Del McCoury Band at the 2022 Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival – photo © Bill Warren
The Mullins family, their staff, and volunteers showed why Industrial Strength Bluegrass was chosen as this year’s Event of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. They organized a wonderful weekend of music, vendors, and activities for both young and not-so-young. Joe brought his family on stage and recognized his wife Tammy for heading the festival for many years. He introduced his children as the second generation taking the reins of the festivals.
Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers opened the weekend with their first of four performances. Chris Davis has stepped into his mandolin/vocal role very well.
Hammertowne is a festival circuit favorite and did not disappoint.
It is a safe bet that the Dan Tyminski Band, and each of its members, will appear on bluegrass award ballots. This is a strong, must see band.
Caleb Daugherty is an up-and-coming musician that has become widely in demand. We can all expect to see a lot more of him. He has also spent the latter half of the bluegrass season teamed up with Don Rigsby. Don filled in for Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley who had cancelled their weekend performances due to illness.
Junior Sisk played his final show of the season on Friday. He is having back surgery and will be off the road through March. Keep Junior in your thoughts during his recovery. The addition of Tony and Heather Berry Mabe has worked very well and Junior has a top shelf group backing him up.
Jamie Johnson joined the Grascals for their weekend performances. He slid back into his MC role very easily. Chris Davis did join them for a tune.
Saturday morning featured a tribute to the Mullins family patriarch, Paul Mullins, who was inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame in October. Joe and his sister Christy, along with Fred Bartenstein, told stories honoring Paul’s memory. It was brought up the Paul did not like the nickname Moon. Joe said when people would call him Moon he would answer, “My friends call me Paul.” Christy said she made the mistake of calling him that once! His Hall of Fame plaque was on display
Daxson Lewis and Ruth McClain brought the Morehead State University Mountain Music Ambassadors to Wilmington, showcasing another strong college music program. Heather Alley and Lincoln Mash is a new group on the bluegrass circuit. Heather is an alum of Ohio’s Alternative Strings program, an after school music program for middle and high school students. The Alternative Strings have been involved in Ohio bluegrass for many years.
Chris Jones and the Night Drivers made their first appearance at ISB. It was mandolin player Mark Stoffel’s first show back after a layoff for surgery. Chris has a long track record industry wide.
Kody Norris brought his award winning show to the festival. His old time mountain music was a big hit. He was given two encores. His banjo player, Josiah Tyree, can tear up some of the old drop thumb tunes. Kody declared that he could play a “little” banjo. He did – a mini-banjo!!
The legendary Del McCoury Band closed out the weekend playing many of Del’s bluegrass hits. McCoury is the current IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year.
The March Industrial Strength Bluegrass festival will be held over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, with an expected release of a new project from the Radio Ramblers.
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