The Jefferson Memorial Forest, located in the Louisville suburb of Fairdale, Kentucky, hosted the sixth annual Forest Fest bluegrass show on Saturday (5/15). The weather was perfect for the outdoor event, with the temperature in the mid-70s and clouds that kept the sun from being overbearing to those in attendance. Six hours of bluegrass music culminated with a musical forest fire set by headliners Dailey and Vincent.
Jeri Katherine Howell and Better Together opened the show. Howell is a 17-year-old regional singer who seems to be on a mission to rescue the reputation of under-20 singers from the terrible condition they currently find themselves in thanks to a number of teenage female singers in country music. Howell's voice is mature beyond her years, and her harmonizing with bass player Daphne Fields owes plenty to Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. Howell is a very promising young talent in bluegrass.
opening act Jeri Katherine Howell &
Another local band, Shepherdsville's Blue River, gave an excellent performance. Their sound relies heavily on the traditional sounds of bluegrass. They provided solid covers of the Stanley Brothers' "If That's the Way You Feel" and Charlie Monroe's "I'm Coming Back But I Don't Know When" as well as their own tunes. Highlights included "The Streets of Chicago," the gospel song "Glory in My Soul," and the instrumental "Ridin' the Goat at Dundee." This band can easily become a national success story.
Blue River performs for the crowd
Blue River performs for the crowd
The one disappointment of the afternoon was Earl Bull and Clinch Mountain Bluegrass. This band came to Forest Fest at the personal recommendation of show MC and bluegrass radio DJ Berk Bryant. Unfortunately, they were plagued with sound problems from the moment they walked on. Front man Earl Bull's banjo was turned up so loudly that it drowned out lead instruments even when he was simply playing rhythm. Worse, monitor problems caused Bull to sound terribly off-key almost as frequently as he was on key. Bryant has played this band on the bluegrass show and their recordings show that they sound much better than they did on stage.
Everything that came before paled in comparison to the headliners. Dailey and Vincent wasted no time in showing the enthusiastic crowd just why they are the reigning IBMA Entertainer of the Year act. They featured songs from all three of their Rounder releases as well as the tribute to the Statler Brothers, which is available only at Cracker Barrel stores.
Jamie Dailey (L) and Darrin Vincent
move closer to the audience to sing
After getting the crowd warmed up they moved from the stage to the lawn near the front row. While out front they sang the Statlers' "Susan When She Tried" and two a cappella numbers, "Moses Smote the Water" and "Don't You Want to Go to Heaven." Mandolinist/singer Jeff Parker would later return to the crowd to dance with a fan and "visit" with audience members while singing.
Dailey and Vincent's spine-tingling rendition of the Statler Brothers classic "More Than a Name on a Wall" (which is on their debut album, not the Statlers tribute) helped close out their 75-minute set. They returned for an encore as a few sprinkles began to fall on the audience. It hardly mattered, for nothing could dampen the the spirits of the crowd thanks to the superb performance Dailey and Vincent gave to close out the festival.