Bluegrass First Class 2009
I’ve been around bluegrass a while. At BGFC everyone gets a name tag. When I checked in to the show mine read, ‘Dr. B,’ and that was it. No full name needed for old Doc.
The first band we saw was the Snyder family. They are mere children, but these kids could play. There is a reason Jethro Burns said never follow small children or dancing animals. It is a bit embarrassing for them to be so young and that good, but I was proud for them. I found out we are on on a show with them in the fall. It will be good to see them again, but I hope we don’t have to follow them.
The Grascals might be the most entertaining band in bluegrass. They got their start as Dolly Parton’s band for a couple years, so they learned from the best. Terry Eldridge is part bluegrass and part old-time country singer, and Jamie Johnson sees to it the audience has a better day than before they got there. Big stars like Earl Scruggs, George Jones, and the Osborne Brothers are singing their praises.
Kristin Scott Benson is the new banjo player for the group. She is IBMA bluegrass banjo player of the year. About the only drawback for the Grascals is the boys are just not quite as good looking as they were before Kristin showed up. She is not just a pretty face; the kid can play the breakdowns or the slow tunes as well as any man alive. I especially like the way she bends the strings on bluesy numbers like ‘Keep Me from Blowing Away’ or ‘Hard Times.’ That kind of soul can’t be taught, at least not overnight.
The Grascals new project came out in LP vinyl. I like that; all warm and analogue with pops and hisses when the record gets worn a bit.
III Tyme Out has been a favorite for years. If I was on death row, and could only sing harmony with one last cat, it would be Russell Moore. And Wayne Benson is one of my two favorite mandolin players in the world. Their song ‘Erase the Miles’ is a work of art you should not miss.
Seldom Scene out of Washington, D.C. closed out the first night. The quintessential bluegrass party band, they sprinkle in off-beat political commentary with perfect harmony singing. (Example: Roe vs. Wade: two ways to cross the Potomac.)
The Scene always put in the mood to play, and there is a jam session in every hall, so me and my mandolin are gonna go. I’ll report back to you after some morning coffee.