Live from Jerusalem Ridge
I am here at Bill Monroe's old home place in Rosine, Kentucky, and let me tell you this place is hopping! Though I arrived several hours later than I'd planned to, I got here just in time to hear the evening sets by Ralph Stanley and David Davis. Life is good!
If you've never been to Jerusalem Ridge you honestly owe it to yourself to visit this place. Driving up the drive that winds off Highway 62 a whole bunch of memories started to drift into my mind. On the left coming up the road is the old house where Charlie Monroe once lived. I first visited it a bunch of years ago when friends of my former partner were living there. Their names were Rusty and Mary Margaret. I think it was the first time I came up here many years ago when Mary Margaret and Mike and I walked up here to Monroe's old homestead and looked around just about every nook and cranny here. How this place has changed and I can't help but shout how very proud Mr. Monroe would be to see this place with the old house fixed up so beautiful and a gigantic crowd assembled on every kind of lawn chair, stump, and even down in the dirt on the hillside that leaves up from the natural amphitheater where the big old wooden stage sits down there behind the House Where Bill Lived. Makes me smile just to think of it.
I was last here in 2005 and what a change! Back then there were plenty of folks here but let me tell you this time that the grounds are absolutely full of folks. I'm told there are 300 or 400 campers out there in the field and the entire amphitheater has been full of folks all day.
Dr. Ralph and the Clinch Mountain Boys with Danny Davis sitting in on rhythm guitar and vocals wowed a huge crowd this evening for over an hour. Ralph even picked up the banjo to clawhammer his usual medley and sang some favorites such as "Pretty Polly," "Little Maggie," and a bunch of others. Nathan got up and sang a gospel song he'd written as well as playing "Sandy Ridge," a mandolin tune he wrote a few years ago. Ralph gave everyone in the band a chance to shine and even told a joke or two. He seemed to be in good spirits. As I told you the other day, it's a rare occasion to be at a festival where Ralph is appearing two consecutive days. He doesn't even do that at Bean Blossom anymore....so here's an opportunity to "Got Ralph?".....so where are you? If you're reading this you probably aren't here.
After Ralph's wonderful set, David Davis and the Warrior River Boys did a fine set. Owen was in even deeper voice than ever (and that's deep) and David sang several new favorites from his latest album. A real class act! David did "In the Pines," always a favorite, and it seemed so right to here on a beautiful September night under a full harvest moon up here on Jerusalem Ridge listen to one of my favorite Monroe-style mandolin players up there singing "In the Pines" and playing his wonderful mandolin. It was powerful. A few songs later, David gave a big intro to one of my favorites, the "Evening Prayer Blues," that DeFord Bailey used to play on the Opry.....I've heard that tune played a bunch by a lot of different folks but have never heard it played any better than it was tonight by Mr. David Davis, right here on the ground where Monroe used to play as a boy. What a fitting way to close out his set!
Tonight after dark I was driving east through Kentucky on Route 62 from Beaver Dam toward Rosine under a big orangey round moon searching for the little road that winds up the hill to Monroe's place. Ah, there it is....moments later I was walking down the hill grinning from ear to ear as I saw Ralph take the stage. It's a beautiful big stage here, down at the bottom of the hill with folks ranging all across the hill above looking down onto the stage that's adorned with a full-scale harvest theme....I'll try to describe it better tomorrow, after I can see it in the daylight! There are good bright stage lights and the crew from RFD TV are hard at work documenting this fine festival.
"There is something about this experience here that is noticeably different here than at any festival I go to. It's different and it's cool; positive; it's working! I see that as I walk around here" so says David Davis as he sits here to my right talking with Campbell Mercer who started this festival. David is talking about RFD TV and how it has drawn a whole lot of new fans to bluegrass. There are folks here at this festival that have never been to a bluegrass festival before. They have come here because they heard about it on RFD TV. "It just thrills me to see a crowd this big here on Thursday" says Davis.
If you're anywhere within driving distance (hey, I drove 300 miles to get here) get yourselves down here tomorrow. The must starts at 9 am and runs till 11 pm tomorrow night. The weather forecast is great- so come on down and join us