by Charlie Hansen
This has been a fairly eventful month for us here in the sunny south. We made a trip up to Palatka to attend their spring festival. We decided that Friday would be the best day so that we could see Seldom Scene and Dry Branch Fire Squad. The Show got under way with The Marksmen at 12:00 noon. They put on a great show with a lot of good gospel music and some comedy that went over well with the folks in attendance, and there were many of them.
Alicia Nugent followed The Marksmen and did a solid, if not spectacular show. She had some of her own musicians with her as well as a number borrowed from other bands. Apparently Alicia is living in Louisiana now and it’s had to keep a bluegrass career viable when you live that far from the main market.
Next to take the stage were Gold Wing Express, another unspectacular performance. Their comedy was fairly well received but their music is flawed by any standard. They were mildly entertaining to give them the benefit of doubt.
To my mind the best act of the day was the Gibson Brothers. They command the stage with off hand comedy and stellar musicianship. Their harmony, although only two part is as strong as any of the brother acts from years gone by. Sibling rivalry is a big part of their act as it is with Spinney Brothers and several other family groups. The Gibsons have had a long and fruitful career and are no where near ready to give it up.
The legendary Seldom Scene still has it going on in this music. Although some people feel that they’re a bit too far uptown they are still revered in bluegrass circles around then world. You could tell that they don’t play very much anymore but it doesn’t matter. There is such a preponderance of talent in this group that it all comes together when the lights come on. The present lineup is original member Ben Eldridge on banjo, Lou Reid on mandolin, lead and tenor vocals, Fred Travers on dobro and harmony, Ronnie Simpkins on bass and harmony and the great Dudley Connell on guitar and lead vocals.
Dudley Connell alone is worth the price of admission with his great vocals, solid rhythm, and acid tongued comedy. All in all a great show from a bunch of guys that, in some people’s opinion are somewhere between the top of the hill and the bottom of the valley.
The Dry Branch Fire Squad rounded out the afternoon show and were their normal selves. Many older and less bluegrassy songs and lots of comedy and stories from Ron Thomasson. To me Ron is the best entertainer in bluegrass and had the crowd in the palm of his hand from start to finish. Musically they generally fall short of the mark but they make it up with song choice and comedy. Most of Ron’s comedy is based of American politics and I wish more people in our area appreciated it because I’d love to see them come north for some shows.
That’s about all for this month but again don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY 95.1 in Charlottetown or on the web at cfcy.fm.