2017 Line-up announcements coming soon! Follow our Newsletter for updates.
Below is the 2016 line-up
David Grisman Sextet
David Grisman’s nickname “Dawg” was affectionately assigned by his close friend Jerry Garcia in 1973 (the two met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe show at Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania). “Dawg Music” is what he calls his mixture of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz, as highlighted on his album Hot Dawg . The Sextet includes Jim Kerwin (bass), Matt Eakle (flute and bass flute), George Marsh (drums and percussion), Chad Manning (violin, viola and mandolin) and George Cole (guitar). David’s 50+ years of playing, composing, and producing attest to his indomitable creative spirit.
The Sam Bush Band
Sam Bush is a Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist known as the King of Telluride and the King of Newgrass. Sam played at Watermelon Park back in the early 1970’s as the leader of a pioneering group he led called the Newgrass Revival. Sam will be playing on the main stage on Friday Night as well as participating in a music/discussion workshop during the afternoon with Jon Lohman fron the Virginia Folklife Program.
The O’Connor Band featuring Mark O’Connor
The O’Connor Band, featuring iconic fiddler Mark O’Connor, puts on an engaging, dynamic show featuring compelling arrangements, virtuosic solos, and tight vocal harmonies. Introducing Mark’s family members; Maggie O’Connor – fiddle, Forrest O’Connor – mandolin and vocals and Kate Lee – fiddle and vocals. Rounding out the band is National Flatpick Guitar Champion Joe Smart and double bassist/old-time banjoist Geoff Saunders.
Louisiana supergroup … a tonic of swamp-pop, Cajun, country, blues, and zydeco “Groove bound and dance compelling …” — Offbeat Magazine “There has to be at least one band in the country that reveres the past and is unafraid about dragging it into the future. Mark down the Revelers as that band, musicians who aren’t afraid of mixing up accordion, fiddles, saxophones and guitars. Sometimes the greasiest gumbo can also be the best, as anyone within earshot of this mess will attest. Bon ton all night long.” — The Morton Report – Bentley’s Bandstand The Revelers, founding members of the Red Stick Ramblers and The Pine Leaf Boys — “unquestionably the two groups at the vanguard of the Louisiana cultural renaissance” — have joined together to form a Louisiana supergroup which combines swamp-sop, Cajun, country, blues and zydeco into a powerful tonic of roots music that could only come from southwest Louisiana.
Sierra Hull has been recognized from age 11 as a virtuoso mandolin-player, astonishing audiences and fellow-musicians alike. Now a seasoned touring musician nearing her mid-20s, Hull has delivered her most inspired, accomplished, and mature recorded work to date; no small feat. Weighted Mind is a landmark achievement, not just in Sierra Hull’s career but in the overall world of acoustic, folk-pop, or bluegrass music generally. This is genre-transcending music at its best, with production by Béla Fleck and special harmony vocal guests Alison Krauss, Abigail Washburn, and Rhiannon Giddens adding to the luster. Hull speaks eloquently, in her challenging and sensitive originals, her heartfelt vocals, and once again breaking new ground on the mandolin. Béla Fleck special guests on banjo on two tracks and duo partner, Ethan Jodziewicz, not only anchors the record on bass, but introduces us to a major new instrumental voice.
Bruce Molsky’s Mountain Drifters
Molsky’s Mountain Drifters Introducing Bruce Molsky’s brand new trio with Allison de Groot and Stash Wyslouch – Tradition steeped in possibility. Bruce Molsky, “one of America’s premier fiddling talents” (Mother Jones) and Grammy-nominated artist on fiddle, banjo, guitar and song is delighted to present his new group already on tour in the US. Bruce’s previous collaborations, with Anonymous 4, 1865 – Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War, was released to rave reviews and was on the top 10 Billboard charts for weeks. He is also a special guest on legendary guitarist Mark Knopfler’s latest CD, Tracker and is working on his 3rd album with Andy Irvine & Donal Lunny’s supergroup Mozaik. You can also hear Bruce on BBC TV Transatlantic Sessions singing with Joan Osborne, Julie Fowlis and fiddling with Scottish legend Aly Bain and America’s great dobroist Jerry Douglas. Bruce is also Berklee College of Music’s Visiting Scholar in the American Roots Program. Allison de Groot combines wide ranging virtuosity and passion for old-time music. With her own bands The Goodbye Girls and Oh My Darling, she has played Trafalgar Square in London, Newport Folk Festival, Stockholm Folk Festival the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and Tønder Festival in Denmark. Like Bruce, Allison loves collaborating and bringing new ideas to old music, and brings a fresh approach to the trio. Boston-based Stash Wyslouch is one of bluegrass’ great young genre-bending pioneers. He got his start as a guitarist in metal bands before immersing himself in roots music as a member of The Deadly Gentlemen. Stash is a veteran festival performer, having played at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Rockygrass, Merlefest, Savannah Music Festival and others. Coming over from the punk-metal world, Stash brings great sensitivity and real emotion to the trio, plus some superb guitar and vocal chops. “Bruce Molsky is one of those great players who ‘gets it’: has all the links to the past but is happy not to be chained to it” – Mark Knopfler
Dori Freeman is a twenty-four-year-old singer and songwriter from the southwestern hills of Virginia. Dori comes from a family rooted in art and tradition. Her grandfather is an artist and guitar player, and her father, a multi-instrumentalist and music instructor. While her style subscribes to no one genre, the influence of her Appalachian upbringing lies at the core of her music – heard especially in the lulling mountain drawl of her voice. She sings without affect and with striking clarity, delivering each song carefully and earnestly. “Freeman’s debut is refreshingly sincere and entirely captivating” Rolling Stone.
The sound of the award-winning group Town Mountain can best be described as traditional bluegrass, albeit with a rough-hewn side to it that is not too slick or glossy. They are a band of the here-and-now, yet they have a groove that is based on the bluesy and swinging sounds explored by the first generation of bluegrass pioneers of the last century. With the success of their latest album, Leave The Bottle, the word is out with some of their best reviews yet. “Thank god that Town Mountain are around to blow a hole in all the genre-juggling games of which music writers like myself are so fond,” said Devon Leger, of Ed Helms’ The Bluegrass Situation. “They play bluegrass. Period. They play it hard, they play it fast, and they play it like their fingers are bleeding and their picks are breaking.
Can you hear that? Can you feel it? It’s the sound of Washington, DC’s eclectic high-energy brass band Black Masala. Formed in 2012, the band creates an irresistible dance groove packed with funk, gypsy-punk and soul. Black Masala has made a big impact as one of the most exciting live acts in the region and is the winner of four Washington Area Music Awards “Wammies”, including Best New Artist and Best World Music Album.
Described by SF Weekly as a “collision of Django Reinhardt and David Grisman,” Taarka is the new acoustic “supergroup” (Flagstaff Live) “presenting masterfully deep americana and gypsyjazz string band music!” Led by the husband-and-wife team of David Pelta-Tiller (mandolin, tenor guitar, vocals) and Enion Pelta-Tiller (five-string violin, vocals) Taarka fills out its unique sound with award-winning bassist Troy Robey and prodigious young guitarist Mike Robinson, Taarka is bringing their otherworldly, energetic music to venues across the US, Canada, Europe and Mexico.
Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes
Many said this was the best set of 2014. So we will say it again, You do not want to miss this! Born July 4, 1930, on Mulholland’s Plantation in Coffee County, Georgia, Maggie Ingram worked in the cotton and tobacco fields with her parents. She began playing the piano and singing at an early age, developing a great love for the church and the ministry of the Gospel. Sister Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes soon became a singing group sought after for appearances throughout Florida. Maggie moved her family to Richmond in 1961, where she worked in the home of Oliver W. Hill Sr., the prominent civil rights attorney who had represented the Virginia plaintiffs in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. With her children, Maggie began a prison ministry, partnering with the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in the 1970s. The Ingramettes have since become gospel icons in Richmond. In 2011 Maggie was awarded a doctor of music from Virginia Triumphant College and Seminary. Sponsored by the Virginia Folklife Program.
The Honey Dewdrops
“Gorgeous harmonies, thrilling arrangements, and some remarkably insightful, honest writing. ” – SING OUT! “Handcrafted sound centered on swarming harmonies and acoustic guitars that churn like a paddlewheel and shimmer like heat waves on the highway.” – ACOUSTIC GUITAR MAGAZINE “Just one of the highlights from the outstanding Tangled Country, a collection of often sad but still hopeful songs, ‘Same Old’ mines some of the territory of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, with lilting banjo, gorgeous harmonies and tasteful pedal steel, and exemplifies this duo’s simple yet beautiful music.” —FREDDY JENKINS, FOR NPR MUSIC’S FAVORITE SONGS OF 2015.
Furnace Mountain Band
Furnace Mountain Though often overshadowed by Southwest Virginia and its famed Crooked Road, the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia’s northwestern counties have always been fertile ground for traditional music, and they continue to be home to many of its finest practitioners. The region is situated between the Appalachian hills of West Virginia and the culturally diverse and ever-changing Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and is known for producing musicians who transcend generic categories, deftly taking traditional music styles in new directions. Furnace Mountain, named for a mountain near where all the members grew up, consists of some of the most innovative and gifted young musicians in Virginia. With Aimee Curl on bass and vocals, Danny Knicely on mandolin and fiddle, Dave Van Deventer on fiddle, and Morgan Morrison on guitar, bouzouki, and vocals, the band creates music that is at times lively and raucous, with spirited fiddle melodies weaving in and around the powerful rhythms of the bass and bouzouki, and other times poignant and poetic, with sublime vocal harmonies beautifully interpreting some of the oldest songs ever written. Furnace Mountain has performed throughout the world, from the Yangtze River in China to the banks of the Shenandoah River, where they are the host band of Watermelon Park Festival, held on the site of one of the very first bluegrass festivals, in 1965. Furnace Mountain plays music from the American Appalachian traditions, as well as original compositions, and songs penned by their favorite song writing friends. Furnacemountain.com.
Megan Downes and the City Stompers
Megan Downes, a world-class percussive dancer, has been joining the Furnace Mountain Band to set dancing to their driving fiddle tunes since 2005. Megan Downes teaches dance to Southern Appalachian fiddle music at New York City’s only clogging school. more info at City Stompers.
How does one describe those precious moments in life when we are able to transcend our small daily self-interests, and can somehow hold onto those rarified breaths of the deeper human experience? Radiant, the new Wild Ponies album, out May 13 on No Evil Records, explores those moments with alternating delicacy and raucous abandon. At times, it’s as though Telisha is sitting right beside you, fingers on your shoulder, whispering in your ear. Seconds later it’s hard to believe this full, confidently reckless sound is coming from only four players (Telisha Williams, Doug Williams, Megan Jane and Fats Kaplin). Sponsored by the Virginia Folklife Program.
“The Woodshedders bring the influence of vintage American music forward in its songwriting. The band is known for fun, danceable shows that swerve between different genres to create exciting original sounds.” The lineup includes Dwayne Brooke on guitar and vocals, Ryan Mayo on upright bass and piano, Jared Pool on guitar and mandolin, Jesse Shultzaberger on drums, and Dave Van Deventer on fiddle. The Woodshedders have played Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival, Mountain Stage New Song Fest, PBS Song of the Mountains, WAMU’s Capital Americana. 2013 brings release of The Woodshedders’ all-original album, “Wildfire,” is a storybook ramble that explores the band’s diverse roots music influences, and spotlights its virtuosic members.
David and Mason Via
While many songs in folk music are credited as “traditional” or “public domain,” there is simply no song without a songwriter. Virginia has had more than its share of prolific songwriters in bluegrass music, including Ralph and Carter Stanley, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, and Randal Hylton. Songwriter and performer David Via, of Stuart, Virginia, started singing in church at age three and playing guitar at age twelve. During his long career, David has performed with Tony Rice, Curtis Burch, and Ronnie Bowman, among others, but he is best known as a songwriter. He has penned numerous chart-topping songs for artists including Ronnie Bowman, Dede Wyland, and Larry Keel. One of David’s most cherished honors was Jeanette Carter’s request that David’s song, Lord Keep the Light On, be performed at her funeral, sung by Carter Family friend and legendary country artist Marty Stuart. David will apprentice his son Mason, himself a stunningly gifted young singer and songwriter. Mason has received critical acclaim for his debut CD Up, Up, Up, which is comprised entirely of original compositions. Mason spent his childhood accompanying his dad to fiddlers’ conventions, music festivals, concerts, and jams, where he soaked up not only his father’s music but that of countless others. David and Mason’s apprenticeship will allow them to work together more formally, with the goal of producing a joint recording project.
Heather Berry and Tony Mabe
Heather Berry and Tony Mabe Jr. live in Tony’s hometown of Walnut Cove, North Carolina. Tony has been playing music since the age of six, when he pecked out his first hymn on the piano with no instruction whatsoever. Since that time he’s mastered many instruments including the piano, bluegrass and clawhammer style banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, bass, and trumpet. Over the years he’s played with several well known bluegrass bands including, The James King Band, The Jeanette Williams Band, Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass, Bobby Atkins & The Countrymen, and Travers Chandler & Avery County. Heather Berry-Mabe grew up playing and singing bluegrass, folk, country, and gospel music in her native town of Sherando outside Waynesboro, VA. Sponsored by the Virginia Folklife Program.
Winners of the 2016 D.C. Bluegrass Union’s Mid Atlantic Bluegrass band contest in Washington D.C., winners of the 2015 Podunk Bluegrass Festival band contest in Hebron, CT, winners of the 2014 Watermelon Park Fest band contest in Berryville, VA, and winners of the 2011 Pickin’ In The Panhandle Bluegrass Festival band contest in Martinsburg, WV, Colebrook Road has become a standout string band, a bluegrass powerhouse made up of five individuals whose sum is more than the total of their talents. From modest beginnings as a four-piece band, Colebrook Road now plays as a five-piece ensemble and has become a familiar name throughout the Mid Atlantic region. The band is composed of lead singer, guitar player, and songwriter Jesse Eisenbise, mandolinist and winner of the 2014 Watermelon Park Fest mandolin contest Wade Yankey, upright bassist and tenor vocalist Jeff Campbell, banjoist, bass vocalist, dobro player, and winner of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival banjo contest Mark Rast, and fiddler, baritone vocalist, and winner of the 2015 Deer Creek Fiddler’s Convention bluegrass fiddle contest Joe McAnulty.
Those Three Guys
“An eclectic assortment of originals and covers through the lens of 3 part harmonies, acoustic guitars and percussion. Sit and relax or stand and dance. Not too loud, not too soft. Inside, out. Buy us a drink, we’ll play you a song.”
2015 band contest winners: Southern Brewed
We are excited to have these fine gents back to the park to celebrate their 2015 win of the Watermelon Park Fest Band Contest.