The day started out with a gorgeous gospel set with local stars The Blue Canyon Boys featuring KC Groves (of Uncle Earl). They provided a beautiful start to the morning and it was wonderful to hear the band with their new banjo player Chris Elliot (formerly of Spring Creek). Colorado-based Finnders & Youngberg played an enjoyable set of bluegrass and honky-tonk, which included the triumphant return of their fiddler Ryan Drickey (formerly of Jake’s Expedition Quartet). Ryan returned the day before the show after a year in Sweden on a Fulbright scholarship studying Swedish folk music.
Aoife O’Donovan, the “Original American Songbird,” rocked the Wildflower Pavilion, performing many of her original tunes with a phenomenal band: guitarist Grant Gordy (David Grisman Quintet, Expedition Quartet) on guitar, the incomparable Phoebe Hunt on violin, and mandolinist Dominick Leslie and bassist Samson Grisman of The Deadly Gentlemen. Young Boulder-based rising star Bella Betts wowed the crowd, sitting in on mandolin for a couple tunes. Aoife recently recorded an album of hymns with jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas and his quintet. This band will likely not travel the bluegrass circuit, but will assuredly be a pleasure to see.
Peter Rowan & The Travelin’ McCourys had some amazing moments, especially when Michael Cleveland joined Jason Carter on twin fiddles. Peter told Christian before the show, “We are playing a set of Bill Monroe tunes, all in the original keys that Bill sang them in.” And it was awesome.
The festival closer was Tim O’Brien & Friends, with Brian Sutton, Casey Driessen and Mike Bub. Tim has played 28 of the 40 RockyGrass festivals, so he made a fitting closure. He told exceptional stories about some of the early festivals, and a wonderfully moving one about visiting Doc Watson at his home. Tim and Aoife O’Donovan sang a moving version of Your Long Journey, which Doc wrote with his wife, Rosa Lee. And the great Edgar Meyer sat in on Tim’s jam standard Land’s End/Chasin’ Talon. Other special guests included Pete Wernick, Ronnie McCoury, and Rob McCoury for a fun Earl Scruggs tribute.
Mark your calendar for RockyGrass the 41st: July 26-28, 2013.