50th annual Charlotte Bluegrass Festival report

Authentic Unlimited at the 50th annual Charlotte Bluegrass Festival – photo © Bill Warren

The 50th Charlotte Bluegrass Festival is in the books. No tornado, and only one very light rain shower for part of the final act. It was a beautiful, sunny weekend. Charlotte is nearly always a festival of dodging raindrops and walking around in mud. Wes Pettinger and his crew always run things smoothly.

Dave and Traci Chichester with GBS handled the sound, and did a terrific job. Terri Grannis did the MC work for the afternoon shows, and Duffy Brown did the evening. Both are the bubbly personalities that keep a festival fun.

Friday morning kicked off with a songwriting workshop with Jennifer Strickland Zapolnik. It was followed by a mandolin workshop put on by Brian Oberlin of award-winning Full Cord.

The Amanda Cook Band kicked off the stage show. She has created a distinct sound that audiences completely enjoy. She can sing a really happy bluegrass murdering song! See her band if she is in your area.

The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys were up next. They continue to get better and better. They have given traditional bluegrass music a tremendous shot in the arm. I have watched Jereme Brown and Josh Rinkel grow from 13 year olds playing one song with Tommy Brown and the County Line Grass to well-seasoned musicians and entertainers. Tommy Brown joined the band for a couple tunes in the evening set. He sang A Robin Built a Nest on Daddy’s Grave bringing back memories of his fine band.

The new guys on the block, Authentic Unlimited, were up next. I am sure many people expected to hear Doyle Lawson-like sounds. These guys have taken Doyle’s discipline and influence and created their own sound. We have all spent years watching Stephen Burwell quietly hold down his end of the stage with DLQ. He can and does talk! He adds his personality to the mix. You will not be disappointed when you see this band.

Volume Five closed out the day’s stage show. This is a solid group of veterans who put on a great show. Troy Boone helped out in the afternoon set as a band member was broke down on the road and didn’t arrive until late afternoon. I did catch Aaron Ramsey, Troy Boone, and Jacob Burleson holding down a bench prior to the Volume Five evening set.

The “Old Hippie,” Jerry Eicher, and Uncle Elmo did a number of interviews in the motor home studio for the Old Hippie Radio Show.

Saturday had morning activities beginning with the Kid’s Corner hosted by Fiddlin’ Dixie. The kids played games, made shoe box guitars, wrote music, and got to pick on real instruments in a petting zoo provided by the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association.

Kevin Prater and Gary Isenhour hosted a guitar workshop, and Jake Burrows hosted a banjo workshop.

The Schlitz Creek Bluegrass Band led off the stage show, celebrating their 20th year. They “hail from the mountains of Kalamazoo, Michigan.” If any of you know Kalamazoo, you know just how – well you know the mountains of Kalamazoo?? They bring a high energy show to any stage.

Kevin Prater has been in bluegrass music for many years and is one of its premier lead singers. He has surrounded himself with a group of very talented musicians. Once in a while we get to see a performance that stands out. Kevin and his band had that kind of performance Saturday evening. Every song built on the previous one until the encore left the audience breathless. It was one of “those” shows!

Greg Cahill is leading the Special Consensus in its 47th year, and is a master at banjo styling. He can play anything from hardcore bluegrass to big band melodies. Special C is always a crowd favorite. In an unusual twist, Greg did not celebrate a birthday Saturday.

The Cleverlys closed out the 50th Charlotte Bluegrass Festival as only they can. Their unique music and humor were at hit with the Michigan audience.

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