Day: April 24, 2009

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 …