When thinking of bluegrass festivals nature and outdoor settings generally come to my mind, but one of the finest bluegrass fests in the country happens right here in Springfield at the Crowne Plaza. Called the Greater Downstate Indoor Bluegrass Festival, this weekend marks the 26th year of the three-day event that hosts some of the biggest names in the business.
Along with the lineup of top-notch entertainers, the festival boasts a buy-sell-trade guitar show sponsored by Down Home Guitars, instrument and band workshops, a bluegrass talent show, open stage and a “picking area” where everyone and anyone is invited to play. The organizers have been at this awhile and do a good job of making everything work out nicely. One of those amenities is a variable pay scale on the entrance fee. You can pay one price and stay the entire weekend or pay for only one day, along with other combinations that make a whole lot of sense.
The festival runs Friday through Sunday with lots happening throughout the weekend, including great acts like Lonesome River Band, Rhonda Vincent and Rage, The Boxcars, The Link Family, Dry Branch Fire Squad, The Roys and others. I spent a little phone time with the brother-sister group, the Roys, talking about their booming music career.
The two Roys were born in Fitchburg, Mass., and raised in Coal Branch, New Brunswick, Canada, not necessarily known as a hotbed of bluegrass inspiration. But they were introduced to Acadian folk music through their Grandma LeBlanc’s fiddling and remember a home filled with folk, country and bluegrass music. Lee joined his first band at the ripe old age of nine to play the acoustic bluegrass “roots” music on bass and mandolin and never stopped. Elaine learned guitar and waited to make her stage debut at 10, singing at a local fair.
The two went about playing music until nearly six years ago, when each discovered a true desire to play together and decided to make a go at making it by relocating to Nashville, Tenn., the business home of country, bluegrass and gospel music. Since making the move both physically and emotionally, the siblings remarkably entered into a world filled with success. In 2009 and 2010 The Roys won the Inspirational Country Music (ICM) award for Duo of the Year and were recently named the ICM’s Bluegrass Artist of the Year for 2012. Their latest album, New Day Dawning, debuted at no. 7 on the Billboard bluegrass chart and continues to make headway on radio. They’ve had a flurry of television appearances and a touring schedule filled with good shows.
When asked about the secret to their recent success, Lee attributed it to a combination of things but mainly to sticking to a vision of what they want to do.
“We have a good team together and that took some time, but mainly we record the music we want to do and not worry about if it’s going to be accepted,” he said. “We are definitely on God’s time. If we had this success earlier things wouldn’t have worked out the way they have. His timing is everything.”
Their songs are pleasant with a purpose, filled with meaning, and meant to not be your average down-on-your-luck country or lonesome bluegrass tune.
“We look at the music like, we have two or three minutes to affect someone’s life and we want to do that in a positive way,” explains Elaine. “This is our legacy and our goal is to touch people in an uplifting way.”
Sounds like The Roys have a good plan in place. Enjoy them if you can.
Contact Tom Irwin at email@example.com.