Saturday saw up-and-comers Chatham County Line, winners of last year's band competition, demonstrating some of their old-timey-inspired stuff: suits, ties, and just one microphone (just like it was "back in the day"). Those suits have gotta be hot in the summer! Other "young" bands to keep an eye on that played this year's fest include the Hickory Project, Hit and Run Bluegrass, Shawn Camp (who joined Del on Friday for a rendition of Camp's "My Love Will Not Change"), Bearfoot Bluegrass, and the Greencards. Another favorite that impressed last year and who will no doubt be back soon (now touring the West) is Broke Mountain Bluegrass.
Chatham County Line at RockyGrass
Noam Pikelny and Friends, including David Grier, Matt Flinner, and Casey Dreissen, came out for several songs on Saturday and rocked out newgrass style. Their set included very hot covers of The Beatles' "Hide your Love Away" and Dylan's "Highway 61."
Peter Rowan & David Grier at RockyGrass
Peter Rowan put in some high quality stage time with the help of Bryn Bright, Sharon Gilchrest, and Tony Rice. In between numbers, Peter spoke of Bill Monroe and bluegrass history, and his outfit sounded fantastic and soulful as usual. They opened with "Panama Red" and later dedicated "Let the Harvest Go To Seed" to the recently-departed Vassar Clements. They also played a nice "Hobo Song" and rounded things out with a "Land of the Navajo" that featured Rowan's signature yodeling to end the set. It's always fun to hear those yodels bouncing off the red rock palisades along the river. That's when you truly know you're at RockyGrass.
Bela Fleck's Acoustic Trio featuring Bryan Sutton and Casey Driessen set a perfect Saturday afternoon tone with mellow meandering jams that roamed the stylistic gamut from gypsy jazz all the way to a "Stairway to Heaven" tease. These guys obviously forgot to read the "No Stairway!" sign. Their set featured agile versions of "Overgrown Waltz," "Fiddle Medley," "The High Road," "Growling Old Man & The Grumbling Old Woman," "Crazy Creek," "Over The Waterfall," "For Sasha," "Spanish Point," and "Sheetrock."
Ricky Skaggs put on a nice Saturday headliner set filled with his trademark hot picking on mandolin and a variety of song selections including "Black Eyed Suzy," "How Mountain Girls Can Love," "Spread a Little Love Around," "First Corinthians 1:18" (off the group's new release Brand New Strings), "Midnight Train," and a fun "Sally Joe." In between tunes, Ricky said, "I once asked the late great Bill Monroe what he thought the key to playing good mandolin was. Bill replied, 'There's no magic to it, Son. You just gotta whip it like a mule.'" Ricky clearly learned that lesson. Another mando phenom who whips it like a mule is Texas' fourteen-year-old Sarah Jaroz, a young festival regular and very talented picker who joined Ricky on stage for a crowd-pleasing version of "Buck's Run." Keep an eye out for Sarah.
Ricky Skaggs at RockyGrass
RICKY SKAGGS SETLIST
Black-Eyed Suzy, How Mountain Girls Can Love, Instrumental, Your Selfish Heart, Ridin' That Midnight Train, Why Did You Wonder, Sweetheart, You've Done Me Wrong, Instrumental, Mother's Only Sleeping, Simple Life, Spread A Little Love Around, Sis Draper, First Corinthians 1:18, Sally Joe, Buck's Run *, Dixie Home, Minor Swing, Kentucky Waltz, Pig In A Pen
Road To Spencer, Shady Grove
* with Sarah Jaroz
Acoustic flatpicking and singing legend Doc Watson played talent-packed sets on Saturday and Sunday. Doc was accompanied by his grandson Richard on guitar, and Tim O'Brien joined Doc on fiddle for his Sunday afternoon set, which was a great example of different generations of artists coming together. Doc's Sunday set included Jerry Douglas, Jack Lawrence, Gene Libbea, and Bela Fleck. Tim O'Brien had this to say: "No plan, no song list, no rehearsal, just a relaxed jam. I'd been waiting about 35 years to do that." Among the great stories Doc tells, his family once skinned a much-loved cat when it died and used its hide to make a banjo. When asked how the banjo sounded, Doc replied "It sounded great." Meow.
Bela Fleck at RockyGrass
DOC WATSON'S SATURDAY SETLIST
Telephone Girl, Ready For The Times To Get Better, I Was A Stranger, Walk On, Boy, Summertime, In The Pines, Workingman Blues, I Am A Pilgrim, I'll Never See My Home Again,
Cora Is Gone, Eight More Miles To Louisville, Shady Grove, My Blue-Eyed Jane, Ten Miles To Deep Gap, Leaving London, Deep River Blues, If I Should Wander Back Tonight, Greenville Trestle High, Instrumental
DOC WATSON'S SUNDAY SETLIST
Matchbox Blues *, CC Rider *, Don't Monkey Around With My Widow When I'm Gone *, St. James Infirmary *, Milk Cow Blues *, I Am A Pilgrim *, Eastbound Freight Train **, Little Sadie **, Sweet Georgia Brown **, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright **, Blue Railroad Train **, Big Sandy **, Rails Leading West **
Doc Watson - guitar, vocals
Gene Libbea - bass
*Richard Watson - guitar
**Jack Lawrence - guitar
Bela Fleck - banjo
Jerry Douglas - dobro
Tim O'Brien - fiddle