Bean Blossom and Great Folks in Bluegrass (Part 2)
Friday I got to hear a bunch of new songs from Larry Cordle and don't those boys put on a great show? I don't get to hear the Mighty Chord enough. Booey Beach is about half the man he used to be...didn't get to find out his secret, but he asked me to take some pictures of his new svelte self and I was happy to oblige. Plenty of fine music on Friday but the Cordle show followed by the GREAT J.D. Crowe (ain't he just the coolest guy out there?) and his wonderful band (I just love his trios with Ricky Wasson and Dwight McCall, don't get no better than that, folks) left me and the crowd shouting for more! more! I'm not a big fan of the one long set approach that seems to be implemented these days at a lot of bluegrass festivals but I gotta say that BOTH extended J.D. Crowe & the New South (Fri and Sat nights) sets fit me just fine. It just thrills me to hear "Lefty's Old Guitar" and "In My Next Life," gee, I could go home thinking I got my money's worth just hearing those two, let alone the dozens of other songs they played. That Crowe bunch have got it ALL and a bunch to spare....I'll go hear them anywhere, anytime. On Friday Paul Williams came out and sang a few songs with the New South...top shelf, buddy.
Ralph II closed out the Friday night set and by the time he and his big band took the stage it was late, late, I think the latest night of the festival. Folks were shattered by the heat and humidity but a whole lot of them were stuck to their chairs to hear Two and Junior Blankenship and Dewey Brown and Danny Davis and Stanley ?? (18 year old on mandolin) and Steve Sparkman run through their paces - and then some. Man, I love Danny's singing...if ever anyone sounded like Ralph! Two always seems to do his best on his own shows and Friday night was no exception. Junior was up there laying down those Clinch Mountain gui-tar licks -- it looked as easy as blinking your eyes- laced with some Tony Rice-isms and Dewey, well, he's got to be the smilingest fiddler I've ever seen and the quintessential young southern gentleman who don't have to take a back seat to nobody on that little fiddle. Can I brag on him some more? He's one of those folks that is ALWAYS just as nice as the last time you got to see him. Two is one of the most charming guys in the business today, I think...he always takes the time to talk with his fans and is a super-genuine kind of guy.
On Saturday morning I was dragging a bit and didn't get down to the stage in time to hear Heather Berry. I'll admit I wasn't all that excited to hear yet another band fronted by some girl who was slapping her thighs and singing way high and screechy and not playing an instrument anyway. So wasn't I just floored when I heard her from the front porch of my cabin way up on the hill (the sound was LOUD up there all weekend) and found myself thinking I needed to be sure NOT to miss hearing her evening set....I really loved THAT voice; course from there I couldn't tell if she was picking or not! While I didn't actually make it up to the front row for her evening set, I sure heard her loud and clear from the top of the hill at the book table and I loved it -- not to mention the fact that the woman DOES pick - and she sings as close to an angel as you're gonna get on this earth. I'm thinking that one of these big labels needs to sign that girl. Now you listen to me, folks - if you're at IBMA, make sure you get out and check out her showcases. She loves the traditional music and she has such a lovely voice that is easy on the ears. And she is only a young'un. Weren't you braggin' on her, Bo? Check out Heather Berry folks!
Karl Shiflett always manages to put on a great show and this year was no exception. Karl and his band were at the park all week driving elongated golf carts and shuttling folks to their cars and campsites, doing workshops, sitting in on jam sessions back in the woods and generally just being a big part of the festivities. You know you've been smiled at when Karl turns that big ole grin on you. Chris Hill added a little extra entertainment to the already jam-packed barrel of laughs along with his "GQ Wardrobe" (how long does it take that man to primp for a show?) and Karl took up old Jake Jenkins tradition of the Mrs. Pott's Pit story and had us all in stitches (if you haven't heard it, ask him to do it the next set you hear).
Now I had a big time backstage listening to the antics of the Cherryholmes kids. Gee they have grown, don't know why that always comes as a shock to me, but it does! BJ went and got a tattoo since he turned 18 and the tattoos in that family seem to be reproducing at an alarming rate (even Sandy has at least a couple) but they consistently put on a good, entertaining show. For me the star of it all is young Molly Kate who has discovered LIPstick with a capital L and is growing into quite the fetching young lady (not to mention KILLER fiddler).
I didn't get to hear much of Ralph's show later in the evening but I got a chance to visit with him for awhile and catch up on all his news; he even offered me some of his lemonade and some dinner. Ralph was one of my first friends in bluegrass music and I cherish that friendship - along with his incomparable singing - very much. He was remembering how I came to bluegrass back in 1982 and urged me to tell his grandson the story of how I heard Ralph sing at a festival and went home and quit my day job and took to the bluegrass road for several months just to learn more about this great music - all because I loved the Stanley Sound so much! The music of Ralph Stanley changes lives! Ralph was in good spirits and seemed to be feeling well and even clawhammered a bit before concluding his show to the great delight of his many fans.
Now one of these posts I need to get to the part about why I'm so proud of bluegrass folks -- they are good, good people.