Joe Val Bluegrass 2016

Joe Val Bluegrass Festival 2016Once again the Boston Bluegrass Union has put on a great festival with top notch bands on stages, around 50 workshops offering folks chances to learn techniques, histories, and to interact in an intimate setting with great players. They also had the Sunday night dance party, and of course ample spaces for spontaneous bluegrass jammin’ fun!

The festival was started in 1985 as a fundraiser to help mandolinist and legendary vocalist Joe Val with medical expenses as he battled health problems. Joe passed away later that year, but his festival lives on, and with it his musical legacy is brought to new generations of bluegrassers. Val got his name from Tex Logan, who shortened his given name of Joe Valiente in the 1950s. The festival is held each year in Framingham, MA which was Joe’s hometown.

Al Hawkes and Everett Alan Lilly talk about the Lilly Brothers during a seminar at the 2016 Joe Val Bluegrass Festival - photo © Tara LinhardtOne thing that is great about the festival is that every year they have a workshop or two in which they have folks that were there when history was made share stories about the people, places, and events that made bluegrass history in this part of the country. This year they had a wonderful session with Everett Alan Lilly, Al Hawkes, Jim Rooney and Fred Bartenstein recounting all sorts of stories about the Lilly Brothers, how they made their music and lived their lives, and the impact they have had on bluegrass in this region.

The Boston Bluegrass Union (which has been going strong for 40 years now) also gives an annual Heritage Award to individuals who have been significant in the furthering of bluegrass in New England. This year’s Musician Award went to the Lilly Brothers. The Industry Award went to Geoff Bartley who has won many awards as a musician, but has also been hosting the Tuesday Night Jams at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA since 1993, and has hired and promoted bands in the region. Both of these accomplishments have brought many new people into the bluegrass fold.

Kids Academy at Joe Val Bluegrass Festival - photo © Tara LinhardtThe festival not only has in mind ways to look back and promote history, but also ways to encourage and offer opportunities to the next generations. The festival has a very popular kids academy that practices all weekend culminating with a show on the Main Stage on Sunday. Boston Bluegrass Union also sponsors monthly kids’ jams throughout the year and has a Bluegrass in the Schools program where they they help sponsor bluegrass presentations in the schools to all ages of kids.

Their strong festival management along with an army of hard working volunteers and staff come together with all sorts of musicians, vendors, music scholars, pickers, and fans of all ages to make this a memorable and fun event every year. I overheard one young mandolin player claim that at the Joe Val Festival, it was like being in Heaven. What more can one say…

I have included some photos and just a few videos so you can see and hear some for yourself.


Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice perform Daybreak In Dixie


Sister Sadie and Southern Flavor


Herb Pedersen sings his classic song, Wait A Minute, with The John Jorgenson Band…


Discussions between Fred Bartenstein, Al Hawkes, and Everett Alan Lilly about The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover…