NWSS | 07.16 - 07.19 | OR

Sunday, July 19

Hickster & Friends NWSS 2009
Sunday began with my second helping of Crunchy Western Boys, and it was a great chance to soak up their sunshine again. Morris Manning (guitar, dobro), Jim McHugh (mando, guitar), Jacob Stern (fiddle) and Dave Walker (bass) have meaty instrumental chops and breezy, sly pens. As folks rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, they set the stage for the last day of festival with winking grins and a twist of Irish coffee. With tunes like "Bathtub Gin" (no, not the Phish song, this one is straight from the backwoods) and "Natural Blonde," they have a touch of the bawdy barfly in them, coupled with their amiable, folksy charms, that draws you in with a crooked index finger. Readers, take note.

After an early service (hey, 11 a.m. is early for a festival!) with CBW, it was time to be received in the church of Burle. Hickster's lineup this year proved to be somewhat of a Superjam warm-up with Beck (dobro) Book (bass, Infamous Stringdusters) and Law (guitar) rounding out the band, and Kartsounes (guitar) and Hoffman (mando, Greensky) jumping in on a few tunes. Benny "Burle" Galloway's work has found its way into many bands' catalogues over the years but he himself is a perpetual spotlight shunner. He's got a little Townes and Woody in him, as his songs saunter in straight from the oil fields, production lines and bar room floors, unwashed and dressed in simple clothes, rumbling with hunger but with no appetite for bullshit or pretension. But, there's a tenderness in that leather and songs like "Me and You," which he wrote for his daughter, and "Years with Rose" can't help but nestle in your heart. He kept bringing good company to that table, too. Julie Stratton joined the band, an arresting storm with her gutsy guitar and raw, passionate vocals on "Revival." I don't know where she came from, but damn, I got to investigate more. "That's my kind of religion," Burle happily growled at the end.

Abalone Dots :: NWSS 2009
Joining in on backup with Kilroy and Bevin Foley (fiddle) on "Wind in the Willows" and "Three Men on a Hill," Galloway was leading quite the revival of his own. Beck waved his hands, eliciting a "Hallelujah" as Galloway preached us a sermon, er, well a story about the Denver Post calling him. He chatted to the salesman for a while and then, growing tired of the sales pitch, lied and said he couldn't read, asking, "Now can I get back to my beer?" Amen, Brother Burle. Closing the set with a lovely "Gentle on My Mind," Burle's battle-scarred voice in this well-loved tune made me misty.

The second band to represent Sweden this weekend was Abalone Dots. These heart-flutterers posses a divine timbre, with killer four-part harmonies, luscious instrumentation and a darkness that lurks beyond their northern lights, full of tales about shooting husbands and surviving elevator breakdowns. Whether running barefoot and folkie or adding some drums to the mix, their unique view on Americana is absorbing. Absolutely humbled and charmed at the scene unfolding in the dust before them, they mused how they never had "rock rings," the Swedish term for hula-hoops, at their shows before (I have been calling them "rock rings" ever since). Warmly welcomed, they brought down the house with a "Man of Constant Sorrow" encore, closing a set that left a few heads reeling.

Superjam :: NWSS 2009
Trying to keep track of what's happening on stage at every given moment during Superjam is an exercise in futility, for most. There were over 20 musicians on stage at one point, which was apparently a new Summit record. Hosted by Barnes and the McCoury brothers, the core trio held down the center as musicians jumped on and off, caught up in a revolving door spirit of collaboration. The set drew from a deep well of classic bluegrass cuts like "On My Way Back to the Old Home" and "Hit Parade of Love," prompting audience sing-alongs with everyone caught up in the glorious clusterpluck frenzy. And of course, we got some great pick-offs, like Beck and Hall locked in a torrid dobro battle, each musician throwing their aces down. On an ending deal of "Rolling in My Sweet Babies Arms," the McCourys took over the jam, as Barnes skittered around with glee. This was a chance to take in just how stacked the lineup was this year. At one point, as Kilroy and Gilchrist leaned in to sing a soaring "How Mountain Girls Can Love," Barnes just stood at the side, grinning wildly at his handy work.

Before Yonder's last show of the festival, Pastor Tim took a minute to thank Bob Horning and his family. They have taken great care with their home, and the patrons return the favor, keeping the grounds amazingly clean, with our MC even thanking the crowd at one point, saying the volunteer crews were impressed with how little they had to do. There is just an overall sense of consideration here, and when you receive it you want to give it back. It's not lost on the musicians who play this festival, and although Sunday afternoon means the music is almost over, Yonder wasn't through with us yet.

YMSB - Sunday :: NWSS 2009
They barreled out of the gate with turf punters "Bloody Mary Morning" and "Free to Run," that search for freedom and turning your back and bolting for the nearest available exit, maybe knocking back a few to drown the gal or guy you left behind. The best most of us can do is take the dance floor, close our eyes and imagine ourselves asking the stewardess to make our Bloody Mary extra spicy, or perhaps we imagine watching hometown lights fade in our review mirror as night closes in. New Kaufmann tune "Easy Come Easy Gone" was (based on this first pass) about a gal who's very much of that mercurial mind. The Superjam hosts came back to jump in the getaway car, passing around banjo solos between Barnes, Rob McCoury and Johnston on "Red Bird," with a big ole pass off during "On the Run" to close out the set. This set was all about that chase, although we did stop for a toke with Grandma ("Granny Wontcha Smoke Some...") and I thought about how tempting it would be to go back to Austin, TX, pick up my husband and just ride our little Mazda into the sunset.

"Keep On Going" drew me closer into the bowl for set two, carrying me on its reservoir of resilience, telling me, "Hold your head up high, and just keep moving." We got plenty of tread as Rubin nefariously annihilated the rhythmic drive and Barnes and Johnston yucked it up with a "Dueling Banjos" tease. Moving into the spacious daydream of "Winds on Fire," a moment of cooling respite for our feet, the bass groan seemed to reverberate under the topsoil of the bowl. But, that peace wouldn't last long. Our daydreams turned to nightmares as we found ourselves in a hellacious "Follow Me Down to the Riverside." We grabbed our butcher's smocks, as things got bloody. Austin snarled and barked, throwing out tips for the sketchier uses of a pickaxe. Barnes was dialed into that psychosis with him, proffering pure banjer terror. Dangling over an empty grave with an indiscernible, stomach-clenching bottom, gradually the hand pulled us back and "KOG" placed us back on solid ground. "I had the weirdest dream," Austin said. "I took a pickaxe to my lover. But now," he said, lifting his face, shaking off his possession, "the sun is shining!"

YMSB w/ Barnes - Sunday :: NWSS 2009
After "Another Day," Austin asked us to make the biggest noise we could for Sandy Alexander. Hands lifted to the skies, many cheering his memory, while others simply put their arms around each other, coming together in supportive clusters, as the band played a moving "Finally Saw the Light," fitting for a man who brought a lot of light into many lives, particularly on a weekend celebrating the music he loved. As the family in the bowl danced to "Criminal," then "If You're Ever in Oklahoma," brave smiles turned upwards towards the heavens as the family on stage began to grow. The McCourys and Jesse Cobb (mando, Infamous Stringdusters), began the great stage rush during "Oklahoma," inspiring a wicked mando round robin. Every time you blinked an eye someone else was picking up a fiddle or a guitar or a tuba, or simply standing in the back to provide vocal support. During "Way Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie," I counted 23 musicians on stage as Austin ran back and forth across a staggering vision of musical kinship, where even some of the musicians were dancing, caught up in the joyous anarchy. Austin bowed to everyone before they left the stage.

As Yonder returned for an encore of traditional "Darling Alalee," a rare treat, and "Troubled Mind," (with Austin commenting, "At least it's a fast one so it will hurt!"), they expressed their gratitude to us for coming for another year, taking a well deserved bow.

On the plane ride home, I twirled my peacock feather in my seat as I stared out the window at Mount Hood shrinking in the distance. At one point, Kaufmann had discussed cultivating appreciation versus seeking out moments of delight. Spiritually speaking, it seemed a bit heavy while I was raging in the dust, but ruminating over it later it spoke to how I was feeling. We chase down moments of ecstatic sunshine, cathartic punches and jaw drops. As one card aptly said this year, "The upside of the land beyond, the music kicks," and, man, did it kick this year. But overall, what I left with from Summit this time was a sense of deep appreciation, for not only the music but also the conversations by the lake, the laughs in the beer garden, the living room wake-up calls at Camp Turtle, the late night astro jack lessons, and the moments where we just shut up and danced. It's what I'll keep rooted in the solid soil of my heart as I count down the days until I can go back home.

YMSB & Friends - Sunday :: NWSS 2009
Thanks to Pastor Tim and Bill Ball for their diligent fact checking (hope I didn't miss anybody). Thanks to everyone who tore it up with me this weekend (hell yeah!). Thanks to everyone that keeps this festival running. Thanks to Jonathan and Amy-la. And get well soon Kevin G.

Continue reading for more pics of NWSS 2009...

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