>Bluegrass at the Ryman: Doyle Lawson, Michael Cleveland

>It’s that time of year–time for another series of bluegrass concerts at the Ryman.

Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t really all that thrilled about last night’s opening act of Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. I heard them a few weeks ago when they opened for Cherryholmes at Cumberland Caverns. And while they were good, they weren’t one of my favorites.

I have to admit I was kind of wrong about them. Or maybe it was the setting was more conducive at the Ryman. I’m not sure, but I ended up liking them a lot more last night as the opening act. The group had a high energy, especially the mandolin player. The highlight of the set was Cleveland and the mandolin player jamming together for a long, incredibly great song. I wish I could recall what it was called because it’s one I’d love to have on CD, though I am not sure it would really capture the energy of seeing these two play off each other on stage.

I did notice that Cleveland, as the fiddle player, was really working his bow hard. Threads kept coming loose and I joked that that was how he’d know the set was over–once he wears out all the bow threads, the set is done.

But that was just the opening act. The real treat was yet to come, one of my favorites–Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Now, I will admit that I was also aprehensive about hearing Doyle again. I’ve seen him twice and loved the set both times. But part of that is the band that Doyle surrounds himself with–which included Jamie Daley who has gone on to headline his own duo, Daley and Vincent. I wondered how much of the fun of Lawson might be lost with Dailey gone.

It took about one song to get used to the new members of the group and then I was swept up for an hour and a half of bluegrass and gospel music. As I’ve said before, what I love about bluegrass is that while you have some big names, it takes a whole group to make it all come together. And while Doyle is a master mandolin player, I think his bigger gift is his eye for talent and grooming them. He’s got several members of the current Quicksilver group that I could see having a great career on their own in a couple of years.

The highlight of the show was Doyle and the group singing acapella gospel songs. Who says you need instruments…

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