ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 8 * * All Arts News On the Web * * August 12, 2004


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for live music and more at the Fairfax Music Sessions at the Foothills Bakery in Fairfax most Saturday afternoons at 1 p.m., at ChowBella in St Albans 8-10 p.m. most Wednesday evenings, at the Kept Writer in St Albans mostly once each month, at the Bayside in St Albans Town most Sunday afternoons, and the Cambridge CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month.
     These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and occasional workshops. The booked performances and acoustic Open Mike Nights feature music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      The Vermont Maple Festival/Summer Sounds series plays Taylor Park on Sunday as Key Bank presents the Upstate New Yorkers. The concert will include original songs plus the covers of the great country music artists of the past. "There's still a lot of comedy," Gary Finney said.
      The Upstate New Yorkers are Gary Finney, keyboards; Leon Lancto, guitar; and Donnie Perkins, fiddle. They play all of Merle Haggard and George Jones' music plus Deliverance and other bluegrass, and a wide range of originals. The song that brought them national recognition is Upstate New Yorker, written by Gary Finney. The group has worked with Johnny Russell, Little Jimmy Dickens, Gene Watson, Stonewall Jackson, and many others.
      "We play the really old time country music, the way it used to be," said Mr. Finney. "I've never been so busy." They were in Swanton for the Swanton Festival two weeks ago. "It was pouring" but the show went on.
      "We have some new recordings out," Mr. Finney said. WLFE plays bands from this area including the Upstate New Yorkers regularly. "It's good for the area and for young people getting involved in music. When they get syndicated they run themselves out of gas."
      "We always save one portion of the show for requests," he said.
      Just before the concert, stop by for Dessert in the Park at the AAC-Summer Sounds social starting at 6:30 p.m. The social hour is a chance to visit with friends, and to eat finger foods and mapley delights.
      Summer Sounds concerts in Taylor Park are presented by the Vermont Maple Festival, the City of St. Albans, and the All Arts Council of Franklin County, and sponsored by Ben & Jerry's Homemade, the Handy Group of new car dealers, Key Bank, Merchant's Bank, Northwestern Medical Center, and St. Albans for the Future.
      The community based All Arts Council brings the performing arts to northwestern Vermont. The concerts are always on Sunday evenings at 7 p.m., always in a town park, and always free. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair as you settle in to enjoy outdoor family music and festivities. The rain site (if needed) is the Congregational Church.


      Bluegrass Rules!
      The Lake Champlain Bluegrass Festival this weekend features Ricky Skaggs, the ambassador of bluegrass music, eight great bluegrass bands, a major fiddler's contest, craft fair, tractor show, bonfire, barbeque, and jamming, all on a family farm in Alburg. The music starts tomorrow morning and continues through Sunday afternoon. (There will be just enough time at the end of this Festival to hustle down to St. Albans for Summer Sounds.)
      The music lineup includes Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder, the Gibson Brothers, Pine Island, Bob Paisley and The Southern Cross, Notre Dame de Grass, Gopher Broke Bluegrass, Bob Degree and the Bluegrass Storm, and Atkinson Family Bluegrass. There will be a $3,000 fiddle and banjo contest, a one-day Craft Fair, and an antique tractor show.
      One of the most talented, passionate, and dynamic bluegrass performers and an eight-time Grammy Award winner, Ricky Skaggs has performed professionally for 33 years. He leads the ongoing revival in roots music.
      Mr. Skaggs reached the top of the country charts with Waitin' For The Sun To Shine. His Grammys are evenly divided between bluegrass and country recordings; he has also won eight awards from the Country Music Association including Entertainer of the Year. He will appear on Saturday evening only.
      The Gibson Brothers, Eric and Leigh Gibson of upstate New York, carry on a tradition of the brother harmony duo with songwriting and vocal collaboration. Mixing tradition with the modern thrust of bluegrass, they keep the music fresh with their own pieces, songs by new writers, and songs that haven't been heard a thousand times. Long Way Back Home, the Gibsons' second album for Sugar Hill, is the sixth of their career. They received the Emerging Artists of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1998. They will play three sets on Friday evening only.
      The Fiddle and Banjo Contest has five divisions. The Fiddle Champion Division and the Fiddle Open Division are open to any age. Contestants will play a waltz, tune of choice, and a hoedown. The Fiddle Junior Division is for 14 and under. The Fiddle Trick & Fancy and the Banjo Divisions are also open to any age. Fiddlers will play just one tune in old time fiddle style. Banjo players will play two authentic, non-jazz banjo songs.
      The craft fair will be held on Saturday only, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
      The 2004 Lake Champlain Bluegrass Festival begins tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. about one mile north of Alburg Village on Route 2. Many of the performers will play multiple sets each day. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce voted the festival one of the Top 10 Summer Events in Vermont. The annual fiddle and banjo contest will be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $40 plus tax and vendor fee for the weekend and includes free camping. Tickets are available through the Flynn Regional Box Office. Call 802-482-8110 for info.


      Roughstock's History of Country Music looks at some of the influential artists and songs of the late 1920's through the year 2000, era by era. The site includes artists from Gene Autry, Roy Acuff, Bob Wills, and Hank Williams to Patsy Cline, Lefty Frizzell, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks and more with images, sound clips, and digital movies.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2004 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
      Thanks to recent misuse of copyright material on the Internet by individuals and archival firms alike, we emphasize that your rights to this article are limited to viewing it and printing it for personal use only. You must receive explicit permission from the All Arts Council and the author before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.