Legend has it that Chief Yarmony was laid to rest on top of his namesake mountain, but I bet he enjoyed the amazing music echoing throughout his home last weekend during the 6th annual YarmonyGrass. The festival provides music collaboration with some of bluegrass’ finest amidst a backdrop that is hard to beat. Blue skies, pirate costumes (YarrrmonyGrass, as the festival is sometimes referred), and closeto 1,500 attendees congregated along Rancho del Rio, CO. When the train rolls by behind the stage, you know you’ve arrived.
This festival encompasses the heart of bluegrass offering one bigx jam session after another. Artists are called up to contribute – whether it’s bluegrass veteran Peter Rowan, Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, Scott Law’s Santa Cruz sound, or Bill Nershi’s flat-picking guitar – it’s evident that these guys love playing with one another. Breakout sessions can be found backstage because the musicians can’t even get enough. I almost wonder who is having more fun – us or them? But that’s the secret to YarmonyGrass; everyone is having a great time and enjoying the music.
Friday night I caught Peter Rowan & Friends, The Travelin’ McCourys with Scott Law, Emmitt-Nershi Band and a late-night Head for the Hills set. Highlights included The Travelin McCourys with Scott Law’s performance of the cover “Devil in Disguise”. The Emmitt-Nershi band followed with appearances by Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter (Travelin’ McCourys), Peter Rowan, and Tim Carbone. “Black Clouds” opened the set and also included Andy Thorn’s original instrumental, “The Bowling Creek”, with Carbone on fiddle. Thorn’s energetic picking proves he has no problem keeping up with Emmitt and Nershi. And when you think it can’t get any better Mr. Rowan and Jason Carter join for a mighty collaboration of Rowan’s touching original, “Walls of Time”. (I can’t help but think Bill Monroe was smilin’ up above for this one). This set was one of my favorites – Drew Emmitt and Bill Nershi complement each other so well, both vocally and instrumentally. I love their harmonies and, in my opinion, this project is the best showcase of their musical talents. With new bassist, Johnny Grubb (formerly of Railroad Earth), I hope these guys record an album very soon. Next, Head for the Hills threw down an energetic late-night set, playing a personal favorite “One Foot in the Grave” and covering Peter Gabriel’s, “Solsbury Hill”.
Saturday was full of fun in the sun. Revelry was visible along the shoreline, while people cruised down the Colorado on rafts, tubes, and air mattresses. There was a wide array of activities including kickball, yoga, hikes, and homemade waterslides for the ambitious folk. You could also hear campground conversations regarding the upcoming “Joint Set” – ‘could this be a Cheese set’? A variety of opinions are discussed, but we would have to sit tight and see. It’s easy to forget about those questions as the afternoon music begins, including sets by Chris Thompson & Coral Creek, Bill Nershi & Scott Law – Santa Cruz Set, Andrew McConathy & the Drunken Hearts, and The Grant Farm with Keith Moseley.
Greensky Bluegrass kicked the night off with Tim Carbone. It’s a close one, but Carbone might be Yarmony’s MVP (Most Valuable Pirate) of 2011. Next Trancident (Hann, Travis, Hollingsworth, and Kang) brings one, funky dance party blasting the crowd to another dimension. No flat-pickers here. Keys man, Kyle Hollingsworth gave it his all on “Galactic”; and “Valley of the Jig” was a highlight of the set. As one might expect, the music was heavy on the EOTO sound that Hann and Travis have perfected over the last 5 years. Nershi and Moseley did make an appearance during the end of the set – lapping around the stage in silly-dance and quickly taking exit.
The last and final set of YarmonyGrass was the infamous “Joint Set” full of music-hungry pirates – including Bill Nershi, Scott Law, Tim Carbone, Andy Thorn, Tyler Grant, Jason Hann, and Keith Moseley – Yarrrr matey! In previous years the Joint Set has showcased up to 27 musicians on stage. This year Bill Nershi invited SCI members Kang and Travis to join, but only Kang made it out and the set continued with jams including Vassar Clement’s “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”. For those hoping for a Cheese set, there was none. But it’s easy to dismiss when right before us stands some of the most talented musicians giving us their heart and soul. This is YarmonyGrass and I’m already counting down for next year.
Photos and Review by Ashley Sawtelle
Photos and Review by Ashley Sawtelle