Guest Author - Chris Curtis
What a party! It may be over but the memories will live on in the hearts of everyone who attended Grey Fox this year on the Rossvoth Farm in Ancramdale, NY. The line up was strong from the start on Thursday with Hit and Run to the traditional end on Sunday with the Bluegrass Academy and Dry Branch Fire Squad. Here in the North East, Grey Fox IS the festival to attend. And well attended it was this 30th year of celebration.
The weekend was full of remembrances celebrating 30 years and commemorations for the Rossvoss family who have hosted this great festival for as many years. A formal Birthday party was held with the release of a colorful array of balloons from the roof, the lighting of a birthday cake replicated from the 30 year celebratory design by Kit O'Brien, and a tribute to Henry Rothvoss, who departed this earth a short time before the festival. Tim and Kit O'Brien presented the original Grey Fox Birthday Cake art work to Mary Daub. The celebration brought a few words from those who make the festival happen every year: Ron Thomas, Chuck Wentworth, Mary Daub, and Danny Rossvoss, who offered a toast to his grandfather, Henry Rothvoss. Of course, with the passing of Henry Rossvoss, who graciously opened his home lands year after year to Grey Fox, there was a great deal of speculation about its continuation on the hill beyond this year. As Danny left stage area, he said "See you next year." Lets hope that is a positive sign.
Part of the allure of Grey Fox for many folks is the picking. At anytime during the 4 day event, you could hear the pickers throughout the camping areas many of whom are accomplished musicians. Many jams go through the nite into the daylight hours. It is a wonderful sound to fall asleep to the softly played and sweetly sung traditional songs.
With five stages, it's hard to pick who to see sometimes. Here are some highlights. Hit and Run hailing from Colorado and Hot Buttered Rum both up and coming bands showed great promise with sets that zapped with high energy, while Chatham County Line was impressive with a highly traditional set. The vocal workshop on the Masters stage featuring Mollie O'Brien and the Uncle Earl girls was fascinating. A lesson to take away from the set was, to sing is to learn to breath, to overcoming stage nerves is also learning to breath.
Each evening the main stage offered an eclectic line up that kept people at the main stage although the Red Stick Ramblers cranking on the dance stage was hard to resist. Tim O'Brien graced the main stage on both Thursday and Friday evenings with a set performed with the wonderful voice of Mollie O'Brien (who could tell they were siblings?) and a set with Cornbread Nation which won a Grammy Award in 2006. The Infamous String Dusters and Uncle Earl performed twice both delivering strong performances. Some may argue these bands do not represent the Bluegrass genre, but let me tell you, they both are close 2nd cousins and cannot be denied their talents and musicianship. Why classify, just sit back and enjoy the performance.
Who could stay away despite the blistering heat Friday afternoon. One young entrepreneur, was scouting the amphitheater with a super soaker soliciting spectations to pay $.50 for a soaking to escape the heat. The lineup delivered an exciting afternoon beginning with a traditional set with Dan Paisley & Southern Grass. This band has really come together following the loss of the elder Paisley who founded the band. Just before the break, Darrell Scott, John Cowan and Pat Flynn traded the spot light with three of the finest vocalists on stage.
Friday nite brought the every popular Del McCrory with his renowned traditional bluegrass sound. Then with a total switch of gears, fans were treated to the high energy Dobro of Jerry Douglas. Jerry has appeared on over 1,000 projects and recently released a solo CD "The Best Kept Secret" which showcases the man's incredible talent. With a smile on his face, there is no doubt Jerry is thoroughly enjoying the spotlight. Tim O'Brien's Cornbread Nation closed out the evening. Tim, in his inimitable style, brought several artists out to share the stage with him.
Cloud cover kept the intensity of the sun away on Saturday but the heat and humidity remained high. The clouds certainly didn't keep the crowds from getting to the afternoon line up with the Lovell Sisters who have quickly become the darlings of the festival scene. Again traditional bluegrass hit the stage with rousing sets from King Wilkie and the Grascals. The Grascals continue to show us why they are winning all those awards.
The amazing talented Crook Still kicked off the evening lineup. If you haven't seen Rushad Eggleston's cello performance before, he is a force with which to be reckoned. Dr. Gregory Liszt on banjo just returned from tour with Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions. Then the stage returned to the traditions of Larry Sparks and Ricky Skaggs to get everyone pumped up. Mountain Heart took the stage following Ricky Skaggs and they cranked it up a notch. This group puts on a show that is unforgettable. Free style movement gives the performance a fluid feeling while each band member trades off the spotlight. Every band member of Mountain Heart has gained huge accolades for their command musicianship. A clear favorite was "The Gospel Train" from their "The Journey" CD. Saturday evening wrapped up with Steve Earle and The BlueGrass Dukes. Steve Earle was long anticipated by many fans with his return to the stage after an extended break. However, this set was most controversial as Earle made no secret of his political stance. Many felt this was inappropriate but hard core Earle fans put his reputation for political statements aside for the shear pleasure of his music.
Sunday wrapped up with the traditional Gospel set from the host band, Dry Branch Fire Squad followed by repeat performances from King Wilkie and Crooked Still. The Kids Academy peformed at 2:00pm just before Dry Branch ended with their farewell set ending another year on the Grey Fox Stage.
For pictures of Grey Fox 2006 look here and here