Another Minnesota Bluegrass August Festival is in the books. This one was the 40th Anniversary, and what a celebration it was! I don't even remember how many of these festivals I have been to now but El Rancho Manana feels like a second home to me now and when we all gather there for the weekend, it feels just like a family reunion. This year I was there for 4 days and 4 nights and it still wasn't near long enough. The weather was beautiful - well, okay we could have lived with a little less rain on Saturday but at least it settled the dust. The Ranch House stage was rocking every night. There is just so much talent assembled there! Couple of highlights for me was the Mabel and Me set at the Ranch House on Thursday. Friday night the Double Down Daredevils did a full hour show at the Ranch House. Saturday Guitar Showcase on the Showcase Stage with Clay Hess, Mike Cramer and Stash Wyslouch. All three are amazing guitarists. Stash probably has the most interesting story having found his way into Bluegrass and Old Time Music via punk / heavy metal Saturday night Headline show was Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. I've been watching Ricky Skaggs since he was in Emmy Lou Harris' Hot Band. The man puts on a show!. It's very well put together from an organizational standpoint. You can tell this was not just 7 guys who got together under a tree somewhere and said "hey, we should start a band" He sang a bunch of the old favorites like "Uncle Pen" along with some newer songs. Kinda heavy on the instrumentals for my taste but with pickers like that I didn't really mind so much! I'd been hoping for a version of "Country Boy" but alas, that did not happen. Clay Hess spent some time in Kentucky Thunder as the hot picker. At the showcase he said that going into Rickys band he knew he would have to be rock solid at 200 beats per minute. For anyone who doesn't know.... that's really fast ! Of course the jamming was awesome too. All day and on into the night till nearly dawns early light. Funny how you can be so bone tired you can barely keep your eyes open and then somebody says "it's your turn" and you pick something you hope you can remember in your somewhat addled state, and you turn in one of your best songs of the evening!
The 40th Anniversary Festival will be one of those events that sets the bar for all future festivals. It was so much fun it never even occurred to me to take any pictures