Larry Carlin


Local Centennial

Great lineup for Bluegrass Gold's 100th edition

By Matt Kramer
Pacific Sun
April 22, 2005

Howdy, neighbors! We've got another local celebration on our hands this time around. Tuesday marks the 100th edition of Larry Carlin's Bluegrass Gold series at Mill Valley's venerable Sweetwater Saloon. I know I've mentioned this before, but we're fortunate that this acoustic showcase is housed in our fair county. Carlin's not only a tireless promoter and reporter, he's also a fine musician, as evidenced once again last week at Iron Springs in Fairfax. Bluegrass Gold's Happy 100th celebration features a fantastic double bill, King Wilkie and special guest Kevin Welch.

King Wilkie was, as I was, conceived in Ohio. College buddies and band co-founders Ted Pitney and Reid Burgess were awestruck by what they witnessed at a bluegrass festival, and subsequently immersed themselves into everything about that genre. After they'd moved on to Charlottesville, Virginia, the young guitarist and mandolin players began scouring the countryside for like-minded musicians. The result is a sextet (named after Bill Monroe's favorite horse) that whips up some amazing Americana and roots music.

Their debut CD Broke (Rebel Records) was issued just over one year ago, and it received a warm welcome from music fans and critics alike. These whippersnappers were all between the ages of 21 and 26 when Broke arrived at record stores, but unlike many youthful combos, King Wilkie eschews playing everything at breakneck speed. They get up and gallop at appropriate times, (Broke jumps out of the gate on a short sprint) but they're also comfortable loping along on old standards and originals alike. I don't have an encyclopedic carousel of Americana classics in my head, and when listening to this well-produced disc I am sometimes unable to discern the lineage of a tune. Original? Old chestnut? Hell if I know! But I can tell you for sure that out of a baker's dozen of tracks, I didn't find a single dud.

About two weeks prior to the upcoming Sweetwater show the band announced it will release a limited edition EP, Tierra Del Fuego. The six-song set features a guest performance by Ben Keith (pedal steel player for Neil Young) and will be sold at King Wilkie shows (and via their website). I don't know if the new disc will be available at the show here, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Also taking part in the Bluegrass Gold bash is the hard-to-pigeonhole singer-songwriter Kevin Welch. Many of the songs he's written have been performed by country folks such as Waylon Jennings, Trisha Yearwood, and Ricky Skaggs, but Welch's poetic vision and unique style don't wholly fit into cowboy boots.

Besides working as a Nashville-based songwriter, Welch has worn the hats of globetrotting troubadour and record label co-owner (Dead Reckoning Records). He embarks upon solo tours, which we'll get to see Tuesday, performs as a duo with label-mate Kieran Kane, and plays in expanded band form as part of the Dead Reckoners.

For an introduction to his music, check out his 1990 debut release, Kevin Welch (Reprise). To my ears, there's something about Welch's delivery, offbeat observation, and sometimes quiet country-folk style that brings Townes Van Zandt to mind.

Both of these acts will be performing on the Sunday date of the fast approaching Strawberry Music Festival out Yosemite way. But that, my friends is a sold-out show in a distant land. This little beauty blooms right in our own backyard.





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