Mark the dates on your calendar. May 16 through 19 is the fifteenth annual Bluff Country Gathering in Lanesboro, a festival to celebrate our old time music heritage and pass on the playing skills and tunes of master musicians from around the country.
There is only room for about 100 registered students. The word seems to be out, too, because participants who want to learn from these masters are coming from far and wide. There are already registrations this year from Alaska, California, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri, as well as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
The 2013 gathering is dedicated to two wonderful old time players, who passed away in the last year. Jim Lansford, who was on staff at the gathering twice with his wife and musical partner Kim, was a fiddler, banjo, guitar and mandolin player and singer. Jim and Kim also had performed for the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association’s summer festival, the Big Island Rendezvous, Victorian Days in Winona and other Minnesota venues.
The second musician who is being honored by the Bluff Country Gathering is Garry Harrison, a fiddler, luthier and tune collector, who put together the acclaimed “Dear Old Illinois,” a book of songs and tunes from his native state. Harrison performed in Minnesota for the MBOTMA Winter Weekend with his band The New Mules. His daughter, Genevieve Harrison Koester, who learned Harrison’s tunes and playing style, will be passing those on to fiddle students this year. Her bandmates are her husband, Smith Koester, a fine player who will be teaching banjo, and cousin, Clifford Harrison, who will be accompanying them on guitar in the band now called White Mule.
Dan Gellert from Dayton, Ohio has performed and taught at the Lanesboro event previously (1999 and 2004). A fiddler/banjoist/singer of exceptional power and taste, Gellert keeps that raw edge to his music that identifies it as the real deal. During 2012 he did some performing with Ry Cooder, including the Woody Guthrie Centennial Concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Another staff member who has been to the Bluff Country Gathering twice previously, Alice Gerrard, has a very special place in the old time community. She’s an exceptional singer and player (banjo, fiddle, guitar), the founder of The Old Time Herald magazine and a recording artist with numerous releases on many labels, including Rounder, Smithsonian-Folkways and County, both solo and with Hazel Dickens, the Strange Creek Singers, Mike Seeger, Brad Leftwich and Tom Sauber and others. Gerarrd knew and learned from many of the great older players and is in turn passing the traditions on to new generations. She lives in North Carolina.
The Mostly Mountain Boys are Paul Brown (fiddle, banjo, vocals), Terri McMurray (banjo, banjo-uke, vocals) and John Schwab (guitar, vocals). Paul, whose other job is broadcasting news for National Public Radio, learned old time songs from his family and older players like Fields Ward, Luther Davis and Benton Flippen and has performed and recorded with Flippen, Mike Seeger and numerous others. Terri has played both banjo and banjo uke since she was a child, but the time she spent with the late Tommy Jarrell helped her become the amazing banjo player she is today. Her previous bands include the Old Hollow String Band with Riley Baugus and Kirk Sutphin. John Schwab has paid particular attention to the playing of the string band guitarists on the 78 rpm recordings of the 1920s through 30s, mastering many of the styles and last year published his book on old time backup, Learn From the Masters. Together the three make tight and high-energy music that will definitely get your feet tapping. The band members live in Washington, DC and North Carolina.
Dot Kent is one of the best teachers and callers of old time square dance to be found anywhere. She’ll be calling the Saturday night barn dance and also teaching workshops on dance calling and clog dance. She’s an award-winning clogger who has won first place in the competition at the Appalachian String Band Festival at Cliff Top, WV. Her husband Chirps Smith, known to many for his work in bands like the Volo Bogtrotters, New Bad Habits and the Indian Creek Delta Boys, is not only an accomplished fiddler of some renown, but a superb mandolin player and will be teaching mandolin workshops at the gathering.
Workshops are only open to those who register for the entire festival. The cost is $200 and includes the workshops, concert, barn dance and lunches.
Both the dance and concert are open to the public and are always well-attended events.
Most of the staff members will perform in the concert and they will all play in various combinations for the Barn Dance with Dot Kent teaching and calling square dances and big circles. No experience is required to do the dances and you don’t have to come with a partner. Just be ready to have a good time at both events!
The Bluff Country Gathering Concert is Friday, May 17 at 8 p.m. at the Lanesboro Community Center. Tickets are $12 at the door.
The barn dance is Saturday, May 18 at 8 p.m. at the Lanesboro Community Center. Tickets are $8 at the door.
For more information, check the website: www.boveeheil.com