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Farewell festival

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Crowe Brothers

Well we finally ended our winter stay in Florida and arrived home to less than friendly weather. I have no idea why we expect better but we always do.

The last musical event that we attended was the Sertoma Youth Ranch spring festival. This festival isn’t their best festival of the year but we were pleasantly surprised by the lineup that they had.

We went up on Friday of the festival with no great expectations as what we would see but the atmosphere at Sertoma is worth the visit. Tall pines surround the concert area which boasts a brand new pavilion that has been built since our last visit a couple of years ago.

The folks are friendly and you meet people that have been involved in bluegrass on the national scene for many years—many as DJs, promoters or musicians.

The show started at 12:30 pm and lasted until about 5:30 when we took our leave and headed back to Zephyrhills.

The opening act was a band by the name of K’Lynn and her bluegrass friends. Although called friends the band turned out to be her enemies and did not support her one bit. The young lady has some potential but certainly was not ready for main stage and was not helped by her “friends.” All in all not very good.

Palmetto Bluegrass were next and showed why they’re a staple in central Florida. Although not spectacular they are all veterans and can pull a show together very well.

The surprise of the show for me was a group called Highway 41 South. They have been together for a few years and have played extensively in the central Florida area which, by the way, is a hot bed of bluegrass. I saw this band a couple of years ago and I was about to go to the food concession when they were announced but on the way I heard them play a couple of tunes and went immediately back to my seat. They play well, sing well, have great harmony and above all are extremely entertaining. They have a good rapport with the crowd and cut up just enough on the stage to let you have a window into their world.

James King was on next and, although I’m not a great James King fan, I think this was the best show that I've seen him do and I have seen many James King shows. Just enough chatter, some great musicians and all in all a great show.

The reason I came to Sertoma was The Crowe Brothers and they didn’t disappoint. They do lots of great traditional mountain music harking back to the days when they were part of Raymond Fairchild and The Maggie Valley Boys. Just great music well executed, perfect brother harmonies and that feel of Jim & Jesse, The Louvin Brothers, and The Delmore Brothers. All in all I couldn’t have been happier. I’d like to see them at Rollo Bay. They would be a hit for sure.

Festival Review

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Bluegrass legends Seldom SceneThis 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

An Achievement

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Town MountainFirst of all, this month, let me begin by saying thank you to some people that made my Lifetime Achievement award at the MusicPEI awards possible. First in line is the board of directors and anyone within the organization that made it possible for me to receive this award. There are, also, many other people over the years that have helped to make this dream come true, none more deserving of thanks than those who I started my musical journey with. These people are all from Georgetown and they include Brian Curley, Harvey and Joey Martell, Newmie McCullough, Freddy Myers, Chester Llewellyn and I’m sure there are others that I’ve forgotten but you all can rest assured that you have played no small part in what has been a very enjoyable career in music.

Just because I’ve received this award doesn’t mean that I’m going away. I’ll still be around and hopefully taking a more active part in the PEI music industry whether on stage, in the studio, in print or on the radio. I’m enjoying every minute of every day in music. It doesn’t matter what genre of music you’re involved with; it’s all music and should be treated with the respect that it deserves.

Things are starting to pick up musically in Florida and we’ve had the opportunity to attend a bluegrass show down at Skippers Smokehouse which featured Town Mountain from Asheville North Carolina. This group is more contemporary but did play some traditional material. To be fair to the group their fiddler wasn’t able to make the trip and it certainly took a toll on their performance. They did play a four hour show with a couple of short breaks but a times looked lost on stage and searching for material. Their stage presence wasn’t what you would expect one of the new guard of bluegrass bands to have. They had a good bass player and banjo player but the mandolin and guitar were just average and personality is not their long suit. At any rate I’d like to give them another chance with the full band. To their credit they didn’t make any excuses about the fiddle player not being there.

The next thing on our winter agenda is a trip to Kissimmee for a week to spend some time with our daughter and son-in-law who are flying in from London, Ontario. After that it’s a couple of festivals and maybe a trip over to Chasco Fiesta. One of the festivals that we’ll be attending is at Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville. It’s a great festival nestled in tall pines and this year with a new pavilion it should be a dandy. We’re not sure who’s playing there yet but I’m sure it’ll be a good lineup.

Support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 in Charlottetown and at

The Hills are Alive

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

We took a trip over to the east coast pof Florida to see how the other half lives. Spent a week at the beach on Hutchinson Island. A beautiful place to be but you can only watch the waves roll in and out for so long.

Back in Zephyrhills on Sunday we took a walk down to the local park to find some music. There is lots to see and hear at Zephyrhills on Sunday. The park comes alive with music at about 10 am and it lasts until late afternoon or until the heat drives everyone indoors to the air conditioning.

It’s interesting to go from jam to jam and see all the different kinds of music and how the crowd reacts. Occasionally you run into people that you know who spend the winter down here to escape the cold and snow up north. Yesterday we met up with Roger Gauvin of Bluegrass Diamonds fame jamming with some folks and enjoying the sun.

All skill levels are on display on Sundays at the park as well as all styles of music. There is everyone from those who can barely play to retired professionals. In this setting, which is very casual, everyone is treated the same. Occasionally the better players will band together start a hot jam while, still, not excluding any of the less talented. All in all it’s a fun day if you’re inclined in the musical direction.

By the time this column hits the street the PEI Music Awards will be in full swing. Congratulations to the winners and to those who don’t win, thanks for being a part of the fabric of PEI that makes it such a great place to live and create. Also, a word of congratulations to Music PEI for all the work that they do. I was the first president of the PEI Music Awards and in my wildest imagination (which is pretty wild sometimes) I never thought that the PEI music industry would expand the way it has. It’s truly a testament to the creativity of the Island musicians.

Plans for the Winter

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

By the time you read this I’ll be in the sunny south enjoying the warmer weather and looking for musical things to attend.

The lineups at some of the southern festivals this year look interesting and I’m sure we’ll be taking many of them in. Our new favourite place is Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. It’s rustic to be sure but very comfortable and the food is good and the beer cold. The last Tuesday evening of every month they have a bluegrass band or two. Usually a national band and a local band as an opening act. This winter’s lineup includes Town Mountain and The Gibson Brothers in January and February. March’s dates are yet to be finalized.

Skipper’s is a very interesting venue. The Skipperdome is an outdoor space with large live oaks forming a canopy over the seating area that keeps away both heat and cold. This venue not only hosts bluegrass but also hosts the best of nationally known blues artists as well as rock, country and jazz.

This winter we also plan to attend a number of bluegrass festivals beginning at Yee Haw junction (an actual place name) which features Cody Shuler and Pine Mountain Railroad, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice, Jerry Butler and The Blue J’s, The Roys and a number of local groups. Next up is the Palatka festival which features The Seldom Scene, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, The James King Band, The Crowe Brothers, The Bluegrass Brothers, The Grascals, Dailey & Vincent and for all the country music fans, Gene Watson and The Farewell Party Band.

There are many other festivals in Florida during the winter but one of the bigger ones is Magnolia Fest in Live Oak featuring Emmy Lou Harris, Del McCoury Band, Donna The Buffalo and Bonnie Raitt. This, as you can see, isn’t nearly all bluegrass but a great festival none the less.

There’s always lots of other stuff to do that keeps us busy and we’ll be keeping you abreast of all the happenings both good and bad (or good and not so good). Jams in Zephyr Park will be in full swing by the time we arrive and old friendships will be renewed as the northerners trickle in. After the new year sets in the trickle becomes a torrent and remains that way until early April and the falls reverses.

Before I sign off for this month I hope everyone had a great Christmas and will have a happy and prosperous new year. It’s great to be able to chronicle our adventures every month and I hope we can continue for many years to come.

Good luck to all the nominees at the Music PEI awards. I’ll be watching closely from the south.

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

Music from Friends

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

This month I have a bluegrass festival and a couple of CDs to talk about.

First I want to talk about the Laurie & Bernice Blue Bluegrass festival which was held in Summerside in early November. I mentioned this a couple of months ago so this is just a follow up.

The festival is indoors so it’s very comfortable for everyone and conducive to jamming around the clock. There were lots of folks at the concerts and just as many in the halls jamming with their favourite jam partners. There are a number of very faithful attendees from across the Maritimes that attend this festival every year and this year was no exception. The US band, Erica Brown and the Bluegrass Connection, were on top of their game and entertained the audience with every show. The local and regional bands did a fine job which is a testament to the work that they put in to their craft.

Born Country - Ivor PriceThere are a couple of new CDs on the market in the last month. Neil Matthews has released a Christmas CD and Ivor Price has made his first venture into the recording world.

Let’s talk about Ivor’s first. This CD was recorded at home and includes many of Ivor’s favourite songs, like Charlie’s Angel and Walk Me To The Door as well as a couple of original songs, Pain In My Heart written by Frances Davies and Don’t Stop The Music a song that Ivor wrote for the project called Born Country. Ivor also wrote an instrumental called Ed’s Delight in memory of the late Ed Waller which he also included on the CD. This CD was a labour of love that took some time to complete but it’s something that Ivor can be proud of. If you’d like to have a copy of this CD you can contact Ivor at 629-1494 or drop by one of his Ceilidh performances and pick one up.

Merry Christmas Everyone - Neil MatthewsNeil Matthews has released a re-worked Christmas CD called Merry Christmas Everyone from Neil Matthews and Friends. The CD includes many Christmas standards from the country and pop genres. Neil’s friends include Billy and Julie Matthews-White as well as Rachel Warren and various young voices of nieces and nephews. There are a couple of originals on the CD written by Neil, Merry Christmas Everyone and Christmas In The Maritimes. This is a good CD to add to your collection for the Christmas season and I’m sure it’ll bring a smile when you give it a spin. If you’d like to have a copy of this CD contact Neil at 370-2189 or drop by one of his performances. I’m sure he’ll have a story or a joke for you.

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

Bluegrass Finale

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Erica Brown & Bluegrass ConnectionSummer is slowly creeping over the hill and the cool winds of fall are evident in the air these last few days. This means the bluegrass festival season is over for this year. But wait—there’s one more yet to come.

The Laurie and Bernice Blue Memorial Bluegrass Festival will take place on November 1, 2, 3, & 4 at the Causeway Bay Linkletter Inn and Convention Center in Summerside. This year’s event features Erica Brown and The Bluegrass Connection from Maine.

Erica developed an interest in music at an early age. At the age of seven, she was competing in fiddle contests with kids twice her age. At age nine, she was travelling throughout New England, Canada, and even Louisiana with the Maine French Fiddlers. Erica also performed as a special guest with Mac McHale And The Old-Time Radio Gang for five years. Currently, she has her own bluegrass band, Erica Brown & The Bluegrass Connection, which performs all over New England. Erica is also a member of The Stowaways, Darlin’ Corey and The Record Family Band.

She has competed in and won numerous fiddle contests throughout New England and Canada. In 2003 she was awarded Junior Female Entertainer Of The Year by the Maine Country Music Association and in 2006 she received the Harold Carter Memorial Award from the Down East Country Music Association. Erica has helped bring music into several elementary schools by holding workshops and personally performing. She has a strong desire to share her knowledge with anyone who has an interest in music and the fiddle. Erica Brown was a recipient of a 2006 Maine Arts Commission Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award and was recognized as a Master Artist by the Maine Arts Commission that same year.

Her talent for combining the precision of classical music with the spontaneity of country and bluegrass fiddle makes for a fun-filled performance every time she plays.

Performance highlights include opening for Grammy award winning country music superstar Dwight Yoakam, as well as Grammy award winning bluegrass performer Ricky Skaggs.

The Bluegrass Connection consists of Steve Roy on mandolin, Matt Shipman on guitar, Ken Taylor on bass, and Read McNamara on banjo.

Erica has five CDs to her credit, the newest of which is called From Now On. All these CDs will most likely be available at her performance in Summerside.

Other bands on the bill include Backroads from Moncton and another, as yet, unnamed regional band as well as all your local favourites.

To book rooms or weekend packages call 1-800-565-7829 or for information on the festival call 1-902-438-9182 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Packages are going fast so call early to reserve your favourite spot. See you all at the 8th annual Laurie and Bernice Blue Memorial Bluegrass Festival.

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

New Classics

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

My Better Years - Joe CaseyThis month I’ve got two new CDs to talk about. One from Joe Casey and the other from Julie Arsenault.

These CDs are both in the bluegrass vein but slightly different. Joe has taken a decidedly traditional approach while Julie’s is more in the modern style.

Let’s talk about Joe’s first. Joe has chosen a number of familiar tunes to feature on his My Better Years CD. The music on this CD ranges from the traditional tear jerker “Don’t Tell Mama I Was Drinkin’” to the Jimmy Martin classic “Maryann.” Joe has also chosen to record two original songs written by the late Wayne Brown from St. Louis.

Wayne was well know as a singer and writer of country/bluegrass songs and Joe has done Wayne’s memory justice with his versions of “Plastic Roses” and “When She Goes Home Alone.”

The CD was recorded at E.J.P. Studios in Moncton, NB with Eddy Poirier, the father of Maritime bluegrass, at the controls. Eddy also provided much of the backing tracks with Chantal Paul O’Neil playing bass and helping with the harmony.

This is a good solid effort if you like traditional bluegrass and classic country. You can get a copy of this CD from Joe at one of his performances or by calling 902-532-3410, emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or at one of Joe’s performances around the Maritimes.

Broken Strings - Julie ArsenaultThe next CD is Julie Arsenault’s debut CD called Broken Strings. Although Julie has been singing since she could talk she has only sung in a band situation for a couple of years. This CD is more on the modern side of bluegrass with some of the songs taken from other genres and hammered into the bluegrass form. Julie has taken songs from artists as diverse as Rhonda Vincent and The Stanley Brothers and made it all fit together. “Mr. Bartender” is a great effort and is sung with great conviction. Julie also covers the classic Stanley Brothers, “I’ll take The Blame” and the Hank Williams hit, “Jambalaya” and makes them all work.

Julie is assisted on this CD by Michael Richard on mandolin and David Albert on guitar. David and Michael are part of the group Two + Three which Julie is also a part of. Roger Wightman provided some banjo and Jimmy Platts played some electric guitar on the Little Big Town number, “Little White Church.”

All in all this CD is well worth a listen and if you’d like to have one you can catch Julie at one of her festival appearances or drop into The Albert N’ Crown pub in Alberton and catch Julie at work. I’m sure she’ll stop long enough to sell you a CD and say hi.

Don’t forget the Labour Day weekend features the Twin Shores Camping Area 2nd annual bluegrass festival with Mountain Connection from Kentucky as the headliner.

Listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown or on the web at

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