Tag Archives: Delfest

DelFest Preview 2016, preparing to celebrate 10 years

By: Tim Newby


In celebration of its 10th year, DelFest has assembled an All-Star roster for its annual Memorial Day Weekend extravaganza in Cumberland, Maryland.  This year’s lineup is topped by the Trey Anastasio Band, Govt Mule, the Travelin’s McCoury’s featuring Dierks Bentley, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, and Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, is easily one of the best festival schedules around.  Throw in namesake Del McCoury’s four sets over the weekend (which includes the traditional festival opening “soundcheck” set, and a guest laden spot which will feature Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys, Jon Fishman from Phish, the Preservation Hall Horns from New Orleans, and Ronnie Bowman) and the guarantee that Del will sit in with what seems like every band throughout the weekend and you would be hard pressed to find a better four days of music over Memorial Day Weekend this year. Continue reading DelFest Preview 2016, preparing to celebrate 10 years

2015 DelFest Preview

Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-3-2Entering its eighth year, DelFest has firmly established itself as one of the premiere bluegrass Festivals in the Country. Returning to the Allegheny Fairgrounds in Cumberland, MD, with a line-up this year topped by Old Crow Medicine Show, Trampled by Turtles, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Jason Isbell, and Greensky Bluegrass, it is again one of the best festival schedules around.  Throw in namesake Del McCoury’s five sets over the weekend (which inlcudes a set with David  Grisman and a Family Jam on Sunday) and you would be hard pressed to find a better four days of music over Memorial Day Weekend this year.

Delfest 14 2As usual DelFest features three stages and will host late-night shows every night.  The three stages are in close proximity and allow easy travel back and forth allowing for maximum music viewing over the weekend.  The four late nights this year will feature Railroad Earth and Larry Keel Thursday, Greensky Bluegrass and Steep Canyon Rangers on Friday, Leftover Salmon and Dead Winter Carpenters on Saturday, and a Sunday night blow-out with The Travelin’ McCourys and Jeff Austin.


With a line-up that covers all ends of the bluegrass spectrum – from classic bands like the Seldom Scene, Hot Rize and Del McCoury, to established jam-grass stars Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, and Greensky Bluegrass, to bands slightly outside the bluegrass world Trampled by Turtles, Jason Isbell, Otiel Burbridghe & Roosevelt Coolier – DelFest has something for everyone and something new for everyone to discover.  It is a can’t miss event on your festival calendar.  tickets are still available now at: DelFest.com


Check out past coverage of DelFest from Honest Tune:

DelFest 2014

DelFest 2013

DelFest 2012

DelFest 2011


Delfest Delfest 14 delfest-2012-honest-tune-7 Andy Hall at Delfest 2012 Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-4-2


2015 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival preview

ccfbEntering its 3rd year, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass has already established itself as one of the premiere Folk and Bluegrass festivals in the Mid-Atlantic region.  In its three-year existence the Festival has seen exponential growth moving from the cozy confines of the Union Craft Brewery in year one to the spacious grounds of Druid Hill Park, to the addition of a second stage in year three.

With a return to Druid Hill Park, a spectacular line-up, and the addition of the second stage that will feature thirteen bands with no overlapping sets, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass looks to continue to be an early season standout of this year’s Festival season.

ccbf3The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass’ schedule is topped by the Travelin McCoury’s and the Wood Brothers and is powerhouse line-up from start to finish.  The twin stages will be set-up side by side so there will be little change over time between bands and no worry about missing any music.  In addition to The McCoury’s – who will be stopping by as part of their road-to-Delfest tour – and the Wood Brothers, the day’s line-up will also feature such heavy weights as the legendary Seldom Scene and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen.

Festival founders Jordan August and Phil Chorney also aim to highlight the great music that is being played in Baltimore today and remind everyone of the City’s long, influential, history in Bluegrass.  “Baltimore is such an amazing City, with such an amazing musical heritage,” explains Chorney, “that we felt we needed to highlight.”  To this end, August and Chorney included such Baltimore and local stalwarts as Letitia VanSant,  Grand Ole Ditch, Chester River Runoff, and Charm City Junction.

The inclusion of local talent will culminate with an All-Star band led by Cris Jacobs before The McCoury’s headlining set.  In addition to Jacobs, the All-Star band will include 2013 IMBA banjo-player of the year Mike Munford, fiddler Patrick McAvinue from Audie Blaylock & Redline, bassist Ian Truesheim, mandolinist BJ Lazarus, and drummer Ed Hough.

This year’s Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival will take place April 25 at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.  Tickets are available now and can be purchased here: Mission Tix

Check out past coverage of the first two Charm City Festivals from Honest Tune:

2014 – A Rollicking Good Time

2013- Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival & the Killer B’s

Delfest: Hot Pickin’, Cold Temps, & McCourys Galore

DelfestSo heading in to Delfest this year there were two questions on everyone’s mind.  First what would the weather bring?  Would it be the Del Hail from 2009, wet and muddy conditions, or the blazing heat that seems to roll it to Delfest every year? It was none of the above as this year brought something never seen before at Delfest, un-seasonably cold weather.  While it was possibly the driest Delfest has ever been, a brief rainstorm late Thursday afternoon, and a few sprinkles that same night during Leftover Salmon’s set being the only precipitation seen all weekend it was the cold that will be remembered weather wise this year. The days were generally comfortable and mild, but as soon as the sun set behind mountains, the temperature dipped to near record lows every night, reaching into the low 40s, high 30s most nights. Fortunately the cold temperatures did nothing to stifle the hot-picking on stage at night.


The second question revolved around the inclusion of the Trey Anastasio Band as a headliner.  While there is no doubt of Anastasio’s love of bluegrass and there was palpable excitement leading up to the fest in anticipation about his set (actually two sets), there was some trepidation about the influence his addition might have on the family-friendly-easy-going nature that usually permeates Delfest crowds.  The phrase “Please Don’t Wook Delfest” was bandied about quite a bit before the weekend, TABbut it ended up being lot of worry over nothing.  There may have a been a slight increase in crowd size, but whether that was due to a natural growth in the size of the fest or because of Trey was really a moot point as the same easy-going-laid back atmosphere that is so pervasive every year at Delfest was evident again.  And since Anastasio’s set and appearance was so heavily discussed before the fest, it should be as equally discussed after. To sum up his set in as few words as possible, quite simply he killed it.

Anastasio’s two sets were fairly typical song selection wise for what he has been doing lately with his band.  He pulled from all of his various solo albums, though his set this evening was weighted heavily with songs from his self-titled release playing, “Cayman Review,” “Last Tube”, “Drifting”, “Push on till the day”, and “Money, Love, & Change,” this evening. He included the obligatory Phish songs that are a regular part of the Trey Band rotation, “First Tube,” “Gotta Jibboo,” “Sand”, and “Heavy Things.”  The “Heavy Things” encore was particularly nasty with the inclusion of Ronnie McCoury’s mind-blowing mandolin work and the tasteful addition of Jason Carter on fiddler.  The real highlight of the set was perhaps the worst kept secret of the weekend, the mid-2nd set sit-in of the Del McCoury Band.  Rumors had been circulated in the weeks prior of a collaboration between the two. Anastasio in his trademark rambling-story-telling-style explained how he had gotten a copy of a Del McCoury album from the guys in Aquarium Rescue Unit back in the early 90s and was hooked since then.  While onstage Del and Anastasio recounted their time playing together back at Phish’s Camp Oswego in 1999, before launching into a brief two song collaboration, “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” and “Beauty of My Dreams,” which was in the running for the most smile inducing song of the weekend.


_MG_9417As with every year at Delfest the McCoury family are perfect hosts, and Del and his two sons Ronnie and Rob seem to welcome almost every band to the festival by joining them onstage at some point.  Del seemed to sit-in a little less frequently than he has in years past, but in addition to his four main-stage sets, an afternoon Masters of Bluegrass set, and the annual McCoury Family Jam, he still found time to join the headliners, Leftover Salmon, Trey Anastasio, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Yonder Mountain String Band for a couple of tunes each night. He also took to the stage with dobro master Jerry Douglas, and walked on with Keller Williams and the McCoury’s to sing his verse in “Bumper Sticker.”  Younger brother and banjo picker Rob, while sitting in less than his Dad and brother, made the most of his limited guest spots, with his full set sit-in with the Rambling Rooks (Ronnie Bowman, Don Rigsby & Kenny Smith from the Lonesome River Band), a real Thursday treat.


Delfest The MVP of the McCoury family for the weekend and of the entire festival was hands down mandolinist Ronnie.  Already a busy man as it was with his four appearances with The Del McCoury Band, a set with Keller & the McCoury’s, a late night set opening for Leftover Salmon with the Traveling McCoury’s, and a Saturday afternoon inclusion as part of the special one-off All-Star band of Pikelny, Sutton, McCoury, Bulla, & Bales, Ronnie still found time and the energy to grace the stage with a variety of other bands countless times over the weekend.  His set with Pikelny, Sutton, McCoury, Bulla, and Bales was a nice surprise Saturday afternoon.  Assembled by banjo picker Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) and including guitarist Bryan Sutton (Hot Rize), fiddler Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett Band), bassist Barry Bales (Allison Kraus & Union Station), and McCoury, the all-star collective blasted through a set through that pulled tunes from all of their vast repertoire’s.  The set was a picker’s dream, highlighting some of the best young musicians in the bluegrass world.  In addition to all his regularly scheduled sets, Ronnie was a ubiquitous present throughout the weekend, seemingly playing with every band that was at the festival.  The phrase, “And will you please welcome to the stage, Ronnie McCoury,” just seemed to be how bands introduced every one of their songs all weekend, as it would then be followed by Ronnie ambling on stage to rip through yet a mind-bending mandolin solo.  Listing all the bands who he sat in with would be akin to listing all the bands that were at Delfest. Late night, mid-day, main stage, music hall, it did not matter Ronnie was there.  He was not the only musician in Cumberland, it only seemed like it.


Del & Jerry McCoury

As usual the Delfest line-up was stocked with classic legendary bluegrass musicians as well as younger emerging stars.  One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend was the Masters of Bluegrass, or as Del called them, The Mob.  Comprised of Del on guitar and vocals, his brother Jerry McCoury on bass, JD Crowe on banjo, Bobby Osborne on mandolin, and Bobby Hicks on fiddle, The Mob is truly an once-in-a-lifetime line-up of living legends who can all trace their roots back to the earliest days of bluegrass.  They all joined Del on Saturday night for a brief main-stage appearance that was a showcase for their unparalleled talent.  But it was their Sunday afternoon set in the music hall then exemplified their true greatness. Playing without the constraints of time inside the spacious music hall. (Who is going to tell you to wrap it up when your name is the name of the festival?)  The five legends played a set that was a journey through the history of bluegrass with Del as your narrator.  They played without a set list taking requests from the crowd and each other.  The discovery of a previous band’s set list still taped to the stage lead to a humorous exchange within the band about what they should play next.


At the opposite end of the spectrum were those younger bands who are hoping to become the next legends of the genre.  At Delfest there were a trio of bands that all seemed to fit that description.  Two of them have stormed the jam-grass scene lately.  They both arrived on the scene a few years back in a swirl of high-energy picking and jams that finds them easily seguing from a classic Jimmy Martin tune, to a Grateful Dead song, to some random rock cover.  The Infamous Stringdusters and Greensky Bluegrass have both seen their respective audiences explode over the past few years, and their rise at Delfest has mirrored that same explosion.  They both started as early afternoon bands on the side stage their first years only to quickly find themselves main stage stalwarts and headliner late night acts.  This year they both played a pair of main stage sets, as well as each serving as a late-night headliner. And they did not disappoint during either set.  Unsurprisingly Ronnie McCoury made an appearance with both of them during their late night sets, joining Greensky for “Eat My Dust”, and the Infamous Stringdusters for a double shot of “Pioneers,” and “Wheel Horse.”

Infamous Stringdusters

The other band that seemed to garner so much attention over the weekend was Colorado’s Elephant Revival.  Elephant Revival is a five-piece band that mixes subtle strains of folk and bluegrass, with dreamy heart-felt lyrics that float along a river of gentle melody weaved by gypsy souls.  Every year at Delfest there is that band that seems to burst out of nowhere and Elephant Revival was that band this year.  Their two-sets on Friday, on the side-stage and in the music hall were both must attend moments of the festival. Their Behind the Music Artist Play Shop in the Music Hall was overflowing with people and provided a unique insight into the band and their music as they told stories about themselves and their music throughout the set.


As with years past at Delfest, one went into it worried about the weather and anxiously looking forward to the music.  And as _MG_9639with years past the weather threw a curve-ball that no one saw coming;  this year being the crazy cold temperatures.  But at the end of the weekend, as it always does, the weather became a distant thought when thinking back on the weekend. And whether you caught every appearance of Ronnie McCoury, or heard every glorious note that Del sung, or were worried if the world was going to end because Trey was there, in the end it did not matter because just as it is every year at Delfest not matter where you looked, whether on the main stage with the Masters of Bluegrass, in the music hall with Elephant Revival, on the side-stage during the band competition there was some hot picking happening and some incredible music being made, and as it does year after year, Delfest showed why it is one of the best festivals around.



Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from Delfest by Jordan August…

Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from Delfest by Tim Newby…

Delfest: Rewound, Inspected & Approved² — a double review


Family Tradition:

Delfest Moves Forward by Reaching Into the Past

By Josh Klemons

Delfest 2012 Honest TuneDelfest isn’t so much a music festival as it is a massive family reunion. Delfest is built around the charms and talents of one man, Del McCoury, who has been playing this music since before man landed on the moon. In spite of the fact that he is doing the same thing today that he has been doing since the early sixties, he is doing it with the same passion, the same skill and he is having just as good a time doing today as he ever was.


In many ways, Delfest is a celebration of the past. Del’s own band, the Del McCoury Band (DMB) which features MCoury and his two sons Ronnie and Robbie on mandolin and banjo, respectively, along with Jason Carter on fiddle and Alan Bartram on bass – plays traditional bluegrass music the way that it was meant to be played: by masterful musicians standing around a single microphone and telling a story with each tune. Doyle Lawson, who sat in for a majority of the DMB Saturday night set, is a bluegrass gospel master. Ironically, one of the purest throwback groups of the weekend was the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys. It’s ironic because the band is fronted by three brothers from New Jersey ranging in age from 10-14. But these boys play straight ahead, Flatt and Scruggs-inspired bluegrass. And man can they play. They are an anomaly in the bluegrass world; they went viral on YouTube. And they can pick. Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars along with his new group, The Wandering, masterfully played several sets of old time blues music. All of these groups help keep the past alive and tangible. They are historians as much as they are musicians and the world is a better place for all of them.

Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-4-2Delfest also featured many bands still striving to hang onto the old traditions but also looking to make them their own. The all female Della Mae seemed to be everywhere throughout the weekend, playing their own sets, doing a group playshop and sitting in with various other musicians. They play sweet and soulful bluegrass, centered largely on original songwriting. Birds of Chicago, an enchanting group centered around a male and female vocalist, took pop and soul and turned them on their heads just enough to create something new and beautiful. And Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek might be young, but she has a sound and a voice that date back generations.

But Delfest does not settle for the past, rather it is constantly looking to the future. The festival featured a slew of bands that use bluegrass instruments – masterfully – to create whatever sounds are in their heads. The Emmitt-Nershi Band, centered on Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon and Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident, obliterates everything you think you know about bluegrass. They believe in the traditions and they hold them true, yet somehow are constantly breaking boundaries and exploring new musical ground every time they play. Other bands in attendance following in the footsteps of these two giants are The Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad EarthGreensky Bluegrass and Friday night’s headliner, the Yonder Mountain String Band. Bands like these are helping to bring whole new generations into the fold, to keep it evolving and growing as any such movement must. But even as they look forward and make their way further and deeper into the unknown, they are constantly looking back. And what a blessed tradition in which the trailblazers cannot only look back to their heroes and idols, but get to share the stage with them. That is what Delfest is all about.

Andy Hall at Delfest 2012And then there is Bela Fleck. Bela was only at the festival on Sunday, but his dance card was full. He did a Bluegrass All Star jam on the main stage. He sat in with practically everyone on several stages. All that is to be expected by someone of his stature. But he also did something completely different. He played a full-on jazz set along with the Marcus Roberts Trio. The trio consists of a pianist, upright bass player and a drummer, and they all are serious jazz musicians. And then there was Bela with his banjo. What he brings to the table is simply incredible. On some numbers, he played along with them and passively mastered their sound. On other numbers, he took the lead and led them into territories that were so outside the box, there isn’t really a label for them. When he took charge, it was less a Flecktones sound and more of a solo, acoustic Bela feel. But it was also something completely different. The trio was clearly thrilled to be playing with Bela, as was Bela thrilled to be sharing the stage with them. The real winners however were the few hundred people who got to enter the room, escape the sun, and witness the magic unfold.

As always, Joe Craven served as MC of the main stage, welcoming each act onto stage and whetting the musical appetites of those in the audience. Joe writes, or improvises, beautiful, poetic mini-essays about every group set to take the stage. He sets the mood for what is to come. He also led his annual playshop on improvisation in which he strives to help us all remember to be children in our lives, everyday, not just in the open and understanding atmosphere of Delfest. This year, he also brought with him the Joe Craven Trio, where he was backed by a keyboard player and a drummer. When he wasn’t playing nasty fiddle or mandolin with these guys, he was rocking a solo on a cheese grater or scatting beautiful nonsense with perfect rhythm and intention.

Delfest-2012-Honest-Tune-8The Travelin’ McCourys are the Del McCoury Band sans Del and they have become the house band for bluegrass music. Motown had The Funk Brothers, bluegrass has the Travelin’ McCourys. Four masters on their instruments, these guys did back up sets with Keller Williams, with whom they just released a new album, backed up Bela Fleck’s All Star Bluegrass jam (sans Robbie) and sat in and backed up over a dozen artists throughout the weekend, either on their own or in a group. They are pitch perfect bluegrass musicians, both vocally and instrumentally, and while they are usually seen playing bluegrass the way their father taught them, they looked just as comfortable playing Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” or “Freaker by the Speaker” alongside Keller. The headliner of Sunday night was the DMB along with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Preservation Hall is New Orleans in a suit and tie. With a horn line (featuring two sousaphone players!), piano, funky drums and killer vocals, these guys merged their sound with Del and the boys for a killer set following the second massive storm of Sunday night.

Oh right, there were storms. In the words of Del: it wouldn’t be Delfest without a couple of storms. Unfortunately, this is a true statement. It is worth mentioning that the fairgrounds were better equipped for rain this year than they have been in the past, having laid fine gravel over the dirt to avoid turning the first fifty feet of ground in front of the main stage into a massive mud pile under the weight of thousands of pairs of dancing feet. But not to worry, there was mud! There was one massive storm on Saturday evening and two on Sunday night. During those times, everyone without an RV or a wish to get massively soaked headed into one of only two (relatively) dry areas in the fairgrounds. One was the indoor music hall and the other was the bleachers that sits alongside the main stage. The entirety of the main stage area is surrounded by a track and the bleachers sit outside of that. Thousands of people came together to sit in the bleachers and watch the storms pass. But this was no boring crowd. There was singing and chanting and several impromptu waves. There were also the brave few who decided that no muddy field should go unplayed in. There were full on touch football games, wrestling, relay races and even an (attempted) human pyramid. Delfest had seen its first muddy Delympics!

Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-3-2On Sunday evening – in between the two storms, replete with huge gusts of wind, heavy rain and breathtaking lightening that lit up the sky over the mountains – everyone in attendance was treated to something truly special. Steve Martin did a set, backed up by the Steep Canyon Rangers. This set was one part comedy show, one part great bluegrass set and all parts awesome. Steve Martin definitely has his shtick. He dropped one-liners between every song and had whole bits worked up with his backing band (who clearly had many fans of their own in the crowd). But he is not a comedian who plays the banjo, he is a banjo player who tells jokes. He plays – with picks and clawhammer style – like an old pro. He left most of the singing to the Rangers, but did bring out one original a cappella song, performed with the band, that was something special. He preempted it by leaving stage and letting the Rangers do a gospel a cappella number. He then returned and made a comment about how unfair it was that Atheists do not have songs of their own. So he had written one called “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.” This song bridged the gap between Steve’s two massive talents. It was a splendidly written, arranged and performed piece, but was made complete by the insertion of his comedic skill. Before the set was over, he had also welcomed to the stage Bela, Sam Bush and Del and the boys. At its peak, there were four banjos, three mandolins, two guitars, two fiddles and an upright bass on stage.

The weekend ended with Leftover Salmon and the Travelin’ McCoury’s doing an epic late night set that went and went and went. With each song, the group of musicians on stage grew. And the night just got rowdier and rowdier. Everyone knew that it would be another year before this family reunion met again and they wanted to squeeze every last drop of magic out of the weekend, now spilling over into its fifth day.

There is something timeless about bluegrass. It is a young music in the scheme of things but it comes from somewhere deep inside. Del McCoury is an embodiment of that depth. He conjures up ancient sounds and distant places as he sings songs, new and old. Del was sitting in with sets throughout each day of the festival. He was still there as the late nights were winding down. He may be eligible for social security, but he never tires. He never slows down. He is always standing, always smiling, always excited. As another Delfest comes to a close, it becomes clear what it is we love about Del McCoury. We keep getting older, but somehow, he stays the same age.



Delfest: More than just a namesake

By Tim Newby

Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-2Nestled at the base of the Appalachian Mountains near the northern end of the Potomac River and just outside the city limits of Cumberland, Maryland, is one of the true hidden gems of the ever-expanding festival season.  It is a festival that is unique in its approach and scope. Whereas most festivals are made up of a collection of genre specific or completely random bands, Delfest, though held together by a vague notion of bluegrass, is really all about the festival’s name sake and founder, Del McCoury. The 73 year old bluegrass legend’s personality, music, and incredible spirit permeate everything about the festival. From the music on the stage to the family atmosphere that is in the air and the genuine appreciation and joy each band and every fan seems to carry with them throughout the weekend, McCoury is the inspiration for it all.


During his headlining set Friday night, Yonder Mountain String Band’s Jeff Austin, made his feelings regarding McCoury quite clear. “One of the great joys of getting to play this festival is there are a lot of people in the music world who I admire,” Austin proclaimed from high atop the festival’s main stage for the third year in a row. “The top two are Jerry Garcia, who I never got to meet, but I admired from afar and who inspired everything I do,” he continued, “and the other one [Del McCoury] is about to walk onstage and sing some songs with us, and that is just awesome in so many ways.”

But McCoury’s appearance throughout the weekend was not limited to his couple of sets and a sit in with Yonder. McCoury is omnipresent all weekend.  If one turned spotting McCoury around the festival into a drinking game, he would be mighty drunk pretty quickly. Whether seeing a blurred version of his immaculate white pompadour zipping around on a golf cart, spotting him hanging by the merch tent, looking away and turning back only to see that he had somehow jumped on stage with Leftover Salmon during “Midnight Blues,” the statesman of string music makes the rounds. But the true sign of a great host is not just how well you can mingle with your guests, but which guests you choose to invite.

Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-6An impressive array of headliners topped the guest list, including a band that is now in its junior Delfest year, Yonder Mountain String Band did exactly what they seemingly always set out to do by providing their usual high-octane set.  As per usual at Delfest, the sit-ins were abundant.

A highlight of the set came courtesy of a guest fiddle convention that consisted of Darroll Anger (Republic of Strings), Jason Carter (Travelin’ Mccourys) and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth). The three distinct masters of the same tool of their trade literally held church before a fully engaged crowd. The lengthy once in a lifetime workout weaved its way through a trance infused “Dawn’s Early Light” that was succeeded by Talking Head’s “Girlfriend is Better” and wrapped with “Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown.”

Amongst a pioneer heavy lineup — that also included Sam Bush — was Saturday’s poly-ethnic Cajun headliner, Leftover Salmon, who brought their festival perfect sound in a set that relied heavily on the recently released  Aquatic Hitchhike.

Sunday headliners, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, had to endure a brief rain-delay before talking the stage, but after they did, they showed why they were named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the year for 2011, a fact that Martin was more than pleased to remind the crowd of during their set.


Delfest 2012 Honest Tune-5As with years past though, Delfest is not just about having a couple of big headliners carry the day. The beauty and strength of the fest is in how the bluegrass spectrum is spanned, from an early morning gospel set from someone with as long a history in the genre as Doyle Lawson & Quicksliver to the thrashed out rockabilly-punk-grass of Devil Makes Three, the jam-friendly sound of Railroad Earth and the legendary banjo work of Bela Fleck.  Herein lies yet one more great aspect of Delfest. While many events seem to pride themselves on forcing their attendees into the all too common schedule dilemma, Delfest gives some of the bands multiple sets throughout the weekend. As a result of this, the festival holds onto what many value most about an event of its type: discovery of new acts, something that is all but lost when forcing decisions that typically end up in the sacrificing of the unknown in the name of certainty and familiarity.


While at its thematic core, the festival can be summed up as a “Bluegrass Fest,” the theme is not limiting. Bands that teeter on the edge are always included.  This year, in addition to his main stage set with what was billed as The Bluegrass All-Stars, Bela Fleck also played a set with the Marcus Roberts Trio that found the common ground between the smooth jazz trio and the more traditional sound of Fleck’s banjo.  Another guest whose band challenged the label was Delfest Freshman, Luther Dickinson’s (North Mississippi Allstars) latest all female backed ensemble, The Wandering. who masterfully played several sets of old-timey roots music.


It is hard to list all that make Delfest such a unique and smooth-running festival. You can talk about the stellar lineup that is billed every year. In fact, there are so many honorable mentions in regards the summary of its greatness that it is staggering. It is great to be able to see bands multiple times through the weekend. The annual band competition that is held on Friday and Saturday afternoons has birthed new favorite bands for attendees over the years. That is great too. Of course, your feet would be most congratulatory to the organizers for putting together a layout that does not force you to walk to the ends of the earth in order to get back to camp, buy ice or visit the stages.


The fact is that the list of things that go into making Delfest great each year would be as long and as impressive as the guest list each year. In the end though, it really comes down to one thing that makes the whole festival so special:  the aging legend with perfect white hair to match his faultless voice that causes the crowd to go crazy each time he hits one of them high notes that only he can reach. That is right, its greatness can be boiled down to one man, Del McCoury.


Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Tim Newby…

See Below:  links to download choice audience recordings from the fest and to stream a preview of YMSB’s soundboard recording.




Get your download on…


May 25, 2012


May 25, 2012- Luther Dickinson & The Wandering

May 25, 2012- Railroad Earth

May 25, 2012- Split Lip Rayfield

May 25, 2012- Yonder Mountain String Band (AUDIENCE) with guests: Darol Anger- fiddle, Tim Carbone- fiddle, Jason Carter – fiddle, Del McCoury- vocals, guitar, Ronnie McCoury- mandolin

May 25, 2012- Yonder Mountain String Band (SOUNDBOARD) — Preview Below


May 26, 2012


May 26, 2012- Greensky Bluegrass

May 26, 2012- Travelin’ McCourys w/ Keller Williams

May 26, 2012- Infamous Stringdusters

May 26, 2012- Emmitt-Nershi Band with guests: Andy Hall- Dobro, Jason Carter- fiddle & Vince Herman- vocals, guitar


May 27, 2012


May 27, 2012- Emmitt Nershi Band

May 27, 2012- Infamous Stringdusters

May 27, 2012- Leftover Salmon with guests: Jason Carter- fiddle, Ronnie McCoury- mandolin, Robbie McCoury- banjo, Courtney Hartman- guitar, Del McCoury- vocals, guitar, Billy Nershi- guitar, vocals, Andy Falco- electric guitar, Alan Bartram- bass & Chris Pandolfi- banjo

May 27, 2012- Sam Bush Band



Yonder Mountain String Band
5/25/12 Delfest, Cumberland, MD

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