All posts tagged: Merlefest

Doc Watson, R.I.P.

Doc Watson, who passed away today at age 89, was among the most authentic, talented, and influential musicians to emerge from the 60s folk music revival. He was also the reason I play guitar, attempting to flatpick fiddle tunes or pick out a lead note or two on traditional bluegrass and country songs. Of course, I have to get in line behind tens of thousands — if not more — guitarists who would make the same claim. So read the New York Times story I’ve linked at the top of the post if you are looking for Doc’s history, background, and influence.  This is a personal post. I was in high school in the early 70s, learning to play guitar and noodling around with music by singer songwriters and their ilk.  Then one day I brought home this funny looking album — Will the Circle Be Unbroken — and my life was changed forever. Here’s how I described that moment in a More to Come… post in 2009: “In fact, I suspect that the first …

Remembering Merlefest 2012

A week ago I was sitting under the North Carolina moon listening to Sam Bush, Derek Trucks, and a host of talented musicians at the 25th anniversary of the Americana music festival Merlefest. Today was back to reality.  At 6:30 this morning I posted the following status on my Facebook page: What kind of airline doesn’t know where their planes are? Waiting at a United gate for a flight to Chicago that was to leave 10 minutes ago. The gate agents say a plane is being towed from the hangar. I just heard the pilot calling someone asking, “Can you tell me where our plane is? The gate agents don’t seem to know.” Welcome to the Third World. I made my meetings in Chicago (in spite of the plane in hiding) and came back to DC without incident, but tonight seemed to be a very good time to breathe deeply, take it easy, and reflect on Merlefest 2012. This year was my fifth Merlefest, and it was – by a good measure – the best …

Oh Happy Day! – Merlefest 25 Wraps Up

Sunday is “Go to Meeting” day in the South, so it figures that the final day at Merlefest has a heavy gospel flavor. But because it is Merlefest – and therefore eclectic – you have your choice of shape-note singing, bluegrass gospel, Sunday blues (which should appeal to the non-believers and sinners alike), and black gospel. I opted for the black gospel sound this year, mostly by default.  (Not surprisingly, I was “late” for church because I slept in after a night of the blues with the Tedeschi Trucks Band.) But the Lord moves in mysterious ways.  And with the Benedict College Gospel Choir (photo at top of post) the Lord definitely moves! By the time I arrived, the choir had an enthusiastic crowd at the Watson Stage swaying and singing to that gospel standard Oh Happy Day!  There was testifying by some of the best voices of the weekend (and that’s saying a lot).  It was the perfect way to kick off Day Four – the final day – of Merlefest 25. The only …

All Ages Welcome – Merlefest 25

Merlefest has a multi-generational flavor built into its DNA that was on full display Saturday. The festival’s patriarch, Doc Watson (top of post), took his turn at age 89 on the main stage that bears his name and that of his late son Merle for an hour-long love-fest by musical friends who have played with him since the 1970s.  As soon as the last chorus of Will the Circle Be Unbroken rang out, the Snyder Family Band – featuring 16-year-old Zeb Snyder playing some amazing flatpicked guitar along with his 13-year-old fiddle playing sister Samantha – took over on the cabin stage to showcase that roots music is in good hands with the new generation.  It was like that all day. I was dragging when I arrived on Saturday morning, but found a pick-me-up that’s better than coffee:  Jeffrey Broussard & The Creole Cowboys. Playing the pumping accordion that’s the heart and soul of Creole music, Broussard and the Cowboys rocked out on traditional Zydeco tunes such as Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You (described …

Back to the Future(man) – How Are We Going to Top Merlefest Day Two?

At 12:30 on Friday afternoon, I thought I had seen the best show I was likely to catch on Day Two of Merlefest. Well, when I’m wrong, I’m really wrong! And I’m here to be the first to admit it. The day started strong.  As I expected, The Steel Wheels had a huge crowd on hand at the Americana stage for their morning set, and they didn’t disappoint.  The Shenandoah Valley band – at both this set and a later gig at the Creekside Stage – played to large and enthusiastic crowds.  I heard more than one person turn to their friend/partner/spouse and say, “These guys were incredible last night.” Spider Wings (“When you got too much, you don’t got anything”…or something like that) was my favorite, but they had so many good tunes coming out of them all day long it was hard to pick out just one.  Lead singer Trent Wagler’s piece about his grandfather’s response to Alzheimer’s – entitled Can’t Take That Music From Me – was lovely. The juggling of schedules …

Merlefest at 25 – Gifts in Small Packages

Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages.  That’s how it felt for me on the opening evening of the 25th anniversary of Merlefest – the Americana music festival tucked away in the hills of North Carolina. Opening day at Merlefest is the easiest to navigate, because virtually all the music is centered around the main “Watson Stage” – named for the blind guitarist Doc Watson from nearby Deep Gap and his late son and musical partner Merle.  (It was Merle’s tragic passing on October 23, 1985 that led to the first festival twenty-five years ago in 1988.)  Juggling between the 14 venues and making tough decisions about which acts to see and which acts to miss only happens later in the weekend. So I arrived after my drive from Silver Spring in time to catch the first of the main acts on the Watson Stage – The Boxcars. Coming together after stints with Alison Krauss + Union Station, J.D. Crowe, and Blue Moon, this is a “new” band with a lot of experience.  Even …

Different Views of Merlefest

MerleFest is so big, with 14 active stages over four days, that perspectives on the festival can differ widely.  Two regular bluegrass bloggers have posted entertaining and informative stories about their MerleFest experiences in 2009 that I encourage you to check out. When I started More to Come…one of the first posts was about a show of the Lovell Sisters, and one of my first comments came from Dr. Tom Bibey.  Since then I’ve regularly checked out his Stories of the Bluegrass Road blog, and was pleased to see that he was posting from MerleFest.  This was the first year out of my four at MerleFest that I missed Mandomania, so I was glad to read Dr. Bibey’s update on this annual tradition:  the Creekside Stage filled with mandolin players all supported by one guitarist.  Check out Stories of the Bluegrass Road for a good read. The most extensive reporting on MerleFest I’ve come across is from the alliterative Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms blog.  As you’d expect from a retired English teacher, Lehmann’s blog …