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by Haven James
While it's just about time to start planning those three day get-a-ways to the summer festivals, there's a mid-winter sleep-over respite happening just up the road this weekend. Indoor festivals have become the newest thing for devotees of special category music and starting today (Thursday March 11), the Friar Tuck complex in Green County hosts the Catskill Mountain Bluegrass Festival. This is the second season at the Tuck for this gathering after it was moved here last year by promoter Harry Grant following the unfortunate fire at its previous home at The Pines. Ticket packages include lodging and meals though locals who wish to commute with day passes can now also choose from a variety of plans.
The event kicks off with a short schedule Thursday evening and then runs both day and night through Sunday. With fifteen plus acts booked, all bands do both day and evening sets along the model of the normal summer festival routine. There will be workshops and, of course, lobby, hallway, bar, and guest room picking is a feature as attendees are expected to bring their instruments along and be ready to play.
There's a good selection of traditional and "contemporary" acts at this festival with a strong showing by veteran headliners mixed in among the up and coming and lesser known entries; it's a lineup that should make the purists proud. Notably missing are what might be dubbed the "progressive" or more newgrass types with the exception, perhaps, of the Austin Lounge Lizards who don't match any real category by virtue of their curious comedics.
Each day has it's high point, but, as usual, Saturday is the killer lineup featuring the veteran Doyle Lawson and his band, Quicksilver, plus the legendary Eddie Adcock, and the always Country Gentleman.
Among the paragons of second generation bluegrass, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver stand among the top of the class. Their appearance in this area is rare though their popularity with hard-core bluegrass people has been high since they came on the scene in the early seventies. Mixing "contemporary" (there's that word again) variations on the traditional with straight on gospel renditions, Lawson has had very definite objectives to his composition and arrangement since he set out on his own.
Born in Tennessee, Doyle started playing full-time with Jimmy Martin in 1963 as a banjo player. He left the Nashville area at the end of that stint and free-lanced for a while doing church socials and pickup bands before joining J.D. Crowe in 1966 as a guitar player. It was then that he added mandolin to his professional repetoire though fronting on that instrument had been his goal from the start. Then in 1971 he went to D.C. to join the Country Gentleman where he stayed till the birth of his own band, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. "I had always gone in where somebody else had been... I wanted to do the music as I wanted to do it, solely," Lawson confided in a mid-90s radio interview with Cody Richardson.
Jimmy Haley, Lou Reid, Terry Baucom were the players in the original band and together with Doyle they recorded Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver as their debut. "Above all I wanted a good quartet," Lawson qualified of their work. Second time out they did a gospel album and cut Rock My Soul which has become a classic.
With many of his relatives being minister/preachers, Lawson had attended a missionary Baptist church where they sang all a capela, it was there that he learned how to read "the old shaped note music." Ultimately, he did an all a capela album, one of the first ever of gospel music, and continued to focus on the spirituals throughout his career. "Gospel, that's my strong suit, if I could only do one type of music it would be gospel." Lawson reflected in the 90s interview adding, "Vocals is what has kept me out here these last fifteen years."
Acknowledging that he was most influenced by the music of Bill Monroe which he first encountered around 1948-9 Doyle stated, "I always dreamed of playing the mandolin." Later, it was Monroe Bluegrass Boy and long time friend Jimmy Martin who he signed up with at the start. His time with J.D. Crowe and later with the Country Gentlemen laid the groundwork for his own sound and technique.
In 1992 Lawson signed with Brentwood Bluegrass in Nashville and did the gospel album Treasures Money Can't Buy. Then he did a bluegrass album titled Pressing On Regardless and by '95 had signed with Sugar Hill putting out an album a year ever since. This year Sugar Hill Records released a set of digitally remastered releases of his original albums on two-for-one CDs. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver The Original Band and Once and for Always/The News Is Out are both collectors editions in the current catalog.
Responding to what he'd want to leave as a legacy to be remembered by, Doyle mused he'd like people to say, "I never short-changed the people, I always gave them 110% of what I had." Given that, a ticket to this Catskill Mountain Bluegrass Festival ought to be a worthy investment. The total roster includes Doyle and company on Saturday and: the James King Band (Sun), Eddie Adcock (Sat), The Dry Branch Fire Squad (Fri), The Country Gentleman (Sat), the Lonesome River Band (Sun), Bob Paisley (Sat-Sun), Smokey Green (T-F-S-S), the Freight Hoppers (Fri), the Austin Lounge Lizards (Sat), the Gibson Brothers (Fri-Sat), the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys (T-F-S-S), Country Ham (F-S-S), Valerie Smith (Thur-Fri), and Second Edition (T-F-S-S).
Tickets range in price from $25 to $339 depending on the accommodations you desire. Best to call the Friar Tuck for the details at (518) 678-2271 but do be aware that individual day/night passes including meals and parties are available. It is great to stay in house for the weekend if you can though as it's often the other-hours that are the most fun.
Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times
A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.
Posted on March 12, 1999
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