Updated: May 24, 2018
One of the most beautiful outdoors venues in Virginia set in a historic site in Lexington, The Lime Kiln Theatre is a venue that includes a large Kiln used in the turn of the 20th century and the stage itself is situated amongst an earthen rock quarry. The Kiln stage has just been opened up for the first time in 6 years but with the recent renovations the entire Lime Kiln venue and The Bowl is even more beautiful than I remembered from my previous visits. Holding a decent amount of people, the bowl was filled to capacity for this seasons opening performance.
The Travelin' McCourys came out for a great rendition of The Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues" before the rain came in and washed the band away but they would return with "Walk Out Of The Rain" about an hour later, skipping the set break and making this a single set performance. The band continued on into a song about John Henry, the railroad laying legend. "Midnight Flyer" kept the train theme rolling down the tracks; bluegrass and trains always go well together. "I Live On A Battlefield" was one of the best performances of the evening; raw and full of emotion. Following this slower song, the McCourys would go into a blistering instrumental number that had the entire bands fingers flying.
There is an extreme professionalism and duty to the music that is evident from these performers. Still adhering to traditional values while exploring new and interesting takes on the bluegrass music.
Bass player of the year, Alan Bartram singing John Hartford’s "No End Of Love" was harmonious and well done; great songwriting and all around delivery from each player, as they delivered a mix of their own music and exciting covers. Its no wonder these guys all have awards and various honors from musical institutions. "Let Her Go" was next, originally done by Passenger but the Travelin’ McCourys make it their own, with a high-pulsing rhythms and flawless, vocal harmonies.
“Well you only need the light when it's burning low, Only miss the sun when it starts to snow, Only know you love her when you let her go, Only know you've been high when you're feeling low, Only hate the road when you're missing home, Only know you love her when you let her go, And you let her go”
Going Classic Bluegrass with the next song, the Travelin’ McCourys show why they are one of the best Bluegrass bands around, doing progressive to traditional. Rob McCoury letting those banjo licks roll. Another morbid, John Hartford song "Natural To Be Gone" was deep and juxtaposed the music itself.
Mixing lyrical songs and instrumentals throughout the evening, the crowd was getting the best of both worlds. "The Hardest Heart" exemplified the lyrical accents and provocations from this group. During the next instrumental tune the band took turns soloing and showing skills on their various accoutrements; Jason Carter and Cody Kiln both shining throughout these solos and the entire evening.
As Ronnie changed to electric mandolin someone was heard in the audience "yea give it to me Ronnie" as they went into some more Grateful Dead renditions. "If I had the world to give" would see Ronnie making that electric sing as he gently melted a string immediately before they went into "Loser" The Travelin McCourys took the vocal cues from the song and accentuated them into beautiful harmonies. Slowing down and speeding up with a taste of "the other one" crescendos on a par with any jam act, improvisational and defined. Complete transition into another instrumental and back into "loser" ending the set with "Travelin’."
It is always an extreme pleasure to see these folks play bluegrass live. There is an extreme professionalism and duty to the music that is evident from these performers. Still adhering to traditional values while exploring new and interesting takes on the bluegrass music. Check The Travelin’ McCourys out at DelFest at the end of this month.
written by Robert RA Fadley