YMCA of Central Ohio

Concert Review | Musicians Against Childhood Cancer: Musicianship stellar at bluegrass review

By  Curtis Schieber
For The Columbus Dispatch Friday July 20, 2012 
It seemed the weather was waiting to see what goods the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Bluegrass Classic could deliver yesterday in the Hoover Y-Park. Clearing slightly by mid-afternoon, the clouds held their moisture at least through the next-to-last act, when this paper’s deadline called.

The weather’s patience was well-earned, as just after dark the Grascals delivered a crack set crowned by a brilliant impromptu jam session that featured the evening’s closer, IIIrd Tyme Out, and Marty Raybon, who played earlier.

Raybon led the bonus round, impersonating Ralph Stanley and prodding Grascals front man Terry Eldredge to follow along as former boss Larry Cordle. Dead-on impersonations aside, it led to spry covers of platinum bluegrass songs such as Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Side Of The Mountain and a couple of Stanley tunes.

The jam session featured stellar musicianship and a couple of vocals from Raybon that topped his entire earlier set.

On their own, the Grascals raised the bar the minute they began. The group hit the ground running with the Elvis Presley vehicle Mystery Train, which laid inspired instrumental runs into a deeply swinging beat.

The band hardly hesitated between songs, checking the title track from its new Life Finds A Way and the vintage You Can Mark It Down. While the latter featured Eldredge’s fine but unusual and high-pitched Bob Dylan-like voice, many others starred co-leader Jamie Johnson.

Spotlights on banjoist Kristin Scott Benson, mandolinist Danny Roberts and fiddler Jeremy Smith reinforced the individual and collective awards the ensemble has won. Terry Smith proved his worth with his slap bass on Hard Times.

Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers played before the Grascals, contrasting that band’s youthful respect for tradition with the tradition itself. The group performed in coordinated stage outfits and played a few songs it has for decades. Sparks, a terrifically inventive guitarist, has released 50 albums and soon celebrates 50 years in the business.

Raybon appeared with his band Full Circle as the sun tucked behind the gigantic maples that make the Y-Park an idyllic setting for this music. Rough and ready, his ensemble celebrated the future not only with its program but by backing 11-year-old Jae Lee Roberts, daughter of the Grascals mandolin man, for an impressive country ballad.

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