2/18/2011 - Asheville's Bluegrass First Class fest returns this weekend
by Carol Rifkin
Asheville, NC is always hosting a wide variety of music and arts. While you are out on the town enjoying the fine dining our city has to offer, stop in one of the many local venues and let your ears share in the banquet. - Ben Falcon
ASHEVILLE -- When the 16th annual Bluegrass First Class festival takes over the Crowne Plaza Resort this weekend, it will fill the hallways, lobby, concert hall and conference rooms with local, big-name bluegrass acts, jam sessions and workshops.
Bring your instrument, but not your lawn chair, and join in the fun as acts like Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice, Dailey and Vincent and the Grascals take the stage.
"Our new CD has been in the works for about three years. It's called 'The Grascals and Friends: Country Classics with a Bluegrass Spin,'" said the group's singer Terry Eldredge.
Released last month, the collection of 13 classic duets shot to No. 1 on the bluegrass charts and 26 on the country charts. Many of the country stars included really were old friends.
"We've worked with Dolly Parton, and we have recorded a Christmas CD with Charlie Daniels," Eldredge said. "We brought Tom T. Hall out of retirement; he wrote 'The Year That Clayton Delaney Died,' so we did that.
"The Oak Ridge Boys did 'Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,' and we knew that 'Mr. Bojangles' would totally fit Joe Diffie," Eldredge said. "We picked songs the artists wrote or that really fit them. It was hard because we had to pick a song that fit the Grascals sound, too."
The CD is available only through the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, and Cracker Barrel donates a portion of the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Eldredge agrees that country music and bluegrass are strongly connected. "As far as I'm concerned, bluegrass is the original country music, and I think it's coming back to that," he said.
"Bluegrass, it's rural music that people totally understand. It talks about daily living and everyday life," Eldredge said.
The Grascals' two newest members are banjo player Kristin Scott Benson and fiddler Jeremy Abshire.
"Kristin is banjo player of the year for the third year in a row; we call her Girl Scruggs," laughed Eldredge. "She's brought new life to our music.
IF YOU GO
What: Bluegrass First Class.
When: Noon-midnight today and Saturday, 9-11 a.m. Sunday.
Where: Crowne Plaza Resort, Holiday Inn Drive near the Smoky Park Bridge.
The lineup: Today features Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Grascals, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Laurel Creek, Dailey & Vincent. Saturday has Mountain Faith, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Lonesome River Band, Seldom Scene, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Dailey & Vincent, workshops and jams. Sunday: Mountain Faith, Joshua's Tree.
Tickets: $45 today or Saturday; $20 students with ID. Sunday gospel free. Call 275-8650 or visit www.bluegrassfirstclass.com.
MORE BLUEGRASSWith the recent closure of the Fiddlin' Pig, Asheville lost it's only full-time, dedicated-to-bluegrass venue, but there is no shortage of bluegrass around town and beyond. Here are a few suggestions.
Colonial Theatre: Home to the monthly Balsam Range bluegrass series (Crowe Brothers on March 12) and the annual Shindig on the Green fundraiser March 26, 55 Park St., Canton. 235-2760. www.cantonnc.com.
Diana Wortham Theatre: Next in bluegrass series is Mountain Heart with Tony Rice March 18, 2 S. Pack Square. 257-4530. www.dwtheatre.com.
Feed and Seed: An alcohol-free storefront church that serves up bluegrass and Moon Pies every weekend, 3715 Hendersonville Road. 216-3492. www.feedandseednc.com.
Grey Eagle: Hosting bluegrass or old-time bands four or more times a month, 185 Clingman Ave. 232-5800. www.greyeaglemusic.com.
Jack of the Wood: Old-time jams 5 p.m. Wednesdays; bluegrass at 9 p.m. Thursdays; and Americana bands most weekends, 95 Patton Ave. 252-5445. www.jackofthewood.com.
Madison County Arts Council: Concerts monthly; annual Fiddlers of Madison County show is March 12, 90 S. Main St., Marshall. 649-1301. www.madisoncountyarts.com.
Wild Wings Cafe: Free WNCW-88.7 FM bluegrass and mountain music series 7-9 p. m. Wednesdays, 161 Biltmore Ave. 253-3066. www.wildwingcafe.com/asheville.html.
Coming soon: A new venue opening in Weaverville by Jack of the Wood owner Joe Eckert and a new bluegrass venue under construction in West Asheville called the Isis.