Dan Paisley & Southern Grass

A relic from gold rush days

Bluegrass in the Foothills 2006

  
Links to Photosweb sites, and More Travel Reports at bottom
  

Wednesday, September 13, 2006: Itís bluegrass time again, so Iím in Plymouth, on state highway 49 in Amador County. Itís a tiny town, about a thousand people, one of the smallest incorporated cities in the state. Itís also the site of the Amador County Fairgrounds, which is laid out on a gently hilly section of land, with plenty of electrical hookups, and some very nice landscaping Ė a pond with a waterfall, wooden bridges, covered archways and of course all the usual buildings needed to have a fair.

I was here two years ago, and was camped in a livestock barn, with a cement floor. This time Iím out in the open, with patchy dried out Bermuda grass, but overall a good spot. The barn was very useful last time, because it was very hot the first day, and pouring down rain the last day.

Once again it is hot Ė 88 at 7 p.m., but starting to cool down. However, itís supposed to be ten to fifteen degrees cooler tomorrow, and even cooler Friday Ė down in the low 70s (today it was around 95 at the hottest).

I left home a little after ten, and arrived here around 2:00 . I came up state highway 99, then took state highway 88 at Stockton. With a few zigs and zags on Highways 126 and 16, I got to 49, with about two miles to go.

After I got set up, I relaxed and cooled off a bit, then had supper. Since then Iíve done some reading, rode around the grounds on my bike a couple of times, and took a good ride into and around the town (quite a bit of uphill). The music doesnít start till Friday, so tomorrow I will head down the road to Amador City and possibly one or two other small towns nearby to do some Christmas shopping in the antique and miscellaneous shops that are thick in this area.

There are a lot of people here already, but of course, many more will come in tomorrow and Friday. These early days are for those of us who donít work, wonít work, canít work, and have nothing to do but set up camp and hang out.

 

September 14: Now this is more like it. Yesterday when I was working on this report, it was 88; today itís 72, so the promised cool-down has come through. We even had a short sprinkle around the middle of the day.

The music doesnít start till tomorrow, so this was my day to explore the area, read, and just generally take it easy.

After breakfast I headed south on state Highway 49, stopping in Drytown, Amador City and Sutter Creek. Drytown was the first location for gold mining in Amador County, and was founded in 1848, but just about everyone has left town by now. There is a post office and about three stores. I like Amador City better; itís also very small (population 150) but has several nice antique shops. There are also restaurants but unfortunately I was not hungry. I did get some Christmas shopping done, at Millerís Antiques, and Lanza Imports, both of which I recommend.

Sutter Creek is quite a bit bigger Ė still small, but it has automotive shops, a place to buy granite counters, etc. It also has really bad traffic, not because there are so many people and cars, but because there is one stretch of the highway through town that is very narrow. Parking is allowed on both sides of the street, and even when parked right at the curb, cars extend out past the parking space marks. There are also quite a few large trucks going through, so everyone slows way down to squeeze through the narrow bottleneck. They are building a bypass that will go around Amador City and Sutter Creek, but that might not be a good thing for the economy of these tiny towns. If they can direct the trucks around and entice the tourists to take the old road, that will be ideal.

After I got back to Plymouth I sat in my chair reading, fixed corn on the cob and a barbecued pork chop for dinner, and wandered around a little. The grounds are filling up, with lots of trailers, motor homes large and small, and quite a few tents.

I had a nice talk with my immediate neighbors, who live nearby, at the 3500 foot elevation above the town of Volcano. They moved here from San Jose, so they are enjoying the slower pace of mountain life.

I took a break from this report to write a few paragraphs in my ďLater TripsĒ and ďMore Early TripsĒ essays, which will be coming your way one of these days. Itís now 7:30, nearly dark, and cooling down a lot Ė 62 outside, and cool enough in the trailer that I will need to put on a long-sleeve shirt soon. Last night it was too hot to type inside, and when I did come in, I had a fan going late into the night.

September 16: The first day of the show had the usual highs and lows, although there werenít any really low spots. There were several groups I had seen before, the biggest being Special Consensus and Cherryholmes. I sat next to a gentleman who had not seen this group before, and he was blown away at the first song. Those of us who have been watching this group at Parkfield and southern California since their beginning as a very amateur band have a sort of proprietary interest in their amazing success, and itís always nice to see our opinion validated by someone who has no prior history with the group. (Click here to see Cherryholmes on YouTube)

The other big name group I had heard but not seen was Dan Paisley and Southern Grass. Danís father Bob led the group for many years until his passing in 2004, and they are known as a very hard-driving traditional band Ė loud, fast and good. Another band member is also a Paisley son, and there are two brothers from another family with a long history in bluegrass (fifth generation in hillbilly music). Finally, the fifth memberís father played in the group, so they have a solid background in the music. All of their fathers performed together.

This festival features an ďemerging artistĒ program Ė four newer and/or lesser known bands that compete for the chance to move on through further levels of competition. If my memory is correct the winner will compete at the Huck Finn festival for a chance to perform at the International Bluegrass Music Association convention next year. This yearís winner was also the crowd favorite, The Mighty Crows from the Bay Area.

One ďemerging artistĒ group was unable to attend, so their place was taken by a very new family band, not included in the competition, the Andersons. None of them have been playing longer than three years, and I believe the younger kids have only been at it about a year. The kids range from five to twelve, so there is a very high cuteness factor, and the band went over very well. Twelve-year old Paige plays guitar and sings lead, and handled all the MC duties, with considerable poise. The kids do all the singing. An objective analysis would say that their voices are very much childrenís voices, with limited range and timbre, but they can carry a tune and also did well at harmonizing. Seven year old Ethan plays the mandolin adequately and Ten year old Aimee did OK on the fiddle. Mom (Christy) on bass and dad (Mark) on banjo round out the group. The best picker of the bunch (including the adults) was Paige, who shows real promise on the guitar. All in all they have basic skills and lots of potential, so weíll see what the future brings.

The show ran from10 a.m. to10 p.m. with breaks of an hour to an hour and a half for lunch and dinner, and todayís schedule is similar. There is a car show today, with prizes for the best classic or antique vehicle. I donít think Iíve mentioned these before, but there are such shows at all of Larry and Sandraís festivals (this one and Bluegrass on the River at Parker), as well as the Huck Finn festival.

This one also features Kids on Stage with Frank Sollivan, which I have mentioned before. Starting Saturday morning Frank works with any kids who want to play and sing, works out several songs with them, and presents them on stage Sunday morning. This has been going on for many years, and some of the kids who started out this way have ended up in the professional ranks, including Frankís son, who plays with the Navyís top country and bluegrass group.

5:45 p.m.: We have a short dinner break, less than an hour, and Iíve already squeezed in a shower, so I have to write fast. There were several groups new to me on todayís program, with Bound to Ride probably the one that stands out. It includes Phil Cornish, a fixture on the Bay Area bluegrass scene for many years, as well as banjo player Patrick Ickes, whose brother Rob is one of the top dobro players in the world, and plays with Blue Highway. The group also includes their mother on bass.

Hit and Run Bluegrass from Colorado was new to me, but two of the members are old favorites Ė Ivan Rosenberg, who appeared with various configurations at several Parkfield festivals, and who I saw at the Top Hat saloon in Missoula MT (youíll be able to read about it on line in my report on The Journey of 2002). The group also included Lorenzo Gangi, who was in most of the groups with Ivan. As Ivan put it, Hit & Run is 40% Iron Lasso.

Dan Paisley, Special Consensus, and Cherryholmes all appeared again this afternoon. Tonight weíll see one group thatís new to me, Wildfire, as well as groups I saw in Arizona, the Bluegrass Brothers and the Chapmans; and Cherryholmes again.

The weather was much warmer, shorts and t-shirt temperatures. I was in direct sun much of the day, but it was not horrible, just plenty warm. It should cool down quite a bit again, although I think itís warmer now than it was at this time last night.

The festival is now more than half over, and the crowd is still going strong, myself included. Of course, I didnít stay up late picking like some did, including some of the performers.

September 17: Well, itís all over but the taking down and cleaning up, and thankfully, thatís someone elseís job. The festival ended about two hours ago, and most of the sound and lighting equipment is down. There are probably still two or three hours of work in that area.

The music last night and today was enjoyable, sometimes spectacular and sometimes ordinary. The great revelation at this festival was Wildfire, whom I had heard of but not heard. They are a great hard-driving band, with their latest CD and a song or two on the bluegrass charts. I was also greatly impressed by Dan Paisley and Southern Grass. As I mentioned, I have one CD from when his dad was the leader, but it did not prepare me for how good they are in person.

Cherryholmes as always put on a crowd-pleasing performance, auditioning several of the new songs that will be on their next CD, and performing some unexpected types of music. I talked briefly with Sandy (the mom) about their beginning days when they felt ready for their first public performance after they had learned five songs. She said they really canít even do those songs anymore, because they were such basic simple arrangements, and theyíve moved far beyond that now. This does not mean they canít and donít do some old bluegrass standards; just that they take a much more complex approach to them.

It was quite warm today; enough so that I moved into the shade for the last two performances. I can usually put up with the sun for two days, then it starts getting to me. The final performance was plenty hot in its own right - the Chapmans, a group of three brothers and their father who have been very successful the last few years. I saw them in Bullhead City probably in 2004, and they have released two more CDs since then.

I did a few things to get ready to go, taking up my ďpatio,Ē which is a vinyl carpet that I put out when itís dusty or there is a lot of dry grass. I also took down my awning, since we have not had any dew, so Iím not worried about protecting the few things that are outside Ė bike, a chair, and a small table.

Iíve been getting up around 8 a.m., so I will probably do the same tomorrow, and get a fairly early start. Unless something unusually exciting happens on the trip home, Iíll end this report here and get it sent soon after I get home.

Nothing to do with bluegrass: When Iím not listening to the music I read or watch TV. Iíve been working on Edmund Morrisí The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. I had already read his second volume, Theodore Rex, dealing with the presidency; this follows TR from birth up to his fateful selection as William McKinleyís vice president. I started this book during the Stargazer Rock campout in early August; I will need about two more trips to get it finished. Itís very interesting, but there is just too much else to do and read when Iím home.

I watched two movies. The first was Diner, a somewhat highly acclaimed film from 1982. I give a movie 10 to 15 minutes to grab my interest, and if it has not done so, I move on. This one kept my interest but I would probably not watch it again. It was a bit disjointed, and didnít have that much of a story.

I enjoyed the other movie, Get Shorty, much more. It is based on an Elmore Leonard novel, and I became a big Leonard fan when I started reading his books in about 1992. Since then I think Iíve read all his new ones, as well as many that go back into the early 80s. Although he focuses on crime with a wicked touch of humor, most of his early works were westerns, including Hombre, which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman.

I also took along several DVDs of favorite situation comedies that Iíve been watching again, including Grounded for Life, Titus, Arrested Development and Good Times. I had not seen any episodes from the latter for a decade or more, till I received the first season DVD for my birthday. I suspect the show would not win any awards from the NAACP for its portrayal of black people.

Arrested and Titus were two series that were very different from the usual, which probably accounts for the fact that they were only on for three seasons. Both are excellent. More in the mainstream is Grounded, which I thought was one of the funniest shows of the last ten years.

   

Photos

Downtown Amador City A relic from gold rush days Amador City bypass under construction
Downtown Amador City A relic from gold rush days Amador City bypass under construction
     
Covered bridge at fairgrounds The waterfall Another fairgrounds bridge
Covered bridge at fairgrounds The waterfall Another fairgrounds bridge
     
Dan Paisley & Southern Grass Mossy Creek Grizzly Peak
Dan Paisley & Southern Grass Mossy Creek Grizzly Peak
     
The Mighty Crows Smiley Mountain Anderson Family
The Mighty Crows Smiley Mountain Anderson Family
     
Cherryholmes Jere Cherryholmes Harmony by B.J. & Skip
Cherryholmes Jere Cherryholmes Harmony by B.J. & Skip
     
Bound to Ride Copper River Hit & Run Bluegrass
Bound to Ride Copper River Hit & Run Bluegrass
     
The  Bluegrass Brothers The Brothers & the Anderson Kids Wildfire
The  Bluegrass Brothers The Brothers & the Anderson Kids Wildfire
     
Special Consensus The Chapmans Kids on Stage
Special Consensus The Chapmans Kids on Stage
     
Web Sites
Recommended CDs, DVDs, Books
Amador City Amador County Anderson Family
Bluegrass Brothers Bound to Ride (Phil Cornish) CBA
The Chapmans Cherryholmes Copper River
Dan Paisley Drytown Hit & Run Bluegrass
Ivan Rosenberg L & S Promotions The Mighty Crows
Mossy Creek Special Consensus
Sutter Creek SWBA Elmore Leonard
Wildfire Plymouth Dick's Bluegrass Links
Kids on Bluegrass Dick's Bluegrass T-Shirt Photos Bluegrass Music on Amazon
Buy Get Shorty Edmund Morris on Amazon.com Buy Diner
  

Downtown Amador City

The Mighty Crows

 
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2006
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Bluegrass in the Foothills 2007    
   
2008
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2009
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2010
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2011
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2012 
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A 3-Event Weekend
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2013
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2014
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2016
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Adventures of 2016 Part 4 A Pennsylvania Adventure
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Updated November 6, 2016