BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
In only its second year, the Bluegrass and Fall Festival, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21 at Indian Lake Park, will bring in some of the best bluegrass performers in the Southeast.
The festival is jointly sponsored by the Edgecombe Cultural Arts Council, Town of Tarboro and The Daily Southerner.
Although just two weeks later than last year’s initial offering, Edgecombe Arts Director Joyce Turner said she hoped the later date would help ensure cooler weather than last year’s scorching heat and humidity.
The show is scheduled from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. with Rose Hill Blue Grass Band playing from about 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. as festival goers arrive and also during all sound checks and intermissions.
While the ever-popular Tar River Boys will return, the four headline groups are sure to get the toes tapping and hands clapping.
Kevin Richardson and Cuttin’ Edge (KRACE) hail from the Piedmont Triad, ranging from Winston-Salem on the north down thru Denton and Asheboro on the way to Seagrove.
KRACE is Richardson on guitar and lead vocals, Scott Burgess on bass, Boyd Hulin on mandolin, Chris Ward on banjo, and Jason Hinshaw on fiddle.
Recently, the group has been working on its first all-gospel CD and Richardson was nominated as Songwriter Of The Year for 2013 SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association awards. While Richardson lost out to Tom T. Hall, his talent is obvious It will be fan votes that get him the award, so you know what to do next.
Over the past six month, the group has had two No. 1 songs on the Bluegrass Today charts — “He Better Run” last December and “What Kind of Love” in March.
Also on the card is the all-female group from Cary — Sweet Potato Pie.
Sweet Potato Pie specializes in bluegrass, country and gospel music. Playing traditional bluegrass instruments, the Pie is best known for their vocal harmonies and original music. Earning the nickname the "Sweethearts of Bluegrass", these ladies know how to entertain.
The group’s 2012 CD, Brand New Day held on at No. 1 at AirPlay Direct (APD) for two months.
Check APD’s charts for the most downloaded bluegrass and folk albums of all time, and you’ll find Sweet Potato Pie among names such as Bill Monroe, Steve Martin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Sweet Potato Pie formed in January 2000 and currently consists of guitarist/vocalist Sonya Stead — the only remaining original member — Crystal Richardson, Carrie Webster and Sandy Whitley.
In 2007, the group teamed with The North Carolina Sweet Potato Growers and sing the state sweet potato jingle everywhere they go.
Joing KRACE and Sweet Potato Pie will be the Malpass Brothers, from Goldsboro.
Christopher Malpass explained, “We're trying to keep country music alive . . . . The older stuff is what we really are carriers of.”
Christopher and younger brother Taylor Malpass perform some of the genre’s most well-known performers, including Ernest Tubb, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, and Jimmie Rodgers.D
Since they have been performing, the Malpass Brothers have opened for the likes of Doc Watson, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard, with whom they have toured extensively.
The duo continues to headline festivals and church homecomings around the Piedmont, as well as roots music programs in Scotland and Ireland.
The fourth headlining group are the Grass Cats, who hail from Youngsville, Cary, Kinston, Durham and Four Oaks.
The group is the only one on an independent recording lable to have had single reach No. 1 on Bluegrass Unlimited’s national chart — with “Bluegrass Man” in 2003, “A Good Way to Get the Blues” in 2010 and “The Mountains, My Baby and Me” in 2013.
The group has charted a single or CD in the Bluegrass Unlimited national chart each year since 2002.
The Grass Cats are banjo player and vocalist Rick LaFleur, who just happens to have a PhD in physical chemistry, mandolin player and vocalist Russell Johnson, bassist/vocalist Tim Woodall, fiddler/vocalist Chris Hill and guitarist/vocalist Alan Mullen.
Johnson is also a well-known songwriter, with nine of his original songs reaching the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey, including the #1 single “Bluegrass Man” in April and May of 2003 and "A Good Way To Get The Blues" in June 2010. He was also nominated for SPBGMA's Songwriter of the Year in 2004.
(Portions of this story were taken from the websites of the various groups.)