Joe Val Bluegrass Festival 2009
BBU, in partnership with MA based Rounder Records, has an amazing knack for not only keeping to Bluegrass traditions with top bands; they manage the schedule tightly throughout the weekend building the momentum to a peak conclusion each year. So tightly managed, the scheduled is maintained flawlessly, and seamlessly. Even glitches are handled with finesse as they quickly plugged the hole in the schedule with favorite Alicia Nugent's band on Friday evening when Bradley Walker became ill. How they pull it off, year after year, with such grace is a model to be followed by other venues.
The scheduling of two performances for main attraction artists on Saturday, allowed room for participants to relax, pick, or see workshops and showcase bands. After all, the organizers recognize this IS a picking party event. Our alternative choices were to relax in the lobby listening to a great jam by a group of accomplished pickers, then we took the opportunity to see two local bands (Pine Hill Ramblers and Back Eddy Bluegrass) on the showcase stage both of which gave excellent shows.
The show opened with a feature performance by Boston Boys (including Sam Grisman) fresh out of Berkeley School of music, and with a special honor to Joe Val by Joe Singleton et al offering a polished set of all Joe Val tunes. Great performances on the main stage throughout the weekend were given by: Special Consensus, New Found Road, Bluegrass Gospel Project (with its new configuration), Straight Drive, Dry Branch Fire Squad. Friday evening audiences were delighted by Alicia Nugent's return to the Joe Val stage and Steep Canyon Rangers with their straight on bluegrass drive. Saturday evening stepped it up a notch with a well mixed selection of classic favorites by Claire Lynch Band (my personal favorite for the evening), in your face hard driving speed by Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, and a little of classic Swiss banjo and guitar work by the Kruger Brothers who were later joined by Adam Steffey and Joel Landsberg for some straight on Bluegrass. Sunday's line up just kept rising the energy levels starting with Charlie Sizemore Band who interspersed humor throughout his set. Josh William Band – fresh out of Rhonda Vincent's band, Josh has assembled a group of young accomplished musicians that support his unbelievable polished stage presence and compelling vocals. Watch this young man's career – he has it all and delivers it well! Next taking the stage was the legendary Bobby Osborne and Rocky Top X-Press. While needing cheat notes for a few selections, Bobby's vocal performance was as strong as ever, the audience got a glimpse of the early days of Bluegrass with this celebrated artist. What a treat for us all. The audience was primed for more as Dailey and Vincent took the stage. What more can be said for Sunday's line up with straight on bluegrass from upstart Josh Williams, to the roots of the music with Osborne, then wrapped up with the reigning award winners of the IMBA, Dailey and Vincent. It just doesn't get much better than this!
Click Here for a slide show of photos taken at the festival on Sunday
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