The 2014 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion continued Saturday with another beautiful day. Last year’s Saturday schedule was marred by heavy rains early in the day, but this year brought 80 degree temps and nearly cloudless skies. Thanks to Alane Anno Photography, we are able to share a few moments from Saturday’s festival with you.
As fans began to gather the Country Music Mural Stage, the festival’s home for Bluegrass music, opened with a local celebrity, “Fiddlin’” Carson Peters, a 10-year old fiddle player who recently joined Ricky Skaggs on the Grand Ol’ Opry. The local music focus continued with The Harlow Experience taking the stage at noon.
IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year nominee, Flatt Lonesome were up next, and they didn’t disappoint. As the day warmed up, the music, and the fans, kept pace.
Singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse, along with her band, The Poor Mountain Boys were up next. As always, Donna delivered with beautiful vocals on her original songs.
Mississippi-based Breaking Grass took the stage in the late afternoon. During last year’s show Breaking Grass had to perform in the rain, but there were no precipitation issues this year. The band brought the crowd to their feet with a tremendous set, culminating with a call for an encore. The guys finished up with a crowd-pleasing rendition of the Bluegrass standard, Uncle Pen.
As the evening crowd continued to gather, Balsam Range, nominees for IBMA Entertainer of The Year, Vocal Group of the Year, and Instrumental Group of the Year, hit the stage with their polished vocal and instrumental performance. Last year the band became local legends when they literally played “Under the Bridge” due to the heavy rains. As the rains hit, the band was relocated under a bridge that afforded shelter to the band and the crowd. One microphone was set up and the band made history. This year the weather was perfect and the band showed why they are nominated for so many awards. Their performances seem to continually improve, although it’s impossible to imagine a group being much better. It’s also important to note that this band is filled with singers who are among the best, with Buddy Melton, IBMA nominee for Male Vocalist of the Year, leading the way.
As a long-time volunteer with the BRRR festival, I always enjoy meeting a music legend who hasn’t yet performed at the event. Such was the case with The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience. As Grisman was about to take the stage a casual comment from him let me know that he had not been to a Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival. The crowd, which was standing room only by this point, roared their welcome to Grisman and his band. Fans of “Dawg” music were treated to a full-on, hard driving bluegrass show presented by Grisman, (playing his mandolin, “Crusher”), his son Sam on bass, Jim Nunally on guitar, Keith Little on banjo, and Chad Manning on fiddle.
IBMA Emerging Artists of the Year nominees Town Mountain wrapped up the evening with their bluesy, edgy blend of Bluegrass.
The day was a complete success on the Country Music Mural Stage at BRRR 2014. The stage ran on time and nearly flawlessly throughout the entire day. The crowds were large, but respectful; listening and enjoying the music while allowing others to do the same. Sunday promises more of the same.