For the third year the small town of Piketon, Ohio became alive with 3,000 bluegrass fans from over 17 states as they transformed the Pike County Fairgrounds into the home for 2018 SamJam Bluegrass Festival.
The festival kicked-off this year with Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday evening with The Bluegrass Jamboree’s own Tim Strong & Kentucky Ridge taking the stage and bringing attendees solid traditional bluegrass music. The group was followed by Creek Don’t Rise which surprised those in attendance with a bluesy, rock-n-roll set that had people dancing in the aisles to the sounds of Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and other rock icons.
The main stage included performances by ClayBank, Dave Adkins Band, Po Ramblin’ Boys, Flatt Lonesome, Sideline, NewTown, Volume Five, Adam Wakefield & The Copperheads, Dailey & Vincent, The Seldom Scene, The Darrell Webb Band, Turning Ground, The Grascals with Jamie Johnson, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, The Cleverlys, New Again, Sammy Adkins & The Sandy Hook Mountain Boys, Hammertowne, Band of Ruhks, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, and Lonesome River Band.
While all of the bands did nothing less than what you would expect from artists that are in the prime of their game, I heard a lot of buzz about the traditional sound of Po Ramblin’ Boys, the energy of The Darrell Webb Band, the reunion of Jamie Johnson with The Grascals, the antics of The Cleverlys and the outstanding performance of Rhonda Vincent & The Rage.
SamJam was also where Turning Ground decided to release their latest cd “Old Country Store”. Festival goers were treated to cake, snacks, great new music from the group and reciprocated by buying all the cds the group had brought with them.
Something new this year was the Dave Evans New Talent Showcase. This showcase is a tribute to the late Dave Evans and his love for encouraging new groups. The four groups that performed were by no means new talent but rather groups that festival promoters Sam Karr and Rick Greene wanted to introduce to the masses. Those participating and thrilling the crowd included Open Highway, Branded Bluegrass, Schultz Creek and Lacy Creek.
Glenville State College hosted a Kids Workshop on Saturday for guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals. Those that participated let everyone know that bluegrass is alive and well in the next generation when they performed “Blue Moon of Kentucky” for the crowd later that afternoon.
The festival concluded on Sunday evening with an afterparty featuring music from The Barnlizards, a duo consisting of Sammy Karr and Cary James. Josh Williams even joined the guys for a couple of tunes before hitting the road.
Sammy Karr and Rick Greene are quick to point out that none of this would be possible without the fans, volunteers and community support they receive and that includes being nominated for a 2018 IBMA Momentum Award.