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'Grass Is Growing...
April 10, 2007 - Jim Price
And I’m not talking about the stuff in your lawn.
As part of the surging appeal of roots music on Altoona area live stages in recent years, bluegrass music has exploded in popularity, especially during the past year.
There have been several proponents who have spearheaded this growing local bluegrass movement. The Rev. Ron Anderson hosts the monthly Sugar Run Bluegrass Jam, an open acoustic jam session focused on bluegrass and old-timey music, held on the first Saturday afternoon of each month at Altoona’s Calvary Baptist Church. Chuck Cox and Tim Klock co-host the bi-weekly Wednesday Open Mic Night at The Bar in Altoona, a frequent setting for bluegrass and folk jam sessions. Chuck also brought rising Morgantown, West Virginia-based bluegrass ensemble The Hillbilly Gypsies before a packed house at the Heidelberg Country Club in late January (and they return May 5; more about that in a future blog).
And then there’s longtime local musician John Stevens. After a musical journey that has included ventures into heavy metal, classic rock, and blues over the years; John has lately returned to the country and bluegrass of his childhood, growing up in rural Huntingdon County. After John’s last roots music project, .00 Buck, separated last year, he began to host a monthly bluegrass jam night at The Hitching Post in Altoona, held on the second Wednesday night of each month in conjunction with the venue’s weekly Wednesday “Country Night.” John has since begun playing dobro with Altoona bluegrass group Mt. City Grass, and has also assembled a brand new bluegrass outfit called Mama Corn.
This Wednesday evening, April 11, the next edition of John’s monthly Bluegrass Jam takes place at The Hitching Post from 7 to 10 PM. The jam session is open to any and all musicians with a passion for bluegrass, Appalachian, old-time country and folk music. Those wishing to participate are invited to bring their instruments: banjos, mandolins, upright basses, fiddles, dobros, acoustic guitars and more. Admission is free for participants and spectators alike. If you’re looking for another reason to delay working on those taxes, John invites you to “join in the enormous amount of sheer possum-grinning fun we have.”
Then next Wednesday night, April 18, John’s new band, Mama Corn, makes their official onstage debut at The Hitching Post, also from 7 to 10 PM. John plays dobro and sings; and is joined by Bruce Foor on guitar and vocals, Jeremy Nelson on banjo, guitar and vocals, Brett Fanelli on bass and vocals, and Brad Floyd on mandolin. John describes the group’s repertoire as “old grass, new grass, borrowed grass and bluegrass.” Admission to that performance is free as well. And if you can’t make it out that evening, mark Saturday, May 5 on your calendar, as Mama Corn will be opening for the returning Hillbilly Gypsies at the Heidelberg.
Indeed, bluegrass is growing – and flourishing – on Altoona area stages!
The Hitching Post is located at 700 5th Avenue in Altoona. For more information, call 943-1214.