Words: Nick Hutchinson | Photos: Tony Stack
RockyGrass :: 07.29 - 07.31 :: Lyons, CO
The Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons, CO, is a tough location to beat when it comes to finding an appropriate setting for pulling together some of the best artists on the contemporary bluegrass scene. With festival grounds that include towering red rock bluffs, shady cottonwood trees, and a beautiful creek flowing through it, RockyGrass has aged like a vintage mandolin playing along to the cool waters of the St. Vrain.
2005 kept with the RockyGrass tradition of musical excellence and festival relaxedness and was sold out well in advance. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful this year (last year's torrential rains were still warily on the mind of many festivarians), and the lineup of talent was terrific.
Doc Watson : Relaxin' at RockyGrass
This year's event was professionally filmed and recorded and will eventually be released as a DVD/CD combo. The audience was very attentive, and the bands were gracious - many of the artists came out to sign CDs in the merchandise tent and to chat with the crowd.
During a very hot Friday that saw lots of people cooling off in the creek and loads of families enjoying the scene, the Kruger Brothers (a group discovered in Switzerland by Doc Watson but now based out of North Carolina) started out slow but picked up steam to reveal some very accomplished chops. The band stated that this was "the best lineup" they had been a part of, including Merlefest. Some of the songs they performed included traditionals such as the folky "I Know You Rider," the bluesy "Nobody's Fault but Mine," and the bluegrass standard "Orange Blossom Special." The group also played some Grateful Dead-inspired fare including "Friend of the Devil" and even teased "Ripple" and "Black Muddy River."
John Cowan brought his well-acclaimed tenor to the stage with the assistance of former Newgrass Revival compadre Pat Flynn and songsmith Darrell Scott. A kind of bluegrass version of CSN, this was a nice contrast to all the usual instrumental jamming, and they really got the crowd going.
On Friday afternoon, the Seldom Scene seemed to appeal to the older crowd by playing a bit more traditionally. The D.C. area bluegrassers mixed in nice versions of "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "He Was a Friend of Mine," and even a "Lay Down Sally."
With a new CD release under its belt (The Company We Keep) the Del McCoury Band headlined on Friday night. Minus longtime and much-appreciated bass man Mike Bub (check Del's Web site to read about Mike's departure), Del and the group did what they do best - they played sweet, acoustic bluegrass with an ear for the old, the new, and their own unique McCoury sound. The band, with Dennis Crouch playing bass, put on its usual display of top-shelf talent, dropping numbers that included "Travelin' Tear Drop Blues," "Nothin' Special," "Fathers and Sons," "Black Vincent 52," "Henry Walker" (or "the murder song" as Del calls it), "Working on a Building," and "Nashville Cats" (with Rob McCoury on lead vocal).
Del McCoury Band at RockyGrass
Del McCoury - guitar, vocals
Ronnie McCoury - mandolin, mandola, vocals
Robbie McCoury - banjo, vocals
Jason Carter - fiddle, vocals
Dennis Crouch - bass
* with Shawn Camp
DEL McCOURY BAND SETLIST
Traveling Teardrop Blues, Count Me Out, Hillcrest Drive, On The Lonesome Wind, Nashville Cats, Back Up And Push, She Can't Burn Me Now, Never Grow Up Boy, Seventh Heaven, I Feel The Blues Moving In, Let An Old Racehorse Run, Nothin' Special, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, Instrumental, Henry Walker, It's Just The Night, My Love Will Not Change *,
Working On A Building, The Mountain Song, The Logging Man, Gone But Not Forgotten
Fathers & Sons, Rawhide