Basking in the morning sunshine and a week filled with great music and exceptional people. The 40th annual Walnut Valley Festival was a memorable reunion for musicians and fans.
Since my husband has spent decades at this Winfield event he and his mates have entrenched traditions and established camp spots. The Fugarwes and the Bucket Camp set up side-by-side each year with folks from different parts of Kansas and Nebraska. Since we were only there for three nights and Gary is just not able to set up that elaborate tent complex he used to do, we were guests of Jim Musick and Preston and Brenda Miller. I can't tell you how grateful I was to wake up to the sounds of driving rain and thunder Saturday morning and revel in the comfort of a dry, warm bed.
The Walnut Valley Festival, like all successful events, occurs in many places, on many levels, in many ways. The good folks from Nebraska treat the Bucket Camp to Cafe Luigi (right) each year and prepares a meal of spaghetti and wine, serving fellow campers and treating them like honored guests. The tables and campsite are decorated like a quaint bistro, the food is wonderful, and, of course, music. In this case, the High Falutin' String Band. Afterward, all gathered round the fire (above) and joined together in singing, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Those friends since gone were remembered; those friends still here were cherished. There was much laughter and a few tears.
Stepping backstage at Winfield reminded me of why I wanted to be a reporter. You just get to meet the most interesting and incredible people. Because of my buds Kenneth Berrier and Linda Wright and their Local Grass Radio Show, I visited with some bluegrass superstars and did some great interviews. You'll hear more of them later. Here's a preview.
Pat Flynn (left, sharing his oatmeal cookies), bluegrass rock star, was such a gentleman and so generous with his insights. I think his picking is better than ever, and along with Kenny Smith and the legendary Dan Crary (above), Pat was outstanding during the guitar workshop as well as his appearances with Michael Martin Murphy.
Okay, I have to admit that Bryan Bowers (below) is someone I had always taken for granted. He was there, an ordinary, wonderful fixture in your life. To have the chance to sit with him and understand the man, and to listen to his music anew, was a very special gift. When I got home, I soaked in the tub and played Bryan's new CD, Crabby Old Man. As Gary said, the autoharp is a soothing instrument. It's good for the weary soul.
Like countless thousands, I've been a fan of Dan Crary's for years. This was the first chance I had had to visit with him. He's not only an impressive musician; he's an impressive man. You are going to LOVE listening to this interview!
When I was a young dj at WSYD Radio, I kept "The Bountyhunter" near the top of the record stack. (Remember records?) I played that song nearly every day and the listeners loved it! Mike Cross has been a hero of mine for a long time, and I have met him before, but the sit-down visit we had was a real treat. It's going to be a treat for you, too, when I get the chance to share the interview on LGR.
On the way to Winfield, my ailing husband napped and I played Michael Martin Murphy (below) on the MP3. I kept waking Gary with shouts and he had to tell me to stop keeping time on the gas pedal. This new CD, Tallgrass and Cool Water, is going to be your favorite. The outlaw trilogy -- songs about the James Boys and Cole Younger -- will be new standards among my many buds! The best pickers in the business perform here (including Pat Flynn) and the results are just incredible. Michael's son, Ryan, plays a mean mandolin and the Winfield audience response demonstrates how beloved Murhpy is!
Stay tuned to this blog and to Localgrass.com for more on these very talented and generous performers. (All photos by Gary Bisel)