As we hit the hay at around 3.30 this morning after the Aussie Rules Grand Final concluded (Go Hawks!), the day started very slowly.
We missed the hotel breakfast so we ambled to the Daily Plant Cafe and there we sort of planned our last day in Raleigh and the multiple choices on offer at the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival 2013.
A walk to the Red Hat Amphitheatre was the first activity. Singer Abigail Washburn was again the host at the Red Hat. The Gibson Brothers had won a couple of awards at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards two days ago (see previous post). Their set was interesting, a little more country in their bluegrass than many of the performers. A lot of strong songs, many penned by Eric Gibson. Good stage banter between the two brothers in the band. T hey finished off with their signature tune “Ring The Bells”.
Next Della Mae – five-women strong. It so happened that this band has/will be appearing at all three of our music festivals this trip. Formed in 2009, the band has just released its major label debut (on Rounder Records). The real distinguishing feature of this band is that it includes no banjo! We listened to a couple of songs before making the short journey to the Sheraton Ballroom for Peter Rowan.
Rowan had an eight piece line-up behind him with a very strong communal and familial feeling. In fact it wouldn’t surprise if he hadn’t assembled the players from the hotel lobby – beautiful players all. Michael Cleveland was absolutely stellar on the violin – you might like to check him out. The 45-minute set was over in what seemed a flash. I later chatted with his mandolin player Chris and collected Rowan’s new CD Old School.
Flagging a little, we were in need of lunch and coffee – we were lucky in grabbing a table at the hectic Morning Times Cafe and having wraps, salad, soup and coffee between us. Through the window we could see and hear The Church Sisters on the Hargett Stage. We decided on a strategic retreat to the hotel to find some energy from the vending machine there. Alas we didn’t have the right change, so we rested in our room instead.
Time to venture forth soon enough. There were ominous clouds, let’s hope the rain holds off.
In the Red Hat, the crowd is pretty sizable and supplies, both food and drink, are starting to dwindle. You can almost feel the anticipation for The Incredible Stringdusters. This grassy outfit was on the Americanafest bill in Nashville but I couldn’t get to see them.
Unlike many of the acts I’ve seen, the ‘dusters have a dobro player which suits my sensibilities. Four lead singers, aforementioned dobro, banjo, guitar, fiddle and double bass. Players with persuasive prowess. Great jamming – absorbing and captivating. The real ‘grass deal but with Americana cross-over. A version of The Police’s “Walking On The Moon” was interesting but maybe too simple, too incongruous. The set soon sparked up and finished with a standing ovation.
Time to leave Red Hat for the final time – off to the Central Plaza Stage for Chatham County Line.
The first thing that struck me with Chatham County Line is the strength of the song writing and the vocals – strong lyrics critically dwarfing the standard bluegrass instrument prowess. I have been impressed with this Yep Roc label outfit for a while and was heartened to hear that they are expecting to release a new album soon. This outfit emanates from Raleigh so there was a torrent of hometown pride here.
Fatigue has dictated that I leave this gig early. Time to think about tomorrow.
As I left the top end of Fayetteville St near Capitol Hill, the last musical sound I heard was a plaintive banjo note – fitting I reckon.
Tomorrow a different music scene – Austin.
To sleep perchance to dream…