Daniel Mullins will be reporting from the 2015 Bean Blossom Festival all week, as Internet service in the campground allows. Check back each day for his reports and photos.
Though Day 3 at Bean Blossom provided a little more rain, it did not derail the crowd from enjoying some great bluegrass music! After a small but mighty thunderstorm in the evening shut the main stage down for about a half hour, everything was back up and running in a matter of minutes, with the only casualty being the schedule that was running a little behind.
Jesse Gregroy & Faultine opened the day with her beautiful, soulful voice; there’s a reason that she won IBMA’s 2014 Momentum Award! Her band was an all-star crew, including Justin Moses and her best friend, Sierra Hull. Kody Norris & The Watauga Mountain Boys could be viewed as a sort of salute to Jimmy Martin. The band’s young leader is obviously influenced by the King of Bluegrass, by his loud style of dress, his colorful stage presence, and heavy inclusion of Jimmy’s songs. Kevin Prater and his big voice were a hit with the crowd.
For me, getting to see Raymond Fairchild, the King of the Smoky Mountain Banjo players. was a real treat. Arguably the greatest American on the face of the planet, Raymond shows command over his instrument just like he commands your attention. A real living legend, he not only captivated the audience with his signature Maggie Valley sound, but it was plain that all of the artists held a deep respect for Raymond, as many could be seen quietly watching one of the true mountain legends left in this music. Seeing David Davis salute his hero, Bill Monroe, on the historic Bean Blossom stage, was great. Thought he was battling a bit of laryngitis, he and the Warrior River Boys delivered lots of wonderful traditional bluegrass to the crowd.
The Farm Hands featured a decidedly country-flavored style of bluegrass to the stage. Featuring many family friendly songs about faith and country living, the band were a nice change of pace on a day that seemed to lean more on the traditional side. Grasstowne delivered their brand of bluegrass with ease, and it’s always a treat to hear Alan Bibey’s jazzy style of mandolin.
Over the past few years, The Spinney Brothers have blossomed into one of the most beloved bluegrass acts on the circuit today, and that was plainly evident last night. This band of Canadians deliver the high lonesome sound with class and respect, and the audience knows and appreciates it. Featuring a lively show filled with great picking, new songs, and wonderful brother harmony, I rival anyone to find a band that has more fun on stage than The Spinney Brothers.
Karl Shiflett & The Big Country Show were easily that day’s biggest surprise for me. Many great pickers have gone through KSBC’s ranks (such as Jessie Baker and Chris Hill), but Karl’s current band features some of the most overlooked pickers in bluegrass. Fiddlin’ Billy Hurt won over many fans yesterday, myself included. An absolute masterful fiddler, he wowed the crowd and practically stole not only the show, but the entire day. The Big Country Show also features one of bluegrass’ top young banjo pickers in Brennen Ernst. The band’s take on bluegrass and old-time country is as entertaining as can be, and the band was truly a fan favorite. If you haven’t seen Karl in a while, make it a point to catch them this summer.