Here's my stab at a review of the weekend-
Friday afternoon I skipped my professional responsibility class and hopped on the 5 to go get a spot for Plant and Krauss. Got to the park around 3 and scored a spot just left of sbd. Caught Sharon Little's last few songs- she sounded pretty good, has a very powerful voice. I would definitely check her out again.
Jerry Douglas was up next and he really blew it out. He played a few songs off of his new album, Glide, including the beautiful title track and "Route Irish" which he dedicated to the troops. He also played the Weather Report song "A Remark You Made" which was also beautiful. Mr. Douglas is an absolute dobro virtuoso and he didn't disappoint.
Met some funny dudes during Douglas' set, one of whom had retired the previous day from his gig as a federal prosecutor and judge in Colorado, and was about to emigrate to British Columbia. Traded them some Heaven Hill bourbon for some homemade wine and was feeling real fine by the time P/K and co. took the stage.
They played most of the album- Rich Woman, Sister Rosetta, Through the Morning Through the Night, Fortune Teller, Nothin', Please Read the Letter, Gone Gone Gone- as well as a couple of Zep tunes- Rock N' Roll and Battle of Evermore- a couple Alison songs that I wasn't familiar with, and a couple of T-Bone songs. They also did a beautiful Wildwood Flower and In the Mood (which I could have done without). Encore of I'm a One Woman Man.
They reproduced the sound of the album really well, and the mix was excellent from where I stood, considering the outdoor venue. The band is super tight and Buddy and T-Bone have amazing tone. All in all, a great amuse bouche for the smorgasbord to come over the next two days...
Saturday I got to Speedway around 9:30, threw a tarp down at Banjo stage, and took a nap. I was curious what "Band Joe and the Whyte Laydie" was, and little disappointed to discover that it was Moonalice, minus Barry Sless, with Warren Helman singing and playing banjo. Warren by himself would've been alright- he's no great musician but dude is bankrolling the whole dang fest so he can do waht he wants- but Ann McNamee just needs to hang it up for the love of everything holy on this earth. She is just gawd awful. They did a little tune about Warren losing his banjo, ("Oh laydie, why did you leave me...) with Ann as the voice of the banjo ("Oh loser, why did I leave you...").
Up next was Jimmy Dale Gilmore (aka Smokey- "Mark it 8 dude") who put on a nice rollicking set of Texas rock n' country-blues to start things off. He had his son playing guitar with him and singing a couple of tunes. I don't know many of the songs but I know he did "Banks of the Colorado River" and a Townes van Zandt tune that escapes me at the moment.
After Jimmy Dale I spent the early part of the day zig-zagiing back and forth between the Rooster and Banjo Stages. I zigged over and caught the end of Carlene Carter's set. She did "Ring of Fire" among other things. After that I zagged back for Laurie Lewis & Friends, who were really good- I especially enjoyed the songs sung by her mandolinist but they were all great. They played an Irving Berlin song that was familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it.
Then back to rooster for Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson. They did "LA Freeway," "Out in the Parking Lot," "Boats to Build" and many more. Guy is amazing- maybe the highest highlight of the day for me.
After that it was Peter Rowan. I miss Tony Rice but his new ensemble was excellent. He did "Panama Red," "Land of the Navajo" and some others, and worked up some really nice jams. Then it was Gary Louris and Mark Olson from the Jawhawks. They played a god mix of new stuff from their forthcoming record and old Jayhawks favorites. The new material sounded nice- new album should be pretty good. I much prefer these guys together than on their own. Their harmonies are just too beautiful and it always sounds like something missing on the solo stuff I've listened to. As for older songs they did "Waiting for the Sun," "Sister Cry," "Blue," "Two Hearts," and "See Him on the Street."
Next up- Three Girls and Their Buddy. Buddy Miller, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, and Emmylou Harris. They did kind of a songwriters' circle format- going down the line and taking turns singing while the others accompanied. Highlight for me Buddy's "Wide River to Cross." Patty Griffin did a cute little song called "Our Love is a Dud." I could've done without the Shawn Colvin songs.
At that point the park was filling up and I gave up on stage-hopping, settling in at my Banjo Stage with some friends up from Santa Cruz. Hot Rize was up next and they smoked. I don't know their songs but they blew me away with their collective musicianship. After that it was the legendary Odetta. She had to be wheeled out on stage, but at 77 she sounded pretty damn good. She had a keyboardist accompanying her who was kinda cheesy, but she made up for it with her amazing pipes. She was a crackup too- she prefaced "Careless Love" with a little public service announcement about wearing condoms. She did "St. Louis Blues," Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues," a song about TV ("TV is killing me" or something like that?), and closed with an otherworldy "House of the Rising Sun."
Steve Earle and the Bluegrass Dukes closed it down with a rocking, rootsy set (no DJ). I don't know too many of Steve's songs but he did "The Mountain," "Willin'," and encored with "Copperhead Road." He and his band sounded great, and they got the crowd on their feet and dancing for pretty much the first time all day, ending the day on a high note.
Fine reviews, thanks for the effort. It sounds like a marathon and a real good time.
>>>Laurie Lewis & Friends, who were really good- I especially enjoyed the songs sung by her mandolinist<<<
That would most likely be the excellent Tom Rozum, who ALWAYS plays with Lewis. They're a great team, an under-rated local act and always a fun time. They play lots of small venues and I try to see them any chance I get.
I was a little lazier getting out the Park on Sunday. Finally rolled in at about 11:15, and caught the tail end of a very impressive Poor Man's Whiskey performance, complete with elaborate mariachi costumes, full horn section, cowbellist, floutist, dancing girls, and monkey. The monkey removed his mask at the end of the set to reveal that he was in fact the dude that is always carrying around a huge stealie/dancing bears flag at show. Anyway PMW really impressed me- I will definitely make more of an effort to check them out in the future. They had the early morning crowd up and dancing, and began the day on a big high note.
I started drinking early and often on Sunday, so bear with me if the details are a little foggy as the day progresses. After PMW I caught a bit of Red Wine on the tiny Porch Stage. I read their bio and figured I had to at least see what Italian bluegrass sounded like. They were actually really good. Not face-melting, but highly competent and really fun. They did a couple of songs in Italian (one of which was more of a New Orleans jump-jazz kinda thing than bluegrass), a couple of Gillian Welch covers, and some more traditional bluegrassy fare. Then Tim O'Brien, who I guess produced their most recent album, guested on a couple of tunes, which definitely kicked things up a notch. Really fun band that I would check out again for sure.
After that back to the big Banjo Stage for Hazel Dickens. Her voice was a little rough, but the gal is 77 years old so you really can't be too critical. And her band, which featured Barry Mitterhoff waling on mandolin and some other familiar faces that I couldn't quite place, was smoking. She did a real nice version of her "Keepsake on a Shelf," popularized by Dolly Parton.
Next was Bonnie Prince Billy. I've been wanting to catch him live for years. He had a full band with him, featuring pretty traditional country arrangements that really fleshed out his sound nicely. Not nearly as "weird" as some of his recorded stuff that I've heard- very enjoyable, straight, old-timey folk music.
Then back to Banjo for the legendary Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys (& Girl- Laurie Lewis was in the band). Ralph did all the tunes you would expect- a beatiful a capella "Oh Death" and the other "O Brother" tunes, "Foggy Mtn. Breakdown" and a bunch more. He didn't play too much banjo but his voice sounded great for the 80 plus years he's got on the odometer. After that I tried I went over to check out Elvis Costello for a few tunes. He was joined by Bill Kirchen and he Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods, and opened with "Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes," and did Van Morrison's "Wild Night" and a song featuring Jim Lauderdale. Apparently Emmylou joined him later on in the set. It was really crowded so I split to get over to Earl Scruggs, another absolute legend and one of the inventors of bluegrass as we know it. He played a fun, upbeat set that included a rockin' "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere."
Then I tried to go check out Iron & Wine but at this poin tthe park was getting super crowded at this point and I had a bellyfull of Jim Beam and PBR, and got caught up talking to some friends and didn't hear much of the set. What I did catch sounded pleasant but not all that exciting. It was just Sam Beam solo- I dunno if that's the way he always performs but I think it would have been more interesting with at least another guitarist or something to fill out the sound.
Then I headed back to check out Ricky Skaggs, who was pretty fun. I think he did Leadbelly's "In the Pines." It's all abit blurry from there on out but I stuck around for most of Skaggs and then Emmylou, who were both awfully fun and got the park on its feet and grooving. I ran into some old high school friends and had some catching up to do, so I wasn't as attentive to the music for the last part of the day, but all in all it was a real good weekend of amazing music and god vibes in the park. Can't wait to do it again next year! God bless Warren Helman!
HSBG was again, great!! so much music that it wasnt possible to see every band I fancied.
Plant/Krause/Burnett: I wasn't even expecting the ZEP tunes. A nice way to kick off on friday eve!
Jerry Douglas: dobro master. I love this guy. his band always belongs at the fest.
Richard Thompson: 1 guy, 1 guitar, sounds like an entire band. his music is intricate, and has a catchy groove that keeps my interest. prolific songwriter. Impressive.
Asleep At The Wheel: Austin, TX band cooked, boogied, rocked, and twanged. Fun stuff.
Allison Brown/Joe Craven: great jams, featuring Brown on banjo, Craven on fiddle & mandolin, and a great keyboard player who circled the music perfectly.
Waybacks: This band had great energy, got the crowd boogying, and played well. The St. Stephen medley at the end, with a creative 21st century Fixin To Die Rag, was tasty. The Waybacks should have closed the show at the Arrow stage on sunday!
Didn't quite cut the mustard:
Pegi Young: My bad. I got suckered by the Neil Young bullshit rumour. It was even in the newspaper. Well, no Neil at all, and Pegi sucked. Boring, bland, yawn. Waste of time.
Tea Leaf Green: I had never seen them before, so I was excited. They are ok, and I enjoyed some of the jams, but it was less than inspiring. The guitar player did nothing for me most of the time. The keyboard player was more goofy than good, and I didnt care for the vocals or the songs. They didnt suck, and maybe I was just tired by then, but they werent headline quality IMHO. See WAYBACKS!
others in the middle:
I enjoyed some of Elvis Costello but didn't care for the whole set. Maybe I was too far from the Star stage to absorb the energy. Hot Rize, and Steve Earle & Bluegrass Dukes played well on the banjo stage, and I enjoyed, but I was too far back to get great sound. I think the sound is only good in front of the soundboard, where I spent friday. I saw some of Nick Lowe, and still dont understand what anybody likes about his music, or why he keeps showing up at HSBG. I missed Moonalice because it took 90 minutes to park on sunday. No Jack Casady anyway so fuck it.
Yea, a great 3 days of music, buzzin, good friends in the park. peace and good vibes. I love this fest! Thank you, Warren Hellman and all the bands and crews. good fuckin' times!
"See WAYBACKS! "
Great advice Stewart. In the meantime, listen to the the WAYBACKS.
Brian H, thanks for the detailed review, much appreciated. And hell, a good festival is one where you focus on the music some, do a little drinking, and catch up with buds new and old! Sounds like you accomplished all of the above.
"Apparently Emmylou joined him (Elvis Costello) later on in the set."
This was the highlight of the weekend for me, possibly of all 8 years of Hardly Strictly ( I haven't missed one). Emmylou and Elvis did a bunch of old Graham Parsons material and it was just magic!
Too bad you missed that Brian!