Long Hot Summer Days

This seemed like an appropriate tune to feature on a weekend when the temperatures have approached 100 degrees, and the heat index is off the charts.

I’ve loved Sara Watkins’ version of this John Hartford tune since she released it on a solo album.  Here she plays it with her old band mates from Nickel Creek.

Sara Watkins

Sara Watkins at Red Wing Roots Festival 2015

If you want to hear Sara play this by herself, with a little Hartford-like foot-tapping rhythm thrown in, take a look here.

Enjoy…and stay cool.

More to come…


Red Wing Roots Music Festival 2016 (Or “Thank God for Sierra Hull”)

Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull at Red Wing Roots Music Festival – July 8, 2016

Everybody experiences growing pains.  Even music festivals.

2016 was the fourth year for the Red Wings Roots Music Festival held in the beautiful Natural Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, Virginia.  Hosted by the Steel Wheels, this regional Americana and roots music gathering in the Shenandoah Valley has been eclectic from the beginning, and not all the musical acts have been of the same quality.  But the festival had maintained a nice balance between audiences that were there to party and have a good time and for those who came to listen to some of the country’s best acoustic musicians. (Chris Thile, Sam Bush, I’m With Her, Tim O’Brien, Jon Jorgenson, Claire Lynch, Sarah Jarosz, Del McCoury, and Darrell Scott all showed up over the first three years.)

But with the ominous warning on the front page of this year’s festival guide that there would be more “plugged in and turned up” bands, a shift was clearly underway.  Friday’s lineup confirmed that approach…and the balance between the different audience shifted.  Not for the better.

I can take electric guitars and drums with my roots music, but the result better be worth it.  We arrived on Friday in time to catch the end of what appeared to be an energetic set from Front Country, with spirited vocals from Melody Walker.  Our real goal was to hear the full set of mandolin phenom turned thoughtful adult musician Sierra Hull.

Sierra Hull at Red Wing 2016

Sierra Hull with Justin Moses at Red Wing 2016

I’ve heard Hull play over the years at Merlefest, beginning in her mid-teens, and she always had the chops to play amazing bluegrass and traditional music. She was the first bluegrass musician to win a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music.  Her first album post-Berklee hinted at some new directions, but it wasn’t until the recently released Weighted Mind (produced by Bela Fleck) that she came into her own and broke away from the “I can play incredibly fast and clean bluegrass” camp.

At Red Wing on Friday, she and bassist Ethan Jodziewicz (recommended by no less a talent than Edgar Meyer) displayed her stripped down music, often featuring just the mandolin or octave mandolin and bass in songs and tunes both beautiful and complex.  The duo was expanded on about a third of the set to include dobro and banjo player Justin Moses, which allowed Hull to showcase more of her traditional chops (on the tune “Bombshell” for instance, which closed out the set).  Her “Black River” video is a great example of the direction of her new work.

Hull’s 75 minute set was the highlight on Friday, which was otherwise filled with forgettable music (with the exception of Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens).  The biggest disappointment was The Steep Canyon Rangers, who have left their smartly crafted bluegrass songs to become a noisy party jam band.  Too loud, too much smoke, too many flashing lights, too much dancing around the stage by the fiddle player.  Please.

So expectations were low for Saturday.  Thankfully, the musicians more than beat that low bar.

Don Flemons

Don Flemons at Red Wing 2016

First up was Don Flemons.  A founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons was the consummate old-time entertainer in the style of Uncle Dave Macon and other pre-WWII acts.  His work digs…

…deeply into ragtime, Piedmont blues, spirituals, southern folk music, string band music, jug band music, fife and drum music, and ballads idioms with showmanship and humor, reinterpreting the music to suit 21st century audiences.

He had the crowd in the palm of his hand after the first song and never let up.

Don Flemons at Red Wing 2016

Don Flemons wows the crowd with his brand of old-time music

So that was a satisfying start to what ended up being a very nice day of music.

The next true revelation was Mipso, a North Carolina tradition-based band that writes and sings very smart songs with contemporary themes.  Mipso’s four members – Jacob Sharp (mandolin), Joseph Terrell (guitar), Wood Robinson (bass), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle) – sing beautiful harmonies around intricate tunes and rhythms.

Mipso 2016

Mipso at Red Wing 2016

In both theme and temperament, the (band’s recent) album finds an interplay between the sunrise and the twilight – a tug-of-war that’s itself an old-time tradition. From “Eliza,” a lively waltz-time romp, to “Bad Penny,” a surrealist dream sequence with an Abe Lincoln cameo, the album revels in the seesaw spectrum of experience and memory, where technicolor carnival hues blend with grown-up sadness and the whispers of ghosts. Mipso’s color palette, like its soundscape, is radically inclusive.

“We come from a place where traditional music is a living, changing thing,” fiddle player Libby Rodenbough said. “So we feel like having an ear for all kinds of stuff is not only true to ourselves, it’s a nod to the tradition.”

Take a listen to “Bad Penny” and you’ll get a feel for the dark Southern Americana where this band – playing music that sounds like the 1920s and 1930s but with themes as relevant as today’s headlines – resides.  (And to keep the surreal vibe going, it is recorded in a Colorado canibas factory.)



Chris Smither

Chris Smither


Tony Furtado

Tony Furtado at Red Wing 2016

The rest of the day’s music continued at this high level.  Chris Smither combined wonderful fingerstyle guitar with well-written songs (and a beautiful cover of “Sitting on Top of the World”).  Multi-instrumentalist Tony Furtado – supported by mandolinist extraordinaire Matt Flinner – had the crowd in awe of his instrumental talents, especially on slide guitar.  And finally, the host for the festival – The Steel Wheels – put on their usual high energy show and added a few friends to the mix.

Hull and Moses

Sierra Hull and Justin Moses trade dobro and octave mandolin licks at Red Wing 2016

We headed out satisfied, thanks to Saturday’s wonderful music (and Sierra Hull’s beautiful set on Friday).  Let’s hope that for the 5th Red Wing Roots Festival next July, we’ll see fewer plugged in bands and more of the incredibly talented acoustic  musicians who have made this such a wonderful way to spend a summer weekend.

More to come…


Real Country

Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

There was one upside of being stuck in traffic – and then stuck in the car wash line – on a February day with 60+ degree weather. The Bluegrass Junction station on Sirius XM radio was featuring a live concert of The SteelDrivers – a band I highlighted in my Favorite Roots Music Albums of 2015 post last December.  (Oh yeah, it was also the winner of the “Best Bluegrass Album” in that other little year-end list – The Grammy’s.)

After playing “If it Hadn’t Been for Love” from their first project (the black album), fiddler Tammy Rogers mentioned that “some singer you might have heard of – named Adele” – had covered that song earlier this decade and featured it in her Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD.  I knew Andrew would love this.

So I returned home and told Andrew the story.  I mentioned that Chris Stapleton – who wrote and sang on the original SteelDrivers version – just won Country Album of the Year for both the CMA and Grammy’s, which gave me some faith in the ability of the country music industry to recognize real country when it bites them in the behind.

We listened to the Adele version, and laughed ourselves silly, over the introduction.  But hey, Adele is a great vocalist and this is a top-notch cover.

Then I played Andrew a song by Chris Stapleton off of his Traveller album, so he could hear what a great country voice sounds like.  Here’s the tune “Tennessee Whiskey” first made famous by David Allen Coe and especially George Jones.

I was saying something like, “Now that’s real country” when Andrew asked, “Have you heard the mash-up of six bro-country tunes that are all alike?”  No?  Really?  (Yes, I find out I’m the 6 millionth person to view this…but I am a bit slow.)

Anyway, if you want to know what’s wrong with most of what comes out of country radio, listen to this mashup of “Six nearly identical hit country songs” that were “separated at birth.”

Thank God for Chris Stapleton, The SteelDrivers…and Adele!

More to come…


Favorite Roots Music Albums of 2015

Muscle Shoals Recordings

The SteelDrivers: Muscle Shoals Recordings

I’m not going to pretend that this is a “best of” list for roots music in 2015.  With so many things thrown on my plate this year, I  haven’t had the time to sample as widely as I would like.  (Come to think of it, the last time I felt comfortable enough to publish a “best of list” was 2013!) But I’m very comfortable with a favorites list that just says, “Hey, I like these and I hope you will too.”

So with that caveat, let’s see what’s made the cut.

The SteelDrivers:  The Muscle Shoals Recordings – I’ve loved this Nashville-based bluegrass band for years, even as they have moved through personnel changes that included their lead singer and main songwriter.  (More on that later.)  The Muscle Shoals Recordings is really the first album where Gary Nichols stepped out on his own as the lead voice for The SteelDrivers – no longer in Chris Stapelton’s shadow.

Singer-songwriter Peter Cooper describes it this way:

Right there, at two minutes and ten seconds into the first song, “Long Way Down.” The part where Gary Nichols sings, “Girl, we both know where your soul is bound.” Only he bleeds it as much as he sings it. He sounds murderous, maniacal. Her soul is bound for nothing skyward, for nothing heavenly. And he’s fine with that.

Richard Bailey’s banjo plays funky, little Kentucky-goes-to-Memphis rolls. Tammy Rogers’ fiddle soars. Brent Truitt’s mandolin chops time, and Mike Fleming’s bass pounds the downbeat. And all that is righteous and right-on. Elevated, even. But Nichols—he lets loose something the opposite of righteousness. It’s a howl, full of hurt and anger and life. Starts on the highest E note that 99.9% of male singers can hit, then ascends into a sweet falsetto, and then opens up like the gates of Hell, into a reeling screech.

“That made me dizzy for a second,” Nichols says, remembering the moment he sang the line. “Really, I almost passed out. There are certain lines in SteelDrivers songs that require a little bit of Wilson Pickett.”

As you can see, The SteelDrivers aren’t your normal bluegrass band.  While the instruments are bluegrass staples – played by some of Nashville’s best players – there is no “high lonesome” sound here.

Besides “Long Way Down,” there are other fine offerings on The Muscle Shoals Recordings.  “Drinkin’ Alone” fits in the catalog of great SteelDriver drinking songs.  “Here She Goes” is a heartfelt song about divorce.  “California Chainsaw” allows the band to show off their considerable instrumental chops.

This is a fine project, through and through.  Give it a listen.


Watkins Family Hour

Watkins Family Hour

Watkins Family HourSean and Sarah Watkins are well-known as the brother and sister founding members of Nickel Creek with mandolin phenom Chris Thile.  They are less well-known for their monthly show in Los Angles where they invite friends to join them in a wide-ranging exploration of American music. A friend who has seen that show calls it magical.

For those of us who can’t get to LA on a regular basis, the Watkins have given us the next best thing, with the release of 2015’s Watkins Family Hour. 

All the songs on the album are covers, and the incredible musicians play them at the high level you’d expect.  But that description really doesn’t do this project justice.  Everyone showcases their talent in ways both expected and surprising.

In the latter category, check out Sara Watkins’ vocal on Hop High.  You won’t hear anything like that vocal range on a Nickel Creek album. The range of musical styles includes country (“Where I Ought to Be”), folk (“Early Morning Rain”), New Orleans-style blues (“Prescription for the Blues”) and more.  Recommended.

Sara Watkins

Sara Watkins at Red Wing Roots Festival 2015


Happy Prisoner

Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions by Robert Earl Keen

Happy Prisoner:  The Bluegrass Sessions by Robert Earl Keen.  If this was a “best of” list for 2015, I probably wouldn’t include this set of 15 bluegrass standards by Texas singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen.  But there’s enough on this valentine to the music that fits Keen’s free-wheeling style and sensibilities to ensure that it can easily make a “favorites” list.

The album begins with one of my favorite Flatt and Scruggs tunes, the silly “Hot Corn, Cold Corn.”  The duets with Lyle Lovett and Natalie Maines – especially “Wayfaring Stranger” – are terrific.  In addition to his regular band, Keen brings in banjo-picker extraordinaire Danny Barnes and fiddler Sara Watkins to fill out the sound.  When Keen sings “99 Years for One Dark Day,” his boozy voice is a perfect fit for the tune.

This is a heartfelt romp through some of the greats of the bluegrass repertoire, and I always get a lift when one of the tunes comes up on the playlist.  What more can you hope for in a favorites list.

Robert Earl Keen, July 10, 2015

Robert Earl Keen performs at Red Wing III


Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn – I realize that this album was released in the fall of 2014, but I didn’t buy it until earlier this year…and it is my blog so I can list any thing I want!

This is a wonderful album from two musicians who have taken the banjo down wildly divergent paths.  Fleck, known for his incredibly complex jazz-influenced improvisational flights, connects on so many levels with his wife and musical partner Washburn, who is best known for her beautiful, simple playing and singing that draws from folk and world music traditions.

The reworking of the traditional “Railroad” (as in, “I’ve been working on…”) opens the project on a high note which continues all the way through to “Bye Bye Baby Blues.”  There are so many gems here, that I could just go down the set list.  “What’cha Gonna Do,” “Pretty Polly,” “And Am I Born to Die,” and “Banjo Banjo” are personal favorites.

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck, performing at Merlefest, 2012

There are so many good online videos of Bela and Abigail playing together that it was hard to choose just one.  (I especially hated to drop the version of “Banjo Pickin’ Girl” they did to support public transportation in Nashville.) But their “Shotgun Blues” demonstrates the percussive and melodic tones that come from these two banjo masters.  Enjoy!


Pokey LaFarge - Something in the Water

Pokey LaFarge – Something in the Water

Pokey LaFarge – Something in the Water – For something completely different, I encourage you to give Pokey LaFarge a listen.  This is his Rounder Records debut, although he’s been touring and recording for a decade.  LaFarge is a witty and gifted songwriter, and his live shows are infectious.

This 2015 project expands on his previous work and includes not only his regular combo, but members of various groups including NRBQ, the Fat Babies, the Modern Sounds, and the Western Elstons.  But as he notes on his website, the sound remains “Midwestern.”

The Midwest is at the heart of this record,” LaFarge asserts.  “The people playing on these songs are from Wisconsin and Illinois and Chicago and St. Louis, and there’s a certain attitude that comes across in the songs and the way that they’re performed.  I’m born and raised in the Midwest, and my family’s been here for generations.  This is where I’m from and how I think, and that’s reflected in the music I make. 

The title track gets the joint jumping, about his girl “who does her makeup and hair, to cook fried chicken in her underwear.”  “Wanna Be Your Man” has a New Orleans ragtime feel, while “Underground” has a distinctive Pokey perspective on the end of the world.  The whole thing wraps up with the infectious “Knockin’ the Dust Off The Rust Belt Tonight.”

Pokey LaFarge at Red Wing 07 11 14

Pokey LaFarge at Red Wing II

Makes me want to drive to St. Louis for his New Year’s Eve Show!


And now…a bonus selection!

Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Chris Stapleton –  Traveller – I’m not sure how an album that was named Country Music Album of the Year counts as roots music these days…but when that record is from one of the best pure country voices to come along in years singing incredible music, it just does.  Trust me.

Stapleton was the founding lead singer and primary songwriter for The SteelDrivers from 2008-2010, adding a new take on bluegrass that has helped reinvigorate the genre.  He also spent the past few years writing hits for country stars all over Nashville.  Finally, he went into historic Studio A (God, am I glad we were able to help the community save that place!) and recorded his “debut” album.  Which promptly won him awards as Best Male Vocalist and New Artist of the Year, in addition to the CMA Album of the Year award.

Every song on here is terrific.  If you want a sample, go to You Tube, type in Stapleton’s name, and spend the evening listening to him sing.  To my mind, the album’s best song is “Fire Away.”  Just listen to that voice and guitar.  Oh my…


I hope you found something new to explore and enjoy.  Here’s to a musical 2016.

More to come…


Beer and Bluegrass

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen

Beer and bluegrass.  Betcha never thought of that combination before.

Yeah, right.

At a festival that took “parking lot picking” to its logical conclusion (i.e., it was held in a parking lot next to the Clarendon Courthouse Metro Station), Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen rode to the rescue when the organizers of the Clarendon Arts & Crafts Beer Festival’s Acoustic Music tent were struggling with a bad sound system and horrible logistics (the sets were almost an hour late in starting). When the Dirty Kitchen band finally began their set  in the tent’s lengthening shadows, we were only ten minutes away from the festival’s posted closing hour.

Somehow, with six Virginia Craft Brewers and about a dozen local food trucks to choose from, it didn’t seem to matter!

Christie LeneeThe artist who was really shortchanged in the logistical and sound mess was Christie Lenee.

This finger-style guitar tapper was new to me, but she has obviously been making waves in the acoustic music world for a while. Her inventive sound reminded me of Michael Hedges, but she clearly has taken a range of influences and made them her own.

She began with the beautiful Breath of Spring from a new all-instrumental CD entitled Chasing Infinity.  Four tunes later, she had to call it a night to make way for the headliners.  It was much too short, but enough to whet the appetite for more.

Take the time to listen to her studio version of Breath of Spring:

After Lenee’s too-brief set, mandolinist Solivan and his band – fresh from winning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Band of the Year award – tore into those bluegrass standards The Letter and Ain’t No Sunshine. Banjoist Mike Mumford’s Line Drive gave him room to stretch out, and the entire band showed their considerable chops on a tune I requested of Frank before the show – Tony Rice’s Is That So. Chris Luquette on guitar led the way, followed by Solivan on fiddle, Mumford on banjo, and Danny Booth on bass.  Dirty Kitchen didn’t hit too many songs from the new album Cold Spell, but they did showcase She Said She Will. The band played their full hour set and may have kept going, except that the cops were shutting us down.

At the end of the evening, it was a satisfying festival and a very satisfying show by FS&DK.  We’ll go out with the video of She Said She Will (and don’t try and say that three times fast, as WAMU’s Katy Daley finds out at the front of the clip).


More to come…


Congratulations 2014 International Bluegrass Award Winners

Dear Sister It took 10 months, but the 2014 International Bluegrass Awards caught up with my Best of Bluegrass 2013 post from December. Turns out, my picks were prescient.

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards were presented on Thursday evening in Raleigh, NC.  Three of my five choices from the end of the year were winners at the IBMA showcase.

Let’s begin with congratulations to Claire Lynch for winning the “Song of the Year” award for Dear Sister.  I recognized this as a special song back in 2012, and have loved this tale taken from letters written before the Civil War Battle of Stones River in my hometown of Murfreesboro. Claire co-wrote this lovely tune with Louisa Branscomb. It is one of her best ever, and highly deserving of the award.

Claire Lynch with DJB

Thursday was a big night for banjo phenom Noam Pikelny. His Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe – one of my picks in December – won Album of the Year at IBMA. This is not just a terrific concept album, it is a terrific album period. Fantastic music from a group of amazing musicians.

Noam Pikelney

Pikelny also took home a second IBMA award – Banjo Player of the Year – which is only fitting for a banjo master who takes a classic fiddler album and makes it his own.

Frank Solivan and Chris Luquette

Another pick from my Best of Bluegrass 2013 post – Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen – took away IBMA Honors as Instrumental Group of the Year. I wrote about their handling of the Tony Rice instrumental Is That So earlier this year, which convinced me they could tackle just about anything. Congratulations to this DC-area band, which is playing in Arlington on October 12th.

John Starling and Tom GrayFinally, I also want to congratulate bass player extraordinaire and my friend Tom Gray, who was inducted – for the second time – into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame this time as a member of the original Seldom Scene.

The three surviving members – Tom, John Starling, and Ben Eldridge – were honored in Raleigh and then joined the current band to play Wait a Minute.  When I spoke with Tom’s daughter Julie this morning at the Silver Spring Farmers Market, it was clear she was so proud of her dad.

She should be…what a wonderful musician and gentleman.

So there you have it.  A wrap-up to a great year of music. There were many other terrific award winners you should check out, but I especially want to congratulate Tom, Claire, and those musicians who have touched me for years.

Let’s go out with the Claire Lynch Band performing the beautiful Dear Sister at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, here in the nation’s capitol.  Well worth a listen.

More to come…




An Amazing Day of Music at Red Wing

Sarah Jarosz at Red Wing 07 12 14Saturday at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival was one of those days when the music starts off great and then – when you think it can’t possibly be sustained – it keeps getting better.  (The last day that rivaled this one at a festival was day two of Merlefest 25.  It is interesting to note that the Steel Wheels were involved with both!)

Duets were the order of the day in the early afternoon at Red Wing II, beginning with Bernice and Bryan Hembree playing as Smokey & The Mirror.  He writes great songs (St. Alban’s Day, Will and Woody) while she has a powerful and beautiful voice (showcased on a cover of Dylan’s Buckets of Rain).  They were the first out of the chute today, and the Hembrees set a high bar.

Mandolin Orange – an acoustic duo featuring Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz – were up next and played a beautiful set that we caught while eating lunch (and Kline’s ice cream!).  With just a guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, they crafted songs that were  simple yet compelling.  At the end of this post, I’ve included a beautiful video from FreshGrass at MassMOCA with Mandolin Orange playing Hey Adam.

This year the Red Wing folks figured out how to stage their shows where it was possible to walk back and forth between two stages and hear all the major acts with no interruptions.  So up next was another duo, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper.  I met Eric a few years ago when his band – Last Train Home – played at the National Trust conference in Nashville.  And when we caught up later in the day, I was able to tell him what a terrific job he and Peter Cooper did in the blazing afternoon sun.  Cooper has my dream job – professor of country music at Vanderbilt – but he’s a pretty good songwriter and musician in his own right.  Both Brace and Cooper had strong originals in their show, but the first highlight of their set was a beautiful cover of Herb Pedersen’s Wait a Minute, which Brace dedicated to the late Mike Auldridge.

The Stray Birds at Red Wing 07 12 14The duos gave ways to a trio as The Stray Birds followed Brace & Cooper.  I called out The Stray Birds as a band to watch in my Best of Bluegrass 2013 post, so I was eagerly awaiting their set at Red Wing.  They didn’t disappoint, with a wonderful hour of soulful country singing. Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven, along with Charles Muench on bass, sing and play songs that sound as old as the hills, but with an understanding that seems impossible given their relative youth.  Craven contributed an original (Come Back Today So I Can Sleep Tonight) and their version of Blue Yodel No. 7 is sublime.

Maya de Vitry at Red Wing 07 12 14

The only bluegrass band (of sorts) on the bill on Saturday followed, as The Brothers Comatose from San Francisco took the main stage for an energetic and satisfying set. Two brothers – Alex and Ben Morrison – front the group, which included a terrific fiddle player named Philip Brezina.

Tim O'Brien at Red Wing 07 12 14

At this point in the afternoon, I joined my friends Oakley and Kay at Tim O’Brien‘s songwriter showcase.  He began with his well known hit for the Dixie Chicks, More Love, and then worked his way through songs he’d written (a recent one about the Charleston, WV, chemical spill) and those of others he admired (Mick Ryan’s Lament). The hour zipped by.

Red Wing Festival Sarah Jarosz 07 12 14

The incredibly talented Sarah Jarosz (photos at the top of post and above) then took over the main stage. Playing a beautiful octave mandolin for much of the set, she displayed impressive songwriting, singing, and instrumental chops (the latter featured on mandolin during the instrumental Old Smitty).  Alongside a cello and fiddle, this roots chamber music recalled everyone from Norman and Nancy Blake to Crooked Still and much more.  Check out the video of Build Me Up From Bones.

It would take two old pros like Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott to follow Jarosz without feeling intimidated by the youthful prodigy. And these two incredible instrumentalists, songwriters, and singers put together a hell of a show.  I can’t recall the last time I stood for an hour to listen to music and felt like the time rushed by.  That happened today.

O'Brien and Scott 07 12 14

Darrell Scott 07 12 14

I’ve heard With a Memory Like Mine on multiple occasions, but Darrell’s gripping tale of a father meeting his soldier son returning from war – written with his father Wayne Scott – was especially powerful this afternoon.  Likewise, these guys ripped through Long Time Gone and traded licks until you figured they had to have used them all up…then they had some more.  O’Brien’s Not Afraid O’ Dyin’ led to some on-the-spot arranging, as Tim called out chords for Darrell in a bit of an improvised interlude stuck in the middle of the tune.  Seeing Scott play guitar up close – and hear him sound like an orchestra on just six strings – was a revelation.  It was an unbelievable set, that they closed with the gospel tune House of Gold.

Then finally, it was time for our hosts for the weekend.

Steel Wheels 07 12 14

The meadow in front of the main stage was full-to-overflowing for The Steel Wheels – hosts of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival II.  The set was largely familiar, but that’s just what the friends, family, and fans had come to hear.  Trent Wagler has one of the most distinctive voices in Americana and roots music, and he was supported by the tight and talented Steel Wheels.  Rain in the Valley ended a 70 minute set that closed out all too soon for most at the festival.

With a drive home set for early tomorrow morning, we took off knowing that whatever followed, we had heard an amazing day of music in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Thanks Steel Wheels for a second great year.  May there be many more to come.

Let’s end with two beautiful videos – Mandolin Orange and Sarah Jarosz.  Enjoy!

More to come…