Month: April 2009

Catch Some Acoustic Music during May in Washington

The Washington, DC area will be host to some terrific acoustic music acts during the month of May, ending with a stellar lineup at DelFest over the Memorial Day weekend.  With the coming of beautiful spring weather, this is a perfect time to hear some live music. Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of the Monday Night Concerts of the Institute of Musical Traditions.  The 2008-2009 season wraps up in May, but not before a May 4th concert in celebration of Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday (I bet they’ll be some righteous sing-alongs) and the final DC-area concert of the Canadian band Tanglefoot on May 11th.   According to the IMT website, Tanglefoot is “Stan Rogers meets Van Halen.” For some straight-ahead traditional bluegrass, check out the DC Bluegrass Union’s Spring Concert on May 9th with Dan Paisley & Southern Grass. Then over the Memorial Day weekend, all bluegrass lovers in the Mid-Atlantic region will be heading to Cumberland, Maryland, for the second annual DelFest, hosted by the Del McCoury Band.  There’s a stellar line-up, including Old Crow …

Compass Records Artists Shine at MerleFest

I know that when I travel to MerleFest, I’d better take along some spending money for CDs.  The MerleFest Mall includes what I’ve heard described as “the world’s best Americana music store” and I wouldn’t disagree. This year’s store was sponsored by Compass Records, which was appropriate since so many of their artists were playing at the festival.  Compass is a label that over the past 10-12 years has grown to be one of the best in Americana and roots music.  Their website tells the background story: Co-founded in 1994 by musicians Alison Brown and Garry West, Compass is a new breed of roots-music label: eclectic, sophisticated, and artist-friendly. Called “one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade” by Billboard Magazine, Compass Records has provided a thriving haven of creativity for artists and a reliable beacon of quality for music fans. Its 2006 acquisition of the Green Linnet catalog and the 2008 acquisition of the seminal Mulligan Records label has made Compass the place to go for Celtic and roots music. Brown is …

MerleFest Day 4

I’ve now arrived home and cut off my MerleFest wristband…so it is officially over.  (I’m sure the organizers are glad to know that’s what it takes.) Sunday at MerleFest is a short day, ending at 6 p.m.  If you live 7 hours away, as I do, it ends even earlier unless you want to get home at 1 a.m. Nonetheless, there were some good final day acts that I was able to work in before the heat and the prospect of the drive drove me out the front gate and headed north. I arrived a little later than planned (must have been that early morning post), so I skipped Doc and the Nashville Bluegrass Band’s traditional gospel show and caught up with the Dixie Bee-Liners at the Hillside stage.  I’d seen them the day before as part of the New Generation Super Jam and wanted to see a full show.  They had a very entertaining set, with strong harmonies and interesting arrangements.   They are worth a look if they are traveling to your town. Afterwards, …

Bright Morning Stars

Every day at breakfast before heading off to MerleFest, I’ve sat down and planned how I’m going to negotiate the day and the 14 stages.  This morning I had penciled in some old favorites, but when I arrived at the festival site I had a change of heart and decided to spend my morning listening to new bands.  You could call them the bright morning stars of the Americana music world. Saturday is the longest day of the festival, so I’m just back into my hotel room after midnight and have downloaded my pictures.  Rather than write a long, involved review, I’m just going to hit some of the highlights of the day for me: Hearing the young band Bearfoot from Alaska.  They sing beautifully and write interesting songs such as Drank Up All the Whiskey and Good in the Kitchen.  Angela Oudean is a promising young fiddler and Odessa Jorgensen is a fine songwriter and singer. I love the energy of the New Generation Super Jam on the Watson (main) stage.  The SteelDrivers played great straight-ahead …

New Wave and Old Standards Shine at Merlefest

Merlefest Day 2 began bright and early for me this morning, with a rousing performance at the Americana Stage by the DC-based band Scythian. I caught the irony of having a band fronted by two Ukrainian brothers opening up the Americana stage, but that’s the joy of Merlefest and hey, it is a post-Obama election world. Then came the first great surprise of the morning. I went to the Traditional Stage to hear the New North Carolina Ramblers, but walked in to a packed tent listening in rapt attention to 86-year-old festival patriarch Doc Watson playing a set with old time banjo wizard David Holt.  (It turns out the Ramblers were double-booked and so Doc and Holt were on-call.  And when I say packed, I mean packed.  The picture below was taken from the side because the front was crammed with kids and grandparents alike.)  Doc was in fine form, playing guitar and singing with lots of strength and emotion. Fiddle tunes (Whiskey Before Breakfast paired with Ragtime Annie) were interspersed with Travis-style picking (Deep River Blues) and even …

Jerry Douglas, Travis Tritt, and the Fretboard Journal Cap First Day of Merlefest 2009

With just a Dobro, acoustic guitar, and one great country blues voice, Jerry Douglas and Travis Tritt filled the North Carolina night with terrific music at the end of Day One of Merlefest 2009. I left this morning and drove to Wilkesboro on a picture perfect spring day.  The Shenandoah was beautiful as I drove up the valley: red-buds were everywhere, and the hardwoods were just beginning to green.  Just another reason I treasure my 15 years in Staunton and go back as often as possible. I arrived at the Wilkes Community College campus – home to Merlefest – in time to catch most of the Lovell Sisters’ act.  I’ve written about the Lovell Sisters before, but they continue to grow as musicians and as a band, with more complex arrangements and beautiful harmony singing.   They ended with a tune by that well-known bluegrass composer Jimi Hendrix. Wayne Henderson followed on the Cabin Stage.  Wearing his Boston Red Sox hat (see photo at right) and finger-picking on a beautiful Henderson guitar, Wayne and his band-mates …

It Ain’t Over…

As I’ve written before, I love good baseball writing.  So I almost laughed out loud when reading the Baseball Prospectus’ It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over and came across this passage from a story about the 2003 National League Central pennant race between the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs: The Cub’s opponents going into the final four days were the Reds and Pirates, and the Astros had four games against the Brewers.  The top two teams in the NL Central would battle it out against the bottom three, and whoever beat up the eminently beatupable would advance. “Eminently beatupable.”  With language like that, you know exactly what he means. More to come… DJB