About Me

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Pomfret, CT, United States
I use this blog to maintain and promote bluegrass and to showcase artists and festivals.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 Joe Val Workshops

The workshops at Joe Val fill up early and many are left standing outside the rooms hoping to get a spot. Here Frank Wakefield gives pointers along with humorous tales of his long and notable career

Richard Brown and Frank Wakefeld

Frank Wakefield, Phil Zimmerman, and BBU staff

Tim Stafford held a session on guitar rhythm and creating breaks

Tim Stafford

August Watters teaches the art of cross picking

August Watters

Audie Blaylock talks about guitar breaks

Audie Blaylock

Dave Dillon, Richard Brown, and Margaret Gerteis

Rich Stillman shares his knowledge with some dedicated students

Rich Stillman

BBU staff member teaches mandolin backup technique
Michael Cleveland mesmerizes the class with his superb playing

Michael Cleveland

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


There’s been much talk, lately, about the demise of the Bluegrass Now magazine which had published news and reviews of bluegrass artists, promoters and the like for eighteen years or so. Much of the blame for the lack of financial success, has been laid on the fans of the music who failed to support the magazine, and of course you have to sell subscriptions to stay viable But it seems to me there were just too many magazines about bluegrass music. The fan base for bluegrass is small, too small to support several magazines reporting on the same touring artists and festivals especially with competition from the internet based discussion boards and blogs where you can read about just everything that’s going on in the genre.

Another area on shaky ground is live performances. Too many promoters are losing their shirts trying to provide good bluegrass music to fans that just will not come out and support it. In recent months I have traveled to shows featuring top national bands like Del McCoury, Dan Paisley, New Found Road and others who performed to small audiences much less than anticipated by the promoter prompting one to say he’d " probably not do this again." If fans continue to stay at home rather than support the music there will be few willing to risk their resources in promoting live bluegrass? At one point I took a chance and produced one event with a regional band of good quality. I exhausted myself advertising the event in several towns, in print and on the radio and on internet bluegrass lists only to be disappointed by the turnout. I ended up using several hundred dollars of my own money to fulfill my obligations. Would I do it again? Not likely.

Below, Dan Paisley and Southern Grass perform at a well attended festival, unfortunately, at a venue in Massachusetts, the turnout for Dan was not enough for the promoter to break even

Donnie Eldreth Jr. and Dan Paisley

My one attempt at promoting live bluegrass was not a success and caused me to cut short my promoting career. However, should I come into a hefty inheritance I would restart my career even if it lost money just to expose people to this wonderful music

Life Star airlifting my checkbook to a Critical Care facility


Saturday, November 29, 2008


Sounding like a camp meeting preacher, fiddler Andrew Heaton jumps up to the mic and in a voice that’s grating warns the sinners, ”they better get ready” as he kicks off the set for the Athens, GA. based Packway Handle Band in concert at the Podunk Winter Music Series held in East Hartford CT. The line comes from their blistering rendition of “Sinner, You Better Get Ready, “ a Monroe Brother’s tune that’s sure to make some rethink their behavior. The Packway Handle Band is a high energy group to say the least, packing lots of action into the delivery of their music, very exciting. I don’t believe the audience expected such a dynamic performance, they seemed to be in awe after the first tune and the set continued to be fast paced and supercharged. The band’s musicianship is outstanding and the four part harmony is near-perfect. They use a two-condenser mic and the movement to and from the mic is a show in itself. Their music, much of which is original, is edgy, energetic and decidedly entertaining. Besides Heaton on fiddle and vocals there is Michael Paynter, mandolin and vocals, Josh Erwin guitar and vocals, Tom Baker banjo and vocals and Zach McCoy on bass. To the delight of the audience, with the last song of the set they started jumping off the stage, one after the other, while singing and playing, and ran up about five rows into the audience and finished up their set among the fans. The people I talked to at the end of the performance had nothing but praise for the band.

Andrew Heaton, Michael Paynter, Tom Baker, Josh Erwin and Zach McCoy

Michael Paynter, Tom Baker and Josh Erwin

Josh Erwin

They jumped from the stage and ran up the aisle to perform up close to the audience
The next show in the series at Podunk Winter Concerts is Laurie Lewis And The Right Hands on December 4 in East Hartford CT.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The Killingly Grange Concert Series offered its second show of the season featuring the 2007, Thomas Point Beach Festival, Band Showcase winner, "Crossover," a band out of southern CT. The band offers a country flavored style of bluegrass that's quite enjoyable to hear. Lead guitarist and harmony vocalist Warren Charrette contributed some exciting breaks on his sweet sounding 1959 Martin D-18 to songs such as "Dark Hollow," "Erase the Miles," and others. Andre Tardif plays banjo and guitar and sings lead along with Dan Dube who provides much of the lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Kyle Neilson the mandolinist keeps the band loose with his humerous banter and joke telling and jumps in with the lead on occasion. The steady beat of the bass comes from Larry Harvey. They are an easy going laid back bunch of veteran musicians who believe in having at least as much fun as the audience, and I can tell you the audience loved them, although the Grange Hall is small the audience made it sound like an auditorium with the loud response to the good music. I know this group would have gone on all night and the audience would have stayed if only the venue would have allowed it. To check Crossover's schedule click here

Andre Tardif

The Crossover Band

Warren Charrette

Dan Dube and Kyle Neilson

Larry Harvey

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Found Road

Ready For The Fans

On a recent Friday night the East Hartford CT Community Cultural Center featured the bluegrass band “New Found Road,” a band not often seen in this part of the country It’s unusual for a bluegrass band to have a surplus of lead singers but New Found Road is blessed to have three gifted lead vocalists each of whom is talented enough to front his own band. Tim Shelton of course is the front man, and a terrific singer, for the band and an able guitarist to boot. Then there’s Jr. Williams the banjo player who’s also a fine singer and the bass player Randy Barnes is an exceptional vocalist too. Happily they are all content to share the role of lead vocalists throughout their set. Joe Booher the mandolin player provides good harmony and strong mando breaks.Their music, contemporary bluegrass and early country ballads done bluegrass style is influenced by country musicians, Freddy Fender, Glen Campbell and rock stylists such as James Taylor and the Eagles. They also favor gospel, offering up seamless harmony delightful to the senses. Their unaccompanied version of “When I Get Home” was jaw dropping and the audience response was remarkably enthusiastic. Shelton’s rendition of “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” was very moving. Their entire set was thoroughly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to seeing them again.
New Found Road will be appearing at the “Joe Val Festival” in Boston this February 2009 and at the “Podunk Music Festival” in East Hartford in July 2009.

Tim Shelton

Randy Barnes

Joe Booher and Randy Barnes

Jr. Williams

Monday, October 27, 2008

Grange Concert Series

The Killingly, CT. Grange kicked off its new season last Saturday with two fine area bands, Pine Creek and host band Shady Creek. Pine Creek, features Nanette Addesso on lead vocals and fiddle, Joe Mellet, who shares lead vocal, on mandolin, Mike Volatile on bass and vocals, Fred Etheridge on lead guitar and Jim Beaver on banjo and harmony vocals. Jim Beaver is also the knowledgeable cohost of the Bluegrass Cafe which airs on WHUS 91.7 at the University of Connecticut. This band proved to be quite talented and I especially enjoyed the choice of music, tunes like "Jenny Mule","Midnite Train" and "Waves of the Sea" played at top speed with good timing and rhythm. Harmony was tight and right, and Nanette and Joe provided fine vocals. Nanette throws her head back and launches some strong, emotional versions of songs about lost love and homeplace, Joe sings the lyrics with passion. I'll be sure to look for this band down the road.

Pine Creek

Mike Volatile, Nanette Addesso and Joe Mellet

Nanette, Jim Beaver and Joe

The Pine Creek Band with Fred Etheridge on guitar

The Shady Creek Band is the host band of the series and always give a fine performance. Lead singer Nick Anderson combines with mandolin player Monty McLanahan to sing traditional and gospel tunes such as "Rose of Kentucky", "Another Night", "Lonesome Road Blues" and many more of the good old songs. Their special guest of the night was Danny Menzone a highly talented banjo player, songwriter and former member of the "Traver Hollow" band that toured the national and international bluegrass circuit for over twenty years. Dan recently put together an album titled "Menzone Drive", it has eight original tunes along with covers of Flatt and Scruggs and Peggy Harvey, former bandmate at "Traver Hollow". The album has an impressive lineup of musicians, "Rickie Simpkins" on fiddle and mando, "Wyatt Rice" on guitar, "Ronnie Simpkins" on bass and "Roger Williams" on dobro. This album is a good listen, its melodies grab you right from the start and Danny is one of the best at playing both straight ahead bluegrass and more edgy material. All in all I'd say the "Grange Concert Series" got off to a wonderful start.

The Shady Creek Band

Nick Anderson

Dan Menzone

Monty McClanahan and Roger Diebel

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bear Minimum and Gibson Brothers

October 12 was a perfect day for a ride in the country, shirtsleeve temperatures,clear blue sky and magnificent fall colors and then top it off with wonderful bluegrass music. The Canterbury, CT. Historical Society must be doing something right, two of its major fundraising events have had picture perfect weather and the people turned out in great numbers. That was the case Sunday for the Bear Minimum Band and Gibson Brothers concert.
The "Bear Minimum" band opened the afternoon of music with their blend of early country and traditional bluegrass. Dave Shaw, a member of the "Bear Bridge Band" has teamed up with Dave Orlomoski, who is a member of both the "Bristol Boys" and the "Bear Bridge" band to form the "Brother Style" duet offering up tight harmonies and fine picking. Their music was that of the Louvin Brothers, Hank Snow, Jimmy Rogers and others of that era. The band was well received, indeed, they got an ovation just for walking down the aisle to the stage and a request for an encore.

Dave Orlomoski and Dave Shaw

The Gibson Brothers took the stage next and thrilled the sold out house with tunes from their Number 1 album "Iron And Diamonds". Tunes like "Pickers Blues," "Cabin Down Below" and the title cut "Iron And Diamonds," all three are on the Bluegrass Unlimited "Top 30 Songs" list. The band was at the top of their game with every tune performed with passion and urgency to a wildly appreciative audience. Both Eric and Leigh have the talent and skill to be able to get inside a song and deliver its message with emotion and feeling. Add to that a band that can deliver aggressive rhythm and thrilling solos and you've got yourself an afternoon of music you can rave about for hours. The DJ at WHUS, 91.7 said his phone was ringing nonstop with people who wanted to let him know about the fabulous show they had just seen.
Thanks to Amy Orlomoski and the Canterbury, CT Historical Society for such a well run event.

Eric and Leigh Gibson

As you can see, Leigh Gibson's recent hair transplant surgery was a huge success.

Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

Mike, as always was excellent at providing the steady bluegrass beat and some splendid solo work

Rick Hayes

Rick rendered flawless solos, uncluttered, clean and delivered with the melody in mind

Clayton Campbell

Clayton was on fire, up on his toes and feeling every note played.
Its now obvious, the curls are gone, Yep, it was a wig.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Home for Jenny Brook

The producers of the popular Jenny Brook Family Bluegrass Festival have announced that due to circumstances beyond their control they have to move the festival from Weston VT. to the Tunbridge Fairgrounds in Tunbridge, VT. for the 2009 festival season. The new home will be an improvement, I think, because it will have free showers and flush toilets and a building to house the music should the weather turn sour as it sometimes does at most festivals. At any rate I'm happy to see it continue as it's one of our favorites. The Jenny Brook website has photos of the grounds and buildings. Click here to visit their website

The Food and Vendor area

Waiting for the Music

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gibson Brothers

With their album "Irons And Diamonds" sitting atop the Bluegrass Unlimited's Top 15 Albums chart and three of their songs on the Top 30 Songs List The Gibson Brothers are riding high. They've had a busy schedule this year with bookings all over the country and happily they'll be stopping by the Finnish Hall in Canterbury CT on Sunday the 12th of October. The "Bear Minimum Band," Dave Shaw and Dave Orlomoski, will open at 2:30 p.m. and the Gibsons will take the stage at 3:30 in the afternoon. I'm told the tickets are going fast, they can be purchased at the door. For more information click here

The Gibson Brothers

Monday, September 29, 2008


The TallGrass Bluegrass Band performed recently at the Grassroots Coffee House, which is located in the Rockdale Congregational Church in Northbridge MA. The group played to a good crowd of folks who may not have been bluegrass fans when they entered the coffee house but after a couple of fast instrumentals and heartfelt vocals they were all tapping their feet and smiling from ear to ear. Nick Anderson who provided most of the lead vocals sang a particularly good rendition of Pete Wernicks, "Just Like You," a tune about the lonely lives many people endure and how loneliness can come to those who least expect it. Nick heads up the Connecticut based Shady Creek Band when not performing with TallGrass. Harmony and "Hot" instrumental breaks provided by members of the "Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band", Bob Dick on bass, brother Dave Dick on banjo, and the very lively Dan Nowlan on mandolin, made it a special evening of music. The sets were predominately traditional and gospel and during all of the gospel songs the audience sang the chorus parts along with the band without being prompted to do so, that was very moving. Meg and I enjoyed a "first", sitting through an entire bluegrass show in the most comfortable rocking chairs you could imagine while woofing down "whoopie pies" and bottomless cups of coffee. Everyone enjoyed the performance as evidenced by the fellowship afterwards.


Nick Anderson

Dave Dick

Dan Nowlan

Bob Dick on bass