Wednesday night and Thursday morning brought inches of rain to the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival. But Friday and Saturday brought acres of sunshine and warmth! One little girl had found some of the remaining mud and was having great fun wading and playing.
At Charlotte they feature co-MC’s. Terri Grannis holds down the afternoon slot, and Duffy Brown-Schyrer handles the evening shows. Both do excellent jobs.
A new band from Ohio, Crabgrass, opened Friday’s stage show. They are a band that is becoming more and more in demand. They will be seen at a number of Michigan/Ohio festivals this summer.
Vern McIntyre brought his Appalachian Grass back to the Charlotte stage for the first time in a number of years. Vern and Kitty always give an audience full measure.
Next up was one of Ohio’s young family bands. Sugarcreek Bluegrass is a group of siblings that give us all a good feeling for the future of bluegrass music. They continue to grow to the delight of crowds throughout the mid-West.
Doyle Lawson took the stage for the second day. There are not many adjectives left that adequately describe Doyle’s contributions to bluegrass music.
Russel Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out completed Friday’s shows. Donnie Carver has manned both the sound board and the merch table for 23+ years. The IIIrd Tyme Out sound and Russell’s voice are immediately recognizable at any venue.
Kellie Knauff is Wes Pettinger’s MVV – Most Valuable Volunteer. She handles many things that allow Wes to handle all of the things that pop up during a festival.
Saturday was kicked off by Fiddlin’ Dixie with Friends. This is a kid’s program run by Dixie Andres, and supported by the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music association and festival promoters. The kids are exposed to music in numerous forms. They color musical notes and instruments. They write music. They make musical instruments. They have access to a large petting zoo of bluegrass instruments. GHS Strings keep the zoo in strings and Paige Capos provided capos for the guitars and banjos. SMBMA members Ron Benton, Jerry Eicher, and Elmer McClain helped the kids learn a little bit about the instruments, and set some of them up as a band. Wes Pettinger was on hand to greet the early arrivals. J.D. Partridge donated a banjo to the program thru Wes Pettinger. Wes and J.D. presented it to Dixie Andres. A banjo student will get a good banjo to learn on!
Every festival promoter works on bringing something unique to their festivals. The 47th Charlotte festival featured a very unique performance on Saturday morning. It was called “Family Traditions,” and featured fathers, sons, and grandsons who all have a long history of being a part of the Charlotte festival family. First up were father and son banjo duo Bruce and Wes Pettinger. They were followed by three generations of the Kirchner family with patriarch Paul leading. Next up was three generations of the Estep family with Duane, Kyle and Preston. The Douglas family was up next. Lloyd is known for his stint with Jim and Jesse. He now plays banjo for Detour. The father and son duo of Dave Conley Sr. and Jr. were the final pairing. Then all of the families gave a really grand finale!
Michigan based Full Cord then took the stage. They provide an eclectic blend of new and old bluegrass music. They are a west Michigan favorite.
Host band, The Journeymen, followed. This is a group of seasoned musicians from the west Michigan area that decided that they ought to play together as a band. They are a high energy, high jinx bunch that has fun on stage while providing great music. The Douglas brothers joined them for a couple of rollicking tunes in the evening set.
New County Grass came on and showcased their just released CD, Sing Me A Song, joined by fiddler Wayne Ferguson. The CD was seven years in the making and well worth the wait.
The Clay Hess Band was up next and gave the audience a top flight performance. Clay has long been a force in bluegrass music. See Clay and his band if you get a chance.
Sammy Shelor and Lonesome River Band closed out the festival as only LRB can. They provide music that makes you cry, makes you laugh, and every emotion in between.
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