Blueberry Bluegrass has been a Canadian festival bastion for more than 30 years, offering an array of Canadian and American bluegrass performers that stands comfortably beside any northern event: from Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys, Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys, and Mac Wiseman to The Seldom Scene, The Bluegrass Cardinals, and The Del McCoury Band on though Larry Sparks & The Lonesome Ramblers, Blue Highway, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, and Chris Jones & The Nightdrivers, the top names in the business have made Stony Plain, Alberta a temporary home for at least a weekend. Add to this almost a hundred other bands of significance as well as some of the finest Canadian groups to appear over the last three decades, and you have a noteworthy bluegrass festival.
In the last two years, Blueberry has been reborn with a new team of leaders heading the festival in exciting new directions making the event stronger and more welcoming than ever. With the facility much improved-featuring two indoor stages to complement the outdoor main stage-the addition of Friday and Saturday night dances and-making its debut this year-a Blueberry patio, allowing the purchase of adult beverages for the first time since (I think) 1997, Blueberry Bluegrass 2018 is shaping up to be a roaring success. A cadre of capable emcees keep the stage shows moving, enhancing the flow of the event.
Blueberry Bluegrass (August 3-5, 2018) have booked two major headliners for this August's fest, both who have previously appeared, although one is new within the presented format.
Despite not releasing an album in almost forever, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder remain one of the music's most popular touring groups. The Travelin' McCourys have not appeared previously at Blueberry, but have appeared a couple times as members of The Del McCoury Band, most recently in 2015; the group should have a new album out in advance of their Stony Plain show. While Blueberry's schedule hasn't yet been published, The Skaggs website states that the group will be onsite Saturday with the McCourys appearing Sunday...decisions, decisions for we daytrippers!
Two groups who are very familiar to Alberta bluegrass types are The Slocan Ramblers and Jeff Scroggins & Colorado. Both groups have frequently toured the province. The Kody Norris Show, a bluegrass cum classic country review also make their Blueberry debut, as does compelling British Columbia folk duo Pharis and Jason Romero.
Returning to Blueberry are (mostly) area-group Nomad Jones (two B.C. based players, three from Edmonton) and The Po' Ramblin' Boys, a popular and fairly traditional Tennessee-based group that first appeared a couple years ago.
Starting last year, Blueberry has made a concerted effort to offer music from "a little outside" the bluegrass field. This year, Alberta folksinger-songwriter Braden Gates gets some stage time, while locals Jim and Penny Malmberg are also appearing. Blueberry mainstay fiddler Calvin Volrath appears, as does a pair of acts that are becoming Blueberry favourites, the bluegrass quartet The Bix Mix Boys, and Kayla Hotte & Her Rodeo Pals.
Head north this summer! The bluegrass (and other associated musics) is going to be great. Blueberry Bluegrass has links to all the artists, and includes additional information about the festival including tickets, accommodations, and the like. If you do venture to Stony Plain, try to look me up!