Debut Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge report

Lonesome River Band performs at the Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge festival – photo by Molly Moore

With the loss of so many bluegrass festivals the past few years, it’s great to have a new one come around. The debut Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge was held this past weekend in Kingsport, TN at the Meadowview Convention Center. The weekend was a combined effort of East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Model City Antique and Flea Market, Tim White of Song of the Mountains, and Jordan Entertainment.

As with all festivals you have to start off slowly and grow. And just like Jordan Entertainment’s Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN (now in its 12th year) started with 87 attendees the first year, and now hosts over 800 ticket buyers, so Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge will grow.

Lorraine Jordan, the talent buyer for both events, said that she was very encouraged by the response.

“This being the first year, I’m happy with the turn out. I know first hand it takes a lot of marketing and word of mouth to grow a festival. The folks who are here the first day have already said ‘yes’ to let’s come back.”

Day one kicked off with Deeper Shade of Blue, a band from the state of North Carolina. They are somewhat new on the national scene, but have been regional favorites for some time, featuring strong vocal harmonies and good song selection. Next was The Alex Leach Band, a Tennessee band that knows how to have fun on the stage, and can play anything from newgrass to the Stanley Brothers.

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road from Raleigh, NC took the stage next, featuring their chart topping songs and Country Grass. Legendary bluegrass veterans Warren Blair and Ben Green backed up some pretty good harmonies. Last was Lonesome River Band from Virginia who played all their hits, and featured their very talented mandolin player, Adam Miller, who attends ETSU presently. 

Food trucks were out in the parking lot serving up some tasty treats, and there were 80 vendors in a separate room of the convention center, and three restaurants, a hotel, and a coffee house close by. Nearly everything under one roof.

Friday evening’s show ended with a jam.

Day two featured workshops, jam sessions, and a surprise visit by Doyle Lawson, and made this year’s festival a success in the books. Thingsl started out with the host of Song of the Mountains, Tim White, as the MC bringing on one of ETSU’s student bands led by Stage Plaser. Next up were local favorites Coyote Ugly, a band who helped get the word out about the festival all year.

Drive Time, a North Carolina Band lead by Tyler Jackson, put on a great show. Not too far down the road, Amanda Cook Band came in from Virginia, and then the East Tenn State University Bluegrass Pride Band played. Deeper Shade of Blue and Carolina Road did a set on day two as well. Tim White and Troublesome Hollow, Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, and Carson Peters & Iron Mountain closed the show.

Work shops were well attended. Ben Greene taught banjo, Frank Poindexter did dobro, Zack McLamb was on bass, Jeff Huffman on guitar, Amanda Cook on vocals, Alan Bibey on mandolin, and Carson Peters on fiddle.

 A jam with the bands was held at 4:00 p.m. All the pickers from the stage bands participated with any one who wanted to jam, and Doyle Lawson joined in

Lorraine Jordan’s father did a military tribute for the audience, and Doug Whitley and Royce Jordan traded off MC work.

Jordan says that Bluegrass in the Blue Ridge will definitely be back in 2024 on the second week end of April. Make plans to attend.