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The Rumpke Mountain Boys

Rumpke Mountain Boys - 13 November 2016 - The Fox Theatre - Boulder, CO

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Rumpke Mountain Boys - 13 November 2016 - The Fox Theatre - Boulder, CO

Rumpke Mountain Boys

13 November 2016 - The Fox Theatre - Boulder, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Adam Copeland - guitar, vocals; Ben Gourley - mandolin, vocals; J.D. Westmoreland - upright bass, vocals; Jason Wolf - banjo, dobro, pedal steel, harmonica, saw, vocals

    What better than a warm fall night in Boulder, Colorado?  Filling that night to the brim with fantastic music, that’s what!  And that is precisely what those of us who gathered at The Fox Theatre on University Hill did that fine Sunday evening.  Call us “the lucky ones”.  It had been a tough day for music lovers once again with the news of the loss of Leon Russell, one of our very greats.  However, there was a feeling of joyous defiance of death and all things pertaining that pervaded the venue as opposed to any overbearing feeling of sadness or grief.  Music is a healer, is our healer, and I think most folks there were tuned into that particular vibe as they made their way inside.  I know the Rumpkes were, having had a chance to chat a bit with them before their set.  They did tell me to get ready for a Russell-heavy set.  I told them I wouldn’t mind that in the slightest.  Really had a lovely conversation with J.D. Westmoreland that ranged all over, but of definite interest was the fact that he was celebrating his fifth year with the band to the precise day and in the very same town in which he’d originally joined the band:  Boulder.  Pretty cool, right?  Things like that just don’t line up every day.  Then I enjoyed one of my absolute favorite pastimes…catching up with my incredible friends whom I might chance to meet from show to show.  Always a great game of buddy roulette in terms of whom you will see when you walk through the doors of a venue.  And always excellent to see with whom you’ll be sharing a show experience.  And what is “infamous trashgrass” care of the Rumpke Mountain Boys other than a complete and total experience?  That evening, as we were all to see in a few scant minutes, it became even more.  Which reminds me, we’re here for some music, right?  Well, then, how about we get down to it?

Rumpke Mountain Boys and Dave Guy

Rumpke Mountain Boys and Dave Guy

    Striking the match and setting the whole place ablaze with their trademark high energy, “Merman Dingo” was our first offering of the evening with Adam up to the mic to take the lead vocals.  Ben was wearing a Leon Russell style hat and rocking it completely, it must be said.  The very first of many various tributes to the great Leon that were to come that evening.  It had been a fair many months since I had last seen the Rumpkes and I could immediately sense a tightening of their musical texture and overall sound that was at times apparent and others subtler still.  As with any band we support, we desire for them to forever spiral upwards in all ways possible.  This was precisely the kind of phenomenon I felt I was witnessing in the progress of the Rumpkes.  And exactly the kind of feeling you want to have at a show, right?  A nice, groovy bass intro from J.D. brought us into the next selection of the evening:  “Molly”.  Ben’s mando immediately lit the room up with its bright and cheerful timbre with Jason’s banjo backing things up in a smooth and stylish fashion, all the while J.D. crooning away on the mic for us.  Pretty classic Rumpke sound going on and in good measure.  Strong lead into this set so far to be sure.  Most assuredly the musical acumen of these very talented and skilled gents was on display for all to see that night in each solo and melody line and every other note uttered from those well-worn instruments on stage.  “Crows Blues” followed “Molly” with Ben stepping up to the mic to take the lead.  And that Leon Russell hat was killing.  Well done, Ben.  And what a fun little trip through some sweet string band madness is this ditty!  One of those “I challenge you to not dance to this song” kind of songs.  And filled to the brim with that infectious Rumpke energy.   And would you like to see a bit of this infamy all for yourself?  Well, you are in such luck today, friend!  We’ve got some mighty fine video footage of the Rumpkes nailing down “Why Can’t We All Grow Young” for your viewing enjoyment!  Check this out!! 

So much magical mayhem all on one stage.  Intensely good times.  And then they started rolling out the Leon Russell in perfect style.  And I mean rolling them out to us.  What a tribute set.  Seven covers in all.  Seven!  That’s right.  Seven.  The first of which was “Manhattan Island Serenade” (which the Rumpkes changed to “Ohio River Serenade”) and which saw Dave Guy of The Roots join the band on trumpet and for the remainder of the show.  What a great timbre to add to the string mix on stage, something a little brassy and bold to shine out alongside all the other instruments.  Really special stuff to be sure.  What a sound to get from the Boys!  Adam was on the vocals for this one, making Leon proud with this Ohio version of the Russell classic.  What a jam.  Super fun.  “Takes a Drink in the Morning” followed up the “Serenade” keeping our Leon Russell train a-going and with J.D. back up to the mic to spin out this tale of necessary advice.  Jason, banjo still across his chest, sat down to his pedal steel for this one, adding that oh-so unique sound to the musical concoction of incredible goodness all stirred up on the stage.  And that trumpet!  Bravo, Mr. Guy!  Ben grabbed his electric mandolin for the next song, Russell’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and stepped up to the mic to rock this one out in fine tribute.  I have to say, this one was definitely an enjoyable little ride around the aether and back again.  Buoyant and a little bit brazen, it had edge and energy and it was a favorite of mine that evening, no doubt.  Ben’s solo on his electric is most worthy of note.  Lengthy and adept, note after note, Mr. Gourley dominated the musical landscape of the song in so many excellent ways.  Suffice it to say, each of the gents on stage is a total beast in his own right.  And that’s exactly what the audience witnessed with “Stranger”.  Excellence.  “Cajun Love Story” followed continuing our dance with Mr. Russell and his amazing music.  Classic banjo to open?  Sure!  Let’s do that!  And to a waltz, too?  As sung by the Mr. Wolf?  Well, now, I reckon so!  Really enjoyed the Boys’ harmonies in this one.  And so trashgrassy.  So trashgrassy.  Speaking of trashgrass, it was time to take a walk back into the Rumpkes’ originals territory.  Lee Owen of Lexington, KY, (Born Cross-Eyed) joined the band for the remainder of the set as well at this point on acoustic guitar.  This saw Adam introduce the next song, one he said he’d written rather recently and will keep developing on and on.  He explained that it’s a song about all those who have gone before us and remembering them, specifically folks in Adam’s own life.  He dedicated “Mark It Zero” to Leon Russell, of course…classy and fitting.  Copeland took to the mic and things got going in fine RMB style.  Quick, fun, well-played…all those things a person is looking for in trashgrassy string band music.  The very best kind of it, too, you had best believe.  And holy banjo badassery, Batman!  Damn, Jason!  Leave some shredding for the rest of the band, right?  On second thought, go nuts, man, go nuts!  That goes for you, too, Dave - just destroy things on that trumpet!  Burn them down, my friend!  Wowsers.  What a rush!  It was nice to get a bit of a chill vibe up next with “Banks of the River” and J.D. throwing down a soulful vocal line for another nice waltz up in the Fox.  Loved the mando and pedal steel soloing respectively.  Woven so seamlessly together throughout the number, the two seemed siblings long lost and then reunited in song.  Fantastic.  Then it was time to go “Out in the Woods” with our good friend Mr. Russell, jammed out trashgrass style.  Ben Gourley laid down some mighty fine vocals adding some serious soul to the mix.  Gravelly, gritty goodness all up in your face.  My face.  Our faces.  And damn happy that was the case.  Nasty solo work coming from all corners of the stage, from Jason just wailing on his banjo to Lee Owen throwing down a monster solo of his own.  And what about that trumpet?  Yet again?  Damn fine!  Not a bad time at all, my friends.  Really enjoyed this one, indeed.  “Big Boss Man” proved to be a perfect follow-up to “Out in the Woods” and with a “Strawberry Wine” finisher things were just dandy!  Josh Rosen from Shakedown Street came out to add his own electric guitar groove to the party just in time for “Strawberry Wine” sung by Mr. Adam Copeland.  Mind you, this is one for the getting down.  In a boisterous bayou bash kind of fashion.  And how about that magnificent mando from Ben, my friends?  About like that baller ass banjo from Mr. Wolf, right?  And then that guitar solo from guest Josh Rosen?  Trumpet, too?  More of that clarion call from the left of the stage?  So much tasty good music happening all at once, all together, all a sweet sound to behold.  If this is trashgrass, what’s not to love?  Right?  Remember how I said they’d cover seven Leon Russell songs?  Well, they weren’t done yet!  Not by a long shot.  And, “She Smiles Like a River” was an incredible addition to the vaunted lineup so far.  Ben stepped back up to the microphone to croon this one for us, Russell hat still perched smartly atop his head.  And we got a wee more pedal steel for our musical palates to boot.  Not to mention all the other incredible music pouring forth from the stage in buckets.  What a feast for the soul!  My goodness, what a set!  And then the closer…what a closer for this show.  The first few bars of “Bid You Goodnight” rang out into the night around us and lit upon face after face inspiring smiles of recognition and joy all around the room.  We all lent our voices to the band’s for this one uniting the entire venue in song and community.  Always a marvelously perfect way to finish things up in our world.  Bravi, Boys!!  But they weren’t done yet…nope.  They had that one, excellent encore up their sleeves for us.  And they nailed it.  The band.  Their guests.  All of them.  Nailed it.  Leon Russell’s “Tight Rope” is one of his better known songs and it was the appropriate capstone to an evening filled with his music.  J.D. gave us one helluva rendition on vocals as the band cruised along killing it underneath his melody.  Of course, where would we be without some exquisite string band jamming while we’re at it?  Mando, banjo, guitars, and trumpet…and that rock steady bass work.  Magic.  Just magic.  Trashgrass magic.  I think I now understand what that concept is all about, trashgrass.  The Rumpkes showed me how.  And I thank all the stars for that one.  Thank you, fellas, for such a superb evening of music and madcap string band lunacy.  Suffice it to say, I’ll be looking very much forward to my next encounter with the Rumpke Mountain Boys.  They set the bar pretty high this time, in my humble opinion.  It’ll be great to see where they go from here!!  All the best to you and yours, Rumpkes.  Let’s do this again soon, K?  Cheers!

Rumpke Mountain Boys and Friends

Rumpke Mountain Boys and Friends

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Saturday

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Saturday

Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016

Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Bill Rudd    

Saturday Highlights

    The festival vibe was alive and well around Deep Roots Mountain Revival on another gorgeous pre-autumn morning with the sky full of welcome white clouds to shield some of the sunlight we felt pretty intensely on Friday. The smells of camp stove breakfasts began to waft throughout car camping and we knew it was time to hike to the hilltop grove for some pickin’ on the Highland Outdoors Roots Stage. Appropriately Grand Ole’ Ditch began their set with “Pickin’ for Breakfast” altered from yesterday’s edition by Jody Mosser’s decision to lead things with the dobro instead of his acoustic guitar. The band blended the sleepy instrumental directly into “Sugar Grove,” a song about finding yourself in the West Virginia woods written and sung by mandolinist Lucas Mathews, that was highlighted by an extended jam which hinted at many of the Mountain Revivalist’s activities the previous evening. Hear for yourself here:

A Lionel Ritchie “All Night Long” tease? Fiesta forever, indeed gentlemen. The fellas followed that up with “This Time,” a straight up rock song where the string band dialed in distortion to get heavy with the backing of Todd Hocherl’s drumming. Things got weird with Craig Miller singing “Pigeon Eatin’ Catfish,” a song written by bassist Jacob Mathews about an alcoholic wels catfish with a preference for squab. It was time for a bluegrass breakdown with a “Dear Old Dixie” that had the folks who had trekked up the trail to the Roots Stage getting down with Ditch. The pickin’ turned progressive with Craig’s original from Unwind called “Copper Kettle Coal,” an incredible song that demonstrates the diversity of the group, switching tempos and genres throughout. Luke was back singing lead on the traditional bluegrass classic “Rocket Man,” by Elton John, which the band followed with an “Allegany Sun” for the ages. The song written by Jody’s friend-of-a-friend Matt Hamilton, details the experience of driving over the westernmost Maryland mountains and got diverted into Phishy territory with an appearance from “First Tube” during an exploratory detour. Grand Ole’ Ditch punctuated their final Deep Roots performance with “Rocky Island” a jovial Stanley Brothers cover which perfectly foreshadowed the traditional bluegrass masterclass that was about to take place on Main Stage B later that afternoon.

Grand Ole' Ditch

Grand Ole' Ditch

    We broke for lunch back at camp to gear up for the impending Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder storm that approached and headed towards the Main Stages just in time to catch the end of The Black Lillies’ rocking Americana set. Ricky Skaggs’s septet began soon thereafter and blasted out of the gate like a thoroughbred with a “How Mountain Girls” that was blazing hot from start to finish. Thankfully the mountaintop temperature hovered in the mid 80’s, which was perfect for dancing to one of the country’s best bluegrass bands. Ricky announced that next was "a mountain love song" before Russ Carson kicked off “Pig in a Pen” with a blistering banjo roll. They paid tribute to the father of bluegrass with a pair of Bill Monroe tunes, “Toy Heart” and the aptly named “Bluegrass Breakdown” an instrumental lead by Skaggs’ mandolin that rages just as much in 2016 as it did when the Bluegrass Boys were first pickin’ it in the 40s. Ricky dedicates a significant portion of each set to the Stanley brothers, having been raised on their material by his mountain mother who he says sang like Ralph, the man who hired Ricky as a Clinch Mountain Boy when he was still a teen. The first Stanley song was the mournful “Your Selfish Heart” about the popular bluegrass theme of being cheated on. Later they covered the classic country hymn “Rank Stranger” as well as “Home in the Carolina Mountains,” a song Ricky called “deep catalog Stanley Brothers.” Russ attempted to emulate Dr. Ralph’s banjo on an instrumental that showed off the picking prowess of the entire collective. This is a magnificent seven of bluegrass, with seemingly constant solos from folks like sizzling fiddler Andy Leftwitch and newest member the amazing lead guitarist Jake Workman, who follows in the footsteps of modern masters Cody Kilby and Bryan Sutton that had previously held the position. It’s important to specify “lead” with Kentucky Thunder because Skaggs keeps three guitarists in the band, with Eddie Faris on an archtop and Ricky’s long time friend Paul Brewster on rhythm guitar in addition to marvelous tenor vocals. The next couple of covers were coincidentally both recorded by Hot Rize, brilliant renditions of the McGee Brothers’ “Blue Night” and Bill Monroe’s “Rocky Road Blues,” the latter sung by the band’s talented bassist Scott Mulvahill. Then, it was time for “Tennessee Stud” a song about an incomparable racehorse made famous in bluegrass by Doc Watson. Ricky closed the impressive set with a raucous “Lil’ Maggie” where rapid instrumentation was accentuated by his embellished vocal segments that embodied that essential Stanley sound. The captivated crowd called for an encore, a request granted with the legendary Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen." Please enjoy Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder’s old school encore for yourself folks: 

Music to our ears too Ricky, thanks for a truly magnificent set on Marvin’s Mountain Top!

    The David Grisman Sextet almost immediately appeared on Stage A and started things off with a few of the jazzy instrumentals that the Dawg built to excel at performance. Especially impressive was a swing tune named “The Purple Grotto” which appears on their inventively-titled new album The David Grisman Sextet. Next was a tune Grisman quite literally dreamed up known as “Hornpipe Dream,” or he concluded it could be called “Horn Pipe Dream” too, before guiding the bouncy bluegrass instrumental with his mandolin. The Deep Roots Dead theme was reenergized with “Grateful Dawg” a funkier instrumental that shuffles back and forth between jazz, blues, and jam, written by Grisman with Jerry Garcia soon after they reunited in the early 90s. Ricky Skaggs had been watching from the wings for most of the set and was finally called to sit in on a soulful “Watson's Blues,” Bill Monroe's tribute to Doc Watson. Would you like to witness some of that double mando action? Well, here ya go: 

Skaggs left the stage but Dawg continued the tributes with a piece he wrote in dedication to the great Red Allen entitled “Pigeon Roost.” A meandering David Grisman Sextet original number called “Slinky” was next, a true jazzgrass tune if there ever was one. They finished up with “Dawg's Bounce,” a song Grisman mentioned he normally played on the banjolin but this time found flutist Matt Eakle switching over to kazoo for most of the song, despite managing to add in a stellar flute solo as well. A founding father of jamgrass, David Grisman has spent a lifetime dedicated to testing the boundaries of bluegrass and it was truly an honor to be able to experience his outstanding sextet up close and personal at Deep Roots Mountain Revival.

    After a well-deserved break back at camp we were ready for a face full of Keel. The Larry Keel Experience was already at work, playing a quirky original called “Lizard Lady” as we hiked up the rocky trail that lead to the Roots Stage. The jamgrass trio from Virginia followed up with “Lil’ Miss” a swampy song about an infallible woman that showcased Larry’s distinctive growl and legendary guitar skills. Larry ended up giving a birthday shout out to Steve Heavner his sound man, road manager, merch guy, van driver, and all-around awesome dude — class act as always, Larry. The Experience slowed down a bit with a pair of love songs, “One” and “Heartbeat Soul Beat,” but things quickened up again with an instrumental that demonstrated the chemistry developing between Larry’s flat-picking and newcomer to the band Jared Pool’s mandolin, with the two dueling and playing off of one another nicely. However, despite Pool’s immense talent it’s hard to escape the void left by the absence of longtime Keel collaborator Will Lee’s banjo. Bassist Jenny Keel announced it was time for “Larry does Jerry,” as her husband sang a “Ramble On Rose” that everyone in attendance was very grateful for. The next song “Miles & Miles,” was co-written with Keller Williams and appears on Keel's new album Experienced. The lyrics mention that “a truthful heart that will light the darkened sky,” much the way the harvest moon again began to brighten the forest we gathered in. Larry made it known he was impressed with the other musicians on the mountaintop, mentioning electric rock guitarist Marcus King and jamgrass act The Rumpke Mountain Boys who were also getting Keeled in the audience. The aroma of Lynyrd Skynyrd entered the sweet southern air with a cover of “That Smell,” an unfortunately poignant song about the deadly dangers of drug abuse. Our “more banjo” prayers were answered when Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn came out to get weird in the woods with The Experience, starting with the Keel classic “Culpepper Woodchuck.” The song pulsed back and forth until Larry bursted out the titular line and it exploded into an uproarious jam that included an interlude into the über traditional “Soldiers Joy,” which caused Keel to pause and assert, “It's about morphine,” before the rest of the band joined back with the woodchucking. That left just enough time for “a quick one,” which was a rapid instrumental that allowed Larry, Jared, and Andy another chance for some face-melting shredding. Keel your own face here:  

What an awesome way to end an excellent set in the West Virginia backwoods with the Larry Keel Experience!

The Larry Keel Experience

The Larry Keel Experience

    Night had officially fallen on Marvin’s Mountain Top, with campfires ablaze throughout the open fields lightly filled with RVs, cars, and tents. A definite haze hung over the encampment which was apropos because country rockers Blackberry Smoke had taken Main Stage A with authority. Fans filled the flattened area in front for their performance, which sounded sort of like a southern rock styled Led Zeppelin. Definitely not a bad thing! The Grateful Dead cover train hit a repeat as the Georgian group also played “Ramble On Rose,” not quite a reprisal of Keel’s Roots Stage rendition less than an hour earlier. Their set ended with great fanfare from the swirling stage lights and fog to the vigorous applause of the hundreds assembled, but our attention soon shifted to Stage B where The Cris Jacobs Band from Baltimore was about to take things for a tremendous blues rock turn. Oh my my! Right at the start Cris busted out an entry from The Bridge’s historic catalogue with a joyous “Heavy Water” that was extended into an elaborate jam that served to introduce the skilled musicians he’d currently surrounded himself with. Cris led on both vocals and electric guitar but was backed by proficient bassist Todd Herrington and the mighty John Ginty, a prominent keyboardist who’s toured with everyone from The Dixie Chicks to Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Dusty Ray Simmons’s drumming was particularly on point driving the intro to Jacobs’s “The Devil or Jesse James,” a rhythmic swamp rock story infused with soul from Cris’s powerfully smooth vocals. At solo shows, Cris always spends time playing a custom cigar box guitar and it was nice to see him rocking it out during “Me Oh My,” with abundant effects and his full band on the mountaintop. Cris is no stranger to Marvin’s, having frequently performed in Masontown at the All Good Music Festival as frontman for The Bridge, the Maryland roots rock ensemble known for their funky jams and a bit of a Little Feat vibe that persists in this project, especially when Ginty is pounding away on his Hammond organ at high volume. While it’s likely Cris Jacobs’s voice that earned him high profile solo gigs opening tours for folks like Steve Winwood and Sturgill Simpson, it‘s his brilliant electric guitar playing that had us in awe all night long at Deep Roots Mountain Revival. The combination of musicianship and passion Cris Jacobs brought to the table also has us anxiously awaiting his album Dust To Gold in October, as well as Neville Jacobs, his project with Ivan Neville due for release 2017. Thankfully for the impatient among us on Marvin’s Mountaintop, there was still more in store from Cris Jacobs that evening.

Cris Jacobs Band

Cris Jacobs Band


    It may have been the middle of September but it was still festival season and therefore Salmon season. Leftover Salmon definitely lived up to their rowdy reputation at Deep Roots Mountain Revival and their contribution to the Grateful Dead cover collection came early with a “Mr. Charlie” that was elevated to the occasion of the band’s triumphant return to Marvin’s Mountain Top, after being an All Good headliner there several times before. The band’s next song mentioned being “down in the hollow on a cold southern night” which somehow felt appropriate despite nighttime temperatures that had stayed pleasantly in the 70s. Leftover didn't wait long to bring out their good bud Larry Keel who carried out his Collings guitar for an extended portion of the set, beginning with incredible banjoist Andy Thorn’s instrumental “Bolin Creek” that raged more like the roaring whitewater of the nearby Cheat River. Adding Keel to the already combustible combination of Thorn and gifted instrumentalist Drew Emmitt ignited an explosive spacey explorational segment that transitioned to an Alwyn Robinson drum solo before traveling back to outer space via Main Stage A. The Leftover Salmon crew technically calls Colorado home however their east coast ties were unmistakable, especially in “Appalachian Soul,” which was literally a soulful rock song about life in the mountains, sung by acoustic guitarist and party god frontman Vince Herman. Next up was the McGraw Gap firefighting tune “Fireline,” which has been a bright spot burning in Salmon’s setlist on many a night. For those unfamiliar, McGraw Gap was the band Larry Keel was a member of that won the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 1995. Fittingly Salmon followed up with a song written by Drew Emmett that McGraw Gap once recorded called “Troubled Times,” which Emmett noted was sadly still relevant because it asked the wind to “blow away these troubled times.” The party picked up some more Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass in the form of “Mama Boulet,” a song that sounded like spicy gumbo smells and featured another predominant solo from the terrific drummer Alwyn Robinson. The sit ins continued when Cris Jacobs returned with his guitar for “Sitting On Top Of The World,” a song frequently chosen for guest appearances but made unique in this instance by a slightly slowed tempo and the shared vocal duties of Herman, Emmett, and Jacobs. Larry Keel was called back out but came empty handed so Vince lent him his guitar and put on a scratch board for an extraordinarily epic version of Led Zeppelin's “Rock and Roll” that had the crowd going absolutely insane over intense guitar solos traded back and forth between Emmett, Keel, and especially Cris Jacobs, who impressed the others to the point where they he insisted he take several elongated breaks. This was a set that exemplified everything great about music festivals, with virtuosic artists from three different acts banding together for a once in a lifetime experience. What a way to wrap up the Mountain Revival Saturday Main Stages. Awesome work everyone involved!

Leftover Salmon with Cris Jacobs

Leftover Salmon with Cris Jacobs

    But wait, there's more! It was time for a late night Rumpke Mountain Boys throwdown back up on the Roots Stage. The rough edged bluegrass band from Cincinnati embraces the term trashgrass, naming themselves after the mythical Rumpke Mountain, a nickname for their local landfill which happens to be one of the largest in the country. The boys kicked things off with a song called “Feeling Good” and from the dance moves already being employed among the trees out front, it was apparent the audience was feeling pretty good too. Guitarist Adam Copeland and company wailed the mournful “Make It Rain” which was followed by the traditional bluegrass tune “If I Should Wander Back Tonight,” though nothing coming from these Mountain Boys can exactly be called traditional thanks to their love for effects pedals and rambling instrumentals. Rumpke’s next song mentioned drinking in the morning to forget the night before, something a few of the folks in woods would definitely be partaking in the following Sunday morning. Actually, who are we kidding, this set didn’t even start until well past 2am, we were already several hours into Sunday. And what better time for a David Bowie cover, as a trashgrass take on “Speed of Life” was next. The Rumpke instrumentalists were putting on quite a show, Ben Gourley having a shredding tenor guitar that replaced his mandolin for the majority of the set, while Jason Wolf switched back and forth between his 5-string banjo and a pedal steel guitar positioned at the ready in front of him. “Why can't we all stay young pretty mama?” asked the next song and it was followed with one that said everything would be alright “just as long as that woman stands by me.” We were in the “looking for love” portion of the evening and for good reason, as awesome and beautiful women were all over the place at Deep Roots Mountain Revival. While the next song asked, “Where is your heart tonight?” it was clear that the heart of the festival was definitely in San Francisco with the great Grateful Dead because it was time for yet another cover with Rumpke Mountain’s version of “Dark Star” that felt like it might have been jammed out for 40 minutes. While it can’t be determined exactly how long the somber Dead tune lasted, it is certain that Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman made a prolific appearance at approximately 4:35 am, or, about 5 minutes after this writer made the mistake of heading back down the hill towards camp. Subsequent investigation uncovered that the jovial jamgrass superstar sat in on “Such a Good Idea,” “Murder In The First Degree,” and “Lord Won't You Help Me,” in addition to freestyling hilarious lyrics during a psychedelic version of “8th Of January,” also known as “Battle Of New Orleans.” The stories of festivarians able to persevere into the night told of the pickin’ and drinking till sunrise to be expected from any proper Rumpke Mountain Boys party with festival master Vince Herman.

    Those of us who went to bed awoke Sunday morning to grey skies spewing intermittent raindrops that moistened the mountaintop but didn’t damper the good mood generated from three full days of amazing musical mayhem. The schedule for Sunday included more insanely talented acts like WV bluegrassers The Hillbilly Gypsies, the up-and-coming electric guitar phenom lead Marcus King Band, and wooly country crooner Jamey Johnson whose set included a surprise guest appearance from bluegrass icon Alison Krauss, who is tied for the most awarded Grammy recipient alive today. Unfortunately for this reporter, and thereby you the reader, the decision was made to dismantle camp and head from the hills before Sunday’s music began, beaten by exhaustion and the elements after three truly monumental days (and nights) of music. In addition to the multitude of tunes, the festival was fantastic because of the wonderful folks who were in attendance. Yes, their numbers were at times astonishingly small considering the stacked lineup, but those who bought tickets, volunteered, or were brought to the festival by other means, happened to be some of the most passionate and loyal people in the festival community. The spirit of the mountaintop was palpable every moment and we were encouraged and expected to enjoy ourselves with the only limitation being respect for the property. The Deep Roots team certainly succeeded in reviving the great musical legacy of Marvin’s Mountain Top and have assured festival goers that they’ve already begun planning for a return trip in sometime in 2017. The early adopters who attended the inaugural event will tell you:  Deep Roots Mountain Revival is an experience that will not be forgotten and should not to be missed going forward. The Lot Scene would like to send our sincerest thanks to everyone who ensured that a good time was had by all!

    A huge round of thanks and applause go out to guest writer, Bill Rudd, and guest photographer, Jeff Socha for their incredible work at Deep Roots Mountain Revival!  What amazing coverage of this first-time fest out east!! 

Cheers to you both, gentlemen!!

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Friday

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Friday

DEEP ROOTS MOUNTAIN REVIVAL 2016

Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Bill Rudd

Friday Highlights

    We awoke Friday morning to a gorgeous late summer day, the sky bright blue and the sun so warm that tents were uninhabitable shortly after 9AM. It was a welcome wake up call as we looked forward to the 10 world class acts scheduled to take the dual main stages of Deep Roots Mountain Revival. The massive festival stages were set up side by side, similar to the All Good days, in the corner of an expansive grass field facing a long sloping hillside that provided an abundance of additional viewing angles. A collection of vendors were set up along the entrance to the meadow, with Steal Your Plate, Shady Grove Wraps and several other tasty dining options to the right and about a dozen of the funkiest festival clothing and craft booths situated to the left. Things got started on Stage B around noon with Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns, West Virginian rockers who literally blend alternative and country to create hard edged twangy tones that filled the lawn and hillside. As we approached to investigate further it became immediately apparent that there was almost no one in attendance for the early afternoon’s first set, with only about 20 people who had mostly gathered near the shade of the soundboard’s canopy. Truth be told we must have been late arrivals ourselves because the set quickly came to its conclusion with an Uncle Tupelo cover, but not before we enjoyed a brief moment to bang our heads and stomp our feet simultaneously. Music was officially back in the heart of Marvin’s Mountain Top! 

Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns

Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns

    Megan Jean & The KFB were set up to the left on Stage A and after the previous night’s Roots Stage set we were extremely excited to hear Megan’s bold voice booming through the festival’s biggest speakers. Our high expectations were confirmed when “Playground Queen” began blasting across the mountaintop at a thunderous volume, sure to reach those just arriving, or yet to break camp for the day. Despite their loud volume the KFB specializes in stripped down tales of twisted knives and voodoo that rely on the rhythm of the duo to make you involuntarily dance to the madness. It was a little out of place to hear such dark imagery sung on a crystal clear sunny day surrounded by rolling green mountains. The next song, however, provided particularly poignant lyrics given the sparse crowd circumstances so far “Foxes in the hen house. Ain't it a shame nobody's home.” Indeed it was a shame that more people hadn’t made it to the festival in time to experience the pair of honest and energetic performances put on by Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band. 

    Up next were the rowdy Ohioans knows as The Rumpke Mountain Boys and they were more than ready to entertain the several dozen Mountain Revivalists that had assembled for their 2PM set. The four piece has evolved over the years, refining their brash style of bluegrass as they’ve crisscrossed the country honing their craft. After our back road journey to the mountaintop their lyrics “99 roads to travel but I'll get there someday” were felt wholeheartedly by the audience. Guitarist Adam Copeland sang “Fourdinaire” a descriptive story about their preferred partying lifestyle that can be found on their latest album High Time, Low Tide. They followed up with another song that couldn’t have been more apropos, calling out the “West Virginia Appalachian Mountains that I love.” Speaking of shout-outs it was nice to hear the Boys reference another former All Good location, the Sunshine Daydream Memorial Park in nearby Terra Alta, WV, a venue that helped the band build a tremendous fanbase among the region’s festival community. Mandolin player Ben Gourley switched to a similarly strung tenor guitar for a trashgrass take on the Grateful Dead’s “Althea” which signified a theme that would carry throughout the festival, with many more band members switching instruments and plenty of Dead covers to come. While the Rumpke Mountain Boys wrapped up their Friday set with a tune glorifying life in the medicine show we decided to mosey on back to camp to get prepped for the rest of the day’s music.  

The Rumpke Mountain Boys

The Rumpke Mountain Boys

    We hurried on back to Main Stage A where The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers were locked and loaded and off with a bang, breaking out the roaring instrumental “Old Joe Clark” which unleashed the picking prowess of every member of the five piece. Five piece? Yep, you read that right. The Stragglers had gained a member overnight with the addition of PA’s Fiddlin’ Ray Bruckman who was joining the band on mandolin. Guitarist Gary Antol sang lead on an original swing tune called “Get Along Gone” before JFS took things up another notch with a blistering version of Flatt & Scruggs’ instrumental “Lonesome Road Blues” anchored by expert banjoist Joe Dep. They drove that one directly into their outstanding original tune “Checkmate” for a fantastic combination of old and newgrass. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself!

 Awesome right? The talented Libby Eddy was back singing lead on a pair of covers, first the appropriate “High On A Mountain” written by Ola Belle Reed, and then the Peter Rowan penned “Thirsty in the Rain,” a song that fits her beautiful voice so brilliantly the band recorded it on their latest album White Lightning Road. Newcomer to the Stragglers and former Brummy Brothers bassist Dave Brumberg stepped up to the mic for “Joy Bells Ringing” a traditional bluegrass number that suited his voice nicely and showed off his bass abilities a bit too. The band’s original instrumental “Red Prairie Dawn” was next with some exceptional fiddle work from Libby which they followed with “White Lightning Road” about the time honored tradition of bootlegging moonshine. The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers finished up with “I Know You Rider,” a traditional tune made famous by the likes of The Grateful Dead and Seldom Scene, that’s become a festival staple and thus a fitting choice to close out a their second stellar Mountain Revival set. Well done!

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers

    After perusing the food options some more and refilling our beverages (gotta stay hydrated out there folks) we made our way back to Stage B where we expected to find Shooter Jennings. What we found instead were Waymore’s Outlaws without Shooter, and they were playing his father Waylon’s classic “Good Hearted Woman” as a tribute to their former bandleader. They followed that with... a set break? Really. A fifteen minute set break amidst an hour and fifteen minute set. Interesting time management to say the least. Our patience was rewarded when Shooter finally took the stage, solo at first with an acoustic guitar in his arms as he stood behind an electric keyboard. He wailed a country ballad first, strumming the guitar while letting his powerful voice command the audience which was still no more than a couple hundred folks at most. Shooter switched over to the keys and demonstrated his instrumental ability with a haunting composition that built around an extended intro before segueing into his hit “All Of This Could Have Been Yours,” which was gained popularity thanks to its appearance on the television show Sons of Anarchy. The Outlaws returned to supply backup to Shooter as the group finished out the set with a heavy dose of the hard hitting country rock that they’re known for. 

Waymore's Outlaws

Waymore's Outlaws

    The country vibe increased considerably when Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives took the to the A Stage in all their sequined glory. This is a real deal country western rock and roll band, complete with coordinated outfits and the twang to match. They proved it further with their spot on take of the genre’s standard bearer “Country Boy Rock & Roll,” which proved they meant business with speed and precision in addition to excellent harmonies. Next was another appearance of the infamous “I Know You Rider,” a song that some might consider too popular for its own good. This was the third or fourth time it had been played at the Mountain Revival (Looking at you Jakob’s Ferry). They followed that with Marty’s original "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," a hit as a duet with Travis Tritt in the 90s and still a hit with the fans in the field on Friday. It was extremely interesting to watch the composition of the crowd change with each band. Older folks with tucked in Harley t-shirts sat in folding chairs where tie-died and dreadlocked people had been swaying to Rumpke Mountain Boys a few hours prior. No stranger to the spotlight Marty lead His Fabulous Superlatives with an epic “House of the Rising Sun” as the setting sun began to sink over the West Virginia mountains, ending another marvelous set of music.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

    It was time for a diversion from the Main Stages as Grand Ole’ Ditch was set to perform on the VIP Stage, which was under a medium sized tent and separated from the common festival folk in a forested grove atop a nearby hill. The 7 member progressive bluegrass collective from Cumberland, MD, had ingeniously managed to have about a dozen of their friends and fans shuttled up to the secluded venue, by allowing their friend (me) to commandeer the band’s very own van. Talk about going the extra mile to get good folks in front of your music! And what great music it was, as Ditch started the intimate performance with a rocking rendition of banjoist Craig Miller’s “Take Me Back” which they followed with the breakneck instrumental “Chester's Breakdown.” The band kept the original tunes coming with their recent release’s relatable title track “Unwind,” that featured an extended intro before merging immediately into “Whippoorwill,” as smoothly as it does on the album. Jody Mosser mainly plays dobro with Grand Ole’ Ditch but switched to his Martin D-28 guitar for an extended solo that lead to his lovely instrumental “Pickin’ For Breakfast.” 

    A fantastic aspect of the VIP stage is its close proximity to the Main Stages, complete with a handy wooden deck which allows you to look overlook them without leaving the hilltop. We took full advantage of the perch to catch a couple songs from Fruition who had already begun rocking on Stage B. The Portland based folk rock band performed “I Can't Stop,” a rootsy song sung by guitarist Jay Cobb Anderson. Mandolinist Mimi Naja was up next singing “The Wanter,” a really fun tune with a bluegrass bounce about someone with a phobia of wedding rings. The last song we caught from high above the main field was the appropriately titled, “Above the Line” off their recently released Labor of Love record which features the fancy drum work of Tyler Thompson and the vocals of guitarist Kellen Asebroek. We rambled back over to the Grand Ole’ Ditch set in VIP just in time to hear Fiddlin’ Ray Bruckman, fresh off of mandolin duty with Jakob’s Ferry, shredding some bowstrings on his incendiary instrumental “Dragon's Breath.” Up next was “Dark Rider” an original that recently made its way back into the band’s rotation and nicely summed up the experience we felt approaching the festival grounds. “Gaze upon the mountain, leave it all behind. Lay my tracks on down the road for someone else to find.” The band wasn’t about to leave anything behind in their allotted time, finishing the set with a raucous reggae-fied version of The Dillard’s “Old Man at the Mill” that’s become a favorite among Ditch diggers, in this instance requested by Libby of The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers. Musicians appreciating and interacting with other musicians was a special part of the Deep Roots experience and something we would see much more of over the course of the weekend.

Fruition

Fruition

   After an extended rest and recovery period back at camp we prepared ourselves for the impending session of world class jamgrass with Cabinet and Greensky Bluegrass scheduled back to back on the Main Stages. As we approached the infield to take our places up front we found the pop country act Love and Theft performing on Stage A with a straightforward cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” that a friend likened to a couple’s skate. They closed their set with a song about their fondness for Jesus and then it was finally time to get high on Pennsylvania bluegrass. Cabinet didn’t waste any time riling up the several hundred strong crowd with a fiery “Hit It On The Head” followed with a spectacular “Celebration” featuring Pappy Biondo on lead vocals in addition to the custom Circle Strings electric banjo he’s been playing predominantly as of late. His cousin, mandolinist JP Biondo took a turn singing lead on the long adored Cabinet classic, “The Tower” before the band transitioned to the cowboy anthem “Diamond Joe” which included some significant shredding from Mickey Coviello’s electric guitar. The fluidity with which the boys swap out instruments is always amazing, with Pappy switching back to his traditional Nechville banjo mid-song and especially impressive when Dylan Skursky’s bass changes from electric to upright without the band missing a beat. The spacey instrumental “Mysterio” was next and gave the dual drummers Jami Novak and Josh Karis a chance to show off their syncopation as well as some supplemental percussion that really adds to the breakdowns. Hot, hot, fire from all 6 of the band members there. "Watch out folks we're comin' atcha," exclaimed Pappy in his distinct drawl. JP was back lending his voice to “Treat Me So Bad,” which was a swingy palate cleanser before things got much heavier with the dramatic “Any Old Sign” which fell to “the Todd side” with a howling fiddle solo from Todd Kopec. The fellas really let loose after that with a wild and wonderful “Arco Arena,” which is derived from a snippet of a Cake song that they extrapolate expertly and often, this time with an added segment of “Shady Grove” to conclude what was already a monumental jam. And it didn’t end there — the band dedicated their rapid bluegrassy instrumental “Po's Reel” to a birthday girl named Candace and a couple called the Koons who were celebrating their 17th anniversary on the mountaintop. Interestingly it was the drummers who stood out on the song, demonstrating how a few well-timed symbol strikes can add gravitas to a bluegrass tune in a way that no mandolin can. The song’s usual “It Ain’t Me” tease was extended into a full on “Under the Sea” segment for all the Little Mermaid heads in attendance, before the band dove back in and finished the explosive mando lead reel. The grand finale was yet another extended jam that included a short diversion into “Shine Like the Sun” where it seriously seemed as if Pappy was communicating with both drummers solely via his eyes and electric banjo. For good measure they tacked on a hint of “Fire on the Mountain” to the outro, which made perfect sense because Cabinet had just set Marvin’s Mountain Top ablaze with a fire breathing monster of a set. Bravo boys, bravo! 

Cabinet

Cabinet

    That might have been a tough act to follow but if anyone’s up to the challenge it most certainly was Greensky Bluegrass. The Michigan powerhouse quintet opened the proceedings with a funky “Jaywalking” through thick billowing fog that engulfed the stage. Guitarist Dave Bruzza stepped through the mist and up to the mic for “Somebody To Lean On” in his unmistakable raspy tone. The crowd had swelled significantly by this point, with the flat part of the field mostly full, however it was still one of the most intimate Greensky festival performances you’re ever likely to find. Mandolinist Paul Hoffman, or phoffman as the kids call him, was back singling lead, dropping f-bombs and jaws with an emphatic “Windshield,” the emotion drenched ballad from their previous release If Sorrows Swim. With a full harvest moon overhead and stage lights eerily illuminating the smoke that persisted through the set, it seemed almost as if Paul was the mythical wolfman, leading his pack with an intense outcry of emotion. The track that contains their last album’s title line “Burn Them” was next, with it’s fast pace punctuated by Anders Beck’s dobro, which picked the party back up into a frenzy. Greensky won the competition for first Main Stage band to call the state by its unofficial title, “West, by God, Virginia,” a prestigious distinction to be sure. Bruzza was back singing “Doin’ My Time,” a number brought to bluegrass by Flatt & Scruggs and turned into a gravelly jamgrass interlude by Greensky. The boys took things to The Dark Side of the Moon with their awesome interpretation of “Time > Breath,” the legendary Pink Floyd piece that’s been a staple of GSBG sets for almost a decade. The evening’s festivities reached a grandiose pinnacle with an elongated exploratory “Don't Lie” that at times resonated across Marvin’s Mountain Top like a herd of bison stampeding across the plains. Back at the comfort of camp it seemed as if the echoes continued to reverberate for hours, though that was likely just BIG Something or Pigeons Playing Ping Pong crushing it late into the night on the Roots Stage. Without a doubt the Deep Roots team made sure that there was certainly no shortage of incredible music on Friday, with many more amazing Mountain Revival moments yet to come.

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

Saturday's review and photos coming soon, friends!!

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