Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Time now to get serious about the festival season. Been putting it off? Indecision nagging you? Lack of commitment? You need to boldly take that step, commit to the festivals that you already know will feature the stars you want to see, get that advance ticket if it is still available, and be ready. Enough of this wishy-washy whining; get with it. There are lots to choose from.

For starters, and right here close to home, theOtter Creek Park Festival. Second annual Memorial Day show. Off to a great start last year; expanded, bigger and better this year. Expanded to three big days and nights. The 27-29th of May.

Friday kicks off with thePizza Hut Showdown Talent Search scheduled for 3 p.m. as of this writing. Headliners for that evening areRandall Hylton and theLewis Family. That can't be anything but tremendous.

Saturday will follow up withRarely Herd,Dry Branch Fire Squad,Nashville Bluegrass Band,Laurie Lewis,Front Range,Barenberg-Douglas-Meyers, and theOsborne Bros. Sunday will bring a few minor changes and big additions such asStrings Attached,Josh Williams, and The High Gear Band,Eastbound, andJ.D. Crowe. Something for everybody.

Following just a week or two later will be theFestival of the Bluegrass at Lexington and as of now I do not have any information on it.

The next big one for me — and one of my favorites — will be theCharlotte Bluegrass Festival at Charlotte, Mich. I have been the MC for this festival for about nine years now and look forward to the next one all year. This year's lineup for it includesBill Monroe,Ralph Stanley, Lewis Family, Dry Branch Fire Squad,Warrior River Boys,Larry Sparks,Delia Bell & Bill Grant, Randall Hylton,Roy Harper and more. That festival is June 23-26 and is every bit worth the trip. For additional information call me at WFPL on Sunday night between 8:30 and 11:00 at 574-1753. For information on additional festivals, call as I just mentioned or listen to Sunday Bluegrass at those times.

The season for the bluegrass shows at Shepherdsville is over until fall. Really had some great shows this past month that brought Josh Williams, TheSunnysiders withCindi Ruff, and theLost & Found. A lot of folks were introduced to bluegrass over there and new fans and friends were found by several of the performers.Michael Cleveland showed up to pick a couple with Josh Williams and both young men really impressed some folks I knew were there for the first time. One remark overheard later by my wife in regards to Michael was, "That kid will never be on welfare."

There was another important performer there the night Josh was there. A gentle giant who fits that description in more ways than one. A giant of a songwriter, performer, guitarist and personable person. At "five foot, eighteen inches," he stands out in any crowd. Randall Hylton is this man. I had the great pleasure of going with Randall to Franklin, Ohio, the next night. It is always a pleasure for me to watch him work, especially in an area for the first time, and seeing the results and reactions from the crowd develop just as I know they will. I have said it before and I will say it again, Randall Hylton is an entertainer's entertainer. Tip: Watch for a new tape, yet to be released, with a crowd pleaser, "Big Foot."

Be sure and listen for the Martha White Bluegrass Night at the Ryman Auditorium on WSM starting June 14, 8 p.m. Nashville time. A whole series of these through August 30 with Bill Monroe andAlison Krauss starting them off and finishing August 30 with Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley.

Another tidbit I picked up says that WSM is going to an all-traditional country programming. This should include bluegrass. It could have started by the time you read this. I do hope there is something to it and I believe that it could very well happen. I think somebody there must have taken note that a billion dollars, or was that over two B, went west to Branson in the last year or two. With all of those traditional country artists setting up shop out there, I wonder why?

Glad to report that Bill Monroe was on the Opry on April 16 and even did his little dance. You will recall that he broke his hip several weeks ago.


Recording Review

Three new tapes from Randall Hylton and another in the works.

One is called Live in the South and includes "Nine Pound Hammer," Randall's "Salty Dog Blues" routine and a mess of pickin'.

The others are on Old Homestead Records:

Railroading in Song is a collection of train songs that Randall has wanted to do for a long time. Familiar, yet sounding fresh with the Hylton touch. Like old friends you are glad to hear from again. Familiar things like "Train That Carried My Girl From Town," "Midnight Special," "Railroad Bill," "Waiting For a Train" and others. Yes, "Wabash Cannonball" is there. Twelve in all, completed with "Life's Railway to Heaven." A good collection and well done.

The third of these tapes is one of superb guitar on "Guitar Hoedown." This one, a collection of part fiddle tunes, part guitar tunes, and all good. "Chinese Breakdown," "Soldier's Joy," "Red Wing," "Mississippi Sawyer," and others. He has included one that I had only heard one other guitarist do. "Dixie" and "Yankee Doodle" at the same time. Chet Atkins did it with an electric guitar years ago and now Randall Hylton has done it with the acoustic guitar. I think anyone who enjoys excellent guitar can put this tape on, relax and enjoy.

All three tapes can be obtained from: Randall Hylton, P.O. Box 24533, Nashville, TN 37202; or the other two from Old Homestead Records, John Morris, Box 100, Brighton, MI 48116.