Some of my favorite LPs from back in the old days were those double disc sets that showcased several professional bluegrass bands driving their sounds from the stage of a festival from Bean Blossom from McClure, Va. That’s why “Live at Graves Mountain” is a great sampling of music from the 18th Annual Syria, Virginia bluegrass festival on June 4, 2010. It also celebrates the 55-yr anniversary of Rural Rhythm Records, and the album captures a wonderful day of music and camaraderie among the label’s artists. Kudos go to audio engineer Gene Daniell who recorded the event.
Interspersed with short (30 second or less) introductions of the bands and songs, Live at Graves Mountain gives us a few songs each from The Crowe Brothers, Lonesome River Band, Lou Reid & Carolina, Audie Blaylock & Redline, and Carrie Hassler with Brand New Strings. Emcee Kyle Cantrell (“Bluegrass Junction” DJ on Sirius-XM radio) referred to the festival as “an inspired, magical day of music.”
This album is billed as an “all-star jam” because each cut features one of the bands listed above with one or more special guests. For example, the CD opens with The Crowe Brothers on More Pretty Girls Than One along with guests Russell Moore, Sammy Shelor and Mike Hartgrove. It’s exciting to hear the like of Audie Blaylock, Lou Reid and Russell Moore tear it up vocally on a song like Once More. You can just hear the barn-burning excitement as fiddler Patrick McAvinue, banjo-player Evan Ward, guitarist Audie Blaylock, and mandolinist Wayne Benson step it up and drive the tune “Old Dangerfield” from Bill Monroe. Why, Matt Wallace even takes an outstanding bass break in the tune! That’s what bluegrass jamming is all about, son! Three interesting cuts that capture the bluegrass spirit are “Graves Mountain Memories,” “Ground Speed,” and “Home Sweet Home” played by The Rural Rhythm All-Stars with Carl Jackson, Sammy Shelor, Wayne Benson, Mike Hartgrove, Mike Anglin, Brandon Rickman and others.
Carl Jackson’s lyrics in “Graves Mountain Memories” provide the imagery to color the canvas from this beautiful, idyllic spot. He did a pretty good job of putting 400 years of history into a six-minute song. Jackson’s lyrics tell us about “more than the stars above the Blueridge, more than the blossoms on the apple trees, more than the rocks along the Rose River.” If you can’t personally attend this bluegrass festival in a place known for its tradition, history, fried chicken, fruit pies and friends, then you should pick up this album to fill your own heart with some Graves Mountain Memories.
Rural Rhythm Records RUR-1073