Withstanding winter's chill is a much easier task when looking ahead to the inviting promise of Suwannee Springfest 2004. The soul and the spirit will be nourished once more by the resounding musical energy, warmth, and comfort that this eighth edition will generate March 25-28 at Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL. The producers of Magnolia Music & Events humbly offer what is undoubtedly a most magnificent lineup of the very best in American roots music presented with unparalleled hospitality in a natural setting that others only dream of.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones have established themselves as one of the world's premier live performing and recording acts, and their lengthy list of credits could fill several volumes. Suffice it to say that their crafty blend of jazz, bluegrass, acoustic, rock, and roots music has made them an overwhelming favorite of audiences everywhere. They will headline Saturday evening. As an additional treat just for this festival, Bela will also perform as part of a very special Bluegrass Session, Saturday afternoon on the Main Stage which will include bluegrass greats Tony Rice, Peter Rowan, and Vassar Clements among others.

Speaking of bluegrass greats, there are certainly few who can match the Del McCoury Band. They've won just about every award imaginable in the genre, traveled around the world a time or two, and they are pretty wonderful folks as well. Del's impassioned singing truly represents the high, lonesome bluegrass sound and his sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo), along with fiddler Jason Carter and bass man Mike Bubb are all recognized as standouts on their respective instruments. They'll be participating in workshops to be scheduled as well. Del and the boys will also be doing a very rare gospel set on Sunday afternoon.

The highly-regarded Tony Rice Unit has been reformed after a long performing hiatus. This groundbreaking group is sounding and playing better than ever these days, and their set is sure to include plenty of the great music that gained them tons of critical praise plus some exciting new material, too. Tony will also be part of the festival's longstanding Sunday afternoon Magnolia Bluegrass Jam. Darol Anger and Mike Marshall are the prime figures in Psychograss, a group that also includes Todd Phillips and David Grier. Along with the Dawg and a few others, these men have ruled the West Coast acoustic music world for years. Also from the West Coast are festival newcomers The Waybacks, who take an energetic, fresh approach to old time and roots.

Suwannee Springfest offers up a list of "regulars" that are enough to fill many festival bills. Donna the Buffalo and their growing herd have grazed proudly upon the Magnolia musical landscape since 1997. Peter Rowan continually shifts and changes like a musical chameleon. Guy Clark seems to be forever etched in Texas music bedrock. Vassar Clements is nothing less than an American musical treasure, a clear link between the past and the present. Darrell Scott (this year with a full band backing him), Jim Lauderdale, Verlon Thompson, and Laura Love are all elegant, honest songwriters and performers who reach straight for the heart with their words and music. The Duhks from Canada amaze and delight with their youthful buoyancy and dedication to the old time.

Even with an established performer base, fresh faces are always welcome at Suwannee Springfest. Many festival followers are already aware of the great talent that is The Gourds. Hailing from the musical mecca that is Austin, TX, they represent the tradition that encompasses the melding of bluegrass, blues, country, rock, folk, and old time with a fresh and completely original attitude. Matt Flinner is a mandolin master from California who has joined forces with Todd Phillips and David Grier (and occasionally Anger and Marshall) to bring forth more of the powerful virtuoso musicianship they've all become known for. North Carolina's Steep Canyon Rangers are in the growing ranks of talented young newcomers who will surely be forces to be reckoned with in the future of acoustic music. Mandolin prodigy Josh Pinkham is a 14-year old sensation who's just returned from the West Coast recording his first album with established greats like David Grisman, Sam Bush, and Chris Thile. Josh and his family will be hosting a special jam during the festival which will include many special guests. These great young acts exemplify the broad strength and depth of the talent base in roots music, and Suwannee Springfest (along with sister festival MagnoliaFest) remain dedicated to presenting more of these deserving up-and-comers in the future.

There's much more to Suwannee Springfest than just a stellar lineup of performers. A new and improved Dance Stage gives plenty of room to stretch out and shake for those who are so inclined to do so. Pickers and singers can sit in on the many instrument and music workshops scheduled throughout the weekend, including renowned bluesman Roy Book Binder's popular guitar clinics. Children, families, and the young at heart will be more than entertained at the interactive Kid's Stage. Discover some of Florida and the region's finest undiscovered folk and acoustic music on the Old Florida Stage. Over the years, the festival campground itself has evolved into an event, and the three Campground Stages are perfect for those who want to participate in or enjoy the fine music in an even more intimate manner. The vending village features original arts and crafts, and has become THE place to locate those hard to find, eclectic gifts and items available nowhere but at Suwannee Springfest.

Experience for yourself the musical magic and spirit of community that have become the cornerstones of Suwannee Springfest. Quite simply, there is nothing else like it anywhere.

For more information please go to www.magmusic.com/suwannee.htm.

JamBase | Florida
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[Published on: 3/9/04]

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