What Took You So Long? from Eddie Lightner

Bluegrass mandolinist and songwriter Eddie Lightner has released a single from his upcoming album, The Notes of Life. It’s one he wrote about the DelFest experience called What Took You So Long?

Eddie tells us that DelFest, and the DelFest Academy that precedes it each year, have served as important formative influences in his life as a musician. Growing up in northern Virginia he attached himself to the jamgrass scene in the region, learning to play mandolin and embracing the jamming scene.

But he says that meeting and studying mandolin at the Academy with Ronnie McCoury and Sierra Hull really ignited his passion for the instrument. He formed a band with friends he met there called Folkenphunk, and they toured along the eastern seaboard in 2018 and ’19, until the pandemic shutdowns put an end to all that.

Then Lightner’s wife, a Commander in the Coast Guard, was transferred to the west coast and he was snatched from his familiar jamgrass scene. Not one to complain, Eddie took it in stride and started playing where he could, and studying remotely with Chris Henry to further the improvement of his mandolin technique.

And Chris became an important part of The Notes of Life album as well. In discussions about making this project happen, which Eddie wanted to cut back home in Virginia, Henry was able to suggest his dad’s studio in Winchester, and soon he was recording with Chris producing and playing guitar.

Eddie says that there is quite a deep backstory to this first single.

What Took You So Long is a song I wrote about DelFest, capturing the spirit of the festival, and what Del has done for the music community.

There is a part of the Academy where you can sign up to play music with Del. And in 2019 I signed up, but didn’t think they were going to have a chance to get me in. That day I was the opening act for the early arrivals at the festival at the Allegheny fairgrounds up the street from DelFest called the Delebration. I was in the van about to head over there and I got a call from my friend that said, ‘Eddie they are calling you to the stage to play with Del.’

So I grabbed a mandolin and ran across the field and played with a superstar Academy lineup with Sierra Hull and Ronnie Bowman helping me with harmonies. We did In The Gravel Yard, and as I was walking off the stage, Del stopped me and he said, ‘It’s about time, Eddie Lightner,’ referring to me making all those fine musicians wait.

But it meant more to me as if it was about time I got to play with these mighty bluegrass musicians. So I incorporated that little bit of my own DelFest experience into the song, What Took You So Long? 

I’m not sure if DelFest needed an anthem but it’s got one now.”

With Lightner on mandolin and lead vocal, and Chris Henry on guitar, further support comes from Gina Furtado on banjo, Malia Furtado on fiddle, Matthew Zuckerman on reso-guitar, and Chris Blauciak on bass. Harmony vocals were provided by the Furtado sisters.

Have a listen to what turned out to be a dream come true for one bluegrass picker in What Took You So Long?

To put a nice coda on Eddie’s story, he just found out that his wife is being transferred back to DC, so expect to see him playing and singing in the capitol region soon.

What Took You So Long? is available now from popular download and streaming services online. Radio programmers will find the track at AirPlay Direct.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.