RockyGrass Festival — Lyons, Colorado – July 23-25, 2010 (Review & Photos)
At the end of this year’s RockyGrass Festival in Lyons, Colorado, I heard the following:
“It was beyond real this year, “It was an 11 on a scale of 1 – 10”, and “It was beyond category” (the last comment from my husband, a dedicated Tour de France follower). I agree. It was darn near as perfect as it could be.
I’ll start with the finish. And I’ll write this particular review with a lot of help from our friend and talented musician, Michael Kearney. He introduced Jack and me to this great festival many years ago, and he and his wife Trudy Honeycutt have been participants of the Academy — and the campground — on many occasions.
The King of Planet Bluegrass, Sam Bush, closed out the festival on Sunday night… with a lot of friends. He played well-loved classics, and some from his newest release. He said we’d have to go find the new CD, “Circles Around Me” which hadn’t made it to the festival merch tent, but he wasn’t too worried about it.
My favorite song of his set was the new title song, which Mike Kearney said was co-written by Jeff Black. It made me want to fire up my Zippo lighter app on my iPhone. There was “Summertime”, Dooley, “Roll On Buddy”, and we howled at the almost full moon, on a beautiful perfect weather night.
Sam also gave tribute to “Mr. Guy Clark, Verlon Thomson, and Bill Monroe’s banjo player String Bean.
David Grisman came on board late in the day Sunday and stayed throughout, helping to fill in for Tony Rice’s absence. The official Planet Bluegrass website post was that Tony had a serious back injury. And to quote Mike, “Wyatt Rice played well in his brother’s style, playing mostly rhythm, and some leads. But the emerging star is Josh Williams. Originally slated to be in the mandolin slot, he switched to lead guitar, and made a career statement. He will be the real deal. Brynn Davies really played well, with several bass solos…. All dead on. In lieu of a fiddle, Rob Ickes played fabulous dobro. Josh also handled the vocal duties, doing credible versions of some of Tony’s old tunes.”
And at the end of Sam Bush’ set — on stage all at once — there were up to 3 banjos, 4 or 5 guitars, 2 dobros, 2 mandolins (or 1 mandolin, 1 fiddle, depending on what Sam was playing), and 1 bass.
Earlier in the day Tim O’Brien and a slim Bryan Sutton played songs mainly from the new “Chicken and Egg” CD. Ultimately they were joined by Sam, Alison Brown, and Pete Wernick, as the last evening heated up. Alison Brown had her own set too, which included the diverse Joe Craven. As Mike noted, “She featured each member on some of their own material. They looked like they were having a ton of fun. It was a mixture of traditional and jazzier stuff”. And when Sam joined them, they paid tribute to Elvis Costello with “Every Day I Write the Book”.
Also on Sunday we heard Bobby Osborne of “Rocky Top fame, and Junior Sisk, who told us what was most important in life: “God, Momma, and fried chicken!”
Saturday’s lineup included the young and talented Farewell Drifters, traditional Frank Solivan, and one of my personal favorites, The Infamous Stringdusters. We were treated to a fantastic Doc Watson show, followed by more greatness with The Seldom Scene, The Travelin’ McCourys, and ultimately The Horse Flies.
Doc told lots of stories, going way back in time to days of victrolas and learning to play the harmonica. We heard many songs including “Shady Grove”, a version of “Deep River Blues”, “Home Sweet Home”, Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times”, “Working Man Blues” highlighting his often-present grandson Richard, and “Walk On” involving audience participation. Our buddy Mike Kearney knows Mr. Watson well and said, “This was the BEST Doc show in years. Plus David Holt did a great job of educating the crowd on styles and Doc’s contributions, adding clawhammer, guitar and slide. Though he rambled a bit, and forgot the words to “Summertime”, Doc was in a solo mode so there wasn’t anyone next to him to cue him. But he played well for being 87 years old!”
Seldom Scene did a lot of covers actually – Robert Johnson, Dylan, George Jones, etc. – and had a lot of fun. And to quote Mike again, “It’s all about vocals, and they are one of the best. Lou Reid’s high tenor somehow never ran out of air; impressive for flatlanders.”
The Travelin McCourys included Dan Tyminski this time, and they had a tight, enthusiastic session overall. As Mike noted, “Ronnie sounds just like Dad on classic lead vocals. The band was as hard-driving as ever, and the new bass player made a big difference. The tradition is safe in their hands. Any guitar player that plays with them will have to hold on tight.”
And the Horse Flies – new to me but an enduring band – had me entranced, particularly with “The Last Train to Rajasthan”. Our friend Trudy categorized them as ‘European Gypsy’, which sounded appropriate. We may have lost a few of the bluegrass fans with this show, but they were certainly interesting with many special effects.
Day one on Friday was an equally big day, showcased by Patty Loveless’ big country show – not bluegrass but definitely entertainment. Peter Rowan and his bluegrass band put on a “best in show” set in my book, doing much from their upcoming self-titled CD. Nick Forster and Bryan Sutton played early on, with Bryan filling in in various spots later. I was also introduced to Greensky Bluegrass, and talented 19-year old Sierra Hull, as well as hearing Mark Johnson and Emery Lester for the first time. Bearfoot, a somewhat evolving group, had a fine show with many songs from their newest CD, “Doors and Windows”.
I’m sorry to say I missed 49 Special on Friday, KC Groves on Sunday, and the instrument contest finals. I was, however, able to catch recently grouped Grant Farm for a few songs over in the Wildflower Pavilion – I believe they’ll be on the main stage next time.
Midday Saturday we were treated to 11 year old “Bella” on mandolin, an earlier instrument contest winner, definitely winning the heart-warming award from the crowd.
As usual, the whole event was organized and first-class. Just the right amount of people, superb transitions and timing, great food and drink (especially Mike and Trudy’s favorite – Sisters’ Thai Curry Dumplings — which they ate for breakfast, lunch & dinner), well-kept facilities, the cooling river nearby, a well-attended family tent, and just the right amount of shopping – a superb example of a small society.