Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival – Spring 2022 report

Russell Moore at the Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival (March 2022) – photo by Eric Popp

The spring Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival for 2022 is in the books, a resounding success over the March 24-26 weekend. Daniel Mullins and his staff and volunteers are to be commended for a well-run and organized festival.

Thursday evening was a set of memorable performances. It started with the host band, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers. The band is celebrating sixteen years of bringing bluegrass music to world-wide audiences.

Larry Sparks & the Lonesome Ramblers followed Joe. Larry announced that he will celebrate sixty years in bluegrass music in 2023. Larry’s list of hits would fill several albums.

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out closed out the evening. Russell is celebrating thirty years of the IIIrd Tyme Out band. He could also fill multiple albums with his hit songs.

Both Joe and Russell have many more years of experience than with their current bands. Rarely is one evening of bluegrass music blessed with so many years of experience and legend.

Friday kicked off with a guitar workshop sponsored by Paige Capos. Adam McIntosh and Nick Dauphinais were the presenters. They each gave a bit of their musical history and some tips that each has picked up over the years. They were joined by Little Roy Lewis who talked about his early guitar influences and demonstrated his finger picking style.

Chosen Road is one of those “ten year overnight success” stories. They have been around for over ten years, but are just beginning to be recognized as a top shelf bluegrass Gospel group.

The Radio Ramblers put on a total of four sets throughout the festival, inanition to hosting a dinner break jam at the Paige Capo booth on Friday evening.

The Little Roy and Lizzy Show burst onto the ISB stage with a full measure of Little Roy’s antics. He has been entertaining audiences for over sixty years, and recently turned eighty years young. Oh to have half of his energy! Lizzy has developed into one of the best vocalists in the genre. She also plays just about anything with strings – and very well.

Larry Stephenson is one of the time-honored veterans of bluegrass music. He has fronted his band for thirty three years. He honors the memories of artists like Bill Harrell in every show. He and David Parmley have a new venture and will play some shows throughout the year.

Blue Highway is going to have a 30th anniversary in a couple years. They always bring some of the finest music to a festival stage.

All of the Friday bands fall into the “must see” category. Watch for them in your area.

The Joe Mullins Story was televised on Friday night. We were all in the festival audience. The show was aired for the festival audience on Saturday morning. Joe and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum director, Chris Joslin, introduced the programs and detailed their goals.

Saturday brought both new and well experienced bands to the stage.

Carson Peters is an up and coming, eighteen year old band leader. He had appeared on The Voice in 2021 and generated a lot of attention. He is a powerful singer and fiddler.

The Primitive Quartet has over fifty years of bluegrass Gospel music on their resume. They continue to put on strong performances with excellent brother harmonies.

High Fidelity is a high energy, down-to-earth band. They take an audience from Carter family days to Chuck Wagon Gang days, to traditional bluegrass to their own great original music.

The Wayfarers are an old time string band that bring the highest of energy to the stage, and who feature “Tubby” the washtub bass. They provide a trip back in time to the old country store jams.

Appalachian Roadshow closed out the festival. They present a unique show of traditional bluegrass and mountain music. Barry Abernathy has a lineage of loggers and sawyers. He sings about an old fiddler who lost fingers in a sawmill accident. Darrell Webb comes from a family background of coal mining, and tells of losing his miner father to lung cancer at the age of fifty nine. He then sings about the miner’s life.

All of these bands should be on your list.

Blake Williams again filled the MC duties very well. He is a music historian that could very well do a session as a story teller.

John Holder and Blue Ridge Sound once again made the bands all sound their very best.

Come back to the Roberts Centre November 10, 11, and 12 for another great festival.

Support your local music venues.

Photos are from Eric Popp and Michael Gabbard.