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Last weekend, we saw three awesome bluegrass (well sort of) shows at The Peace Center Bluegrass Festival. I hope they keep having the festival, because it is an awesome place to hear good music, and because a little Bluegrass is a good foil for the high culture we usually find there.

Cherryholmes. There is a lot to like about this family group. The dad’s beard is a work of art. The mom is obviously an excellent musician, and should be hugged for home-schooling an entire bluegrass band. The older sister plays a pretty good banjo and is a solid singer. The two brothers are great on guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. But the real surprise is little Molly Kate on fiddle.

Now, this band started in 1999, so Molly Kate would have been six. I don’t suppose anyone had any clue how good she was going to turn out on the fiddle. And her stage presence is reflective of her “baby of the family” status. She fidgets with the tuning, cleans the frog of her bow with her shirt tail, paces around the stage, and tries to avoid talking. But man can she play. I mean SHE…CAN…PLAY! She must be surprising them every day with her development, because she seems to be sheltered from the main singing duties. So much more was the pleasant surprise when she took center mike for her one vocal lead. I’m talking Billie Holiday, Janice Joplin, and Alison Krause…in one little shy 16-year-old. Gave me chills. I can’t wait to see them again. Of course, by that time Molly Kate will have erupted into a full-blown volcano of talent. So it might be hard to get tickets.

Also, as they were doing their final credits and thank-yous at the end of the show, they did something I’ve never seen anyone do. They thanked Megan Reigel, CEO of The Peace Center for having them.

To me, the coolest things about Cherryholmes is their story.

The next night we saw The Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thiele. He’s amazing. They’re amazing. It was amazing. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, it was Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. This is the group that invented Bluegrass Gospel. It’s sort of half Bluegrass and half Southern Gospel. Neither genre really embraces Doyle. But it was a wonderful time. And he glorified the Lord. So I gotta give him that.

There’s just something about Bluegrass music and Bluegrass people. Everybody that listens also plays. And everybody that plays is also a fan. So old-time pickers can appreciate the chromaticism of Chris Thiele. And a bereft family can park among the buses at a festival and get the hugs and handshakes to encourage their hearts. It’s all summarized by one thing all three bands said as they finished their performances…

“We’ll be in the lobby after the show to ‘shake and howdy,’ and we look forward to meetin’ ya.”

Now I remember why I love Bluegrass. It’s the music. But it’s not just the music.

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