Must-see performers at Joe Val Bluegrass Festival

The Hillbenders.
The Hillbenders.

A sampling of the many acts worth catching at this year’s festival:

BLUE HIGHWAY One of bluegrass’s top outfits is a frequent visitor to the Joe Val festival, and this year it arrives with milestones in mind; the group has now been playing together, with its original lineup intact, for 20 years. Friday, 10:45 p.m. on the Main Stage

COLD CHOCOLATE Joe Val always has ample representation of the regional scene. One of those bands, Boston’s Cold Chocolate, makes a practice of stretching the boundaries of the form by funking up its bluegrass. They (gasp!) have a drummer, too. Saturday, 4:30 p.m. on the Showcase Stage


THE HILLBENDERS These young Springfield, Mo.-based pickers offer an expansive, contemporary newgrass iteration that makes plenty of room for rock, pop, jazz, country, and other acoustic elements, and even an occasional splash of samba. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. on the Main Stage

Chris Jones and the Night Drivers.

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CHRIS JONES AND THE NIGHT DRIVERS Any band that covers C.W. McCall is worth a listen, and all the more so when it blends the traditional and modern sides of bluegrass (and a little bit of country, too) as well as Jones and company do. This is the group’s first appearance at Joe Val. Friday at 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

SISTER SADIE Five-time IBMA female vocalist of the year Dale Ann Bradley spent the early years of her bluegrass career with the all-women group the New Coon Creek Girls, and now she’s come back ’round to the same distaff configuration with Sister Sadie, a group that grew out of a one-off at Nashville’s famed Station Inn. Saturday at 9:05 p.m. on the Main Stage

Stuart Munro can be reached at