2024 Palatka Bluegrass Festival report

The Price Sisters at the 2024 Palatka Bluegrass Festival – photo © Bill Warren

The Palatka Bluegrass Festival is one of the special ones. The Rodeheaver Boys Ranch is one of the special places to hold a festival. About fifty boys are housed at the ranch. The ranch slogan is “It is better to build boys than to mend men.”

Norman and Judy Adams started the festival 20 years ago, and Ernie and Debi Evans have continued the legacy following the Adams’s retirement.

Friday was kicked off by a Florida gospel band, Deano Graham and the Grass Wagon Revival, who are quickly becoming a favorite at Florida shows. Deano sings lead and plays guitar and his son plays acoustic bass, with Isaac Taylor on banjo. Ian Lane is an up-and-coming young Florida fiddler, and Justin Mason joined them on mandolin. Deano and his son had an evening obligation at his church, so with a little rearranging, The Last Minute Mountain Boys were born. Mike Anglin played bass and Andrew Rigsby played guitar and sang. Andrew is following in his Dad’s footsteps. He will be a monster on guitar and singing.

Chosen Road followed. They are a gospel group of young family men that sing from their hearts. This is a group to see. 

Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys are playing a lot of Florida shows. He carries on the Stanley tradition along with his own music. Alex Leach has rejoined the band as banjo player, who can be classified as an old timer in spite of his young age. He hosted his own radio show at nine years old. He will shortly turn 35. Lots of years in bluegrass!

Southern Legacy closed out the Friday show. This can only be described as super pickers on steroids. All are well established entertainers. They are a powerhouse as a group. Steve Thomas on fiddle, Don Rigsby on mandolin, Josh Williams on guitar, Mike Anglin on bass, and Ron Block on banjo. That says it all.

Saturday promised rain, but drizzled for a portion of the day before full blown rain in the evening. That did not stop the crowd.

The day kicked off with a showcasing new band of old friends, Dirt Road Dreams. The name comes from a song that two of the member’s father wrote. The band is interwoven. Justin Mason played with two of the members in Scattered Grass, and currently plays with another in Justin Mason and Blue Night. Twins Spider and Moe Prevatt sing and play guitar and bass. The “tiny cannon,” Mary Kate Brennan, sings and plays guitar. Bryce Griffin played banjo. The three girls have unique harmony that needs to be heard.

Another set of twins – the Price Sisters – followed. They have paid their dues and are now being recognized as a top shelf band. They have Bobby Osborne II on bass. He sings a couple of Osbourne Brothers numbers in their set. You can hear his Dad when he sings.

Remedy Tree is a Florida band that is gaining recognition across the nation and around the world. Gabriel and Abigail Acevedo have recruited two great young players in mandolinist Bryce Griffin and banjoist Nathan Beaumont. Gabe and Abby were broadsided coming home from a gig. They both suffered some injuries, but their children were not hurt. Ernie Evans set up a Go Fund Me to assist them in the short term.

Volume Five is one of the bands that are on my personal “must see” list. Glen Harrell is one of the best lead singers in bluegrass. See them and you will understand my feelings about this band.

Then there’s Rhonda Vincent. Smart, hardworking, and other endless positive adjectives. She has started featuring twin fiddle tunes with Adam Haynes. It’s good stuff! Jacob Metz is the newest member of the Rage on dobro and vocals.

The legendary Del McCoury Band closed out the festival. They put on a great show that left the audience ready for more.

I don’t know if Ernie and Debi had time to go home and do laundry. The Florida Classic in Brooksville kicks off on Thursday. See all y’all there!

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