Beyond bluegrass: Brevard’s Mountain Song Festival continues to evolve

ROCKING HARD IN BREVARD: The Steep Canyon Rangers and Steve Martin play a previous Mountain Song Festival. The weekend-long music event and benefit for the Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County started at the suggestion of Cindy Platt. Photo courtesy of the festival

“We never intended this to be exclusively a bluegrass festival,” says John Felty, owner of Mountain Song Productions. He’s talking about the Mountain Song Festival, now in its eighth year, which takes over the Brevard Music Center for a September weekend. While bluegrass is a strong component to the music showcase, “We are definitely looking ahead to not just the evolving genre’s of bluegrass but also folk, Americana and even jazz to some degree,” says Felty.

This year’s lineup includes Steep Canyon Rangers, Sam Bush, Shannon Whitworth, Della Mae, The Kruger Brothers, Chatham County Line, Seldom Scene and a duo with fiddle player Stuart Duncan and Punch Brothers’ Noam Pikelny.

Since its beginnings, the event has served as a benefit for the Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County. The idea was inspired Cindy Platt, mother of Steep Canyon Ranger’ lead singer and guitarist, Woody Platt, Felty explains. Cindy was one of the founders of the county’s Boys & Girls Club and served on its Board of Directors since it began in 1999. Following her death in 2013, the organization was renamed in her honor. “She mentioned to Woody that the Rangers should host a music festival and partner with me,” says Felty. “We booked Doc Watson that first year, and never looked back.”

To develop each year’s lineup is “kind of like creating a new recipe,” Felty says. “We take a look at what is going on out there, what artists are breaking out and on the rise, and mix in the heavy headliners. We try to mix it up and offer a wide variety of artists and not do all the same thing for the weekend.”

Over the years, numerous great musicians have played the festival. Plus, “there are always collaborations and guests sitting in so it’s those unexpected moments that make it special,” Felty says. In fact, he has a prediction about one of these special moments: “I think one of the treats will be Steep Canyon Ranger’s Saturday night set with Sam Bush sitting in. One of the great things about the Rangers is how well they wrap around another artist. And with Sam Bush and his energy, it is sure to be a large time.”

WHAT: Mountain Song Festival,
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12 and 13
WHERE: Brevard Music Center, Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium. Lawn tickets are $30 for Friday and $37.50 for Saturday when purchased in advance.


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One thought on “Beyond bluegrass: Brevard’s Mountain Song Festival continues to evolve

  1. Alex Netherton

    Yeah, well, Bluegrass has pushed aside the Old Time Mountain sound so much that it is billed almost everywhere as the “Traditional Music of the Appalachians”. (*NOT!!*)
    Nobody any more much knows of or cares about the music our grandfathers played, as it is not all that sexy (some can be rather explicit!) or all that fast, in fact, a lot of Old Time practitioners started playing fast to “keep up” with Bluegrass. In a few more years we will not know of the music of Byard Ray, Tommy Jarrell, Wade Ward, and others. It will all be that hard brittle machine like brangle of Bluegrass that all sounds the same, and the old sound will be gone, just like the American Chestnut.

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