Grayson Highlands State Park is the site of a great little one day festival produced by renowned luthier and guitar picker Wayne Henderson. The park is located high in the Mount Rogers Recreation area about an hour off I-81 from Marion, Va. It’s a beautiful spot.
Part festival and guitar competition, the big prizes of the day are Henderson guitars. The winner of the competition, Allen Shadd, won the first one and they also gave away another as part of a raffle. Fifty bucks bought one lucky man a guitar that normally requires much more money and several years of waiting time. Several of the musicians also had relatively new Henderson guitars.
Roseanne Cash and John Leventhal headlined the festival. She’s a great songwriter with a strong voice and an amazing musical heritage. She sang several songs from The List, her album based on a list her father, Johnny Cash, compiled for her with 100 Essential Country Songs she should know. I’ve always loved the idea of his list for her and it was a treat to hear her sing some of those songs—likely songs she learned from him. She and Leventhal commented on how quiet and respectful the crowd was and it was a bit like a sunny afternoon roots music seminar.
From The List, they played I’m Movin On, Motherless Children, 500 Miles, Heartaches by the Number, Sea of Heartbreak and Long Black Veil. Cash said there would be no American roots music without Long Black Veil. The duo has a warm stage presence that alternates between short stories and fine music. She said they often talk about which song would be 101 on the list. That’s when she launched in to Ode Billy Joe.
Roseanne Cash & John Leventhal set list:
Hank Snow’s I’m Moving On/Radio Operator/Sea of Heartbreak/Long Black Veil/ Motherless Children/Etta’s Tune/ Ode to Billy Joe/ Tennessee Flat Top Box/ Love & Memories Our Old House/Seven Year Ache/ Heartache by the Numbers. Encore with Wayne Henderson: Bury me Beneath the Weeping Willow/500 Miles from home.
The festival also included several other groups. Cabin Fever NW did a rousing bluegrass show, followed by the Crooked Road Ramblers mountain music show. The Quebe Sisters Band plays Texas swing music, covering the likes of Bob Wills, featuring three sisters all on fiddle.
The Harris Brothers do a great show of old country and roots music. Their set included J.J. Cale’s Oklahoma, Don McLean’s Starry Night and an amazing rendition of the Grand Tour, dedicated to the late, great George Jones. They play around North Carolina a lot so check them out if you’re in that neck of the woods.