Joe McClung, a.k.a. Mr. Big, surrounds himself with musicians all weekend long.

Photos by Tavi Ellils

Pickin' and
a Singin'

Bluegrass Weekend, Aug. 17-18,

features traditional tunes

Banjos, mandolins and harmonies will ring out through Basin Spring Park during the Eureka Springs Bluegrass Weekend, being held Friday, Aug. 17, and Saturday, Aug. 18. Andy Green, events coordinator for the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission, said this year’s event will feature the traditional sounds associated with bluegrass.

“A lot of people said they wanted to hear more traditional bluegrass music and less of what I call ‘new-grass,’ ” Green said. “There’s bluegrass bands that do Pink Floyd and all sorts of things. It’s fun, but it’s not what you’d consider traditional bluegrass music that came from the Ozarks.”

The music begins on Friday, Aug. 17, with a performance by The Crumbs at 4 p.m., followed by Boy Named Banjo at 5:30 p.m. Hailing from Fort Smith, The Crumbs are one of the three regional acts performing during the weekend.

“They have done work with their symphony. They’re regional favorites,” Green said. “Boy Named Banjo is quite good, too, and they’re more on the national level … great vocals, tremendous instruments and very traditional in their style of bluegrass.”

This young player draws quite a crowd as she hones her skill on the quarter-size fiddle.

Finnley the tiger, 5, devours his first slice of delicious watermelon.

The festival just wouldn't be the same without the steely sound of Rodger King's dobro.

Saturday, Aug. 18

Lonesome Road kicks off the music at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, with The Crumbs playing again at 2:30 p.m. Runaway Planet performs at 4 p.m., and Chatham County Line closes the evening at 5:30 p.m.

“Lonesome Road has been playing for almost 20 years in this area. I know all the guys and gals in the band, and they’re great,” Green said. “Runaway Planet has done some things regionally, too. I saw them not too long ago, and they’re really, really good.”

Chatham County Line is a national act from North Carolina and has been performing since 1999. Green said he’s excited to offer a rich lineup of regional and national acts.

“It’s important that musicians that have some connection to Northwest Arkansas and to the Ozarks play in the area,” Green said. “I feel pretty strongly about supporting local and regional musicians. They’re musicians who live and work in Missouri or Arkansas or Oklahoma, but they tour all around the South.”

He continued, “It’s important to be able to recognize that these are regional musicians that have done well and have gone on to play for audiences around the country. We need to recognize them and celebrate them. It’s nice to bring them home and put them on a stage in front of audiences that may well have seen them a few years ago but haven’t seen them in a while.”

Green loves bluegrass music because it’s the kind of music anyone can play, and it’s honest.

Gina Rambo at the watermelon table.

Gordon, 10, of The Mountain View Friends teams up with local banjo player Gordon Norrell for a little pickin' in the park.

Full acoustic

“It’s acoustic music you could play on your porch with friends. It’s not highly electronic,” Green said. “It doesn’t require a lot of sound reinforcement. It’s usually harmonies and dynamics that are created by getting closer to a central mic instead of away from it.”

Bluegrass musicians don’t use amplifiers, Green said, and he appreciates the simplicity of the genre.

“It’s honest in that it’s unproduced. It’s just the way it might have been a generation or two generations ago,” Green said. “Many of today’s instruments are simply just versions of the same instruments that were handmade in the ’20s and ’30s.”

An essential part of bluegrass, Green said, is harmonizing.

“The vocal harmonies go along with the style of music,” Green said.

Bluegrass has had a resurgence over the past few years, he said.

“It seems here and in some other pockets of the world, there’s a strong bluegrass tradition now,” Green said. “It seems to resonate with much younger audiences than I would have originally predicted.”

Every act performing during the weekend embodies the essence of bluegrass music, Green said.

“I think all five of the acts that will be playing are really, really good in their own way,” he said. “They’re different in some ways, but they’re all very honest. I think everyone is going to really enjoy it. Even if you’re not an avid bluegrass fan, you can still appreciate three or four or five voices working together to create beautiful music.”

Eric Knowles picks a piece on the banjo.

Jeremy Stephens and his wife Corrina Rose Logston play a lively tune that captivates little ears and eyes.