Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Grand Ole’ Ditch
Up and at ‘em Friday morning, we were ready to head to the Music Hall to catch some Grand Ole’ Ditch as they held their CD release party for their new album, Unwind. We had the distinct pleasure of reviewing Unwind over the past few weeks and really fell in love with the album. Great new and evolved sound from this high energy Cumberland band. It had been almost a year since I’d heard Ditch play so I was eager to hear some of these new songs live. Immediately they launched into the semi-quiet, slowly building intro of the title and first track of the album, “Unwind”, stepping off briskly into the song proper and into Craig Miller’s vocals. Great way to start an album and an even better way to start this particular show. Nice crowd in for the event, too…made for quite the celebratory and festive atmosphere. Following the album’s order, they took “Unwind” directly into “Whippoorwill” with Luke Mathews at the mic. I like this song for its tight ensemble sound between all the members of the band…it really gives the song a nice flow to follow. I really dig all the energy changes throughout the song as well because they make for a rich musical topography. So far, so great. Sounding lovely, boys!! The instrumental “Chester’s Breakdown” followed led by Jody Mosser on dobro. They invited the indomitable Miss Sierra Hull out on stage to join them for this one, her ever-present mandolin in hand. Here is how that magic went:
Love all the guesting in at DelFest!! It can make for such marvelous moments. Later down the set, “Fiddlin’ Ray” Bruckman stepped up to the mic for the classic cowboy-feeling song “Long to Come Home to Thee”. Nothing but “cowtown” all over this one. And I love it. It sounds amazing and definitely displays some of the breadth this band has developed over the years. Ray also delivered up some truly nice fiddle along the way, why not? Not to mention some of that sweet, sweet dobro from Jody and some serious banjo stylings from Craig. And let us never forget those gents who keep the whole event driving along: Jacob Mathews on bass, Ryan Hohing on guitar, and Todd Hocherl on drums. The Ditch Rhythm Section rolls deep, what can I say? What a swinging and enjoyable little number start to finish. Bravo! One of my faves from the album, “Copper Kettle Coal” came next and was followed by “This Time” both of which sounded damn near album perfect. And I guess that would make sense this being their release party and all. Great job, fellas. The band was certainly loving their time on stage, bouncing around with their instruments, et al. Love seeing that in a band. Nothing like watching them enjoy their profession as much as they do, shared smiles and happy energy. Ronnie McCoury joined them for “Dragon’s Breath” with Jody on guitar instead of dobro for this number. Hard drivin’, fast pickin’ to be sure, this is sizzling hot fiddle tune led by “Fiddlin’ Ray”. So much good soloing throughout this one by pretty much everybody. Ronnie sounded magnificent on his mando, of course. That man always brings so very much to the musical table. Bravo, good sir! They finished off the album a bit down the way with “Foolish Pride”, Craig back on lead vocals. Another fast-paced ride through great bluegrass, this is a perfect closer for an album and a perfect way to round things out at an album release party. Great fiddlin’ from Ray on this one as well as some super hot dobro from Jody. I definitely dig on the vocals in this one…a lot of vocal texture at certain points making for quite the wall of musical sound. Good stuff. As an encore Ditch treated us to an old Dillards' song, “Old Man at the Mill” with Jacob taking the solo for most of it. And what a treat!! “Ladies step forward and the gents step back!” And, just like that, the set came to a close to great applause from all of us in the Music Hall. Bravi to you, Ditch lads!!! Wonderful show and wonderful time. And not to mention the wonderful album, fellas. (Read my review of Unwind here.) Thanks for all the great music, once again!! Looking forward to more, my friends!!
“Meet me, meet me on the mountain. Where the wind keeps blowin’ our blues away…” …is precisely how Fruition’s main stage set on Friday afternoon began. “Meet Me on the Mountain” is a song they recorded with The Grant Farm on an EP called Meeting on the Mountain. Gorgeous vocals, lovely harmonies, such soulful solo singing, heart-grabbing in-your-soul instrumental grooving. Oh, you betcha! That moment when the instruments enter into the equation in full force: intensely magic. And I could listen to Jay Cobb Anderson croon all day long. That man has some serious pipes and knows how to use them. We also got a delightful mandolin solo from Mimi Naja before song’s end. Does this band know how to make a musical entrance or what? Awesomesauceness. So far Fruition was kicking some serious tail at their first DelFest and that should come as no surprise to any who know these astounding musicians from Portland, OR. They followed up with “Blue Light”, a super catchy song that is a personal favorite. And, it just so happens, we nabbed it on video for you:
What a way to keep amping things up, right? That’s what I thought, too. Bonnie Paine from Elephant Revival brought her washboard out on stage to join them up next for “The Wanter”. Who doesn’t love a little washboard in their Fruition? Especially in the hands of someone so deft at it as Bonnie. Mimi was at the helm of this one spanking the lead vocals summarily. So much good energy to this one — had us all dancing where we stood. Some really groovy guitar work from Jay, too. Fun times all around with this song…many thanks, guys! Tyler Thompson drummed out a mighty fine intro to the following song, the Kellen Asebroek-led “Above the Line”. It must be mentioned here that Jeff Leonard’s ever-present foundation on bass is like a good friend who chills with you all show just hanging and never letting you down. It’s so very nice. There was some supremely awesome interplay between Mimi and Jay on mandolin and guitar, respectively…several very incredible musical moments. They took “Above the Line” directly into the title track from their new album, Labor of Love, Bonnie remaining on stage for another go round. Jay was just meant to sing songs like this. And, believe-you-me, there is no labor in loving this band. Whatsoever. A little later down the set Bridget Law from Elephant Revival joined Fruition for some fun while the rain poured down on the crowd. A lot of people scattered but so many chose to stay in the downpour and dance their faces off. “Beside You” is a sweet and tender Mimi-led love song that cascaded gently from the speakers and splashed joyfully down upon the smiling rain-soaked masses in front of the stage. Some very lovely harmonies await one lucky enough to hear this one. Just delightful, really. And that fiddle! Thank you, Bridget!! Wowsers. Then the rain got even worse but the people stayed on. Through the thunder. Through the wind. Through the lightning. It was an impressive display of human dedication to music and community. Kellen was back up to the mic for “Boil Over” which is a sizzling hot roller coaster ride through some marvelous musical mayhem. Sounds fun, right? Well it most certainly is. And was. People were going nuts in the rain to this, running around and jumping and kicking like happy horses in a pasture. It was really happy-making to behold. Later on down the set we got a real treat with a Led Zeppelin cover led by none other than Jay Cobb Anderson. And he sounded magnificent on “Hey Hey What Can I Do”, I mean, just like Robert Plant. Fruition playing Zeppelin? Are you kidding me? Holy goodness!! So good!! Kellen was back up to the mic for a song he wrote called “The Meaning” also from their new album. It was a mild and easy-going way to end their set and perfect for the rain. What a show from Fruition at what will only be the first of many DelFests for them!! Way to knock it out of the park both days, you guys!! So amazing…so many thanks to you all!!
The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm
Then it was time to get dusty with The Infamous Stringdusters on the main stage, DelFest-style. The rain was still falling lightly as they took the stage, their friend and collaborative partner, Nicki Bluhm, sure to not be far behind. Dust. Rain. Mud. Let’s dust it up!! The fellas kicked things off with a speedy “Peace of Mind”, an old favorite of mine and of many folks in the crowd who chose to sing along. I ate up the round robin of instrumental work from man to man and back again throughout the song. The musical texture as a result was fabulous as usual. And those harmonies! Some of the best vocals in the business today, in my opinion. These boys sing and sing well!! Big thanks to Andy Hall for just completely owning his lengthy and lovely dobro solo for me…I mean, it felt like a personal gift. So I’m sticking to it. The soft and sweet “Night on the River” followed “Peace of Mind” with Travis Book up to the mic for the lead vocals. I’ll tell you what…that man can croon, too!! And he sounded fantastic, especially juxtaposed to Jeremy Garrett’s supremely fine fiddling. A light lucid daydream, this one, amidst the sparse droplets of water still floating down from the clearing skies. Especially the spacey jam at the end, the kind that takes you places you want to go. Like directly into the next song, for instance. “Well, Well” sped the tempo back up again with Garrett taking both vocal and fiddle solos to task as the band gelled both songs together and then let rip with the new. Chris Pandolfi threw down some serious banjo attitude on the ever-popular cover “Big River” (originally recorded by Johnny Cash and played to prominence by The Grateful Dead) which came next. Talk about making that 5-string sing!! Only to hand the reigns over to Hall on dobro so he could kick a little ass, too. Love this version of this song. So far, so wonderful with this Dusters set, huh? We all sure thought so! Later on down the set, Nicki did, indeed, make an appearance to sing with the gents. “See How Far You’ve Come” was the first selection that they performed together, one of the tracks from the Dusters’ new collaborative album, Ladies & Gentlemen. This is a gorgeous piece with lots of tasty dobro for those so inclined, which I am. They followed this with “Run to Heaven” another track from their new album. There is certainly a good musical marriage there between Bluhm and the Dusters. A whole new elemental feeling is created on stage when she joins them — it’s pretty special. Then they all channeled their inner Jefferson Airplane for a grassed-up version of “Somebody to Love” which sounded fantastic. Bluhm simply destroyed those vocals so mad props to her, to be sure. Andy Falco’s facial expressions during the jams on this song were priceless. Clearly someone was having a magnificent time. Weren’t we all? Later on down the set we were treated to some delicious vocal harmonies in the form of a merrymaking Public Service Announcement by the name of “Let It Go”. A super positive message of hope and help all sung to super awesome vocal music? Why, yes, please!! And thank you! Then, a bit later on down the line it was time to close things out. And just how did they decide to end their ridiculously good main stage set? How about with a little “Fork in the Road” directly into The Dead’s “Jack Straw”? Pretty durn sweet, huh? And, it just so happens that we were able to get them both on video just for you!! Also pretty durn sweet, right? Well, here you go, good people…enjoy!!
Many thanks to The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm for absolutely fabulous time!! Cheers to one and all!!
The Del McCoury Band
We walked back to the main stage area just as Del and his erstwhile band of musical magicians were firing up their set with “Traveling Teardrop Blues”, fast pickin’ abounding. It had been a soggy day at DelFest yet spirits were all still higher than high given the influx of so much incredible string band music. More than enough to sustain the soul for a few lifetimes, no doubt. Rob McCoury and his brother Ronnie both had standout roles in this one complemented by Jason Carter’s fiddle stylings. And then Mr. McCoury, Del, himself. Where would we all be without the singing of Del McCoury? That instantly recognizable timbre of a man whose music we love so intently. Please, sing to us Del!! Then it was time to slow things down a bit, waltz-style, with “Bluest Man in Town” only to speed them back up again with Scruggs’s “The Bluegrass Breakdown” which followed. I love that good back-and-forth in a setlist from one kind of energy to the next. So much fast and incredible musicianship in that “Breakdown”, too. Rob was a blur on his banjo and Ronnie answered suit, mando-style. And do you think Jason would stay silent? Hardly! He jumped into the fray, sawing away on that fiddle of his and kicking things into high gear. How much fun was this?? Ronnie McCoury stepped up to the mic for the lead vocals on “Walk Out in the Rain” which came next in line that set. Definitely a personal favorite of mine and they doled out an extremely fine version of it for us. Besides, I just love to hear Ronnie sing, too. He and his father sound so similar, but I understand how that goes. And, of course, that similarity is in no way bad thing…the precise opposite, in fact. Ronnie also decided to give us all a big ol’ mando solo while he was at it. Hey, why not? Supremely great stuff right there. And now it’s time for another video! This time? “Limehouse Blues”, a Robbie McCoury-led instrumental piece. Take a look and enjoy!!
Excellence. Just pure excellence. But, then again, it is the Del McCoury Band we’re talking about here. “Nashville Cats” followed “Limehouse” telling us that familiar story of music-making in Nashville and the challenges inherent therein. Del sure hammed it up on the mic in between verses which was a hoot and holler. How can’t you just adore that dynamic man? A little later on in the set Alan Bartram took lead vocals for an old Hank Williams song called “You Win Again” strutting his own vocal stuff for us. And that man sure can sing. And that’s in a band filled with great singers. So much different musical sound and timbre and texture from a band like this. Ensures you could never, ever get remotely bored with their music. Bored with Del Band?? Hardly!! Later still down the set, they took one from their new album Del and Woody, a Woody Guthrie song called “Cornbread and Creek Water”. Fast pickin’? Whew! You had best believe it! Lots of super fast playing on this one driving it forward. Such a pleasure and privilege to hear some of this old Guthrie come to light at the hands of The Del McCoury Band! What a wonderful present. Truly. A bit down the set we were treated to some of that extremely fine and well-developed vocal harmony for which this band is almost infamous in “Count Me Out”. Such lovely blend! But also a song about drawing a seemingly much-needed line in the sand. Sometimes those are necessary…even in bluegrass music. Gorgeous song nevertheless and always a good addition to a Del Band setlist. Next up was another song by the great Hank Williams: “Train Wreck of Emotion”. This one was filled with plenty of good pickin’ by one and all, making the song sing speedily along. “I'm lyin' in the rubble cinder, smoke and ash. My heart still poundin' from the impact of the crash. I can see tomorrow's headlines, 'Heartbroke from blind devotion’. Just another victim of a trainwreak of emotion.” Now that, my friends, is some serious song-writing. Bravo to both The Del McCoury band and Mr. Williams for such an enjoyable jaunt through emotional hard times. Certainly proved a huge crowd pleaser to be sure. Excellence. “Working on a Building” made its appearance later on in the set, Del just nailing high note after high note all within a tight and polished vocal harmonic texture. Always the catchy one, I noted many, many mouths in the crowd singing along to the words with Del and company. We were all working on a DelFest, that was certainly the truth. And a fan-freakin’-tastic DelFest to boot!! Towards the close of this giant set of incredible bluegrass enjoyment and fun a couple of the true blue crowd favorites appeared on the scene. First, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” came roaring out to the delight of the audience. Talk about a preferred song, eh? Everyone went nuts as Del invited us all to sing along. We do love our “Vincent” after all. It sounded just as wonderful as always, that tragic tale of love and motorbikes. Which certainly prepared us all for the closing “All Aboard” which came a little later on. As intense and explosive as ever, this one threw us all into a dancing frenzy as we listened to the entire band just nail this one to the wall (as usual). What a way to end an incredible show such as this!! No surprises here…just super happy and satisfied bluegrass fans. The best kind, right? A HUGE thanks to Mr. McCoury and his stupendous band for all of the amazing we just soaked in from that stage. The reason for this fest in the first place, it is always a privilege and honor to see Del play alongside his sons and the rest of the band. Bravi to you all, gentleman, and thanks again. What a weekend so far and it was only halfway through!! How exciting to think of Saturday and Sunday to come…but you’ll just have to wait a spell, alright?
CLICK ON THE BANNER BELOW FOR OUR COMPLETE PHOTO GALLERIES FROM Friday @ DELFEST!
Keep your eyes peeled for Saturday and Sunday coverage coming your way soon!!