Sunday at RockyGrass

This post combines Jason Lombard’s photos, and Jake Schepps‘ report from Sunday at RockyGrass. Jake’s upcoming album banjo album based on the music of Béla Bartok, An Evening In The Village, is due for release on October 4. Audio samples and pre-orders are available online.

The incredible music continued. Milk Drive started the day with an interesting combination of vocals and arresting instrumentals. Those kids can play! For me it is refreshing to hear on stage music that is similar to what I am hearing in the campground, that being a larger palette of rhythmic variety and more extended harmony. This is obviously not in every campground jam, but as the Berklee Acoustic Strings students are graduating from school, they are inspiring a lot of other musicians, and there seems to be a growing community of young musicians playing with these tonalities. At least many of them are finding their way to RockyGrass each year.

Joy Kills Sorrow followed, and the band played one of my favorite sets from the weekend. They performed a lot of music from their new album This Unknown Science. Their band is a fascinating combination of virtuosic players (Wesley Corbett on banjo, Matt Arcara on guitar, Jacob Joliff on mandolin and the great Bridget Kearny on bass), Emma Beaton’s vocals, and phenomenal songwriting. With so much talent, they have stripped the songs down, then rebuilt each tune with pop and folk-rock sensibilities, yet also taking the best ideas from stringband music.  Then they add beautiful textures with acoustic instruments. The arrangements are inspired, and the rhythmic twists are always compelling. Their new album (due out in the next month or so) is also excellent.

Back on the Wildflower Pavilion side stage, Darol Anger and friends played a Kenny Baker Tribute. Those friends included the amazing Dominick Leslie on mandolin, Wesley Corbett on banjo, David Grier on guitar, Samson Grisman on bass, and a trio of fiddlers: Brian Wicklund, and Alex Hargreaves and Darol, with 3-time National Fiddle Champion Kimber Ludiker joining them for the last tune. They told some Kenny Baker stories, played some of his greatest tunes, and ended with a rousing Road to Columbus. Hopefully it makes it on YouTube soon, as they traded 8’s, 4’s then 2’s which devolved into fiddle craziness.

Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers represented the best of the best in traditional bluegrass, and then the Sam Bush Bluegrass Band closed the festival. I really love hearing them dig up old tunes from The Dillards and The County Gentlemen and reinvent them. A great festival closer.

RockyGrass is always the last weekend of July, and this year it sold out by April, so get your tickets early.