- Bluegrass MP3 Downloads
- Bluegrass Lyrics
- Submit Festival/Event Info
First Annual Lonesome River Band Music Festival
by Scott Anderson, 04/22/2004
Iíve just returned from a great music filled weekend at the first annual Lonesome River Band Music Fest at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. Itís been a long time since weíve seen a pure bluegrass festival at this wonderful park with so many outstanding groups Ė The Lonesome River Band (hosts for the weekend,) the legendary J.D. Crowe and the New South, the award winning Blue Highway, outstanding relative newcomers The Chapmans, the Lost and Found, and Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time. These bands, along with some local and regional favorites and a special appearance by Lou Reid with the North Florida Bluegrass Associationís own Southern Lite, provided great entertainment all weekend. Even the weather was perfect! And the Spirit of the Suwannee Park is a great place to visit for camping, canoeing, horseback riding, and relaxing even if there's no festival going on.
First-time promoter Don Miller and marketing director Ernie Evans really hit a home run by combining a great park, a friendly, accommodating staff, and an outstanding lineup of bands to produce a memorable festival. These guys and others worked hard for months beforehand in order to be sure that everything would be right - and it was. As far as I could tell, there were no significant problems all weekend. They did provide a suggestion box for folks to give feedback and recommend improvements for next yearís show. Before the weekend was over, Don and Ernie were already considering a few minor changes that they thought might help make future festivals even better.
The Lonesome River Band are the hosts of this festival and were extremely gracious in this role. In addition to playing some great music on each night of the festival, each member made a special point to be available to talk, visit with, and even help the fans throughout the weekend. It was a very common sight to see Sammy Shelor walking unannounced into a campsite just to say hello and talk for a few minutes. This is not only a great band, theyíre really a friendly bunch of guys. And if you havenít yet heard the latest incarnation of LRB let me be the first to tell you - they sound great, vocally and instrumentally.
It was really a thrill for me to see J.D. Crowe and the New South. I got to meet J.D. and talk with him for a while which made for an even bigger thrill. J.D. has long been one of my banjo heroes and the band he has right now ROCKS! Hearing them do so many of their classic tunes was a real treat. J.D. is of course The Rock. Ricky Wasson is just one of the best bluegrass singers around, and Dwight McCall provides soaring tenor lines which combine with Ricky's lead and J.D.ís baritone to form a really tight trio. Throw in the incredibly smooth fiddling of Ron Stewart and the right-on-the-money bass of Marshall Wilborn and it just doesnít get any better.
Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time were also in fine form. Larry is a great singer and songwriter with Grammys, IBMA awards, and CMA awards under his belt whoís written literally dozens of songs that have been recorded by bluegrass and country artists including Highway 40 Blues (Ricky Skaggs), Murder on Music Row (Alan Jackson), Lower On the Hog (IIIrd Tyme Out) to name just a few. Unlike some songwriters, Larry delivers his own songs very effectively. He also brought an outstanding band with him that included the masterful Kristin Scott Benson (who is also one of your better-looking banjo players!), the ultra-slick Kim Gardner on Dobro, and Booie Beach on guitar and vocals who also played and sang great. These guys are currently promoting their new CD which features Lynyrd Skynyrd songs done with a bluegrass twist. Their sets were just plain fun Ė they all seemed to be having a good time and the crowd couldnít help but have a good time along with them.
Blue Highway lived up to their reputation as one of the top groups around with songs you canít forget, immaculate vocals, and tight arrangements and instrumentation. Wayne Taylor and Tim Stafford both tell fascinating stories in the songs they write and deliver them perfectly. Tim is also one of the best guitar players around. Rob Ickes is simply amazing on the resonator guitar Ė they havenít given him all of those Dobro Player of the Year awards for nothing! Five times in a row and counting. He can make his instrument sing like an angel or growl like a rabid dog Ė and he always puts each note in the perfect spot.
Another nice touch for the weekend was the free (yes, free!) workshops provided. There was a banjo workshop with IBMA award-winning Sammy Shelor, a beginning fiddle workshop with Trenda Gordon, and an advanced fiddle workshop with Mike Hartgrove and Ron Stewart. (Aubrey Haynie was originally scheduled for the fiddle workshop but is at home recovering from a broken pelvis he sustained in a 4-wheeler accident. His hands and arms are OK, though, so his fiddling abilities are intact. Maybe heíll get to come down and do the workshop next year.)
For me the weekend ended very early Sunday morning after picking a few songs with the Chapmans, Brandon Rickman and Jeff Parker from LRB, and Rob Ickes, among others, on the front porch of one of the cabins. It was a perfect ending to a great festival and left me wanting to quit my real job again. Iím pumped for next yearís show! Do yourself a favor and plan now to come to the second annual LRB Music Fest on April 7-9, 2005. Itís only going to get better. (Scott Anderson)
See more photos from the festival on Scott Anderson's web site