I truly became a bluegrass music fan while attending the Blueberry Bluegrass fest in the late ’90s; while I had heard the music before, it was on those often wet, occasionally sunny August long weekends beginning in 1997 that my appreciation for the music was extended and solidified. I attended the festival faithfully for six or seven years, and the 2000 fest inspired my father-in-law and I to get things moving with a bluegrass society in Red Deer. However, as times changed, and especially as personalities involved evolved- and I became overloaded a little on the music- I stopped attending: while the names within the festival’s line-up became bigger and bigger, the spirit of the festival seemed to be lacking the previous magic. Following 2003’s excellent ‘farewell’ Tames’ fester, I found other events to fill my summer music needs, largely folk festivals in Edmonton and Calgary and the Shady Grove Bluegrass fest. I returned for a day in 2007, but haven’t been back since.
This summer, I am more seriously than in recent years considering making the drive north to Stony Plain for at least a day this August long weekend: I know I couldn’t do a whole weekend, no matter how strong the line-up. I have, in the intervening years, become burned out attending large folk festivals, and found myself less tolerant of morons attending the same (even small) shows as I at Kansas City’s Middle of the Map fest so I know that one day of crowds, even those gathered for the bliss that is bluegrass, is my maximum.
This year’s Blueberry schedule follows a pattern of recent years: three ‘big name’ bluegrass bands, a couple or three ‘second and third tier’ groups, several local bands, and some country artists who usually play opening act during country fairs and the like. Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, The Boxcars, and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice comprise the ‘big name’ category, and I would really like to catch Sisk and his boys as well as The Boxcars. The Whites are travelling with Skaggs (I presume) and they don’t tour very widely, so they may be a good catch this time out. Jeff Scroggins & Colorado is a band whose name seldom comes up, so I can’t say anything one way or another about them: Scroggins played with the Blue Canyon Boys and KC Groves was with Uncle Earl, as well as performing on her own. Some time ago, Groves released an album that I reviewed for Bluegrass Now that I quite liked. I am hopeful that they’ll be a nice surprise.
The Spinney Brothers are also performing, but they have never done a lot for me; I just find them one-dimensional, without a lot of harmony depth. Locally, I’d like to catch up with the gals and Kenny from Prairie Sky and Black Lightening, too.
The complete Blueberry Bluegrass schedule is available on their website.
So, if you attend Blueberry- especially on the Sunday- keep an eye open for me. I’ll be the guy shaking my head at the folks talking all through the concert sets.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald