Editor’s Note: The beginning of MerleFest is only one day away. Not only will Thursday be a RaysWeather.com “five-Raccoons” day – that means perfect outdoor weather, but the lineup is spectacular with The Duhks, Scythian, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Alan Jackson playing back-to-back on the Watson Stage from 5:30 to 11 p.m.
During the four-day festival in April, you can always expect one day of rain and that looks like it will be Friday with scattered showers and a thunderstorm. But then Saturday and Sunday both are forecasted for excellent weather. In all, the high temps will be in the 70s. Before you head out consider printing off a schedule from the MerleFest website or downloading the MerleFest app, so you can plan accordingly. Check out the release below or click to MerleFest.com for more information.
April 23, 2014. One of the reasons that MerleFest – presented by Lowe’s and slated for April 24-27 – has become one of the most celebrated and well-known annual music festivals in the world is because of its blend of traditional, roots-oriented music from the Appalachian region which includes old-time music, Americana, blues, country, Celtic, Cajun, cowboy, zydeco, rock an many other styles that the late Doc Watson referred to as “traditional plus.”
But for many who attend the four-day festival held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, it’s all about the bluegrass.
The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) notes that, “bluegrass music is now performed and enjoyed around the world. In addition to the classic style born in 1945 that is still performed widely, bluegrass bands today reflect influences from a variety of sources including jazz, contemporary country music, Celtic music, rock n’ roll (“newgrass” or progressive bluegrass), old-time music and Southern gospel music – in addition to lyrics translated into various languages.”
As MerleFest 2014 approaches – as well as the March 10 “early bird” ticket discount deadline – bluegrass fans should note that among the exceptional collection of 130 artists performing on 13 stages this year, there will be some special moments for bluegrass lovers on the Watson Stage:
BanjoRama is a one-time only assembly of music’s top players in performance together, created especially for the festival, and will take place as part of Friday’s schedule. Hosted by Dr. Banjo Pete Wernick, a musician well-known to MerleFest regulars, BanjoRama will feature renowned banjo players Jens Kruger, Sammy Shelor, Alison Brown, Scott Vestal, Mark Johnson, Jim Mills, Rob McCoury, Terry Baucom, Ned Luberecki, Graham Sharp and many others. The band of all-star banjo players will be backed by the Travelin’ McCourys and Bryan Sutton.
“The colors of the rainbow, the flavors of many cuisines are somehow heard in the way great banjo artists offer their music,” said Wernick. “At MerleFest, in the hands of a dozen masters of the instrument, we will be treated to a musical cornucopia.”
On Saturday night will be the final MerleFest performance of the great Dr. Ralph Stanley, who has announced his retirement from touring. With his raw emotions and three-fingered banjo technique, Dr. Stanley has, for over six decades, helped bring a mountain style of bluegrass music to a global audience. As both a member of the legendary Stanley Brothers and as a solo artist, Stanley has influenced generations of performers in all genres. He has received numerous awards over the years: an honorary doctorate of music from Lincoln Memorial University, the National Heritage Award, the Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress and the National Medal of Arts. In 2002, Stanley received his first-ever Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance of the haunting rendition of “Oh Death” that was featured in the movie and soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”
Award-winning broadcaster and producer Cindy Baucom, known to many MerleFest attendees through her national radio show, “Knee-Deep In Bluegrass,” and her emcee work at the festival, said, “What a treat for music fans to get to enjoy Ralph Stanley this year! I am confident in saying bluegrass music would not be so firmly planted had it not been for this man, his banjo, mountain-style vocals and the persistent travel schedule he has maintained in order to entertain audiences. We will be in the presence of one of our pioneering legends – and I always count that an honor.”
Two performers at the top of their game – the reigning Female and Male Vocalist of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards, Claire Lynch and Junior Sisk – are part of the MerleFest 2014 lineup as well. Claire Lynch has long been recognized as a creative force in acoustic music and at the forefront of women who have expanded the bluegrass genre. Besides winning her third IBMA Female Vocalist award, the two-time Grammy nominee’s latest release, “Dear Sister,” was also nominated for IBMA’s Album of the Year in 2013. Appearing with his band Ramblers Choice, Sisk’s haunting, almost lonesome vocals have earned him the devotion of countless traditional bluegrass fans from all over the world. Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice are enjoying great success with their latest CD, “The Story of the Day That I Died.” The first single from the record, which is the CD title, has reached No. 1 on Bluegrass Today’s Weekly and Monthly Singles charts.
“Junior Sisk and Claire Lynch are favorites among their peers, as evidenced by their multiple awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association,” said Baucom. “Both these artists choose material the listener can easily relate to. And they deliver the songs in such a way, it just draws you in.”
To take advantage of the MerleFest 2014 “early bird” ticket discount before the March 10 deadline, visit www.MerleFest.org or call 1-800-343-7857.
MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of the late American music legend Doc Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts over 130 artists, performing on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.