The second year of the ambitious Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots Festival in Manchester will fill the weekend of Aug. 15-18 with a wide range of music, all within the acoustic/Americana style. There are several well-known national performers as well as some newer acts and popular Vermont performers as well.
This festival, at Hunter Park, features camping, a dance tent, a main stage along with plenty of food, on-site beer and a variety of craft vendors and merchandise sales.
There are 30 acts on the program. Friday and Saturday are jam packed with 11 acts each day. Thursday’s schedule includes four acts along with a hootenanny and old-time Jam session, and the festival winds down on Sunday with five acts. Because of the sheer number of performers each act only performs once, so make sure you know the schedule so as not to miss your favorite.
Headlining the festival with a performance Friday is Sam Bush and his band. If you haven’t heard of Bush you don’t know bluegrass music. He’s one of the top mandolin players in this style, and he’s a force to be reckoned with as a fiddler and singer as well. His performances and band are all about energy but with a light touch. Any festival that Bush appears at is a serious musical gathering.
Singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz are Mandolin Orange. They hail from North Carolina and recently released their first album “Tides of a Teardrop.” Their acoustic-folk-country style features mandolin, fiddle and guitar and offers great songwriting and singing. They’re set to perform Sunday.
The Lonesome Ace Stringband is an old-time band with bluegrass chops that plays folk and country music. There’s a depth of groove and sense of space not often heard in bluegrass today, a level of instrumental interplay and vocal blend uncommon in old-time. And their on-stage rapport transcends all of this.
The three Canadians who comprise the band are Chris Coole (clawhammer banjo), John Showman (fiddle) and Max Heineman (bass). There’s no guitar in this band, perhaps a first for this style of music. But Coole and Showman are great musicians and the vocals are terrific. They’re set to perform Thursday.
Raleigh, North Carolina-based Chatham County Line has performed since 2003. They describe their style as “kind of an Americana band without drums, or a rock and roll band who doesn’t plug anything in.” They may rock, but they play high-powered, traditional-sounding bluegrass as well. Prolific recorders they have 10 albums to their credit. They’re scheduled to perform Friday.
Molsky’s Mountain Drifters are the hottest act in old-time music. Led by fiddler-banjo player-singer Bruce Molsky along with clawhammer doyen Allison de Groot and solid guitarist Stash Wyslouch, they are in demand on several continents. Their music is refined and energetic. They’ll perform Saturday.
Danny Barnes, Grant Gordy & Joe K. Walsh is a new trio of top bluegrass musicians. Barnes, the roots music legend and recent winner of Steve Martin’s Prize for Excellence in Banjo, teams up with two young creative voices of the acoustic world: mandolinist Walsh and guitarist Gordy. This new trio draws on a wide array of influences, its members collectively keeping their feet in the rock, bluegrass, jazz, avant-garde and electronic worlds. The trio performs Friday.
Several Vermont bands will perform as well. Beg, Steal or Borrow from northern Vermont recently released its first CD. It is a bona fide excellent bluegrass quintet. The Green Mountain Playboys from Montpelier add some Cajun spice to the festival. Accordion and fiddle propel this band. Carling and Will from southern Vermont are a great old-time duo, lovely fiddle and banjo playing and vocals. The Terrible Mountain String Band, also from Andover, is anything but terrible. The five-person band is propelled by the fiddling and singing of Ida Mae and Lila Specker. They are an old-time music force.
There are far more performers than we can cover in this preview. The festival is a tour de force in bluegrass and old-time music with top acts. With so many performers and a tight schedule of stage times be sure to study the program carefully so as not to miss any of these fine performers.