“Just over in Gloryland…”
You could feel the spirit of the late Bill Monroe at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival last week. It truly was a glorious day in weather complete with puffy, white dandelion clouds and the full spectrum of bluegrass sounds at Walsh Farm in Oak Hill.
The festival showcased the rich heritage of bluegrass, including the traditional southern-flavored Spinney Brothers; the all-woman Della Mae band, bringing plenty of acoustic grit and down-home twang; the stripped-down duo of Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers) & Michael Daves; Grammy-winning bluegrass legend Peter Rowan (a former member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys); and the weavings of Nippertown storytellers the Gibson Brothers. Top all this off with a late night set of the high-octane, groove-oriented Donna the Buffalo, and Gloryland was created. Cheering and dancing at the various stage areas all around the fest broke out throughout the day and night.
Tara Nevins (vocals, fiddle, accordion, scrubboard, & guitar) of Donna the Buffalo summed it up, stating that the passion of making this music is the cornerstone of festivals like Grey Fox.
Eric and Leigh Gibson of the Gibson Brothers added that the experience of making new fans and driving their own fan base has made Grey Fox a long-time gig with about 10 appearances at the fest since 1996. Their well-rounded set – including “Wishing Well,” “Walking West of Memphis,” “Ring the Bell” (2010 award-winning gospel song) and the title track of their latest album, “Help My Brother” (which also took top honors on the Bluegrass charts) – showed why their songwriting, great licks and vibrant sibling harmonies are among the favorites of Grey Fox.
Both Gibson brothers attribute their brotherhood in creating their identity in performing and songwriting. “We are able to link our creativity and give strength to our songwriting from our history of growing up together,” said Leigh Gibson. “We are honored that we can continue to create and play music and now support our own families. Our heroes have been on this stage…maybe we do really belong.” Then with sly charm and a twinkle in their eyes both brothers threw handfuls of M&M’s in the air like confetti towards a fellow musician.
The late night and long-anticipated set (delays due to perfecting sound checks) of Donna the Buffalo with their soulful, electric Americana hybrid infused with elements of Cajun, zydeco, rock, folk, reggae and country brought a full crowd dancing underneath the soaring harmonies of “Ones You Love” and the bright, shining moon overhead at Walsh Farm.
Review by Sylvia Aronson
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk