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. The remainder of his reports will be after the fact.
The day started off with one of the most successful bluegrassers in the Buckeye State, Larry Efaw and his band, The Bluegrass Mountaineers. They featured down-the-middle traditional bluegrass, which can only be expected when one names their son “Stanley.” Larry Gillis and his unique style of “Swampgrass” began their two-day stint at Bean Blossom. For those not familiar, if Ralph Stanley and Merle Haggard lived next door to the Duck Dynasty gang, Swampgrass would be the style of music that would have emerged. Gillis’ style is truly unique and entertaining, but his show is highlighted by his “little buddy,” Colonel Isaac Moore. Hall of Famer, Melvin Goins also appeared for the first half of his two-days at “The Bean.” While Melvin is not as young as he once was, he is still grateful for an opportunity to take the stage and, more importantly, visit with his fans. (He even got in a visit with Ramble the Lonesome Squirrel, who was visiting Bean Blossom from the IBMA offices.)
Thursday at “The Bean” was my first chance to catch Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle in person, and I was quite impressed. I’ve been a lifelong fan of Steve Gulley’s singing, but was curious to see how his brand new band would sound as a unit. My concerns were obliterated in about two notes. New Pinnacle played with a tightness that it takes some bands years to develop, and hearing Steve Gulley use his golden voice is always a highlight of any festival.
Special Consensus completed their two-day run at Bean Blossom on Day 6. Their live show is full of contagious energy, and I consider it a real treat to get to see “Special C.” If you haven’t seen Greg Cahil & Co in a few years, you need to amend that void in your life ASAP; you won’t be disappointed. Special Consensus’ time at “The Bean” was capped off with a “special” surprise guest during the final set; Duane Sparks from The Radio Ramblers showed off his dance moves during Special C’s final number, resulting in applause from the audience and tears of laughter from Special Consensus!
Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers also brought their dynamic stage show to the historic Bean Blossom stage. The moment is always special for Joe, as Bean Blossom was the first paid gig of his musical career when he was a young teenager. The current edition of The Radio Ramblers is firing on all cylinders, and the band strives to maintain a smooth sound marked by a “polished with soul” delivery, which they readily accomplish. Jason Barie has really elevated the Radio Ramblers’ stage presence, as his stellar musicianship not only excites the crowd, but his fellow bandmates as well. Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers’ sets were highlighted by a medley of classic train songs and a Tom T. Hall classic (Shoeshine Man) which showcased Mullins’ newfound harmonica talent!
Marty Raybon is a ball of energy, and it’s hard not to enjoy watching him and Full Circle. Marty has developed a bluegrass style of his own, and is easily the most accepted “country star turned bluegrass artist” which we have seen. While his shows do include several Shenandoah classics (to the crowds’ delight), he does not lean solely on his country success. His appreciation for bluegrass music is felt through original interpretations of bluegrass classics (especially those from Jimmy Martin!) and through many of his own successful bluegrass hits. It’s hard to sit still when watching Marty Raybon, because his powerful voice is as big as his Alabama heart!
Blue Highway was truly a highlight of Bean Blossom 2015, and could have played all night if they had been allowed. That band has more talent than they know what to do with, it is almost sickening that five individuals with that much vocal and instrumental prowess are in the same band. The most impressive thing about these guys is that, although it’s hard to believe, they are an example of the sum being greater than the parts. While each member of the band is a star in their own right, together, they make up a musical tour-de-force. They could do no wrong as they captivated the Bean Blossom crowd, and left everyone scratching their heads as to why it had been so long since they had last played “The Bean.” After a double encore (that could have easily been a triple or quadruple), something tells me that the festival promoters will be eager to bring Blue Highway back to Bean Blossom in 2016.