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Merlefest 2004:

Once again, this year, I had the great pleasure of being able to attend Merlefest. The festival was huge this year with yet another record turnout. The weather was magnificent, ensuring a fantastic musical experience for the massive audience.

All the regular stalwarts were there, including amongst others:

Doc Watson, Jack Lawrence, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, Jorma Kaukonen, Roy Bookbinder, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, The Kruger Brothers….

…..and as usual, some wonderful, wonderful music.

The highlights for me this year were, Mark O’Connor on fiddle, Chris Thile on Mandolin and Bryan Sutton on guitar – sheer wizardry! Another fantastic act was, Russ Barenberg , Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer, who played the whole Skip, Hop and Wobble album on the Watson stage. Without a doubt the most memorable performance was, Natalie McMasters: The fiddle player and Celtic dancer, with her fabulous band. She played an assortment of Scottish music from the Cape Bretton Islands of Nova Scotia – awesome stuff! I also attended a fascinating guitar workshop, that demonstrated Appalachian finger style and claw hammer techniques. During the workshop, we were entertained by 10 incredible finger pickers, which made me want to take up carpentry and nail my guitars to the wall. I just couldn’t believe the stuff they were doing. Fingers everywhere - they make it look so easy.

Once again, an all round memorable experience!

The Too High string band. Four fabulous players, picking their
stuff on the American Stage.
Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer. Two of the finest musicians anywhere on the planet, playing some cool hillbilly jazz.
I was lucky enough to catch some close up picking of the IBMA instrumentalist of the year – guitar virtuoso – Bryan Sutton.
He’s playing Gary Burnett’s 1937 Sunburst D28. Simply amazing!
David “Dawg” Grisman in action, with his world famous David Grisman Quintet.
Three Collings junkies at the Collings stand at Merlefest. Collings had some incredible guitars on display. We had some great picking sessions at the stand. Seated is Rick Mitchell, holding a Winfield model – a stunning guitar. Standing, is Ron Shuffler, well known bluegrasser, and myself. It just happened to be coincidence, that we were all wearing the same T shirts on the same day – not staged!
The star of the show – she had the audience of Merlefest in the palm of her hand – Natalie McMasters, a wonderful fiddler and dancer from The Cape Bretton Islands, Nova Scotia. What a fabulous performance to have been privileged enough to watch.