August 22, 2013

Bluegrass music fills two weekends

The Blistered Fingers and Thomas Point Beach festivals bring to Maine a wide range of veteran and up-and-coming acts.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

Rick Spinney says he and his bandmates travel to Maine so often they're on a first-name basis with the guys who work the border crossing at Houlton.

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The Spinney Brothers will perform at both the Blistered Fingers and the Thomas Point Beach bluegrass festivals.

Courtesy photo/Anthony Ladd

Additional Photos Below


WHEN: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Litchfield Fairgrounds, 30 Plains Road, Litchfield

HOW MUCH: $10 to $80


BANDS: Performers include Gibson Brothers, Spinney Brothers, The Grascals, Nothin' Fancy, Goldwing Express, the Larry Gillis Band, Bluegrass Diamonds, Mark Phillips & IIIrd Generation, Blue Around the Edges, 8 Wheel Drive, Monadnock, Robinson Gospel Sing Along, Blistered Fingers.

WHAT ELSE: Saturday is probably the festival's biggest day, with performances by the Gibson Brothers, the Spinney Brothers, the Grascals, Blistered Fingers, and others.


WHEN: Aug. 29 through Sept. 1; 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. most days

WHERE: Thomas Point Beach, 29 Meadow Road, Brunswick

HOW MUCH: $30 to $150, depending on day and camping options

INFO: Thomaspoint

BANDS: Performers include Spinney Brothers, Gibson Brothers, Dailey & Vincent, the Travelin' McCourys, The Rambling Rooks, Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press, Steeldrivers, The Whites, Boxcars, Balsam Range, Steep Canyon Rangers (famous for sometimes playing with Steve Martin), Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Jerks of Grass, The Sawyer Family Band, and Leroy Troy & The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.

"I think the first U.S. bluegrass festival we ever played was in Maine, about 20 years ago," said Spinney, whose Spinney Brothers band is based in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. "Maine has been one of the best states for us, with so many festivals. The Thomas Point Beach festival, for one, has had everyone in bluegrass and it's been going for so long."

As Spinney spoke, he and his bandmates were driving through Maine on their way to festivals in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Then they will head back to Maine to do two bluegrass festivals in about a week's time: The Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festival Thursday through Sunday, the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Special in Brunswick on Labor Day weekend.

With two bluegrass festivals so close together, both geographically and time-wise, it makes sense that some would be double-booked. In fact, the New York-based Gibson Brothers are also playing both Blistered Fingers and Thomas Point.

Neither festival has a big name act that would be recognizable to mainstream music fans -- like a Vince Gill, say. Instead, both festivals have a wide range of veteran and up-and-coming bluegrass acts.

Patty Crooker, who has run the Thomas Point festival since 1979 and has even had bluegrass legend Bill Monroe at her venue, says that this year she booked her festival based on audience requests. Last year she surveyed the festival audience and asked them who they'd like to see, then she booked this year's festival accordingly.

"There are so many new bands around, that it's hard to choose, so we asked the audience," said Crooker. "There are so few of the legends left, and we've had them all here at some point."

The Spinney Brothers fit the bill of an up-and-coming band. Even though they've been playing together for more than 20 years, they only became a full-time touring band about four years ago. The growing number of bluegrass festivals around the country helped convince the band members to pursue their dreams, Spinney said.

"When you get the opportunity to do something that is a passion and that is in your blood, you sort of have to," said Spinney, 47. "We just figured if we didn't take a stab at this now, we'd always look back and wonder."

Besides talent and passion, the Spinney Brothers are armed with something few bluegrass bands have -- songs written by their mother. Spinney says that growing up, he watched his mother play guitar around the house and write songs. Once he and his brother Allan had their own band and were recording, they decided to ask mom for some of her songs.

"She knocked on the door one day with this big box of songs she'd written and said we could have them. Some of them are now among are more popular songs," Spinney said. "Then we got another knock on the door, and it was mom asking for her royalty check. So we encourage people to buy the albums by telling them it's our mother's retirement package."

The Spinney Brothers have an authentic, bluegrass sound, using banjo, mandolin, and that bluegrass staple of brothers singing harmony. But they are also steeped in old country music, and grew up listening to Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and others of that era.

"We didn't really listen to bluegrass until we were working as loggers with our dad, and the only tapes he had in the truck to listen to were bluegrass," said Spinney said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Gibson Brothers will perform at both the Blistered Fingers and the Thomas Point Beach festivals.

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The Grascals will play at Blistered Fingers.

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Steep Canyon will perform at the Thomas Point festival.

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Dailey & Vincent will play at the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival.

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Larry Gillis will play at the Blistered Fingers festival.


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