The 34th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival offered numerous stellar sets and engaging guest appearances.
Jerry Douglas sat in with Los Lobos for the last 25 minutes of their great rock-and-roll drenched 90-minute set, capped by what may possibly be one of the definitive covers of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Bertha,’ with a searing Douglas slide solo that paid tribute to Jerry Garcia. Other highlights of included an epic version of ‘The Neighborhood,’ a driving ‘Chuco’s Cumbia’ and a raucous cover of Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’ as the encore.
Jeff Coffin and original Wailers bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett were guests of New Orleans Social Club, who closed Saturday night with plenty of greasy funk and R&B grooves.
Yonder Mountain String Band, as expected, invited plenty of the festivals participants to the stage. For their annual pre-festival show at the Telluride Conference Center, Benny Galloway led the quartet through ‘Big Lights’ and ‘Lazy.’ Darol Anger sat in for the entire second set, which also featured cameos from Drew Emmitt, Jeff Coffin & Futureman, and Anders Beck & Pete Kartsounes from the Wayword Sons. Among that second set highlights included a lengthier-than-usual ‘No Expectations’ and the encore of John Hartford’s ‘Two Hits’.
Anger later sat in throughout Yonders annual appearance at the Sheridan Opera House. Drew Emmitt also joined for the last third of the first set, offering dueling mandolins with Jeff Austin during a version of ‘New Horizons’ that also included ‘Death Trip.’ However, it was the second set that truly shined, featuring sizzling takes on the Talking Heads’ ‘Girlfriend Is Better’, a torrid ‘Keep On Going > If You’re Ever In Oklahoma > Keep On Going’ and a version of Austin’s ‘Ten,’ where the band also folded in ‘Midwest Gospel Radio’ and an up tempo cover of the Allman Brothers’ ‘Whipping Post.’ Other guests included Andy Pond (banjo), Billy Seawell (percussion), Futureman, Luke Bulla (fiddle), Gabe Witcher (fiddle) and Jay Sanders (upright bass). For the unplugged encore of ‘Wedding Song’, Jake Schepps (banjo) and Tyler Grant (guitar) stepped up as well.
Sam Bush is the King Of Telluride, so it was no surprise that the Queen of Telluride, Emmylou Harris, sat in for three songs. The encore was a free-for-all that included many guests ranging from Emmylou to Jerry Douglas.
The Leftover Salmon reunion (sans keyboardist Bill McKay) was a festival highlight with Sam Bush appearing for the bulk of the set. Other guests included Jeff Coffin and Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) on saxophones, Jeff Austin on mandolin (and backing vocals) and Tyler Grant; with the set climaxing with a wild, swirling version of the most-appropriate ‘Euphoria.’
Finally, at Chris Thile’s now-annual Sunday night Sheridan show, Chris Eldridge (Infamous Stringdusters) sat in with most of Thile’s How To Grow A Band: Noam Pikelny (banjo), Greg Garrison (upright bass) and Gabe Witcher (fiddle). Crooked Still vocalist Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarocz also guested on several songs. All of these artists participated in the encore, a searing cover of ‘The Weight.’
Reporting by John Wood