Kanawha Valley Jamboree Welcomes Dailey & Vincent – October 24, 2009 Review
The Kanawha Valley Jamboree is a relatively recent — and very welcome — addition to the local traditional country and bluegrass scene. As with most ventures of this sort it is the brainchild and result of one person’s persistent vision — Les Pullen.
Les is not a household name, at least not anymore. He was a guitarist in many local bands, most notably the Honey & Sunny and the Sleepy Jeffers bands that were mainstays of the country music and homecoming circuits for three decades — and both had radio and TV shows. I remember them well playing the annual Braxton County Homecoming over the Labor Day weekend at the Sutton air strip — I was a kid sitting on the back on the makeshift stage.
Years ago Les left his music gig –which was never full time anyway — and settled into selling insurance in Marmet, just a few miles east up the Kanawha River from Charleston. But, growing a bit restless, five years ago established the Jamboree at the former Marmet High School and during the season has weekly shows, usually local and regional talent, but includes nationally known performers as well, such as Rhonda Vincent and local boy made good, Charlie McCoy. The venue is alcohol and drug free. That way it used to be. The way it should be.
On Saturday night, Les & the Jamboree welcomed Dailey & Vincent who had just three weeks before in Nashville walked away with an unprecedented seven IBMA’s. And having had the group here before, Les knew he needed a bit bigger venue, so he moved it to another old high school in Nitro on the western side of Charleston in the Kathy Mattea Auditorium (and just a stone’s throw from the great Milton Opry House where I have seen many of the greats — and, by the way, where D&V will appear in March).
I got there 45 minutes early, but the place was already mostly full, and I spent that time talking mostly with the banjo player Joe Dean and many of the fans from five states who had traveled to this out of the way venue, including the family of Blaine Johnson (more on him later). The mostly older & very rural audience was primed.
No opening act, just a brief announcement and on to the show. And I can see why they have been named Entertainer of the Year by the IBMA. It was a show from my childhood, original songs, some standards, a lot of gospel invoking both God & Country and the good natured comedy bits that you know have been done a hundred times before, but still not just funny, but funny in way that is the result of love and fellowship.
Two high points. First, D&V brought the house down & a standing ovation when just the two of them on guitar & mandolin performed Gillian Welch’s & David Rawlings’ “By the Mark.” As is a country & bluegrass tradition, when an audience really likes a number, you repeat a verse or two — this time they had the audience alone sing the chorus. It was a sweet moment.
Second, near the end of the intermissionless two hour performance they invited Blaine Johnson — the twelve year old banjo phenom from Beckley, West Virginia — to perform a rousing version of “Earl’s Breakdown.” Blaine had performed on Mt. Stage as a member of the Songcatchers just six days before and as I sat with his parents, it was obvious they were very proud. Rightly so.
For more photos see my photo section.