AT THIS edition of the New Year’s Bluegrass Festival on Jekyll Island, top talents in the business convene for three days of chops and community at the island’s recently revamped Convention Center.
“I started the festival 42 years ago,” explains Norman Adams, who runs nine events each year through Adams Bluegrass. “We were looking for a place to have a show in the winter months when the weather was bad. A friend had been going down [to Jekyll Island] for years for Christmas and opened a real estate office there. We thought it would be a great place to have a festival.”
In those days, winter on Jekyll Island was very slow, with very few activities for any snowbirds flying in from the North.
“It has gone in quite a different direction than when we started,” Adams says.
Along with its host island, the festival has grown since its inception.
“The first few years it was pretty weak, but the word has to get out,” says Adams. “It’s been good over the last several. We’re thinking we’ll have a huge crowd this year. A lot of people are coming down from the north to spend the winter and stop in.”
There are many returning players on this year’s festival lineup, and any frequenters of Randy’s Pickin’ Parlor here in Chatham County will certainly see some familiar names.
The Grand Ole Opry-inducted duo Dailey & Vincent is a can’t-miss. Individually, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent have won five GRAMMY awards individually, received three GRAMMY nominations collectively, won four DOVE Awards, and earned a total of 35 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards. Count on a blend of bluegrass, traditional country, and gospel from the duo.
Embrace tradition with The Gibson Brothers, 2012-2013 IBMA Entertainer of the Year. With bassist Mike Barber, fiddle/mandolin/guitar player Clayton Campbell, and mandolinist Jesse Brock, Eric and Leigh Gibson deliver seamless chops.
The Queen of Bluegrass holds court on Saturday. Rhonda Vincent arrives with her band, The Rage, named Instrumental Group of the Year at the 2016 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America awards.
Vincent also took home Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year at those awards, and Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2015 IBMAs. She was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2015 for the album Only Me.
“You don’t get any better than her,” Adams attests.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver bring their legendary sound to the fest. Lawson is a mandolin hero and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductee and is joined by Josh Swift on dobro, Joe Dean on banjo, Dustin Pyrtle on guitar, Eli Johnston on bass, and Stephen Burwell on fiddle.
“They are super entertainers,” Adams remarks.
The festival also features favorites like Becky Buller Band, The Little Roy & Lizzy Show, Balsam Range, The Primitive Quartet, Nothin’ Fancy, The Malpass Brothers, The Gary Waldrep Band, Feller & Hill and the Bluegrass Buckaroos, Edgar Loudermilk Band featuring Jeff Autry, Reno & Harrell, Tennessee Gentlemen Legacy, The Crowe Brothers, and Penny Creek Band.
The New Year’s Bluegrass Festival stands out from others like it in many ways.
“For one thing, it’s inside,” Adams points out. “The majority of bluegrass festivals are held outside under a tent or pavilion. Or they used to just be out in a cow pasture! It’s a very nice venue.”
Attendees can enjoy comfortable seating and top-notch sound as they hear the award-winning artists. With tickets available for all ages, Adams encourages bluegrass fans old and new to head to Jekyll Island and experience the celebration.
“Come on out and enjoy it!” he invites.