Wednesday night, the Steep Canyon Rangers Thursday, and then off to Floydfest for the weekend festival. The Wolf Trap show features John Hiatt opening for the Levon Helm Band. Not only is this a great combo in itself, but the great Jim Weider is playing in Helm's band. Awesome. The following evening is family night - with us making the short drive to Frying Pan Park to see a free show from the Steep Canyon Rangers. What a treat. Finally we pack up the camping gear and follow Levon Helm southwest to Floydfest for two-three days (depending when we arrive Friday) of excellent music. Some of the acts we are looking forward to hearing, in addition to Helm, are The Hackensaw Boys, OCMS, Bearfoot, Mountain Heart, JJ Grey & Mofro, American Aquarium, Joe Pug, Railroad Earth, and Cornmeal, among many others. Plus, not having the family will allow a little more indulgence in the beer garden with wine and beer from Chateau Morrisette, Starr Hill Brewing, Foothills Brewing, The River Company Restaurant and Brewery, and Villa Appalaccia Winery. See you on The Crooked Road.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Martin Garrish & Lou Castro on Ocracoke

One of the many benefits when vacationing on Ocracoke Island is the vibrant live music scene. Almost every restaurant hosts live music - regardless of the day of week. There is also a community of musical artists that reside on the island that play a plethora of musical styles - rock, bluegrass, country, americana. One of our favorites is Martin Garrish who has been playing on the island for over three decades. In fact, he probably would have had a successful career if he ever decided to relocate to Nashville or Austin - but Ocracoke is his home. What makes him special is his versatility - not only can he play the acoustic and electric guitars, but he can play them in a range of genres. He can cover Lynard Skynard, the Allman Brothers, James Taylor, Robert Earl Keen, Marshall Tucker, The Eagles.... And when he covers a song it seems he does a better job than the original artist. Its also very easy to hear him perform. Along with Lou Castro, he has taken a summer residency at Jimmy's Seafood Buffet every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00-6:00. And on occasion you can hear him with the Ocracoke Rockers - for a real rock n' roll show. Pairs great with the Black Radish from the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery.

Lou Castro is also an easy musician to find. Along with playing with Garrish, he is a member of several bands: Molasses Creek, Coyote, and the Aaron Caswell Band. And many of you may recall him in his appearance in "Nights In Rodanthe". For me, I will always recall his guitar playing whether its the acoustic Dobro - fortified into a Hawaiian styled guitar - or jumping and walking on rails playing his electric guitar. Don't know if its his Berklee School of Music degree or years of practice; but the guy can play.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Steep Canyon Rangers Coming to Northern Virginia

Summertime provides more opportunities for viewing live music through evening concerts provided by local community organizations. Almost every area provides some type of summer concerts and where we reside, Fairfax County, there are ample opportunities through local towns and the county: The Vienna Town Green, Nottoway Park, Reston Town Center, Herndon Town Green - among others. One of these others is Frying Pan Farm Park which is hosting Steep Canyon Rangers on July 22nd at 7:30 PM. The band is detouring from performing alongside Steve Martin in order to provide a concert to our community. And its free; what a gift.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Drive-By Truckers on

We checked this week and to our surprise found a great set of recordings by the The Drive By Truckers. The recordings include some of the best from Big To-Do: This Fucking Job, Birthday Boy, Santa Fe, and You Got Another. With their constant touring, I wonder how they even found the time to record this session. After listening checkout their tour schedule with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. And as an added bonus, check out the DayTrotter session for Dawes. Well worth a listen.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red, White & Blues Festival - Day 2

The first day of the Red, White & Blues Festival at Boston’s on the Beach started out hot and sunny and ended soaked. The second pretty much started as how the first day ended - with the rain commencing an hour into the first act. And not just any rain - another downpour which failed to subside throughout the remainder of the day. There were brief periods of sprinkles - but basically this was another washout. Thus the music was limiited to the Tiki Bar when the rain was weak and the front indoor stage. The ShackDaddies started things off in the Tiki Bar in front of a decent number of early devotees. David Shelley sat in with the band and this was a rockn' set until the rain even shut that stage down. We hurrried inside to grab one of the last available tables where Jeff Prine Group was playing one of their last remaining songs. After lunch and a quick swim in the ocean - why not the water was warm and there was no lightening - we ventured back to the bar to hear a combination of Bill Wharton in the front stage and Blues Dragon at the Tike Bar. What a delimna; both were awesome. Just shows how impressive this lineup was. Blues Dragon started in Chicago,while Wharton used his slide guitar to guide us farther south. And during his set Wharton slowly cooked his famous Gumbo onstage - a feat he conducts at almost every show. Basically a live picnic - with his own recipe and famous Liquid Summer hot sauce. At this point the entire restaurant was reconfigured - tables were removed, ropes stretched to control the crowd, and the place was packed waiting for Albert Castiglia, perhaps south Florida's most popular bluesman. We stayed outside for this one considering there was no room for the little boy, but could still hear his powerful guitar. And the crowd was lovin' it. When it got even more crowded for the main event - Elvin Bishop and we couldn't even find a spot at the Tiki Bar - we called it a day. After another quick dip in the ocean, it was time to head home. But once again Boston’s on the Beach pulled it off, compensating for the weather and providing us with some awesome blues.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Red, White & Blues Festival - Day 1

The first day of the Red, White & Blues Festival at Boston’s on the Beach in Delray Beach started out hot and sunny and ended soaked. IKO-IKO started the three day festival off on the main stage and played an hour plus of their finest blues, finishing with their hit Crossroads and covered the famous New Orleans tune IKO IKO. I could listen to these guys all night - from Graham Wood Drout's singing to 'Good Rockin' Johnny Wenzel's lead guitar to Ron Taylor on keyboard to the rhythm section - Mitch Mestel and Daniel East. But that was not to be and while the main stage was dark between acts, one man band Ben Prestage became a crowd favorite at the Tiki Bar. This was the first time I got a chance to hear Prestage since Merlefest, and since he planned to play three sets that night - the first was all acoustic. The guy can play and with surprisingly deep, raspy vocals - he is a legitimate blues man. Nicole Hart followed on the main stage and was able to get an entire set in before the ominous rain clouds enveloped Delray Beach. She entertained the crowd with her sultry, soulful vocals while performing a few songs from her latest CD, Treasure - which was one of my favorite Blues CDs of 2009. This evening we heard the title track and "Heart Trouble" - great tunes. As her set ended we drifted back to the Tiki Bar anticipating another set by Ben Prestage when the skies opened and the downpour commenced and wouldn't stop - at least for the next hour. That's the chances you take holding a festival during Florida's raining season. Boston's then made an excellent decision to clear tables in the restaurant and move Tinsley Ellis indoors. Yes, it was crowded - but who cares, its Tinsley Ellis - right in front of you. The guy still has it and his supporting duo rocked; his drummer was awesome. And they played longer than expected - this allowed us to sneak out to hear Prestage's last set which I knew would include his trademark one-man band introduction playing his cigar box electric guitar. Throw in a little gospel and old school country blues - and I decided I couldn't miss his show later in the week at the Norton Museum of Art. We finished the evening listening to more of Tinsley Ellis and thinking that Boston's did a great job compensating for the weather and provided us with some amazing music. Can't wait to see what Day 2 will bring. And more photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery.