The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival returns to Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, NY this summer from July 14 through July 17. In addition to an impressive lineup, this festival stakes its roots through other means: activities like jams and open mics popping up throughout the grounds, and a variety of stages to fit every age demographic. Before diving off into what makes Grey Fox stand alone among other summer festivals you may consider in July, let’s focus on the most important aspect — the music. Here are five must-see acts if attending Grey Fox is on your radar:
1. The Wood Brothers (Thursday)
There is nothing more sweet (and in this case, nothing more rugged) than a brotherly duo. Brothers Oliver and Chris Wood harvested the seed that sprouted into the Wood Brothers in the early 2000s and prior, playing at family gatherings until discovering that they could write songs — and good ones at that. Signed to Blue Note Records in 2006, they released Ways Not To Lose, which had their music played for the right ears. After a few more recorded live shows, cover albums and studio releases, the band (also consisting of drummer Jano Rix) released The Muse in 2013; this album is arguably their strongest release, featuring thick rhythmic syncopation in songs like “Sing About It” and “Wastin’ My Mind.” They released Paradise in 2015, which is sure to be featured in their live performance, but we hope they will throw-in a few older tunes in there, too.
2. Elephant Revival (Saturday)
Following suit with the current indie-folk sphere, and contrasting from our favorite brother duo, Elephant Revival follows the same sustained, almost drifting backdrops of Lana Del Ray and Sylvan Esso. This more grounded, peaceful form of folk and bluegrass provides a diverse listening experience through its five band members. Subtle, yet deep, their 2016 album release, entitled Petals, has a lightness to it that’s sure to contrast the stomping and hollering bluegrass fanbase. With both a male and female singer, in addition to diverse instrumentation (including a washboard), there is already enough variety to this ensemble. That being said, the lyrics are really what capture listeners. Listen closely to the title track from their latest record, “Petals.”
3. Della Mae (Saturday and Sunday)
Just as the name rolls off the tongue, Della Mae has a southern spice of country that a bluegrass festival needs to come full circle. If rich harmonies are your speed, make sure you can catch at least one show to marvel at this all-female ensemble as they grace the stage. Featuring two-time National Fiddle Champion Kimber Ludiker, there is an evident level of musicianship in this group, with an even blend of vocalization and instrumentation in songs like “To Ohio” and “Boston Town.” Luckily for festival-goers, they will play more than one show throughout the course of the fest, so even if you miss one, make sure to see the other, and join in the buzz of Della Mae’s live performance.
4. Béla Fleck and Chris Thile (Saturday)
If you’ve never heard of Béla Fleck and Chris Thile, there’s no way to consider yourself a bluegrass fan, or a folk fan, or even a classical music fan for that matter. These men need no introduction, due to their profound skill level that has gained them success, both as part of bands, and then on as solo artists. Five-string banjo extraordinaire Béla Fleck (Béla Fleck and the Flecktones) and mandolin legend Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) are on a constant search to sharpen their blade even further, extending their capabilities past the genres of bluegrass and folk. Their serene melodies as individuals could outdo any modern-day songwriter, and seeing them combined can only fill fans with excitement and curiosity.
5. Mr. Sun (Saturday)
The four members of Mr. Sun have one mission for their Grey Fox performance: to bring the light. Their jazz-like improvisation in songs like “Key Signator” contrast with the heart-pounding drum beat behind “The Fiddler’s Boot,” all on their first and only album, The People Need Light. Despite their small discography, their music stands as tall as an upright bass among the other groups lining the festival. Their precision and skill will not only impress, but teach the musical spectators in the audience, and otherwise prove their worthiness through playing any instrument, let alone string instrument, at what looks like a hundred miles an hour.
There you have it. One weekend, four days, multiple stages and less than one month away. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the official festival website here.