It is hard to pick favorites when each band performing at this weekend long festival delivered something new and exciting. It was great to see Claire Lynch back on stage with her assembled band of accomplished musicians. Her vibrant personality not only showed through in her music but also as she conversed with the audience. Clearly, watch for the Claire Lynch Band's new project expected to be released March 28th.
Stringdusters showed us what they're made of in two sets of which one was unscheduled. The Stringdusters filled in on Saturday afternoon when the Grascals were delayed in travel. This is undoubtedly a band to watch. I couldn't help think: "Grascals watch out because this scorching band is on your heels." Their vocal harmonies rooted in bluegrass tradition fused with progressive instrumental pieces kept the energy level at its peak.
Ron Thomason kept the audience engaged with his comic chatter throughout Dry Branch Fire Squad's sets. Their rendition of "I Am an Orphan Child" was nicely done and their a cappella version of "Power in the Blood" was chilling.
The Lovell Sisters are also emerging talents. With a classical music background and wonderful vocal harmonies, the girls mixed it up with a little bit of bluegrass, country and folk traditions. Jessica Lovell has a great stage presence and a powerful voice which will take her career far.
Collaborations are always a treat and Joe Val had two that were notable. Dale Bradley called the Stringdusters up to the stage to perform two pieces with her. The energy was charged with this blending of young and seasoned talent. Another treat was James King calling Dan Paisley and Southern Grass to the stage for a few pieces. Seemed like history in the making as these two purely traditional bluegrass bands fused together. James announced that he and Dan Paisley are working on a project together; hard to match that combo.
High energy wasn't absent with Mountain Heart and Wildfire in the house, Both pleased the crowd with their energetic hoe down style of music. On Saturday evening, The Grascals showed us why they are in the spotlight. Their set inspired a few dancers to get up and waltz and others to clog. By the end of Mountain Heart's set who followed the Grascals, there was a group of twirling and spinning dancers enjoying their freedom to respond to the music as it motivated them to participate.
Another crowd pleaser was New England based Bluegrass Gospel Project featuring Taylor Armerding (founder of Northern Lights) and Patti Casey. The group played two unique sets. Saturday's set was a mix of traditional bluegrass vocal harmonies and folk ballads interspersed with pieces written by Patti Casey. Sunday's set was purely traditional gospel.
The Kruger Brothers who wrapped up the festival with a non-traditional set. These guys were thoroughly entertaining and experience I won't soon forget. Being last in a 28 hour long festival is no easy task but the Kruger Brother's had the audience engaged from the onset and kept them in their palm straight through till the end. WOW! What an ending to a outstanding weekend event.