Notes from Gettysburg – May, 2015

Gettysburg Bluegrass FestivalI make no bones about it. Gettysburg is my favorite festival. I look forward to the twice a year trips there, in May and August, even though I’m rarely able to swing more than a day or two because of the pesky day job.

This past weekend was no exception. I was only able to get there Saturday. But the lineup was top notch, the crowd was large and appreciative and I got half of my twice-a-year fix of Cajun catfish.

Here are some notes from the day:

Shelby Gold with Gold Heart at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (May 16, 2015) - Photo by David MorrisI doubt anyone was more excited to be at Gettysburg than Gold Heart, the Winchester, VA-based band that features three sisters – Tori, Jocey and Shelby Gold.

The band played the first set on Saturday and closed the four-day festival late Sunday afternoon.

This was the first show at which they had their newest CD to sell, Places I’ve Been, on Mountain Fever Records. There were more than a few takers lined up for it after their first set. The CD, built around some sweet family harmonies, was produced by Ron Stewart and includes guest appearances by Rob Ickes and Josh Shilling.

“You finish the record and you’re really excited,” Shelby Gold said after Saturday’s set. “Then you have to wait for people to hear it.”

From the new ones I heard live, I think listeners will find Places I’ve Been worth the wait. But the sisters aren’t resting on their laurels. They’re already in the planning stages of their next CD.

Jocey and Shelby do most of the writing, but other family members write, too, and there’s talk of working with co-writers as well. It will be fun to watch this band develop, as the Bankesters, Flatt Lonesome and the Rigneys have over the last few years.

Jeff Rose and Missy Armstrong with Detour at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (May 16, 2015) - Photo by David Morris

Detour, another Mountain Fever act that played Gettysburg, is getting ready to work on a new CD, too.

I first heard Detour at Gettysburg a few years back. I remember wondering who such a beautiful voice belonged to as I walked in from a distant parking area. It was Missy Armstrong, Detour’s then-new lead singer.

The Michigan-based band has enjoyed good chart action and strong airplay with Going Nowhere Fast. No clues yet what the next project will sound like. But here a couple of educated guesses:

First, you aren’t likely to get too blue listening to this band. As bandleader Jeff Rose explained at a songwriting workshop Saturday afternoon, the band likes upbeat, positive songs that leave listeners feeling good.

Second, I do expect the next recording will have a bit of a different sound. Rose, who plays mandolin in addition to writing a fair amount of the band’s material, recently purchased an octave mandolin. He’s only using it in a few songs in the band’s live sets, but look for that change. He loves the sound (good call!) and it’s the instrument he picks up most frequently when he’s experimenting with new material these days.

Stay tuned!

Rhonda Vincent tested out a new way to expand her contact list on Saturday.

During her first set Saturday afternoon, she invited fans to come to the Martha White tent and sign up for a special drawing for a new batch of t-shirts that just arrived from the printer.

Later in the day, she selected random entries and sent text messages announcing that the recipients won shirts. If text recipients were in line, they got to pick a shirt.

So, for the cost of a half-dozen or so shirts, Rhonda got phone numbers and other contact info for many dozens of fans. She stressed from the stage that the information wouldn’t be shared with anybody else for any purpose., but that she would use it to keep in fans up to speed about the band.

You have to hand it to her. She’s working hard to stay ahead of the curve.

A damaged instrument is never a good thing, but there was a silver lining for Jerry Douglas, who played Saturday night with the Earls of Leicester.

Jerry’s resonator guitar was damaged in transit. Fortunately for him, world class dobro maker Paul Beard lives in Hagerstown, Md., not far from the festival grounds. He made emergency repairs and had Jerry’s guitar ready for the Saturday night set.

It wasn’t back in time for Jerry to join Rhonda Vincent and others for an all-star jam, but Fred Travers of the Seldom Scene loaned his resonator to Jerry – and then sat back and listened.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.