Delfest 2013: Sunday May 26th

Allegany County Fairgrounds
Cumberland, MD

Words, Photos & Video By Jon Irvin

One final full day of remarkable music lay ahead of me on this Sunday fun-day at the 6th annual Delfest. Day by day the weather has improved and today may just be the best weather in Delfest history. I prepared myself for a long day that would have me running to and from the three stages of music to see action from a total of ten bands. Breaking in today’s action would be Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. I was shocked to see the raspy voiced bluegrass veteran was clean shaved as I was eager to see his well known glorious grey and black beard. Still without the facial hair Keel and the rest of the band treated the crowd to an upbeat affair and even invited friend Jeff Austin who sat in on “Ramblin Rose,” a Grateful Dead song that not only showcased Austin on the mandolin but also Jenny Keel's vocals. As their set was coming to a conclusion I ran over to the Delfest Music Hall to catch the end of The Campbell Brothers set. I missed their early Sunday morning gospel session so I made sure I did not miss their inside set. Though I only caught a few minutes I was impressed with their worship style sacred southern steel.

Larry Keel Live at DelFest - Allegany County Fairgrounds on May 26, 2013.

After taking in the last of the Campbell Brothers set it was time for me to be on the move again. I made a quick side step to the Potomac stage to hear the beautiful voice of Aoife O’Donovan sing a few songs. I first heard of her when she collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Myers, Stuart Duncan, and Chris Thile on the Grammy award winning album The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Here at Delfest she was showcasing songs from her upcoming solo album Fossils though she also covered one of my all time favorite bluegrass numbers “Pretty Polly”. I grabbed some lunch and sat under the shade of the grandstand to hear a few songs from the hardcore Reverend Peytons Big Damn Band. The raw and dirty style bluegrass I heard coming from a backwoods bar was enough to wet my appetite for more. I made note to catch his late night show that evening. After a quick bite to eat it was back to Delfest Music Hall to take in the beginning of the Master of Bluegrass set. Staring host Del McCoury along with Bobby Osborne, J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks, and Jerry McCoury, the Master of Bluegrass sports a Hall of Fame cast with ages of history. A packed crowd had gathered to hear the boy’s storytelling and play some bluegrass standards that have been around for decades. I couldn't stay long for I had to catch some of the Hackensaw Boys set before I took home in the main lawn for the evening. As I approached the Potomac Stage the Hackensaw Boys were in full swing mid-set. Billed as foot stompin’ and soul shakin’, the Boys from Virginia did not disappoint. What caught my eye the most was the homemade percussion instrument coined the “charisma” which was made from a collection of tin, aluminum, and hub caps. Homemade instruments are especially what make bluegrass so special, the ability to play a so called trash and turn it into music that the masses can enjoy. As with many other bands on Sunday, I couldn’t stay for the entire set which left me a little disappointed. I hope the Hackensaw Boys return to Delfest next year for they will surely be a not miss act.

It was a little before 4:00 PM as I settled down in front of the grandstand for the rest of the afternoon. The running back and forth for the last four hours had taken its toll and I was ready to take in several full sets. One of my favorite bands that I look forward to seeing year after year here at Delfest was the first band to take the stage. The Infamous Stringdusters continue to gain momentum and never disappoint. Teamed with bands like Greensky Bluegrass, the Dusters should be headlining festivals for years to come. You can tell the band is having a blast and it resonates through their music and their somewhat battling solos. Yet again they are another great band that mixes both band originals with classic covers which I have always viewed as important to some fans who aren’t familiar with the bands material. Today’s set would be no different as the Stringdusters entertained the crowd with their own songs including “Hitchhiker” and “17 cents” as well as their spot on takes of U2’s “In God’s Country” and Pink Floyd's “Fearless”. You can find their entire Sunday set here on Soundcloud. No doubt the Infamous Stringdusters are here to stay.

I decided to pass on Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCourys inside set, I saw them last year, so I stayed put and waited for the start of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. A fairly young group on the scene, the Chocolate Drops mix African roots, jug band, and bluegrass with a touch of Scottish flair. Catchy lyrics, kazoos and scatting make this an enjoyable band for all ages especially on songs like “Cornbread and Butterbeans”. After the conclusion of the set I took a quick trip for some dinner and was back to see the last two bands that would grace the Delfest Grandstand; the weekend host Del McCoury Band and perennial favorites Yonder Mountain String Band.

Being his festival and all, Del McCoury can be seen throughout the weekend not only during his set, but sitting in with numerous bands day and night. With a golden voice that is second to none the man does not seem to age a bit. Joining Del on stage are both his boys Rob and Ronnie, bass player Alan Bartram and one of the best fiddlers around, Jason Carter. Del and the boys always seem to leave the best for last and ended their four night stay in Cumberland by treating the record setting crowd to an amazing set. Honestly for me this was the real ending of Delfest even though Yonder Mountain had yet to take the stage. Don’t get me wrong Yonder is a great band but over the years I fear they have lost an edge that upcoming bands like Greensky Bluegrass and Infamous Stringdusters unquestionably posses. I remember years ago they would play with such excitement and watching them Sunday night I couldn't help feeling that the ability is there, but the passion is gone.

Before I wrapped up my stay at this year’s Delfest I saved enough gas in the tank to swing into the Delfest Music Hall to catch some last minute action from Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Peytons hard rock fist pumping style is enough to keep anyone of an adrenaline high and I was glad to catch him one last time before the evening was over.

Overall the 2013 Delfest was one for the record books. Besides a few cold nights the weather was perfect, the crowd was perfect, and the music was second to none. Delfest continues to improve year after year. I want to thank Del McCoury yet again for hosting this amazing weekend and hopefully I’ll be back again for the 7th annual Delfest in 2014.

Jon's Sunday Photo Gallery


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