World of Bluegrass – The Last Day

Read about our last day at the the World of Bluegrass Festival

Saturday 4 October 2014 Raleigh North Carolina

I’ve been here in Raleigh since Wednesday.  The past three days or so have been quite overwhelming.  Following on the Awards night and the superb day of artists yesterday, I wondered whether today might be a bit of a let down.  I was in fact right.

Whether it was me starting to flag or whether it was the somewhat imbalanced schedule, the final day, Saturday, probably did not kick into top gear musically for me.

I started with the usual walk to the Convention Centre and spent about ninety minutes at either the Exhibition Hall, workshop stages or chatting generally.  I discovered a stall that was promoting The Crooked Road – a traditional music trail along the south-west of Virginia.  It included the city of Bristol (Virginia and Tennessee border) which I have wanted to visit for a while.  I began to hatch a plan.

A film was showing as part of the festival today about the very strong bluegrass tradition in Czechoslovakia.  It’s called Banjo Romantika and one of the film makers was there, talking about the background to the movie and how it was made.  It sounded very interesting, so I picked up a copy of the DVD for later consumption.

The Clay Hess Band was on the City Plaza Stage and I liked Clay’s raspy, weathered voice – songs included “I Saw The Light”, “Working On A Building” and Bill Monroe’s “Blue Night”.  I liked the material and the intensity of the music.

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Clay Hess

Time for a quick bite and a double vegetarian samosa from one of the many stalls up the bustling Lafayette St.  Vendors included food, drink, ice cream, craft, business, art, tourism and even religion.  Back at my favourite coffee haunt in Raleigh The Morning Times for an excellent latte while listening to Kristy Cox on the Hargett Stage, then back to the City Plaza Stage for the end of the Hubby Jenkins show which was followed by Special Consensus.  Over to the Ballroom of the Convention Centre where The Kruger Brothers were with the Kontras Quartet, doing a world premiere of a new concerto “Lucid Dreamer”.

Nothing was sticking, so over to The Red Hat Amphitheatre for the full set of Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out.  This was old-time and traditional bluegrass, except that the mandolin player swapped for an electric guitar which was the only such instrument I saw outside a music shop all the festival.  Same seat as yesterday, a chance to re-acquaint myself with friendly seat neighbours Randy and Cindy.  One of the tunes performed during the set was “Pretty Little Girl From Galax” which would have some resonance later on in the trip (the town, not the girl!).  Other songs performed were “Devil In The Straw Sack”, which was an interesting dual tempo tune, going from business-like to frantic.  Bill Monroe featured yet again, with the band performing “Bluegrass Special” and “John And Mary”, the latter quite hard-hitting.

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Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Oh, to have but half of the talent and gravitas of Noam Pikelny.  A banjo player whose music is evenly tied to both traditional bluegrass and contemporary string band music, he is a member of the Punch Brothers and has played with Leftover Salmon and John Cowan.  He is Grammy nominated.  He released an eye-catching album last year Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe which won Album Of The Year at this week’s IBMA Awards and he got also got the nod for Best Instrumentalist for his banjo playing.  Today he was playing with violin maestro and singer Stuart Duncan and it was a highly engaging set.  Pikelny didn’t say that much but, when he did, his strong dry wit was to the fore.  The music was sublime, taking the audience right back to the most traditional music, even before it was called that, there were Scottish lullabies, Stanley Brothers’ tunes and of course pieces from his new album, which is an homage to Kenny Baker’s 1994 lauded release of Bill Monroe tunes.

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Stuart Duncan and Noam Pilkeny

It was getting cold, my T-shirt and shorts attire was probably not going to work for the rest of the evening.  It was 5.45pm so I decided to walk to The Lincoln Theatre, two or three blocks away – this is a famous venue where many of my favourite artists play when they come to Raleigh (Jason Isbell is heading here soon, according to the notice board).  I wandered around all parts of the festival scene, soaking up the environment and taking some photos by way of reminders.  I do not expect to be back in Raleigh next year and I am not sure when of if I will be coming back, so I really wanted to just enjoy the festivities and hubbub.  The wind was getting stronger and colder.  Del McCoury was on at The Red Hat, (I have seen his show many times), followed by Ricky Scaggs from 9.30 til 11pm.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold out that long, both temperature wise and stamina wise.  I also had a busy travelling day tomorrow.

So, I grabbed a beef gyro and two small bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and headed back to my hotel, where it was warm and quiet.

Sometimes you have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

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Read about our last day at the the World of Bluegrass Festival

Read about our last day at the the World of Bluegrass Festival

Read about our last day at the the World of Bluegrass Festival

Read about our last day at the the World of Bluegrass Festival

 

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Author: Rob Dickens

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