Rhonda Vincent & The Rage at the 2018 Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival – photo by Dale Cahill
The 18th annual Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival is in the books and what a festival it was! Even a little bit of rain on Saturday night didn’t dampen the spirits of the performers, the audience or the many pickers in the fields. Seth, Candi and all their volunteers buzzed around the festival in their golf carts making sure that everyone had what they needed, and felt welcomed and as comfortable as if we were visiting the Sawyer’s home.
The house band, The Seth Sawyer Band, set a positive tone for the festival on Thursday with a 4:00 p.m. set which featured both his vocal power and his songwriting skills. Another local band that took the stage that same day was Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing. Some of you might remember Bob from his days as the front man for a Colorado-based band – Front Range. Luckily for Vermont, he has returned to his home state and has put together a tight and experienced group of musicians including Freeman Corey on fiddle and his daughter Sarah on vocals. The father daughter harmonies delighted the crowd. Audie Blaylock and Redline finished out the night and then returned on Friday for a Jimmy Martin tribute performance on the Weston Stage. If you look at the photos it is almost as if Jimmy Martin himself was in attendance.
Two bands from neighboring NY state included the Feinberg Brothers from Long Island and the Gibson Brothers from across Lake Champlain in Ellenburg Depot, NY. Both entertained the crowd with beautiful brother harmonies. Ron Feinberg, guitar player and vocalist for the Feinberg Brother’s band, added depth to his sons’ singing and was clearly proud to share the stage with his two talented sons. They played some old favorites from their first CD and new ones off their recently released album, Party For One. Eric and Leigh Gibson did not disappoint either. They got a chance to show off tunes from their recently released album, In the Ground, made up entirely of original songs. Between tunes, they kept the crowd laughing, sometimes in tears, with their brotherly banter that felt fresh and unrehearsed. They assured the crowd that they really do love each other.
The US Navy Band practically glowed in their dress whites, and were a crowd pleaser as well. Their set on the Weston Stage, and later that night on the Main Stage, clearly won them admiration for both their musicianship and for the way that they represent the US military. Hard not to feel intensely patriotic when they play their medley representing each branch of the military.
It’s little wonder that the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys got their share of praise on Friday. Their 1940’s style Tennessee bluegrass, and their high energy antics, make it small wonder that they are up for awards at the IBMA this year. They were excited to tell the crowd that they had just signed a deal with Rounder Records for their next recording. Folks who later attended any of their Friday workshops got an excellent taste of each musician’s high energy and precision musicianship. This band has a blast on stage and their excitement is contagious.
Saturday night brought to the stage two bluegrass favorites, The Seldom Scene followed by Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. Dudley Connell and Lou Reed wowed us like they always do, performing some of Seldom Scene’s beloved repertoire. Rhonda took the stage after their set and was clearly prepared to play in some cold Vermont weather. She sang her first few songs in a full length down coat. Rhonda’s two sons-in-law and her daughter Sally play in the Rage, supporting Rhonda with every note. Rhonda also did not disappoint. If Jimmy Martin is called the King of Bluegrass, Rhonda must be the queen. She never misses a note and she and the Rage played with high spirits and lots of smiles.
Thanks go out to Seth and Candi as well as to everyone who helps them make this festival such a winner. While a festival is defined in part by it’s talent on the main stage, it relies just as much on its orderly camping, clean and plentiful bathrooms, respectful audience, and sense of being at a home away from home.
Seth and Candi nailed it again. See ya next year!!