Notes from the Road – Gamble Rogers 2008 Saturday, May 3rd – First, thanks to Norm and Mary on the Folkme list for adding the YouTube clips of all the performers I described yesterday – nice touch! Another gorgeous day – a little bit warmer with less breeze, but still so much more comfortable than Gamblefest’s in the past have been. I was able to sleep in a little after being up late around the campfire. Felt good! The performers’ hospitality area here is excellent – food is wonderful and the folks manning it are just terrific. I’m sure it make it more pleasant for the staff as well since it’s in its own little building complete with kitchen, etc. We’ve got table cloths on the tables, even candles! Very up town! I admit that I was focused on getting ready for my own set yesterday and did not venture out to the stages until after I played. I did, however, get a scouting report from Judy and Jessi who said they particularly enjoyed Grant Peeples, Magda Hiller, Chelsea Sadler and Mindy Simmons. No surprises there, always great performances. Obviously, everyone knows Magda and Mindy. For those who aren’t familiar, Grant is a Tallahassee area songwriter with a wonderful style and a riveting growl to his voice (see Ron Johnson’s review of Grant’s new CD in his last Strings and Things column). Chelsea is a young singer – songwriter from Jacksonville whose voice I find really compelling. She was a finalist at the Suwannee Springfest competition this year. I was on the Bean Creek Stage at 2:20 following Bob Patterson. Bob is just one of the best there is. An impeccable musician and a storyteller in the Gamble style – I know his old pickin’ pal is always grinnin’ when Bob is on stage. Bob had ‘em eatin’ out of the palm of his hand and the crowd continued to grow as I took the stage (probably folks getting’ there early for Red Henry who followed me!). I really enjoyed the set throwing in a couple of songs I hadn’t played in a while. Saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, including the incomparable Raven (what would you compare him to?) on the arm of his new lady love, Tisa Noble (that’s Tisa of Willfest campfire fame, the one that has the huge area with lights, flowing drapes, etc. with the assistance of her daughter Cassaundra and Ally Smith) – Way to go RAVEN! A very fun set with good sound, etc. And I got to chat for a minute or with Gabe Valla and show off my Collings OMH to him – forget it Gabe, not for sale! It’s hard to tell how the total crowd numbers are doing here at the new location. But, it does seem like the outlying stages are getting more attention and have better attendance than in past years. For me, this feels more like a grass roots, homespun folk festival than the amphitheatre did, at least since all the fancy renovations. Hopefully this is a more economical alternative and will give the festival a new home for years to come. After I put my guitar away I got a beer (of course, priorities after all) and headed over to catch some of Stevie Coyle’s show (see yesterday’s post for the FYI on Stevie). Talk about impeccable musicianship – this guy really knows his way around the fret board and has a right hand technique that is absolutely fluid. Stevie is also a Collings man (wish I could play mine like he does), a 000 size slot head that really sings. He told me later that the guitar fit his tastes so perfectly it was as if it actually selected him. For my money (and they ain’t cheap) not a better guitar around. Then another beer (priorities again) and over to catch my buds, The Roadside Revue, on the Old Town Stage. They’ve got a great new tune the name of which I haven’t gotten yet, but it’s about a fly that hitched a ride in the van all the way from Micanopy to Key Largo – funny, energetic stuff as always. They were followed by The Larry Magnum Trio who “wowed” them with Larry’s great songs and vocals and lead playing by a guy who I did not get to meet but who Larry always turned to at the instrumental break and hollered “PICK IT WHITE TRASH.” I’m guessin’ that guy’s available if anyone’s looking for a great lead player! Back to home base to clean up a tiny before dinner. The Roadside Revue gang, Ron & Bari Litschauer, Dawn & Charles DeWitt, Stan and Kathy Geberer (Ok, not married, but deal with it Kathy), along with their families, etc. came, accoutrements in hand (i.e., potent libations and mixers from south of the border) for a little happy hour action before dinner – what a hoot! Dinner in the hospitality area was excellent, particularly the white bean / red pepper salsa that made a wonderful side dish to everything! Then back to the camper for a few more happy minutes with the Mexican libations before wandering on over to the main stage for the evening shows. Wonderful line-up! Amy Carol Webb put on her typically great performance, joined on one tune by Mindy Simmons and Jeannie Fitchen. Gatorbone (Lis & Lon Williamson, Jason Thomas, Gabe Valla and Mickey Abramson) was exceptional. I think those guys rival the best in the business in the bluegrass / western swing genre. Lis’ vocals are to die for and her rock steady right hand technique has been my envy for quite some time. Mike Cross was up next. I saw him for the first time out at Winfield (The Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas) in the mid 90’s and was really looking forward to his show here. I had to chuckle about his photo in the Gamblefest brochure though – Mike hasn’t looked like that since high school! Nevertheless, the pudgier, less haired, over-alled current incarnation does not disappoint on the stage. Whether its lightning fingerstyle, bottleneck blues or rousing fiddle work, it’s all magnificently done and with a homespun, side-splitting humor that, I’m sure, keeps Mike in high demand. Last for the evening was Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group. Another favorite of every folk fest and room in the country these guys are just top shelf. Linda opened the show with a classic, but introducing the band, including her “current husband” Robin (they’ve been married 35 years). These guys are full on fun from the first note. You can see a bit of them in the Garrison Keillor movie, A Prairie Home Companion, in which they play, well, themselves playing one of, well, their tunes – go figure! I headed back to the camper at about 10:30 and got the fire going. Ron & Bari soon appeared and we started pickin’ a tune or two. I swear we’d only played part of one song when I looked up and there must have been 30+ folks pulling up chairs and settling in (man, we needed more Tequilla!). With Dawn on bass, Stan Geberer on harmonica , Bari on banjo and mandolin and Ron on guitar and mando, the tunes started to fly. In the circle (well, the part up next to the fire because folks were stacked three and four deep) were those I’ve mentioned already, plus Rod McDonald and a drum wielding pal, Larry Mangum, Kathy DeWitt (no relation – this is the Patchwork / radio one), another of Kathy’s band mates (I swear I’ve got to get better with names) who really belter out some great tunes, Chelsea Sadler (and her friend whose name I didn’t get either, but who was doing some great back up guitar and harmony work), Jamie Defrates and Susan Brown, Jeannie & Ned Fitchen and a fella I’ve known for years, tall, blonde haired guy, wielding a mini dulcimer and bearing some terrific brownies ---- ARGGGG!!! I gotta start takin’ some Ginko-Bubba to help this memory thing!!! I know I’m forgetting some folks and I apologize – this is your brain on tequila. Plus, a stellar group of listeners stacked all around including Mother FOFF, Jean Hewitt, Deb Watts and many, many more. Great campfire and it carried on until around 1:30 or so. And there were others still going after we subsided – Grant Peeples and Carrie Hamby were still at it and a really dedicated group of six or so were out in the middle of a field under a light pole – you could see them glowing yellow in the distance, sounds of rapid fire bluegrass of the booming bass carrying on the still night air. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ . . . . .