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That’s a wrap

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Charlie HansenBy the time you read this column the summer festival season will be over and the successful ones will smile and the unsuccessful ones will try again another year.

The PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival was very successful this year for our 30th annual. This was a great contrast from last year when tropical storm Arthur tried to knock us out but didn’t succeed. Next year’s festival feature US bands, Volume Five, The Farm Hands Quartet and Stacy Grubb.

It appeared as though the Evangeline festival was a success judging by the amount of white fiberglass in the field. Both festivals featured local regional and international groups which were at the top of their game.

The fall season ushers in another group of festivals. The shellfish festival runs September 17–20 with lots of good food and lots of great local and regional entertainment. Jimmy Rankin is one of the featured performers along with Vintage 4.0, Melanie Morgan, Irish Mythen and Signal Hill as well as local favourites Muddy Buddy and Boys In The Kitchen. A good time is assured at the Shellfish Festival.

In early November the Summerside Bluegrass Festival will be held at the former Linkletter Inn and Convention Center. This year’s festival features New Vintage from the US as well as a strong group of local and Maritime bands.

By the time that’s over we’ll be in Florida for the winter and looking forward to more trips to Skippers and many music festivals that are a staple of the entertainment scene in central Florida. There is a new one up Brooksville way and it will be a good chance to check that one out as it’s only a short drive from Zephyrhills. The Canadian dollar isn’t doing us any favours but since we have to pay the rent anyway we might as well go.

I’ve been writing this column for a long time and I’ve seen many things and people come and go but this is my last one. Before I fade into the sunset I’d like to thank Peter and Nancy for all their support, not only for me but for the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival by sponsoring our workshops. Thanks for letting me express my opinion some times and for letting me shut up at the right time. Thanks to the people that read this every month and for supporting me when I made mistakes, and Lord knows there were many of them. Away back in the beginning I tried to follow the path that Paul “The Old Rattler” Myers had blazed before. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t but I always enjoyed it.

I guess when you leave you should always turn out the lights, so here goes, finger on the switch, fade to black.

Oh, just one more thing, keep supporting live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 on CFCY and on the web at, I’ll still be there.


The Buzz thanks Charlie “Never Missed A Deadline” Hansen for his valuable contributions to this publication, and, by extension, for all the support he gave to Island country and bluegrass musicians over the years.

Grass festivities

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

The RoysThe summer music season is upon us and many festivals are in full swing. The 30th annual PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival is happening momentarily and the organizers expect a large attendance because of the top flight entertainment that has been put in place. The Lonesome River Band, The Clay Hess Band and Ned Crisp and Bottomline are the US bands and they all come with a great track record as crowd pleasers.

The weekend after the PEI Festival the folks at Abram-Village will open the gates and welcome all comers. This years lineup includes the ultra traditional bluegrass, Larry Efaw and The Bluegrass Mountaineers are composed of Edward Efaw, Larry Efaw, Stanley Efaw, Anthony Prater, Tom Isaacs, and John Bryan. The band has been a staple on the mid US bluegrass scene for many years and play that hard driving traditional bluegrass that festival attendees enjoy very much.

The other US band on the schedule is the brother sister act, The Roys. The Roys have roots in Rogersville New Brunswick but are natives of Massachusetts. Elaine and Lee are backed up by a strong band of great musicians and play a mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass. They have charted a number of songs on the bluegrass Unlimited and Bluegrass Today chart and are on a fast track to a successful career.

The Maritime bands at Abram-Village are The Bluegrass Diamonds, Close To Home, Simply Blue, Monroe, and the Ryan Dillman Band. All your favourite local bands are there as well so the weekend is set up to be a lively one.

The Red Clay Bluegrass Festival held on August 21 to 23 in Tignish, PEI is shaping up to be a good one. The headliner this year is Travers Chandler and Avery County. The group is built around the music of the Washington/Baltimore bluegrass scene of the 50s and 60s. The set list contains songs from the many entertainers that filled the clubs in the Washington/Baltimore corridor and made that area a hub for bluegrass music. Travers travels with a very competent group which includes Ray Edwards, Merl Johnson, Adam Peindeter & Steve Block.

The second band making its way up from the US is The Burrie Family which hails from Southeastern Wisconsin. They are new to this area and I’m sure worth a listen.

The Maritime bands on the schedule include The Bluegrass Diamonds, The Douthwrights, and Bluegrass Tradition. Again all your favourite local bluegrass groups will be there.

I’ll be keeping you advised as to other country and bluegrass events as the summer rolls along so get out and support your favourite festival or take them all in if you get a chance. We’ll see you at one of the local festivals.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island Sunday at 9 pm on CFCY 95,1 FM and on the web at

Time to cut some grass

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Lonesome River BandFirst of all congratulations to all the nominees, winners, and performers at the annual Music PEI celebration of music, this year called The May Run Festival whose name harkened back to many years ago when the Victoria Day weekend was known locally as the May Run weekend [as hordes of young mainlanders invaded our Island, not so gently].

Now many people in the acoustic music world are looking forward to the festival season, especially the bluegrass festival season.

The first festival of the summer is a neat little festival that’s held in St. Louis in western PEI. This festival started as a campout but has blossomed into a full fledged festival. This year’s edition features Grassline from New Brunswick with Eddy, Robert and Bryan Poirier and Laurie Chavarie, Eastwind from Nova Scotia and also Next Generation from Nova Scotia. Next Generation is a very young band that started a couple of years ago and have seen a great improvement in their playing and presentation. A full slate of PEI bands will also be on hand. The festival happens June 26, 27 and 28.

The following weekend is the biggest and oldest festival on the Island, the 30th annual PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival. This year’s event features—from the US—The Lonesome River Band, The Clay Hess Band and Ned Crisp and Bottomline. The regional bands feature The Bluegrass Diamonds, Bluegrass Tradition and a band that has become an international success, The Spinney Brothers.

The Lonesome River Band has won enough awards over the last 30 years to fill many shelves. They are considered one of the most iconic groups in the genre.

The Clay Hess Band’s leader, Clay Hess, has a Grammy and several other awards to his credit after touring for three years with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. Clay is also an instructor in most all acoustic instruments.

Ned Crisp and Bottomline are a regional band that has played around the Ashland Kentucky are for many years and present a rock solid family-oriented show. Their musicianship and vocal ability is stellar in all aspects and will keep you well entertained.

The Spinney Brothers, although, from the Annapolis Valley have been embraced by the international bluegrass world and are the most successful bluegrass band ever to call the Maritimes home. The festival runs July 3, 4 and 5.

The Evangeline Bluegrass and Traditional Music Festival runs July 10, 11, and 12. The featured bands this year are Larry Efaw and The Bluegrass Mountaineers with their traditional bluegrass sound and the contemporary sounds of The Roys. Lots of regional and local bands fill out the rest of the program very ably.

Until next time don’t forget to support local country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 PM on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the web at



Winter winds up

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Larry Gillis picks some swampgrassWe’ve wound up our winter if Florida and are wending our way back home after stops at Colonial Williamsburg, VA to take in some US history and visit the historic towns of Jamestown and Yorktown. This experience was enjoyable and we learned some US history in our travels.

After Williamsburg, VA we left for London, ON by way of Erie, PA. The border crossing at Buffalo was uneventful which was much appreciated.

We spent a few days in London with our daughter and son-in-law and enjoyed some London hospitality.

Before we left Florida we did a food pilgrimage on St. Patrick’s Day to The Lucky Dill in Palm Harbor. This is a bar and grill set up to emulate the burroughs of New York city. St. Patrick’s Day is a very busy time for The Lucky Dill as they feature the classic corned beef and cabbage dinner which is one of the best I’ve ever had outside of my own home. I opted for the reuben sandwich which is huge with one pound of corned beef on rye bread complete with pickles and, oddly enough, mashed potatoes. I guess the famine is over. A wise person should only eat half of this but after a couple of Guinness I was able to round it up and leave with a very satisfied smile on my face.

Irish music is featured at The Lucky Dill all day on St. Patrick’s Day and some of the local entertainers are very good. Some of the roving pipers were a trifle annoying, but isn’t that always the case.

The music portion of the month was a trip to New Port Richey for Chasco Fiesta. We always try to attend bluegrass night, weather permitting. This years bluegrass show featured a group called the Michigan Misfits as well as The Larry Gillis Band.

The Michigan Misfits are just that. They would probably be quite entertaining at a local tavern, where they play on a regular basis, but to a sit down crowd they were less than stellar.

The feature group was The Larry Gillis Band. Larry has been to the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Festival in the past and has a hard driving bluegrass, or as he calls it, swampgrass sound. Larry’s band at Rollo Bay was great but the band members from that time have moved on and have been replaced by a much less talented group. The show was passable but far from the professional show that he put on in Rollo Bay.

Speaking of Rollo Bay, if you want advance tickets for that show featuring The Lonesome River Band call Shirley Jay at 902-566-2641 or Glenda Johnston at 902-569-4501. You can be assured that it will be a great show with The Clay Hess Band and Ned Crisp and Bottomline.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00PM on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the web at


Islanders in the sun

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Trinity River BandMy grandmother had an expression, “hot as Irish love in dog days” and I guess this would describe the temperatures in Florida at this point in the year. I never really understood what this meant until the last couple of weeks, but I think I’ve finally realized what she was talking about.

We complained all winter that the weather was uncommonly cool and the sun rarely peeked its head out for fear that the north wind would blow it into the next county. Well, guess what, the worm has turned and what was extremely cold all winter has now turned into something akin to the fires of hell.

Through all this we managed to cram in a bit of music and took a trip down to PEI Day at Fort DeSoto. Im sure Hernando DeSoto, the fort's namesake, would have been proud of the assembled throng of native, transplanted, wannabe and never-saw-the Island “Islanders” that graced these hallowed grounds. On this day every year everyone is an “Islander.” They talk like Islanders, walk like Islanders and some of them even have a drink or two from an adult beverage smuggled in past the surveillance of park rangers.

All in all a large crowd enjoyed the heat and sunshine of a wonderful Florida day. Lots of entertainment was available for all those who cared to listen while others sat under the palms and visited with old and new friends. Did I mention that some of them even had a drink or two.

The music part of the month was a trip down to Skipper’s Smokehouse to see the Trinity River Band once again. This is generally a young band made up of The Harris Family, dad Mike on guitar, mom Lisa on bass and the kids Sarah on mandolin and most of the band’s lead vocals, Josh on banjo, dobro and mandola/octave mandolin, and youngest, Brianna on fiddle and harmony.

I’ve seen this band a number of times over the last few years and every time I see them they get better. Brianna has become a full member and can take her place as well as any of the rest. Sarah’s vocals get better each time out and her mandolin playing is stronger as well. Josh is the guy that drives it as far as I can see. An excellent mature youngster on all his instruments as well as lending a bit of comedy to the routine. They are very much at home on the stage and have a friendliness about them that carries on off the stage. The night we were there they went out in the crowd and talked to every person there.

They would be a valuable asset to any festival. Perhaps, not yet a headliner but they would enhance any lineup.

Until next time when I’m home in the frozen north don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass and listen to Bluegrass Island Sundays at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the web at

Blues and BBQ

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Blues and BBQ LogoPigs in Z’Hills is perhaps not the most inviting name for an event that draws many thousands of people to an airstrip usually used for skydiving but this year’s Pigs in Z’Hills BBQ and Blues festival packed them in like never before. This has become an annual event that draws people from all over the south east to this small town in Florida.

Over 30 BBQ vendors line the various areas of the grounds and compete for prizes and trophies donated by the sponsors of the event but for me the core of the event was the blues festival featuring bands from the Tampa Bay area. First up was a local group called “Cold Iron” ( that started the day with a good solid set of blues, some original but mostly covers.

Next up was Doug Deming and the Jeweltones ( featuring harp master Dennis Gruenling who is one of the nastiest harp players I’ve ever heard. All in all a great set.

The next group to take the stage was my favourite of the day, The Lauren Mitchell Band ( This band comes from Sarasota and are a staple on the blues scene in this area and all around the US. Lauren is a disciple of Etta James and she delivered a great set backed up by a great band.

The final group on the show was TC Carr and The Bolts of Blue ( j81SfJS-ZcY). TC has unique vocal sound and is just as unique on the harp. Dickey Betts says, “He’s one of the best.” I couldn’t think of a better endorsement.

I’ve included some links so that you could hear some of these groups. They’re not performances from Zephyrhills but it will give you an idea what they sound like.

Of course, this event also being a BBQ festival we had to stop by some of the booths and try everything pork and a few nice cold beers. Great on a warm Florida afternoon which we haven’t had many of lately.

Besides the blues and BBQ there is also a component of this festival that features monster trucks as well as antique cars and airplanes. With Zephyrhills being the sky dive capital of the US I guess it would only be natural that there would be planes.

The next day we headed off to Gibsonton for the Gibtown Bike Week. This event features hundreds of motorcycles from all over the US and Canada along with, you guessed it, BBQ and beer. Lots of people attend this event each year and, by the look of some of them on Sunday, I’d say there was a party on Saturday night. The Bloody Mary for $1.00 tent was very popular.

We saw lots of great bikes as well as antique cars and some good ole southern rock being played by a group of bikers from the area.

Well, I’m tired now from all the excitement so I’ll close for this month by reminding you to support live country, bluegrass and blues and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY FM 95.1 in Charlottetown and on the web at

Zephyr Hillbillies

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Rick and Alan Spinney—The Spinney BrothersAfter a couple of quiet months things are beginning to heat up in the music world down here in Zephyrhills. The city park is alive with music every Sunday and jams are being held in every nook and cranny of the town every day of the week.

We had the opportunity to make a trip down to Skippers Smokehouse on a cool evening to help the Spinney Brothers celebrate the launch of their new CD called Tried and True and take in some Americana and gypsy jazz from a local group called Gypsy Wind.

Gypsy Wind is made up of Kristen Holloway on flute and vocals, Michael Godwin on guitar and vocals, Mark Robertson-Tessi on mandolin and Rob Williams on bass. This group is extremely talented but wasn’t particularly well received by a crowd made up mainly of Maritimers waiting to see the Spinneys.

Much of Gypsy Wind’s material is original laced with a good smattering of familiar numbers rearranged to suit their instrumentation. Some are so rearranged that they are hardly recognizable. This doesn’t lessen the ability of the group but certainly does nothing for developing crowd appeal. On the night that we saw them, the great banjo player, Corey Walker sat in on a few numbers and added to the overall sound of the group. Corey was a replacement for Justin Moses with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and was a founding member of Sierra Hull and Highway 111 so he brings great credentials.

The Spinneys took the stage to present two hour long sets made up of traditional bluegrass along with songs from their new CD. The Spinney Brothers band is made up of Rick and Alan Spinney on banjo and guitar respectively, Gray Dalrymple on mandolin and, the newest member, Terry Poirier on bass and corny jokes. Gary has been a member of the group for twenty two years and Terry is just celebrating his first anniversary.

The group was well received by a, mainly, hometown crowd. The down home flavour of their stage show, which is very relaxed, puts everyone in a good frame of mind and makes the audience feel that they are all part of “it.”

The Spinneys told me that although being a full time bluegrass band and traveling extensively in the US and Canada, they find it difficult to operate within the one hundred and eighty three day limit as far as insurance and immigration policies is concerned. Too bad for the most prominent bluegrass group to ever come out of eastern Canada. The group left on a bluegrass cruise the day after their appearance at Skippers.

You can see the Spinney Brothers at the 30th annual PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music festival July 3, 4 and 5 at Rollo Bay.

Next month we’re off to Key West.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island on Sundays at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the internet at

Over the Airwaves

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Greetings from the not-so-sunny, not-so-warm south. We hope all the turkey has been digested and life is beginning to get back to normal. We’d like to wish everyone, especially the music community, the happiest and most prosperous of new years.

The music scene in this part of the south is pretty quiet this time of year but an explosion takes place shortly after Christmas when all the northerners arrive and begin to thaw out.

Just a couple of personal notes to mention this month. Bluegrass Island, the radio program that I’m associated with turns eighteen-years-old a little later in January and it’s been a delight for all those years and all in all the program has been a labour of love as far as the music is concerned. We started on reel to reel tape, proceeded to a new building and recording to hard disc with the use of CD players to finally preparing the show where ever in the world we happen to be by way of digital downloads of music and uploads of the show via the Internet.

Over the years, due to the cost of postage, the flow of CDs has diminished to a trickle and most of the music for the show is downloaded from record company websites or such download sites as AirplayDirect or Radio Submit. These sites are very convenient and efficient, but they lack the feel of the product in your hand.

Many of the download sites don’t include any information on the writers, publishers, etc. which makes it almost impossible to use the material. A number of the record labels have come on board by allowing us to download the liner notes but many of the labels do not which makes it difficult to air a lot of great music.

The program, I hope, has allowed the listeners to hear a lot of great music that they normally wouldn’t hear and I’m grateful to those who listen faithfully and have for many years. I hope to be able to bring you many more years of great bluegrass.

Another personal note is that I am about to embark on a project that I have wanted to do for many years. I’m in the process of recording a project with my son, Charles Jr. This is a collection of songs that I’ve admired for many years and includes songs by Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, The Searchers, Sam Cook, Warren Zevon, Marianne Faithful, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Work. Much of the material was chosen by my son who is a teacher at Berklee College of Music in Boston so as you can see this will be a struggle for me but I’ve loved every note so far. This CD won’t be for sale so this isn’t shameless self-promotion.

That’s all for now so until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to (the eighteen year old) Bluegrass Island every Sunday at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the web at

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