In between visits to the exhibit hall and catching a few of my favorite artists at the Wide Open Bluegrass StreetFest yesterday (October 3), I happened upon a fun event taking place on the Workshop Stage inside the Raleigh Convention Center. For most of the day, that stage had been reserved for demonstrations and question-and-answer sessions with masters of various instruments, at 5:00 p.m. it was time for Bluegrass Karaoke, hosted by guitarist Bull Harman.
Instead of just singing along to pre-recorded tracks, participants in yesterday’s karaoke session were privileged to take turns being the lead vocalist for a live band. It wasn’t just any old group of pickers, either. Headed up by Kenny and Amanda Smith on guitar and harmony vocals, the group also included John and Mary Meyer of Meyerband on banjo and mandolin, Patrick McAvinue of Audie Blaylock & Redline playing fiddle, and Harman’s son Wyatt holding down the low four.
Singers were asked to choose a standard song that the group would most likely know, and to let the band know what key they wanted to sing in. I heard several Bill Monroe songs, a few by Flatt and Scruggs, and a couple renditions of the old Carter Family number Bury Me Beneath the Willow, among others. The crowd seemed to especially enjoy performances by several young girls, including yodeling from seven-year-old Nora Rowe, a Monroe cut by her older sister Elli, and a fine version of Our Last Goodbye from Jaelee Roberts, who just so happens to be the daughter of The Grascals’ Danny Roberts.
I enjoyed watching the karaoke so much that I decided to try my hand at it as well, and signed up for the last slot. It was definitely a fun experience getting to sing with Kenny and Amanda Smith and being on stage with such a solid group of musicians, and it seemed like the other participants thought so as well. All in all, IBMA’s Bluegrass Karaoke is a great way for those who might not be professionals, but still enjoy singing, to step into the spotlight.