I have attended this festival many times. It has never let me down, either.
This year I only went on Saturday, mostly to see Ralph Stanley. His vocals were riveting and chilling. He only played banjo on one number, but it was enough. I saw Ralph Stanley play banjo. Mark that off my list of things to do in life. A true living legend, his 15 year old grandson (who plays mandolin in the Clinch Mountain Boys) spent about five minutes listing Mr. Stanley’s recent accomplishments. Minor things like the National Medal of Arts and the opening of the Ralph Stanley Museum in Virginia. Check him out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJqULQpGTQ0
Also on my list to see was Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives. Now, I had a lot of respect for Mr. Stuart before the show. Afterward, he was all I could talk about for days. I was left speechless by his story of Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, and a song he penned for Mr. Cash. That marked only twice in my life that I’d been left speechless at a concert, the other time also being at Old Settlers. Featuring acapella gospel numbers, and an outstanding version of “Rock Island Line”, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in years, and most people I talked to agreed. Here they are, featuring Marty and my fave guitar player, Kenny Vaughan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2xUYqFlZvg
Lastly, I was introduced to the very entertaining Todd Snider. A modern day Bob Dylan in that he profoudly captures observations of everyday life in humorous everday speech. His songs are more like one-sided conversations that you actually enjoy. He here is spinning yarns about the 60s band the Kingsman, with our very own South Austin Jug Band.
Thanks to Old Settlers Fest, I have been exposed to many legends of bluegrass that I would have never seen otherwise. Del McCoury, John Hartford and Ralph Stanley are all artists I might have never seen. This festival has given our community what no other has in that way, and we are very fortunate to have it in our own backyard. See ya at Old Settlers 2009, darling!