The NEPA Bluegrass Festival will return to Lazy Brook Park in Tunkhannock from Thursday to Sunday, June 2 to 5. More than a dozen traditional and progressive bluegrass bands will be featured on two stages. Headliners this year include Marty Raybon and Full Circle (top), the Spinney Brothers from Canada (above), and Nothin’ Fancy from Virginia (below).
As the NEPA Bluegrass Festival enters its ninth year, organizers Danny and Christa Stewart of Wyalusing have instinctively outdone themselves by building a roster of talent that pares international, national, regional, and local acts on two stages for three days of bluegrass and traditional Americana music.
Marty Raybon, formerly the lead vocalist of the enormously popular country act, Shenendoah, has enjoyed numerous number one singles, top selling albums, and CMA and Grammy awards. His contemporaries, like Josh Turner, Jason Crabb and Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts marvel at Raybon’s “soulful” voice and passionate delivery.
“One of the greatest voices to ever sing,” said Crabb, a Christian music star. “He gets inside a song and turns it inside out.” Recent recordings that showcase Raybon’s bluegrass stylings include “Hand to the Plow” and “Southern Roots & Branches.”
“Marty has such a sincere and genuine soul. His show will bring me to tears and pick me up and make me want to hoop and holler!” said Christa Stewart. “He joins us annually on the Danny Stewart Bluegrass Cruise, and we are thrilled to be able to bring Marty and Full Circle to the festival this year.”
The Spinney Brothers hail from Nova Scotia, Canada, and offer a unique duet vocal style supported by traditional, southern-flavored bluegrass music. They strive for freshness to keep bluegrass music exciting for both ardent fans and new converts to bluegrass. Most of their set is comprised of original material that artfully blends traditional stylings with contemporary themes.
“I’d like to throw cellphones out the window, and go back to Grandpa’s way of life,” Alan and Rick Spinney sing in a 2013 hit by and group, which includes members Gary Dalrymple and Terry Poirier.
“The Spinney Brothers are an amazing brother team with an amazing band,” noted Christa. “We are honored to call them our personal friends.”
Nothin’ Fancy returns to NEPA Bluegrass this year from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. They thrilled festival goers in 2015 with their strong vocals, powerful instrumentation, and energetic stage presence. They were among the performers whose friendly, down-to-earth charm was appreciated both on and off stage.
“What a super fun band,” Christa said of Nothin’ Fancy. “We love that they love the fans and jam and pick with them.”
The group formed in 1994 to compete in a bluegrass competition and have since released 11 full-length albums. Nothin’ Fancy has won the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America’s Group of the Year Award six times.
The Progressive Stage will feature performances by Driftwood, Coal Town Rounders, and Mason Porter. “Our vision with the Progressive Stage is to offer an alternative for traditional bluegrass music listeners,” Christa explained. “Dan and I want to keep our roots deep but allow the new generation to grow in a healthy family fun atmosphere.”
Additional acts this year will include Larry Stephenson, Cirac Blue, Goldwing Express, Mama Corn, Remington Ryde, Scott Brannon, Jim Gaudet, Kipp & Jerry, Cat Elwell, and Big Valley Bluegrass.
A number of activities are conducted throughout the weekend that cater to a variety of interests and age ranges. A “sip and paint” class on Friday afternoon, for example, will be offered at an additional charge for guests who aren’t as interested in picking and jamming. This year, the Kids Corner will be held from 11 am to 5 pm on Saturday, featuring a fairy garden party, painting, silly sing-alongs, and a scavenger hunts.
Serious musicians will want to stop to see Dave Strunk of Brothers Music of Wind Gap, who will provide repairs and restringing of instruments on site. “A little spring tune up is always great for people’s instruments,” Christa remarked.
Tickets for 2016 NEPA Bluegrass can be purchased by downloading a form from www.nepabluegrass.com. Free camping is available with a full weekend ticket only. Electricity is available at an additional charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional tickets will be available at the gate for the weekend or by the day.
For more information, visit www.nepabluegrass.com online and like NEPA Bluegrass Festival on Facebook.