The Joe Val Bluegrass Festival always offers a marvelous sampling of bluegrass diversity, with a roster of acts that run the gamut from up-and-coming to icons, from local to world- renowned, from bedrock traditionalism to boundary-pushing. Here’s just a bit of what’s going on this year.
The Boston area will be represented by several groups, including newcomers Three Tall Pines and rising all-women group Della Mae.
If you’re partial to the hardcore sounds of trad bluegrass, you’ll find it with fiddle virtuoso Michael Cleveland and his band Flamekeeper, with the high-energy sound of the Steep Canyon Rangers (gaining exposure recently through their collaboration with Steve Martin) and with the Spinney Brothers, whose vocals also maintain the legacy of brother acts in the genre.
One of bluegrass’s premier groups, Blue Highway, will pay another visit to the festival with its seamless mix of traditional and modern sounds. There will be more diversity via the singular bluegrass-country hybrid offered by phenomenal emerging artist Josh Williams, and with the combination of folk icon Jonathan Edwards and Moondi Klein and Jimmy Gaudreau, who were members of Chesapeake, an outfit that was famous for straying beyond bluegrass borders.
Bluegrass has always made ample room for gospel music, and that side of things will be beautifully represented again this year by a Sunday morning set from Vermont’s Bluegrass Gospel Project.
As always, if you play as well as listen, there are workshops, master classes, and picking parties in every nook and cranny all weekend long. The full schedule of events is available at the Boston Bluegrass Union site: www.bbu.org.