Lexington, KY – With a wonderful forecast, beautiful grounds, immense talent and a whole lotta love, the 44th edition of the Festival of the Bluegrass settled in for a tradition like no other.
Since 1974, when Bob and Jean Cornett created the Festival, the Bluegrass region has hosted the biggest names that Bluegrass music has created. From Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and everyone in between have taken the stage and bathed in the glowing love of their adorning fans.
With a laid back atmosphere, that honestly feels more like a family reunion than a Festival, it’s the perfect family event that celebrates so much more than just music. With food trucks, artisans, jewelry makers and even a hot sauce vendor, there was truly something for everyone.
I was unable to attend the activities hosted during the week, but on an incredibly beautiful June Saturday, I took in the Festival of the Bluegrass on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park. With thin bands of clouds scattered across the sky, the music of Kentucky and her people filled the air with a twang that just feels like home.
The Festival of the Bluegrass has a unique lineup where you can catch most bands twice in one day. So I’ll save you the redundancy of reviewing both sets.
The first band of the day was Central Kentucky’s own, The Wooks. The Wooks are a more of a progressive bluegrass band and one of our favorites here at Capture Kentucky. In fact, you can read our review of their album here. Experiencing the “Wookie Foot Shuffle” and the Bruce Springsteen cover of “Atlantic City” live were definite highlights for me.
Their musicianship is second to none and by the amount of The Wooks merchandise we saw walking around, others have clearly latched onto their down home good-time style of Kentucky’s native music. Which leads me to believe these guys will be a staple here and at other regional festivals for a long time to come. That fact was cemented when The Wooks, during their second set, earned the first standing ovation of the night. After that ovation, The Wooks did what they do best, but this time it was with a Bill Monroe.
Next up were Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers. These guys are much more of a traditional bluegrass band and if you ask my opinion, had the tightest harmonies of anyone. With a touch of Gospel and the entertaining spirit of an old-time radio hour. These guys are the consummate professionals and they deserve your attention.
Asheville, North Carolina’s Town Mountain were up next and they brought quite a few out of the woodworks with them. Many of which took to their feet and got the party started. Town Mountain was clearly one of the crowd favorites and certainly won over their fair share of the early patrons and definitely didn’t lose any after their closing performance.
The Grascals really need no introduction. The crowd was beginning to put their butts in the sea of lawn chairs and The Grascals were the perfect welcoming party. Their upbeat style had toes ‘a’ tappin and left many trying to tune up their air banjos after they couldn’t keep up. My personal favorite was Windy City, followed closely by their cover of The Monkee’s “Last Train To Clarksville”.
Coming into the Festival, I was highly anticipating seeing Band of Ruhks and I try not to do that because you can often set yourself up for disappointment. Well, I’m very happy to say that their harmonies and musicianship did not disappoint. These guys were one of the highlights of the day for me. Actually, since they played two sets…they were technically two of the highlights of the day. Seeing “Between the Devil and the Sea” live, was probably my personal favorite moment of the entire day.
Rounding out the bands on the day were the headliners and bluegrass legends in Seldom Scene. The lineup has changed over the years, but the quality of their music has definitely not declined. They put on a spectacular show and energized the crowd as if their long lost cousin just arrived this family reunion. As you can imagine, any time that a band or artist sings a song about our home state, the crowd goes wild. So it certainly should not be a surprise that the moment of the night for many was when Seldom Scene performed the John Prine classic, “Paradise”.
It was a near perfect blend of music on the day and one that I will not soon forget. This will certainly be a yearly tradition for Capture Kentucky, if the Festival will have us of course. Great times, good food and a family atmosphere that celebrates the music that was born and bred in our state…we’re in.