The 41st Annual Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver Bluegrass Festival is now in the record books, and a good time was had by all in Denton, NC.
“What will all the stuff that has been going on, I am totally overwhelmed by the attendance,” shared the festival’s namesake, Doyle Lawson, on Saturday afternoon, as he surveyed the large gathering. “It’s like a family reunion. We’ve had good weather, good music, and a responsive crowd. It’s as good as it’s ever been. I am very pleased.”
Each day, the music began with the vocal prowess of Caroline Owens’ rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Reminiscent of the stylings of Dolly Parton, Owens wowed the audience with her powerful expression, tone, and pitch. Her band, Caroline and Company, then kicked off the Saturday line-up of entertainment.
Caroline’s boyfriend, Curt Love, accompanied her on banjo. He later returned to the stage to make his Denton debut as bass player with the Junior Sisk Band.
During the Gibson Brothers’ show, rising star, Jake Goforth, fourteen year old North Carolina guitar powerhouse was a surprise guest. Owens, Love, and Goforth are representative of the up and coming generation of bluegrass entertainers.
As is the case, the Mother’s Day weekend event offered a few welcome surprises. New to the Denton FarmPark stage, Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers offered a traditional sound. The husband and wife team of Adam and Mikayla Burrows helped to add nostalgic Stanley flavor with Adam’s fiddling antics of the late Curly Ray Cline and Mikayla’s tenor singing and Jack Cooke bass licks.
As Terry Baucom stepped on stage, he was joined by former Carolina bandmate, Clay Jones, on guitar. Sideline alum and current Amanda Cook mandolinist, Troy Boone, also assisted the Duke of Drive. It was obvious that the musicians were as happy as the fans to be back.
“It means the world to me to see a sea of bluegrass fans before me,” shared Boone with the audience. “I ain’t eaten greasy festival food in over a year. I hear a cheeseburger calling my name.”
Quicksilver fiddler, Matt Flake, shared a similar sentiment, “It’s so good to be playing before a full crowd and smiling faces.”
Flake and his daughter roused the crowd when they joined Lawson for a mandolin trio tune.
Typically, family bands are part of the line-up. This year was no exception with The Family Sowell from Knoxville, TN.
John-Mark Sowell, fiddler of the six siblings, stressed, “It is great to have live music, and be a part of it.”
Artists stayed busy shaking hands, taking photos, and selling their merchandise between afternoon and evening shows.
“After our first set, we sold 66 CDs. We didn’t sell 66 CDs in all of 2020!” Lorraine Jordan stated.
During Lawson’s evening set, he mused over the pandemic’s live music hiatus. “We’re getting rid of the rust ring.”
A surprise special guest appeared near the close of Lawson’s 90 minute Saturday night show. Josh Swift, his dobro player for 13 years, was given a warm welcome by his former employer. Their usual banter and hard driving music were soaked up like a sponge by the attentive crowd.
As with most any bluegrass festivals nowadays, in addition to Swift and Bauc, the line-up featured other Quicksilver alums. Lou Reid performed with Seldom Scene, Randy Graham was with Lorraine Jordan, and Jason Barie fiddled with Joe Mullins.
Lawson reflected on the weekend. “I am very pleased.”
Plans are already underway for the 42nd annual festival at Denton FarmPark on Mother’s Day weekend in 2022. As it will be Lawson’s last as a touring artist, he stressed that the event will continue.
“It’s too good a thing to end.”
photos by Laura Tate Ridge and Sandy Hatley