Day two of our inaugural Sidetracks & Detours Anuual Bluegrass in text Festival 2022, showing us
BLUEGRASS FESTIVALS ON EVERY HORIZON
by Norman Warwick
Bluegrass festivals celebrate a uniquely American form of music that has its roots in the immigrants who came to the New World, particularly those who came from Scotland and settled in the Appalachian Mountains area of the United States. Some of the best bluegrass music events are held throughout this region that stretches from southern New York through western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, western Virginia, the border region between Tennessee and North Carolina, and northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, and they’re among the best festivals in the country for local colour. The genre developed during the 1930s and 1940s, when it was often referred to as hillbilly mountain music. The instruments in a typical bluegrass band will be stringed and include the acoustic and resonator guitar, upright bass, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, autoharp, accordion, and the lap steel guitar.
Like jazz festivals, and blues festivals, too, many of the best bluegrass events will include related forms of music, that will include jazz, blues and some form of folk music. The therefore very aptly named Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (left) is a perfect example. From 2001 it has been held in the splendid Golden Gate Park in San Francisco during the first week in October until the years of covid interuptus, and that word hardly was added to the title in 2004 to reflect the addition of artists such as Dolly Parton and Elvis Costello from other genres. Prior to that the festival had been called the Strictly Bluegrass Festival.
Some bluegrass festivals are held far from large cities, in beautiful natural surroundings. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado (right) is a prime example, being located around a hundred miles south of Grand junction in the heart of the San Juan National Forest. Telluride is one of the State´s premier ski resorts, as well as historically being the site of the first Butch Cassidy bank robbery. This popular festival, that has spawned compilation albums galore, has, since 1974, been held in a large field near a town surrounded by towering picturesque mountain peaks.
Many of the best bluegrass music events are found in the heart of Appalachia, like the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival in Rosine, Kentucky. This town and the region surrounding it are the birthplace of the music genre. Bill Monroe, (left) considered the father of bluegrass, was born here in 1911. He was a legendary mandolin player who was instrumental in developing the form of music we know today as bluegrass. His seminal band, The Bluegrass Boys, included banjo player Earl Scruggs and guitarist/singer Lester Flatt. The festival is held on Monroe’s birthday in September on the land where he was born and grew up. During the festival, tours are available of his family cabin.
All bluegrass festivals have their own guidelines, so it pays to do your research in advance. For instance, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival does not allow camping at the festival venue in Golden Gate Park. There are other camping areas that are some distance away. On the other hand, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival is very camper-friendly, with campsites available virtually at the venue and within a few miles away. These even come with festival passes, either for the entire four-day event or for a single day. Other events, especially in the southeast of the United States, are even more camper-friendly, offering free sites even for recreational vehicles with the purchase of festival tickets.
photo 4 And, don’t forget other countries, especially in Europe. Even though bluegrass is seen as a uniquely American genre, it has avid fans elsewhere. The European World of Bluegrass (right) is held over three days at the beginning of June in the Netherlands. Artists from around Europe perform, including artists from Norway, Belgium and The Chzec Republic.
In the UK, the award winning Roots Collective (CRA Gold Award 2019) on Wycombe Sound 106.6 is a lively show bringing together music from a range of genres including Folk, Americana and Bluegrass. Join Martin Clarke and Heather Harrison for a mix of classic and new releases; snippets of trivia and some friendly banter. Catch the show live every Sunday from 6-8pm
Martin & Heather first started broadcasting together in 2010 with a popular Blues Show for a Community radio station based in Surrey. Heather trained with Radio City in Liverpool and has assisted with some programmes on Radio Jackie 107.8 in south west London. More recently, Heather spent a year heading up the programme control team at Secklow 105.5 in Milton Keynes.
Heather both produces and co-presents on the Roots Collective and has a big impact on the music and style of the show. Heather’s passion for live music spills over into radio and she previously organised many live sessions and guests; something she hopes to repeat in the future once out of Covid 19 lock down restrictions.
Martin is a BJTC accredited Broadcast Journalist who trained with the National Broadcasting School based with Radio City in Liverpool. Martin has a passion for Bluegrass, Americana, and Country, in fact anything Roots. His other music show The Blues Session, earned him a National Radio gold award for Specialist Music in 2010 and Martin has twice been nominated in the British Blues Awards as Independent Broadcaster.
Martin and Heather joined multi-award winning Wycombe Sound 106.6 (left) in September 2018 and the show can be heard every Sunday evening from 6-8pm locally on FM or online via the station web site.
Highly successful picking weekends were quickly organised after lockdown eased in Wales, replacing the regular Gower Bluegrass Festivals that had been unable to be held- As the regular venue (the Gower Heritage Centre) was unavailable, the event was held at the Poundfalld Inn, who provided a marque and bar in the car park (right) . In addition to the regular picking sessions, there were some concert performances in the marque on Friday and Saturday, culminating with a performance from The Bapchilds (formerly Murston Bapchild and the Braxton Hicks).
Bluegrass In The Holler was a great success at the end of August 2021. It even attracted five BBMA committee members! (three of whom were still picking at 10pm when the event closed…) It attracted a wide age range of participants from teenagers to octogenarians. Several videos and photographs have been posted on the event’s facebook page, which also has the following link to many high quality photographs
There were a couple of UK picking weekends / days that took place in August of 2020.The first of these (left) was the Glebe Farm Bluegrass And Beyond weekend – see https://pickerpower.co.uk for more details. Sadly for those of you who haven’t got tickets already, it’s currently sold out.
At the end of the month there was a picking day on Saturday August 28th at the Junction Pub in Rainford – see junctionpubrainford.co.uk/whatson
Join us tomorrow for day three of our inaugural Sidetracks And Detours annual Bluegrass in text Festival 2022, when we will be identifying some of the sounds of Bluegrass history made by the likes of The Stanley Brothers, Doc Watson and New Grass Revival. See you in front of the stage.