In August we featured some of the bands that performed at the recent Battlefield Bluegrass Festival, Naseby, Northamptonshire.
This instalment presents five other British groups showcasing their talents during the weekend event in July.
Essex-born Dave Morris grew up in a family where music played a very significant part, and he sang in a choir while at school. During the early 1960s his two brothers, Glyn and Trevor, formed one of the first bluegrass bands in the country. They toured the UK regularly, played at the Folk Voice festivals at Cecil Sharp House and (in the guise of High Country) were the support band for the Kentucky Colonels UK tour. Also, they received good exposure on local and national radio including BBC’s Country Meets Folk and Country Style.
After a few breaks the Morris Boys re-emerged to play at the final Edale festival and its swansong in Nottingham.
The band members playing their version of Will There Be A Rainbow, recorded by The Kentucky Travelers in 1959, were Dave Morris (vocals and guitar); Richard Partridge, who has played with the New Essex Bluegrass Band and currently is a member of Monroe’s Revenge and The Lairds Barn Dance Band (vocals and fiddle); Hilary Gowen (banjo); Jack Baker, deputising for regular mandolin player Bob Hooper; and Gill Smith (bass).
The London-based traditional bluegrass band, The Vanguards, take their musical inspiration from the originators of bluegrass music. Instrumentally, they seek to create a sound which blends the mandolin style of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley’s banjo sound, and the fiddle playing of Kenny Baker.
Jack Baker (lead vocals and mandolin), Chris Lord, from Croydon, (bass vocals and banjo) and Laura Nailor (tenor vocals and fiddle) met at jam sessions and have been playing together for about seven years. The band was formed a year later. They participated in the first Battlefield Bluegrass Festival and released an eponymous nine-track album in October 2016.
Baker, Lord, and Nailor are joined by other regular members Alex Clarke (baritone vocals and guitar), and Pete Thomas, who has been playing the bass since his early teens.
It is another band that uses just one mike.
Moon Turns To Blue, New Camptown Races, Neil Young’s Barstool Blues and Katy Daly.
The Grove Band’s name originates from The Grove Inn in Leeds, where the Leeds Bluegrass Club has been based for the last 33 years.
The band consists of bluegrass stalwart and long-time member of Generation Gap (formed in the late 1980s), and prior to that the Chevin Ramblers, Kevin Garratt (vocals, guitar and reso-guitar),; Kevin’s son Neil Garratt (vocals and guitar), whose early bluegrass experience came in the mid-1990s with his father in Second Generation; former student of Percussion Performance at the Leeds College of Music, Peter Earle (bass), who became interested in bluegrass music in 2005 and dabbled with the banjo before switching to bass; Alistair McIlroy (vocals, banjo and guitar); and Matt Nelson (mandolin). All of these last three were regular attendees at the Leeds Bluegrass Club and having jammed together, became the de facto house band with the Garratts.
Their set included Eric Andersen’s Close The Door Lightly and the beautiful love song Magnolia Wind that Guy Clark wrote – with Shawn Camp – for his wife Susanna.
The Leen Valley Band is so called after an area to the north-west of the city of Nottingham through which a tributary of the River Trent flows.
Originally called The Leen Valley Boys, they started off based in Nottingham about 2001. The name was changed when Angie (Kryzanowska), widow of the celebrated Thaddeus Kaye, joined them on bass in mid-2004, in a period during which there were several band changes.
Mike Wareham (vocals, guitar and harmonica) and Adam Newman-Taylor (vocals, banjo, reso-guitar, and guitar) had been playing together since the early 1970s in a band called the Dunes Boys. The duo often used to jam with the Kayes.
As a trio with Wareham, Angie Kaye and Newman-Taylor, the band recorded an album, Leen Valley Junction, about 2006/2007.
Guy Rogers joined the band playing mandolin, banjo, guitar and vocals in early 2019, which is when the band in its current format first played at the Battlefield Bluegrass Festival.
The Leen Valley Band plays a mixture of bluegrass, old time, Gospel and honky-tonk music with some self-penned material provided by Guy Rogers. Influences range from the Stanley Brothers to the Carter Family to Hank Williams.
Here is an example; their interpretation of Honky Tonk Blues from the last named ….
Offering something different were the One Tree Hillbillies, a popular five-piece bluegrass band from Essex, with a varied repertoire of bluegrass music, Gospel and rockabilly. Taking their name from the infamous/supposedly haunted One Tree Hill in Basildon, the band was formed in the early 2000s following one of the regular Monday night sessions in nearby Ingatestone.
Apart from regular performances at many of the UK’s bluegrass festivals, the band plays most Monday evenings in pubs in the Brentwood and Ingatestone area.
Hippy Joe Hymas (mandolin), who has recorded with English banjo ace Leon Hunt, as well as with Hayseed Dixie, the self-dubbed ‘rockgrass’ group of which he has been a member since January 2014; superb fiddler Alex Mihailovic whose influences include the New Lost City Ramblers; Dave Wilcox (banjo), who has his roots in folk music, notably Pete Seeger; Gill Smith, who was drafted in to play bass about 15 years ago and is drawn to songs in minor keys by the likes of Hazel Dickens and Kate Wolf; and Keith Smith (guitar), a follower of the flat-picking style of Doc Watson.
Here are two samples from the band; some rockabilly from the Saturday Night Concert …
and Texas Eagle
The 2022 Battlefield Bluegrass Festival is scheduled to take place at the Naseby Village Hall, Newlands, Naseby, Northamptonshire, from Thursday, July 21st through to Sunday, July 25th.