First harmonies ring out post-flood at Rockygrass


2 p.m. July 25 – The 42nd Rockygrass Festival almost wasn’t. Where I am writing this blog was under 6 feet of water and a mountain of debris during last September’s historic flood. When Craig Ferguson announced that Rockygrass would take place itBut looking out on the grassy field, the 4,000 bluegrass fans, the creek flowing under the cliffs and you wouldn’t know the devastation had occurred. But when the first notes of traditional bluegrass rang out from The Railsplitters, Rockygrass was officially alive again and general sigh went through the field.

The first great treat of the festival was an intricate set of guitar duets and bluegrass standards from Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage. Eldridge is the guitarist for Punch Brothers and the son of banjo great Ben Eldridge. Lage  is best known as a jazz and gypsy music guitarist. The combination of styles and breakneck picking was a smile-inducing treat. They deconstructed the instrumental chestnut “Cattle in the Cane,” both playing late 1930s Martin guitars. It was bluegrass, and it wasn’t, which is why I like this festival. It respects the tradition, but it’s not a slave to it.

Onstage now, the fine Boston group Della Mae – an all-female bluegrass band in a male-dominant genre. “It’s the first day of Rockygrass, rising like a phoenix,” said one member of Della Mae from the stage. Coming up:  jazz guitarist John Jorgenson and his bluegrass band, followed by Peter Rowan,  Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, and Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby with Kentucky Thunder.

For the first time KGNU is streaming (almost) the entire Rockygrass Festival at The festival will be broadcast live on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM,,) 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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