Monday, July 19, 2010

Live Review - 7/15/2010 - 7/18/2010: Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

I haven't posted in a while. I'm going to try to get back in the swing of it, but things will change a bit as my focus steers more towards bluegrass / roots music.

I spent the past four days in scenic Oak Hill, NY at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, the premiere bluegrass festival in the Northeast. I've written a bit before about bluegrass and its role in the modern music world, and it's a topic I'm interested in exploring in further detail. It was really interesting traditional acts like The Del McCoury Band (Del was a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys) juxtaposed with a progressive jammy band like Railroad Earth. In Colorado and in New England especially there seems to be a revival of bluegrass, with a hipster 20-something crowd embracing the same music that hippies did years earlier after Old & In The Way.

Best act:
The mandolin workshop at the Master's Tent, with David "Dawg" Grisman, Buddy Merriam, Sarah Jarosz, Ronnie McCoury (of the Del McCoury Band) and Joe Walsh (of the Gibson Brothers) trading licks for an hour. It was staggering. Grisman and McCoury are giants, but Walsh is just in his mid-twenties and Jarosz is only 19, and they were keeping pace with the big boys nicely! It seemed as if each player was trying to out-do the next. There was some humor, too, with Grisman telling the requisite banjo joke and the quintet turning ultra-fast instrumental classic "Rawhide" into a waltz.

Best surprise:
Rockin' Acoustic Circus surprising us all with Melanie's "Brand New Key." I never would have thought that would work as a bluegrass song, but it sounded like it was made for the genre. Cellist Emma Hardin's voice captured the innocence of the original, and the bouncy accompaniment complimented it terrifically.

Biggest disappointment:
Sam Bush's set was cut short after just four songs due to thunderstorms hitting the area. He did get in a nice "Uncle Pen," though, with the well-known mandolist returning to his original instrument, the fiddle, on the Bill Monroe classic.

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival
David Grisman official site
The Del McCoury Band official site
Sarah Jarosz official site
Joe Walsh's MySpace page
Buddy Merriam official site
Rockin' Acoustic Circus official site
Sam Bush official site