Oh they tell me of a place where no storm clouds rise!
Oh they tell me of an uncloudy day!
Hello, present and future bluegrass music fans! April is bringing newfound hopes for live concerts and jam sessions across the country and right here in our backyard, too.
The monthly bluegrass jam session at Bennington Lanes in Bennington, N.Y., will resume on the second Sunday of every month from 2 to 7 p.m., starting in April. The jam and impromptu concerts by old friends on these afternoons is the longest-running public bluegrass jam and probably the best-attended through the years. It’s free and a nice place to take kids and casual listeners as wellas avid pickers. Plus, the food is pretty good!
The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars will continue their twice monthly lunchtime shows at the world famous Sportsmen’s Tavern. Doug Yeomans, Sally and Rich Schaefer and myself play from noon to about 2:15 on the first and third Thursday every month. There is no cover charge or need to make prior reservations. Masks are mandatory unless you are sitting at a table. Last month, the band added some Irish crossover songs to their song lists. This month, the band will throw in some music that they hope to release on an upcoming CD. Come on out if you can. We’d love to see you.
I’ve wanted to share a couple of great resources for learning more about bluegrass music and the artists that make it go. A newer one for me is the website, bluegrassbios.com. You will find a comprehensive database with concise biographies of famous and not-so-famous bluegrass artists. You’ll also find great suggestions for bluegrass songs to add to your monthly playlists related to certain holidays or events. For instance, an Easter song that is unique to bluegrass and is one of its more poignant ones is “I Am The Man, Thomas,” first recorded by Ralph Stanley. Another one to play during the week of Tax Day, April 15, is “Lincoln’s Funeral Train” by Norman Blake and Tony Rice or “Booth Shot Lincoln” by Uncle Earl. That is the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
This website is run by a bluegrass DJ from San Diego named Wayne Rice. It is used by other bluegrass DJs around the world to help them keep up with artists and pick appropriate songs for their shows.
Another great website is IBMA.org. The International Bluegrass Music Association is a trade organization based in Nashville dedicated to bluegrass music of the past, the present and the future. It is a great place to learn about opportunities to see and learn more about bluegrass music. Besides the annual award show (the bluegrass equivalent to the CMA awards) held in Raleigh, N.C., every September, they also oversee the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, Ky. A great book that features short articles on all of the members of the HOF is “The Bluegrass Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies, 1991-2014,” written by Fred Bartenstein and Gary B. Reid. It’s a great gift for that bluegrass fan in your family!
The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble has again transitioned into live, in-person practices. The group is made up of violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin and banjo players from fifth grade to college age. They meet every first and third Monday of the month. In April, the meetings change up a little because of spring break. The group will skip the first Monday in April. There is no charge to join and new members are always welcome. They meet at Wayside Presbyterian Church in Hamburg from 6:30- 8:00 p.m. The director is yours truly, Mark Panfil. Feel free to contact me for more information at (716) 867-4012. We are also on Facebook and our website is BuffaloBluegrass.com.
As venues start to open up again, I will not only tell you about concerts in the month this article comes out, I will also give you advance notice about concerts and festivals in the upcoming months. One of those upcoming concerts is at the Community Fellowship Church, 3146 Johnson Creek Rd., Middleport. They will welcome back the Kevin Prater Bluegrass Band on June 19 at 7 p.m. From the mountains of eastern Kentucky, the Kevin Prater Band delivers its unique coal-fired pure Kentucky bluegrass with additions of classic country, grassed up vintage rock, original songs and emotion-filled, bluegrass gospel music throughout the U.S. and Canada. The KPB is frequently recognized and celebrated for its stellar harmonies and a cappella talents. Admission is a free-will donation.
Another local bluegrass event coming this summer will be the Annual Springville Fiddlers Green Country & Bluegrass Festival 2021 on July 31. Enjoy free, continuous live music all day, beginning at 11 a.m., at three venues: Fiddler’s Green Park, Heritage Park and Concord Mercantile General Store, all within convenient walking distance along Franklin Street in Springville. Besides 12 country western, bluegrass and folk music groups, including Creek Bend and the Panfil Brothers, the festival features clogging demonstrations at the Goddard Town Hall, historic demonstrations, an expanded car cruise-in, food vendors, crafts and more.
Also coming back this summer will be the Pickin’ In The Pasture Bluegrass Festival taking place from Aug. 26 to 28 in Lodi, N.Y. This Finger Lakes regional festis a smaller event, but it’s fully loaded with national talent and a great parking lot picking festival that has consistently delivered great bluegrass memories and festivals over many years. We are very happy to see this high quality local festival return this year. Lodi is about a two-hour drive from Buffalo.
This month, we celebrate the birthday of the IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member and national bluegrass treasure Doyle Lawson. Born in Fordtown, Tenn., in 1944, he went on to play mandolin with Jimmy Martin, J.D. Crowe and the Country Gentlemen before starting his own band, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, in 1980. Through the years, one of the things that sets his music apart from anyone else in the industry is the quality of the a capella songs they perform. His latest recording, released in 2019, is Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver Live in Prague, Czech Republic on Billy Blue Records. His birthday is April 20.
Before I close this article, I’d like to acknowledge a young guitar player and bandleader who was in Buffalo back in 2019 performing at the Summer Music Festival at Iron Works. Billy Strings won the Grammy last month for best Bluegrass Album. Check out Billy Strings on YouTube and maybe buy a CD by this very talented young player.
I hope you and yours are all well and getting a chance to slowly get back out into the world after a very challenging year. I hope to see you out at one of the bluegrass events, concerts or festivals this spring and summer. Until then, Keep on pickin’.